Music Therapy and Autism: Not Just the Same Old Song and Dance

Music has often been referred to as the universal language. It is, in an essence, the most common form of communication, transgressing all boundaries of culture, religion and even language to express emotion. This is precisely why Dr. Robert Melillo has implemented music therapy into his Brain Balance Program.

Music therapy can be used to improve communication and social skills, since it provides children with an outlet and keeps them engaged. A music therapist may play music for patients to sing or dance to, or children may express themselves through playing music themselves. Some may even choose to learn to play a musical instrument themselves, helping them acquire an interest in learning a particular skill. After learning to make music and how to move to music, children gain emotional outlets as well as a sense of fulfillment that they were lacking before the therapy.

Music therapy works because children do not perceive the introduction of music as a threat. Discussion-based therapies are often too intrusive to the child, whereas therapists who engage patients through the introduction of a musical instrument are much more likely to see positive results. For example, children who are otherwise incapable of social interaction might enjoy a game that is set to music versus one that is not. A certified music therapist can help create a plan for the child, keeping his or her specific needs in mind and implementing strategies that will offer the best results for the individual.

SonRise Program – Part Two

Loved ones bridge the communication gap into the world of autism by accepting the child in their world instead of fighting to change behavior. Parents, families and friends open the door for communication by demonstrating unconditional acceptance of the child, which gains the child’s trust. Rather than squelching repetitive or inappropriate behavior, SonRise methods teach parents that by using mirroring techniques, parents quickly gain the child’s attention. In time, autistic children willingly begin interaction by making eye contact and using verbal expression. Once connection occurs, families open the door for motivating the child to begin the process of learning language and interpersonal communication.

The task of retrieving a child from autism may seem daunting. The Autism Treatment Center offers continual education, training and support. The organization additionally equips families with the ability of finding and training a support team who assist parents with the task of building the connection bridge. The program enlightens families in how to deal with behavioral obstacles, recognizing learning opportunities and preventing burn out.

The staff employed at the Autism Treatment Center of America work with parents in determining individual programs that offer the most effective results. The versatility of the SonRise program allows each parent the ability of designing a regimen that meets their child’s needs. Parents might combine the program techniques with complimentary therapies that include biomedical interventions, dietary changes or sensory integration therapy.

The techniques offered by the SonRise program provide families with a ray of hope for children aged 18 months and up. Children helped by the program include those receiving a diagnosis of autism, autism spectrum disorders and pervasive developmental disorder.

SonRise Program – Part One

The SonRise program began after Barry and Samahria Kaufman received the devastating diagnosis that their young son Raun was severely mentally handicapped and incurably autistic. Medical professionals recommended institutionalization for the child. The Kaufman’s did not accept the bleak verdict of the medical community or the possibility that the boy was beyond hope. Barry and Samahria determined to find a means of building a bridge connecting them with the mysterious world that entrapped their young son. Through perseverance and dedication, the SonRise Program developed.

The Kaufmans, along with family and friends, worked feverishly and successfully built that bridge. Raun progressed and exhibiting no symptoms of his former condition, attended and graduated from college. Raun, his parents and other trained instructors now teach other families the means of connecting with their children using the SonRise program taught at the Autism Treatment Center of America.

Some of the principles of the SonRise program include learning what autism is and is not, understanding the child’s potential and learning methods that motivate an autistic child into having a loving, interactive relationship with the people around them. The SonRise program involves encouraging communication and interaction using one on one play, which provides moment-by-moment opportunities for breaking down the barriers of autism. Some of the treatment methodologies used in the SonRise program includes creating a special place for the autistic child filled with their favorite activities and playthings. Developing this space prevents routine distractions for parents and minimizes the sensory irritations experienced by the autistic child.

Frontal Lobe Could Be The Key To Early Autism Detection

Autism is a very intricate and complicated disorder. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but one thing we do know is that there are many different forms of Autism, and the disorder affects each and every single child differently. Someone once said “If you’ve met one child with Autism, then you’ve met one chid with Autism.”

