COVID19 and ASD

Why is Autism called Autism Spectrum Disorder? - The Carmen B. Pingree  Autism Center of Learning
https://carmenbpingree.com/blog/what-is-autism-spectrum-disorder/

We have all been preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic, but how can we not be. Good news is that this year, one since this post was originally written, we have a vaccine! I’ve re-written it with reflection in mind and the fact that there is concern. April is also Autism Awareness month and April 2nd is World Autism Day. In that spirit, I wanted to start this month off with a post along that theme.

Many have resorted to using more and more technology with their children. The paper, “Association of Early-Life Social and Digital Media Experiences With Development of Autism Spectrum Disorder–Like Symptoms,” was published online in JAMA Pediatrics and is available at this link. Don’t be alarmed, in response to comments about this article, it is noted that there is more need for research.https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2772821?resultClick=1. Look at how the spectrum of online relationships has changed us. How does this impact your family and how does it impact development of relationships in which communication is already a challenge?

Social Media Monitoring and the Spectrum of online relationships

The impact of COVID19 on development of social skills has not yet been measured yet. This is a significant area of concern for those who live on the autism spectrum. As a result, continued monitoring milestones of your child is imperative, Parents can do so using a screening tool that I have referenced below. There are also resources for adults.

ROUTINES:

Especially during a pandemic and increased social isolations there are challenges to disrupted routines. Yet, this is so important, especially for a child or adult struggling with the symptoms of a spectrum disorder. So many have told me that it is just too hard to schedule appointments, or that they are overwhelmed and having trouble working. Temple Grandin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Grandin has some thoughts that I still think might help others. Take a look: https://parade.com/1019088/debrawallace/temple-grandin-tips-children-with-autism-coronavirus-quarantine/?fbclid=IwAR1L8M8petdXfGQyZdPhyx51viLP1usEaEOzhHHVEgWOH-o6rqu9SOKvtnA.

Summer Tech Use?

On Facebook recently, I read the following question from a parent and had some ideas about what might be helpful:

“Anyone had success in detaching their kids from the electronic world? I have a huge concern about what this is doing to my 2 boys with multiple letters in their diagnosis…I am afraid our summer is a battle and competition with it.😑”

There is cause for concern, battles aside. According to How Technology Hinders People with ADHD: “Technology use requires balance and self-monitoring. It can be beneficial to utilize the available software to help increase productivity, but also to help decrease distraction and hyper-focus”.

The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidelines for the use of technology that might be worthwhile to consider.

Create a Family Media Plan.

Create three rules:

RULE ONE

“Pick One Piece of Technology to Use Today for .. (time limit) ) Pick one i.e. kindle, i-pad, computer, etc,

You might want to define clearly on a color coded wipe off board or schedule such as this for each child:

Monday =Kindle Fire;

Tuesday = iPad etc. I might want to rotate every day of the week. Monday may be kindle day, Tuesday could be i-pad day etc.

RULE TWO

Plan Media Viewing: Here is a list of acceptable programs or … decide together what will be watched (you as a parent are responsible for how technology is used and viewed at home)

RULE THREE

Talk about what you have watched with mom/dad

Technology Can Facilitate Social Interaction Graphic

**The research shows that children of different ages understand ond process what they view on computers or other electronic devices best if you as an adult watch it with them and then discuss what is being viewed.

The Ready to Learn Television Program

The Ready to Learn Program: 2010-2015 Policy Brief, published in March 2016, summarized ED’s Ready to Learn Television program research on the effectiveness of three educational television production organizations.53 The brief reported on 15 effectiveness/summative research studies with children aged 3-8 using media in informal learning settings (such as after school or child care programs); 7 of the studies focused on learning at home. From the 7 studies that focused on learning at home, positive associations were found between at-home engagement and children’s math learning with children whose parents received interventions such as content guides and suggestions for supplemental activities. The studies also found that parents’ awareness of children’s math learning increased their likeliness to engage in activities and strategies to help their children learn math.

