The Critical Need we have to Support Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Society

Research tells us that young adults with autism are less likely than any other special needs group to gain employment or attain higher education.

As individuals with ASD turn 18 their lives change – drastically. Following high school, over half of young adults with ASD had neither had jobs nor enrolled in further education. Six years post high school, only a third of young adults with autism had gone to college and not even half had ever held a job.

This research examined data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2, a nine-year study of youth enrolled in special education classes during high school. They compared the post-high school employment and education of young adults ages 19-23 across several disability groups. These included individuals with ASD, intellectual disability, speech-language impairment or learning disability.

As it turned out, employment and education due to degree of impairment. The higher functioning individuals had the highest rates. Nearly 60 percent of this group attended some college and 80 percent had some paid jobs. This was dramatically contrasted in the low functioning group who had 11 percent enrolled in post-secondary education and only 23 percent had ever had a job.

Employment rates rose with family income (33% in families earning <$25,000; 75%  in families earning >$75,0000) suggesting that with the right support services (that higher income families may have access to) the chances for independence  in adulthood.

Dr. Shattuck’s report called for further research to determine the types of services that can best encourage a successful transition into adulthood. He also emphasized the need for more ideas on interventions to help low-income youth gain access to services that will allow them to have fuller participation in society.

 

Shattuck P, Carter Narendorf S, Cooper B, Sterzing P, Wagner M, Lounds Taylor J. Postsecondary Education and Employment Among Youth With an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Pediatrics. 2012; 129 (6): 1-8.

What is the Link between Autism and Vision?

Vision issues linked to autism are often overlooked or undiagnosed. The National Autistic Society reports that autism affects half a million families in the UK. Vision is our dominant sense for learning, and vision issues can present as developmental problems, as well as contribute to them. Until recently, physical, occupational and speech therapy have been the first course of autistic treatment. However, visual problems, untreated, are actually the cause of many developmental symptoms. Early pediatric optometric intervention, even before the age of three years, is strongly recommended.

Low level vision is impaired in ASD and testing can diagnose problems as well as suggest custom therapies. Proper diagnosis and treatment may include use of special lenses called prisms, to be used part time or all the time. Yoked prisms are eyeglasses which bend light up or down, left or right, and with a course of therapy, help correct and retrain the ASD’s perceptions so that they can take in textural differences, screen and acknowledge stimuli and judge depth perception.

What autistic behaviours can be caused by visual problems?

• Poor eye contact.
• Looking through or beyond objects.
• Sensitivity to light.
• Lack of reciprocal play or shared attention.
• Focus on only part of an object.
• Extreme fear of heights, or inappropriate lack of fear of heights.
• “Stimming,” making repetitive motions and sounds.

To test infants and children under the age of three, as well as older non-verbal children, pediatric optometry is pioneering new tests which do not rely on standard charts and questions. They may use a face dot or other non-verbal test to check an infant’s looking patterns. Also, in order to help young patients co-operate with testing, they offer “pre-teaching and familiarsation” practice sessions.

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.

 

Can Autism be Prevented? What are some Preventative Measures Parents Can Take?

These are not 100% definitive and guaranteed measures that will ensure your child do0es not develop autism, but they certainly are some well-respected options and choices that you can make.

During Pregnancy

  • Avoid consuming alcohol.
  • Avoid eating known food allergens.
  • Get prompt treatment for any infection.
  • Avoid exposure to heavy metals.

During Infancy

  • Parents need to become well-informed on the pros and cons of infant vaccinations in order to make educated decisions as to which vaccinations their child receives.
  • In autism that is caused by allergies, symptoms may become visible during early infancy. Should a child show excessive thirst, excessive sweating (at night), low blood glucose, diarrhea, bloating, rhinitis, inability to control body temperature, red face and/or ears, and dark circles under the eyes, it is important to act quickly and aggressively to identify and remove potential allergens.
  • Some children may have autism triggered by food and/or chemical intolerances with the main offenders being wheat, dairy, corn, sugar, and citrus fruits. However, allergies may be a reaction to virtually any substance.

