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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Great article on play and autism

Blessings, everyone! It's been a busy month in our household with our little guy starting kindergarten! I have a wonderful piece that I'm working on right now, but while I polish that off, I wanted to share this great article I read about play and autism. I hope you find it helpful in understanding your loved one(s) with ASD. As usual, I will post the link in my Parent Resources page for future reference.

Have a blessed week!

What Is 'Play' to a Child With Autism?

Motion preferred to arts and crafts or pretending, study finds
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
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TUESDAY, Aug. 27 (HealthDay News) -- When free to choose, kids with autism pick games that engage their senses and avoid games that ask them to pretend, a new study finds.
Experts said the results are not surprising. It's known, for instance, that when children do not show an interest in pretend play, such as "feeding" a doll, by about age 2, that is a potential sign of an autism spectrum disorder.
What is unique about the new study is that it went out into the real world, said lead researcher Kathy Ralabate Doody, an assistant professor of exceptional education at the State University of New York, Buffalo State.
Doody's team spent six months observing children who attended a local museum's Au-some Evenings, a monthly program designed for children with autism. The program offered 20 exhibits with different activities, including a train that children could climb on, arts and crafts and a make-believe farm where kids could pretend to pick vegetables and collect eggs.
The researchers found that children with autism were naturally drawn to activities that got them moving, or allowed them to watch moving objects. The biggest crowd pleaser was an exhibit in which kids climbed a short staircase and dropped a ball into a track to watch it travel over hills. Another favorite was a windmill that the children could spin.
On the other hand, arts and crafts, and exhibits that required pretending were the least popular, according to the findings, which were reported in a recent issue of the North American Journal of Medicine and Science.
"We know that kids on the spectrum have a fascination with things that move, and with repetition," Doody said.
In contrast, she said, pretend play requires "putting yourself in someone's shoes," and talking and acting as if you were another person. That's an ability with which children with autism spectrum disorders struggle.
The current findings are what you would expect, said Dana Levy, a clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.
"I think it's a really nice idea," Levy said, referring to the museum's autism spectrum disorders program.
"We do know that kids with autism are able to practice social skills when they're doing something they enjoy," Levy said. So if an activity gets your child around other kids -- and talking or learning to take turns, for instance -- it could benefit his or her development.
"If it becomes just a solitary thing, though, it's not really helpful," Levy said.
Plus, letting children do only the things they're innately drawn to can be limiting. When young children with autism spectrum disorders are in therapy, pretend play is typically part of it, Levy said.
But if there is a social setting with activities a child with autism enjoys, parents can use that as a door, Levy said. If your child loves the museum's stair-climbing exhibit, on your next visit tell him or her that you're going to try one new thing first and then go to the stairs, Levy suggested.
It's estimated that about one in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder -- a group of developmental disorders that hinder a person's ability to communicate and interact socially. Autism spectrum disorders range widely in severity: Some children speak very little and have an intense preoccupation with just a few things, while other kids have normal or above-normal intelligence and milder problems with socializing.
For the current study, Doody's team watched children during six Au-some Evenings events. An average of 31 children with autism spectrum disorders and 22 without (usually siblings) attended each night. One limitation of the research, Doody said, is that they had no medical information on the children, including the severity of their autism.
Doody, who has a child with an autism spectrum disorder, said it would be helpful if more public places had events like this, since parents can struggle to find activities the whole family enjoys -- particularly if they also have kids without autism.
She said the current findings could help community programs develop inclusive activities so kids with autism have more chances to interact with typically developing children.
"Being in a social environment is great for them," Levy said.
Even if your local museum doesn't have a special program, she said, it might have something that would appeal to your child. If he or she likes to look at maps, for instance, a museum or park that has maps scattered throughout might be a good place to start.
SOURCES: Kathy Ralabate Doody, Ph.D., assistant professor, exceptional education, SUNY Buffalo State, Buffalo, New York; Dana Levy, Psy.D., Ph.D., clinical assistant professor, child and adolescent psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City; July 2013, North American Journal of Medicine and Science

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Better late than never...

Sorry, folks! I should have posted this a few weeks ago, but we were kind of nutty getting our little guy ready to start kindergarten... in a general education class!!!! YIKES!!! Anyway, here is a wonderful article that came out in preparation for back to school. I will post it in my Parent Resources page. I think many of the tips are helpful for any new situation, not just starting school and many of the tips are great for every day use. Great info for future reference.


Back-to-School Tips May Help Ease Sensory Overload in Kids

Students with 'sensory processing disorder' often struggle with adapting to change
By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Friday, August 30, 2013
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FRIDAY, Aug. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Transitioning from summer to a new school year is hard for any kid, but it is particularly difficult for children who have trouble processing new sensations, according to an expert on what is known as "sensory processing disorder."
Sensory processing disorder is a neurological problem that affects behavior and learning. For kids with this disorder, too much sensory overload or the wrong kind of stimulation can lead to problems with attention, coordination and impulsiveness as the child tries to either increase or decrease the sensations they are experiencing.
Varleisha Gibbs, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, explained that the transition back to school disrupts the daily routines that these children have established during the summer. She noted, however, planning ahead can help ease the stress of this transition.
"Students with sensory processing disorders typically struggle with adapting to change," Gibbs said in a university news release. "A new school year brings an abundance of changes, including new teachers and classmates, schedules and routines, classrooms and settings, as well as new demands and expectations in the classroom."
To ease the transition to a new school year for children with sensory processing disorders, Gibbs recommended that children, teachers and parents or caregivers take the following steps:
  • Plan a visit. Before the first day of class, arrange a visit to the school to familiarize the child with the school setting and the teacher. If possible, take photos of the surroundings to help the child acclimate to the environment ahead of time.
  • Be proactive. Reach out to the school early to inform administrators about the child's therapy schedule. A child's private occupational therapy sessions should be coordinated with any therapy offered at school so they do not overlap.
  • Pack a sensory kit. Certain fidget devices may help keep children calm and focused during a stressful transition time. These objects include stress balls, seat cushions, gum and music with headphones. Teachers can also provide a variety of seating options in the classrooms, including beanbag chairs and therapy balls.
  • Be open. Because not all children with sensory processing disorders are placed in special education, communicating a child's needs to teachers and school administrators can help ensure they are able to benefit from their calming strategies. For example, these children may need to chew gum in class or listen to headphones between classes.
  • Shop early. Purchase backpacks and school clothes well in advance so children can try them on and identify any items that are bothersome or uncomfortable. Be sure to remove all tags, wash the clothes and find underwear that can alleviate any irritability from the fabric rubbing against the skin.
  • Set an example. When parents are calm and collected, it's easier for children to feel the same way about going back to school.
SOURCE: University of the Sciences, news release, Aug. 28, 2013