On a personal Note:

On this Father’s Day, I remember the house rule in my family. Each of the three of us siblings was allowed to watch television for one hour per day. The rule was so ingrained into my daily life that I can even recall the names of the shows I watched and the time of day. It was always for an hour in the morning before school. It was a relaxing way to start the day. Of course, the time of day changed with advancing childhood years.

There were exceptions to that rule: My parents allowed us additional time if we had to watch something on television for school OR if there was a special program – for example watching “The Wizard of Oz” as a family was a big deal for us. It was, after all, a simpler time. Another such special additional viewing that stands out is the night that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. The LM landed on the Moon at 20:17:39 GMT (16:17:39 EDT) on 20 July 1969. That was special!… so special that we went to the neighbor’s house to watch together. We went there because they had a color television set and I imagine my parents wanted to share the occasion with other adults. For some reason, one of those memories as a little girl was that of dad carrying me home really comfortable in his arms, because I fell asleep right after the landing.

The beauty of this rule is a child was that I was forced to develop other interests and had to learn what else I could do in my free time. Mom was a librarian so we spent a lot of time picking out books and reading. I’d read two or three books at a time. I set up lemonade stands, rode my bike, learned how to draw, and write poetry. During the summer, we went to the pool. We traveled as a family, as we got older and actually may do so even now, periodically as adults. It builds bonds by sharing face time. The challenge comes when you sit down to eat and the phone has to go in a basket, away from everyone and the game is who can stay away from their phone for the longest! Technology can really be addictive!

Finally – for additional thought on the topic of how we use the brain and how it develops take note of this article and perhaps build reading time into your family’s regular routine:

https://medium.com/@alltopstartups/the-reading-brain-why-your-brain-needs-you-to-read-every-day-f5307c50d979#:~:text=Our%20brains%20change%20and%20develop%20in%20some%20fascinating%20ways%20when%20we%20read.&text=Reading%20involves%20several%20brain%20functions,something%20as%20by%20experiencing%20it.

Back to School?

What a challenging prospect in times of a pandemic.  It’s a tough decision in terms of how to educate your child whenever schools open up. Both kids and parents will have feelings. Nobody seems to be considering that, in my opinion.  There are novel CDC guidelines. In case you missed them, here is a link CDC Guidelines   Other thoughts are outlined by the  American Academy of Pediatrics. 

For starters:  How do you explain coronavirus?  In very simple terms

Your child is entitled to additional services in terms of having lost much therapy time if they have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)? Check with the school special education supervisor and/or the principal.

and finally, how do you deal with the emotions that kids may experience when potentially planning for the first day back if that is your decision?  There are some ideas below:

Resources:

Know Your Rights for a Special Needs Child https://www.familyequality.org/2020/03/30/special-education-rights-during-covid-19-pandemic/

Dealing With Anxiety-Helping Kids Cope:

Give toddlers tools to ease anxieties and worries and feel better again. It’s normal for toddlers to worry and feel anxious—they have enough …
 
For older children
 
 

Memory and Autism

photo of girl sitting near christmas tree
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

For those who see that all in their child with Autism is bleak – please see a light of strength that they may possess.  The challenge to consider is how to use this productively:

“Visual memory for some types of material has been found to be an area of strength for children with autism but complexity of the stimuli appears to affect memory function in this modality as well. Interestingly, the right hemisphere may compensate for Visual memory for some types of material that has been found to be an area of strength for children with autism but the complexity of the stimuli appears to affect memory function”  (Prior & Chen, 1976).