 

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.

New Study Confirms Risk Of Autism Higher In Siblings Of Those With ASD

lovemyautisticbrotherStudies focused on the siblings of children who have Autism aren’t new. In fact, there have been dozens of studies, most of them smaller scaled on the brothers and sisters of children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. These studies are done in hopes to get headway on finding the true cause of Autism, and thereby hopefully finding preventative tools as well.

Recently, a study was conducted utilizing data from the Autism Speaks High Risk Baby Siblings Research Consortium (BSRC). Led by experts from the UC Davis MIND Institute, this study reported a higher risk of developing Autism in siblings than previously reported.

In a press announcement released over the weekend, experts say:

The “Recurrence Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study” found that 19 percent of younger siblings of children with ASD developed autism, a rate significantly higher than the general population. If there were two children with ASD in the family, the risk of the third sibling developing ASD increased to more than 32 percent. The study found that the risk of an ASD diagnosis for male infants who had an older sibling with ASD was almost three times greater than the risk for female infants (26 percent compared to 9 percent). The study did not find any increase in risk associated with the gender of the older sibling, severity of the older sibling’s symptoms, or other parent characteristics such as parental age, socio-economic status or race/ethnicity.

The majority of other studies done on this same topic were smaller scaled. Because data from several different sources who were conducting similar investigations were pulled together, this study used a  larger study population, thereby giving a more accurate calculation of risk.

It’s worth noting that these numbers are averaged among the families, so one family may see a risk higher than 18.7%, while another may see a risk of lower that 18.7%.

These studies and findings further stress and indicate the importance of family history  when researching risk. Alycia Halladay, Ph.D. who oversees the BSRC says: “These findings emphasize the importance of family history as an autism risk factor that requires attention by parents and clinicians in tracking these infants from an early age to determine if the younger sibling develops ASD or a development disorder.”

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

Last week, I talked about the GFCF Diet which involves removing gluten and casein from your child’s diet. This diet allows the gut to heal, prevents the body having an autoimmune reaction and has been shown to reduce many of the symptoms of ASD.

CandiesThe SCD, or Specific Carbohydrate Diet, is a step on from the GFCF Diet and was made popular by  the book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gottschall.

Gottschall created the SCD after her daughter’s ulcerative colitis and neurological problems were dramatically improved by a change in diet. Elaine was able to make the “gut brain link” and realized that what her daughter ate affected her gut which, in turn, affected her brain. The SCD was born and has gone on to help sufferers of IBS, Crohn’s Disease, celiac, cystic fibrosis, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis and autism spectrum disorders.

The Diet Explained

Full information can be found in Elaine’s book, “Breaking the Vicious Cycle”, on the website www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info and also on www.pecanbread.com but I will give you a brief overview of the diet here.

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The GFCF Diet

The GFCF or Gluten Free Casein Free (wheat free, milk free) Diet is just one of the biomedical treatments recommended by the DAN! Protocol. The diet has found to be very effective in helping children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) recover from autism and the diet has had a significant amount of publicity due to Jenny McCarthy’s success story.

Jenny’s Success with the GFCF Diet

Jenny McCarthy is an autism “crusader” who has appeared on many TV shows, including Larry King and Oprah, has spoken at many events and has written various books on the subject of autism, its causes and the biomedical approach to treating it. Jenny believes that it was starting the GFCF Diet with her autistic son, Evan, that started him on the road to recovery. This diet combined with other biomedical treatments, such as chelation, vitamin supplements and anti-fungal treatment, has led to Evan recovering from autism and no longer being on the autism spectrum. Jenny does not use the word “cured” but Evan no longer displays any signs or symptoms of autism.

Many other children have also benefited from the GFCF Diet. Watch the video below to hear about another family’s experience:-

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