Even though the disorder leaves many things to be learned, researchers are working harder than ever to find out more about Autism and what causes it. For it is only then that we can start tackling even better treatments.

Something that researchers and doctors are looking into is to what exact level of a role that the brain plays in Autism, more specifically, the Frontal Lobe.

What is the frontal lobe?

The frontal lobe is the area of the brain located in front of the parietal and temporal lobes. The frontal lobe contains a large majority of the dopamine-sensitive neurons in the cerebral cortex. Dopamine is responsible for the reward system, motivation, short term memory and attention.

 

The frontal lobe is blue in the above graphic.

What Does The Frontal Lobe Have To Do With Autism?

Researchers are saying that too many tight connections in the circuits of the frontal lobe and too few long distance links between the frontal lobe and the rest of the brain could be the cause of  language and social issues. Furthermore, it could be responsible for repetitive behaviors. All of these are frequently seen in cases of Autism. The study of the brain connections could really provide some key hints and direction for developing an early detection and intervention of autism symptoms and signs.

Dr. David Amaral, director of research at the M.I.N.D. Institute says that some instances of Autism occur when the frontal lobe grows too quickly. He says:

 “This cortical area [the frontal lobe] is involved in social behavior, planning for the future, theory of mind, self-awareness. We’ve found that some of the kids have an abnormally enlarged frontal lobe. We are starting to see in this case that there are some behavioral correlations. For example, whether you have an enlarged frontal lobe or not seems to be associated with whether you had an early-onset versus a regressive form of autism.”

What’s the Next Step?

The next step is more research. The more that we find out about the frontal lobe and its role in Autism, the more we can begin the intervene at the appropriate time an encourage treatment and exercises for this. There are certain behavioral signs and triggers that researchers are looking at that, just as a few spots indicate chickenpox, a few of these behaviors may encourage parents to have their children checked out to be sure that things do not get progressively worse.

Will there ever be a cure?

Cure is a word we’re trying to phase out of the Autism world. Cure indicates that there is something wrong with your child that needs to be fixed. It’s not about that. It’s moreso about improving symptoms and thereby increasing the quality of life of your child.

New Research Links Vitamin D Deficiencies to Autism

Back in 2009,  Dr. John J. Cannell’s research on Vitamin D Deficiency being related to Autism and other brain dysfunctions was greatly discussed and even challenged.

Nearly 3 years later, there have been many advancements in the Autism field, especially in the area of researching the potential causes. Vitamin D Deficiency isn’t just expected in Autism, but in conditions such as cardiovascular disease and even cancer!

The number of children and adults being diagnosed with Autism is no doubt on the rise. Some like to argue that it is due to physicians being more aggressive in their diagnosis, but most agree that the increase in cases is very real, meaning the issues that are causing this disorder are very real and are still needing to be addressed.

Not long ago, a paper was written that called for an immediate and urgent request for research into Vitamin D Deficiencies role in the Autism epidemic.

So, if one of the many answers to why Autism symptoms are so severe at times could be because of Vitamin D deficiencies, why aren’t parents just administering Vitamin D Supplements or utilizing nature’s natural Vitamin D source; the sun?

The problem arises when pediatricians are consulted regarding the increase of Vitamin D to a child’s system. Many of them argue that the recommended dosage by specialists is too high, and then parents of the child decline to take part in the program. Dr. Cannell says himself that they do not go against Doctor’s orders and want to “work along with pediatricians whenever possible. ”

There have been wonderful results reported from adjusting the vitamin D levels in Autistic children. Parents have reported that it has helped in behavioral issues such as tantrums, and even for sleeping. Shyness, eye contact, and speech have also been reported to have improved utilizing the Vitamin D treatment method.

Parents, have you been recommended to use Vitamin D Therapy? Did you take part in it? What were the results?