With this knowledge – take a look at the text and alphabet letters that were duplicated from memory by an autistic individual who had viewed this page in the book Chicka Chicka Boom https://www.amazon.com/Chicka-Boom-Board-Book/dp/1442450703 Book/dp/1442450703    Hayden Gonzales posted this to Facebook on December 26, 2019. Thank you for bringing this to light!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is an easy story whose words are marvelous for teaching young children the alphabet. In fact, the following link provides some information about how the book can be used to elicit language development http://doodlebugshomeschool.blogspot.com/2011/08/chicka-chicka-boom-boom-with-l

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https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/neu-20121.pdf   “memory in autism appears to be organized differently than in normal individuals — reflecting differences in the development of brain connections with the frontal cortex”.

The post brought to mind my first cousin. Jerry was diagnosed with autism at a very young age and at a point when not much was known about the disorder.  He would memorize calendars and could tell you what day of the week you were born on, for example, four or even five years ago.  How remarkable, I thought. I wondered why – perhaps research now is answering that question.

What Is Declarative Memory? This is an area of strength in those who are autistic.  \

Your ability to recall addresses, locations of parking garages, intersection names, phone numbers, and an experience that you had at a restaurant are all a part of declarative memory. Declarative memory, also referred to as explicit memory, is the memory of facts, data, and events. For example, let’s say that you know that your favorite restaurant is only open until 6 PM on Sundays. The time that the restaurant closes is stored as a declarative memory. We can consciously recall declarative memory. Declarative memory is a type of long-term memory.  Here is a functional strategy that may be useful for daily activities that require this:

http://autism.sesamestreet.org/daily-routine-cards/?fbclid=IwAR0VKcWb_ZAHzheWdgT7ekqhwG_NuW8JLOMtCHZyT4PnolRXeyq6oeXxLSw

Declarative memory seems to help individuals with autism compensate for social deficits by memorizing scripts for navigating social situations. It supports the learning of strategies to overcome language or reading difficulties not only in autism, but also in SLI and dyslexia. And it appears to help people with OCD or Tourette syndrome learn to control compulsions and tics.

black and white blackboard business chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

References:

https://study.com/academy/lesson/declarative-memory-definition-examples-quiz.html

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/01/autism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism_and_memory

Read the journal article

Prior MR, Chen CS. Short-term and serial memory in autistic, retarded, and normal children. Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia. 1976;6:121–131. [PubMed[]

http://www.judyendow.com/sensory-solutions/autism-and-the-sensory-system-part-6-of-8/

 
 
 

  Lindsay Strachan Fofana Thank you for this! My almost 4 year old son is receptive and expressive language delayed but loves to learn and seemingly has photographic memory. Yesterday he spelled his name backwards. I explained to him what he had done and he was tickled! It’s very promising and always exciting.

Feeding Senses

  Picture from:     http://wisdomthroughmindfulness.blogspot.com/2010/03/

Continuing from the theme of earlier this week in terms of preparing for the holidays, part of doing so is to think about meals and what will be served, how many people are coming, what ingredients you will need and then cooking.  If you have a child who can’t tolerate eating different foods then YOU have an additional layer that is so emotionally ridden.  If you have a child who cannot tolerate the smell of foods cooking or the site of those which you have on the counter how will you prepare them?  Food is such a basic thing that we need for every day.  Working with parents each week with children who have feeding challenges reminds me of the emotional influence that problems in this area pose to families. Having taken Dr. Toomey’s training this past fall, I became aware of information that might be able to help you and I have already found its benefit during my daily practice. It is known as a sensory-based feeding therapy approach, building on each of them.  http://autism.sesamestreet.org/daily-routine-cards/?fbclid=IwAR0VKcWb_ZAHzheWdgT7ekqhwG_NuW8JLOMtCHZyT4PnolRXeyq6oeXxLSw

“The SOS Approach to Feeding program was developed by and copyrighted by Dr. Kay Toomey.  Please note, all materials, documents and forms taken from the SOS Approach to Feeding program are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any form without the written permission of Dr. Kay Toomey. For more information on the SOS Approach to Feeding program, please visit http://www.sosapproach.com.”     

