As Autism Awareness Month is coming to a close, it’s important to remind parents why they need to be aware of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
ASD is no longer a rare disorder. The estimated rate keeps rising. Parents need to be aware of the most telling signs in order to promote early recognition in their kids – and also provide a platform for understanding why a pediatrician may broach the subject.
Such early recognition is essential because early intervention can make a huge difference for a child with ASD. New interventions hold particular promise. While intervention at any time is beneficial, it’s clear that the earlier it starts, the more effective it may be.
Even if ASD hasn’t touched your life directly, it’s still important to know something about it. ASD has become, in a way, like cancer – it seems like we all know someone with cancer. You may have a friend who will have a child diagnosed with ASD in the next few years. Your kid may become friends with someone who has a sibling with ASD. Your kid may become friends with a child who has ASD.
Here are a few good links to follow to learn more about ASD:
Categories: Behavior, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting | Tags: ASD, autism, Autism Awareness, Autism Speaks, autism spectrum disorder, child mind institute, Health, Kids Health, National Institute of Mental Health
It’s been two weeks since the Boston Marathon tragedy, and since then many stories have emerged about helping those whose lives were changed that day. There are a number of ways you can support the healing of those involved. Here I will share one particularly inspiring story.
Megan Conner – a top singer/songwriter in Nashville who is also a fitness expert – crossed the finish line about 15 minutes before the explosions occurred. She was close enough to hear the explosions go off and see the clouds of smoke. The experience of being there that day not only gave her a sense of connection to all those involved, but also, as she described to me, an “overwhelming love and concern” and a need to do something for the families who are dealing with a very long healing process. So she wrote and recorded a song called “Dear Boston” as a way of capturing the emotions involved and serving as a platform for raising funds to help those who need help.
You can hear the song and watch her accompanying beautiful video on YouTube. Follow the link on the video to download the song for $1 (which will help support the victims and their families) or click here for a link to do so.
It’s a great song for a great cause.
Should young kids be told that they must always share? Should they be told that they never have to share? Or should they be encouraged to learn how to try to work things out themselves?
The answer from decades of research on preschoolers is … they should get experience in trying to try to work things out themselves, with good guidance from adults.
To get an expert perspective on this, I contacted Dr. Melanie Killen, who is Professor of Human Development, Professor of Psychology (Affiliate), and the Associate Director for the Center for Children, Relationships, and Culture at the University of Maryland. She is the author of Children and Social Exclusion: Morality, Prejudice and Group Identity (2011), co-editor of Social Development in Childhood and Adolescence: A Contemporary Reader (2011), and serves as the Editor of the Handbook on Moral Development (2006, 2013). Dr. Killen has a distinguished record of conducting seminal research on the social, moral, and cognitive development of preschoolers (as well as older children), and as such is well positioned to offer a perspective on sharing in the preschool years. Below is her take on a few key issues.
ARE EXPERIENCES THAT ARISE FROM CONFLICTS ABOUT SHARING IMPORTANT IN EARLY CHILDHOOD?
Yes. Sharing toys and resources is a fundamental aspect of early childhood social interactions that promotes the development of social competence. In fact, children who learn how to resolve conflicts about sharing in constructive ways (e.g., through negotiation and bargaining) are more liked by their peers and better adjusted in school contexts than are children who resort to aggressive strategies (such as insistence on one’s own way). What children learn from conflicts about sharing toys under optimal conditions is how to bargain, negotiate, and apply principles of fairness to their peers.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH TELLING KIDS THAT THEY HAVE TO – OR DON’T HAVE TO – SHARE?
A policy that mandates either sharing or “no sharing” is a problem from the start because it removes the opportunity for children to understand the principles that underlie sharing behavior. These principles include the fair distribution of resources – how do we share resources (or toys) in such a way as to treat others with mutual respect? This involves explaining to children the conditions in which not sharing toys is being unfair to another child (“If you play with all of the toys then he won’t have any to play with”). However, it’s also important to recognize that there are also conditions in which not sharing toys is viewed as legitimate, such as claims to ownership (“This is her special birthday present and she doesn’t want it to get broken”), or previously agreed upon rules about the use of resources (“She had the toy yesterday so today it’s your turn to use the toy”).
WHAT ROLE SHOULD ADULTS PLAY IN SHARING?
The bottom line is that a unilateral policy takes away from the learning opportunities for young children through which they teach each other what makes it wrong to refrain from sharing (“You had it all morning and I didn’t get to play with it so can I play with it now?”). Adults need to facilitate the opportunities for children to discuss, negotiate, and interact about how to play with toys, especially in early childhood when the stakes are still low. Learning how to share toys, which includes the recognition of ownership claims is a fundamental social skill that is related to constructing notions of equality, fair treatment, and mutual respect.
As part of Autism Awareness Month, I’ve been reflecting on some of the new things we have learned about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) over the past few years. Four findings stand out for me:
It’s Not Just DNA: The landmark twin study published in 2011 suggests that while genes are important, environmental factors that increase likelihood of ASD are a key etiological influence as well. This finding is a critical one as it is the first twin study to show such a strong environmental effect after controlling for the role of genetics. It gives new impetus to examining a range of environmental influences in addition to searching for genes that increase risk for ASD.
Recovery From ASD Is Possible: While it’s been a controversial topic in the scientific literature, a recent study provides solid evidence that some kids can “outgrow” ASD. What we still don’t know is why that is the case. But this paper does stand out as important documentation that the phenomena of recovery is real.
Psychosocial Interventions Can Change Brain Functioning: While complete recovery from ASD is still rare, the positive effects of early intervention are not. New research published in 2012 provides dramatic evidence that some interventions – such as the Early Start Denver Model – may not just improve behavior, but also “normalize” brain functioning in response to social stimuli. This is a dramatic result because it demonstrates there is ‘plasticity’ in the brain that can be shaped by intensive intervention. It shows that we should give more weight to supporting psychosocial interventions, in part because they can effect biological development.
ASD Is More Common Than Ever: A recent paper reported that 1 in 50 kids have ASD. While it is difficult to generate a premise statistical estimate of the frequency of ASD, it is clear that each new attempt reports that the frequency is higher than previously reported. This trend may, of course, reverse with the publication of the new DSM 5 criteria for ASD. That said, the newest estimates bring attention to how common ASD is in the population – and how many kids need appropriate diagnosis and intervention.
As April is Autism Awareness Month, I am taking on some of the most frequently asked questions about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). “Can A Child ‘Outgrow’ Autism?” is one of the basic ones. A new study released earlier this year suggests that the answer is … yes.
To get to this answer, the study took on two core issues that need to be resolved:
- Did the youth really have ASD? (Or put another way – were they misdiagnosed initially?)
- Did the youth fully recover? (Or put another way – did they lose all of their symptoms, or just enough to lose the diagnosis?)
This study was able to address these issues by combining the clinical resources of a number of institutions, and by using a longitudinal design that tracked kids over time. Via comparisons with two other groups of kids (one with current ASD, another without ASD) - along with rich clinical and developmental histories – they were able to document complete recovery in 34 cases. By complete recovery, they answered the above questions as follows:
- The youth had documented ASD earlier in life using current diagnostic criteria.
- The youth lost all of their symptoms over time (not just some of them).
The question the study has not answered yet is what factors contributed to the complete recovery of these 34 cases. It is anticipated that a future publication will examine this.
While complete recovery is a goal for many parents, right now it is not the typical outcome for the majority of kids with ASD. That said, great strides are being made with intervention – especially early intervention. Getting kids diagnosed early and using that as a platform for early intervention will always lead to improvement in functioning over time, even if complete recovery is not achieved.