 

A Closer Look at the DAN! Protocol

Standard autism treatments focus on behavior modification techniques, improving developmental delays, speech-language therapy and learning to cope with sensory issues. While these therapies can improve the quality of life for a child with autism, they do nothing about the underlying medical conditions and imbalances that challenge an autistic child’s daily life. The Dan! Protocol is a medical intervention that seeks to correct the physical issues not addressed by traditional autism therapies.

The Dan! Protocol’s overwhelming success comes from its unique, individualized approach as well as its biomedical focus. Since treatment is always preceded by extensive lab work, a Dan! doctor knows the biological deficiencies, imbalances and maladaptive responses for each child before an individualized treatment plan is designed and implemented.

There is not a standard protocol for every child. While many autistic children have similar medical issues such as food intolerances, digestive problems, yeast overgrowth and vitamin or mineral deficiencies, children are always treated according to their individual lab tests. For one child that might mean a gluten-free casein-free diet, digestive enzymes and probiotics to help restore intestinal bacteria balance. Another child might need a strong vitamin and mineral supplement, mb-12 injections, IV glutathione and other chelation methods to address a high level of heavy metals in the body.

Each treatment method has a specific medical reason for being used. Yeast overgrowth impairs digestion and creates malnutrition. Food intolerances cause inflammation, absorption issues and pain. When you correct an autistic child’s medical problems, many undesirable behaviors automatically improve.

What are Stimming Behaviours?

As it relates to autism, stimming is a repetitive body movement that self- stimulates one or more senses in a regular pattern. Stimming is one of the symptoms listed for autism dianosis although it is also observed in about 10% of young children without autism. Also, many children with autism exhibit no stimming behaviour. Common forms of stimming among autistic individusals include hand flapping, body spinning or rocking, lining up or spinning toys or other objects, repeating sounds, etc.

Stimming can result from a variety of causes.  We don’t know for certain why stimming is so common, the most popular theory is that it helps to regulate sensory input. Stimming helps the individual to block out any uncomfortable sensory input such as noise, light, etc. – and allows the person to experience the sensations they crave. Changes in the diet may help to improve stimming in some cases.

Although stimming behaviors in children with autism are very common, the good news is that many of these behaviors can be minimized if the underlying causes are addressed and corrected.  As these excessive body motions are reduced, children become more teachable and responsive to their therapies, therefore improving autism dramatically.

Home-Tips For Maximizing Your Child’s Development

Parents often ask us what they can be doing at home to help their child with autism learn and develop.  We’re so glad you asked!  The worst thing parents can do is to allow their autistic child to spend all their time alone playing with the same toy and not interacting with anyone else.  By having tools to use at home to foster meaningful and consistent interaction families with ASD children can really see an improvement in their quality of life.

Education.com recommends the following tips:

Parenting tips for daily life with an autistic child

Learning all you can about autism and getting involved in treatment will go a long way toward helping your child. Additionally, the following tips will make daily home life easier for your both you and your autistic child:

Be consistent. Autistic children have a hard time adapting what they’ve learned in one setting (such as the therapist’s office or school) to others, including the home. For example, your child may use sign language at school to communicate, but never think to do so at home. Creating consistency in your child’s environment is the best way to reinforce learning. Find out what your child’s therapists are doing and continue their techniques at home. It’s also important to be consistent in the way you interact with your child and deal with challenging behaviors.

Stick to a schedule. Autistic kids tend to do best when they have a highly-structured schedule or routine. Again, this goes back to the consistency they both need and crave. Set up a schedule for your child,

 

with regular times for meals, therapy, school, and bedtime. Try to keep disruptions to this routine to a minimum. If there is an unavoidable schedule change, prepare your child for it in advance.

Reward good behavior. Positive reinforcement can go a long way with autistic children, so make an effort to “catch them doing something good.” Praise them when they act appropriately or learn a new skill, being very specific about what behavior they’re being praised for. Also look for other ways to reward them for good behavior, such as giving them a sticker or letting them play with a favorite toy.

Create a home safety zone. Carve out a private space in your home where your child can relax, feel secure, and be safe. This will involve organizing and setting boundaries in ways your child can understand. Visual cues can be helpful (colored tape marking areas that are off limits, labeling items in the house with pictures). You may also need to safety proof the house, particularly if your child is prone to tantrums or other self-injurious behaviors.

Make time for fun. A child coping with autism is still a kid. For both autistic children and their parents, there needs to be more to life than therapy. Find ways to play and have fun together. Don’t obsess over whether or not these activities are therapeutic or educational. The important thing is to enjoy your child’s company!

There are a ton of really great toys and games specifically designed for children with autism.  For example, sensory toys that exposes children to sensations that they may not be comfortable with in during their normal day.  By making the weird senses a game, children will become more accustomed to them!

 

 

Children with autism are often at a loss with how to interact with children at school or child care.  Things like Buddy Talk flash cards make a game out of learning how to talk and interact with their friends.  Cards are also available to help parents and children interact.  Think of how much fun meals can be with a little help from some conversation starting questions designed specifically for children with autism.  

How can Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) help patients with Autism?

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is an intensive approach to treating autism with up to 40 hours a week of therapy.  This treatment breaks down a desired behavior into small steps and rewards the child for each successful behavior.

There is scientific evidence that ABA is an effective treatment for autism. A study at UCLA of 19 young children with autism reported that after two or more years of intensive early behavioral therapy 47 % of children were “indistinguishable from their normally developing peers” and another 42 % had made significant improvements.

ABA teaches social,motor, and verbal behaviors as well as reasoning skills. The goal of ABA is to determine what happens to trigger a behavior, and what happens after that behavior occurs which seems to reinforce the behavior. The idea is to remove these triggers and reinforcers from the child’s environment. New reinforcers are then used to teach the child a different behavior in response to the same trigger.

Overall, practitioners suggest that intensive ABA is appropriate for children with more profound autism. Unfortunately, no good research exists comparing interventions head to head. This means that parents must make a choice based on finances and availability of therapy, what works best for the family as a whole, and intuition. (Do you like the idea of a very structured, very intense program for your child? Do you think your child will do well in this program?) All children respond differently to many different therapies and it is good to know that there are other options available to parents such as DAN! and others.

 

Do You Know the Difference between Autism and Asperger’s Disorder?

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to recognizing the difference between autism and Asperger’s Disorder. As a parent or caregiver, you may be wondering if they are the same or similar conditions. Don’t be ashamed to not understand the difference as many medical professionals have difficulty determining a clear line between the two conditions.

Often, Asperger’s Disorder is described as a less severe version of autism or a high-functioning form of autism. Children with Asperger’s have the desire to fit in and have interaction with others, but lack the social skills to do so easily. They have excellent language skills, but their speech patterns may be unusual and may be hard for them to understand concepts such as humor or irony. They sometimes lack the ability to pick up on social cues that come naturally to others, like how to interpret body language or how to engage in a conversation. Most with Asperger’s possess average or above average intelligence.

Autistic individuals may play in a way that is considered odd and show obsessive attachments to certain objects. They may act as if they are deaf, ignore verbal cues, repeat certain words over and over again, or be entirely non-verbal. There is a tendency to throw tantrums, shake, flap or move their bodies in odd ways and laugh or cry for what seems like no reason. In those who are verbal, a lack of ability to start a conversation is often evident.

The main difference between these two may be that children with autism have language impairment, whereas children with Asperger’s syndrome do not. However, children with Asperger’s syndrome may have difficulty with the attributes of language, such as making eye contact, initiating conversations, or maintaining conversations. Also, these children don’t have deficits in cognitive skills, whereas some children with autism may have cognitive deficits.

Although there are some defining lines, they may not seem all that clear.  This is the reason that the medical profession has had much difficulty in separating them and tend to lump them together. It may be frustrating to be given a diagnosis which has yet to be clearly defined, it is worth remembering that the presentation of the two conditions is largely the same. Therefore treatments, therapies and educational approaches will also be largely similar. It’s important to remember that all people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome are unique and deserve as much recognition as the areas they have difficulty in.