This article can describe what can be done When-Children-Wont-Eat-Understanding-the-Whys-and-How-to-Help.pdf

and in her blog post, a parent relates how her child benefitted from its use https://singingthroughtherain.net/2013/03/tips-for-children-with-feeding-disorders.html

The SOS Feeding approach is appropriate for children that are “problem feeders” and not “picky eaters”, which can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between. Picky eaters are those that have a limited variety of foods and will not easily eat, but they often will reluctantly touch or taste new food. Picky eaters do not need SOS feeding therapy. A problem feeder, however, has an even more restricted variety of foods with more severe reactions to interacting with non-preferred foods and is a candidate for SOS feeding therapy. Here are some questions to consider if you are concerned about your child’s eating:

  • Does your child have a decreased range or variety of foods (less than 20)?
  • If your child gets “burned out” on food and takes a break from it, will they refuse that food still, after the break?
  • Does your child refuse entire categories of food groups (proteins, vegetables, etc.) or texture groups (hard foods, soft cubes, puree textures)?
  • Does your child almost always eat different foods at a meal than the rest of the family?
  • Have you reported concerns about your child’s feeding across multiple well-child check-ups?
  • If you answered “yes” to several of the above questions, talk to your child’s pediatrician about a referral for an evaluation to determine if feeding therapy would be warranted for your child.

Please note, the term “problem feeder” is used by the SOS Feeding approach program to delineate children who are outside the normal range of age-appropriate feeding behaviors, i.e. only being a “picky eater”.

Is your child a red flag for a referral?  Know that in this season of giving that you can be given the hope of improved ability to help your child enjoy eating!

Red-Flags-w-logo

Halloween with a Special Needs Child

Halloween is tomorrow! Are you ready??

Typically families with young children may be approaching them with excitement. In my experience, families with children who have disabilities may have apprehensions. How can you proactively approach Halloween? How can your family prepare for dealing with stimulating settings and create a more meaningful/less stressful day in this Halloween week? Here are some resources that may be of help. Firstly:

Here is a wonderful blog post with suggestions for reducing stimulation, creating costumes and preparing for the big day www.familyeducation.com .

Do you want to have a party indoors with snacks and decorations. Perhaps kids movies www.halloweenmoviesforkid would be a nice activity

Literacy is an area of interest to those of us in the area of speech-language pathology. Here is a link to some books with the Halloween theme https://www.google.com/search?q=halloween+books&rlz=1C1CAFA_enUS777US777&oq=halloween+books&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.2855j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

The best of all may be arts and crafts that are thematic for the holiday so that you can spend face time with eachother and be creative. Here is a link for some quick and easy activities to give you some ideas https://crazylittleprojects.com/halloween-crafts-for-kids/

Have fun!

What Can You Do When the Screen Goes Off??”

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The blog post https://blog.asha.org/2019/05/13/the-best-toys-for-slps-are-the-toys-that-do-nothing/ that recently appeared in the ASHA Leader resonates with me. I put individual links to which the author refers at the bottom of this post, So does the book “If You Give a Mouse an iPhone (of course available on Amazon in print). Here is a link to the story being read https://youtu.be/S3nVxt6_lAc If you can’t get it otherwise and are not familiar with it – the mouse is given an iPhone.. he uses it (viewing something that is not defined) and is unaware of his surroundings on a trip. The battery of the phone runs out and the result is a tantrum.

With the new American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines for Family Media Plans that i talked about in a recent post, I really did not give any suggestions for the way to redirect your child when the screen is not visible. That led to this post and the awareness that there are so many things that you can do together. Indeed as my colleague wrote you can really be “the best toy!”.

First of all… TURN THEM OFF.  

New research according to a report on CNN reveals significant differences in brain development

https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/04/health/screen-time-lower-brain-development-preschoolers-wellness/index.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=fbCNN&utm_content=2019-11-04T22%3A00%3A09&utm_term=link&fbclid=IwAR2kl7JF5e1BDeY6-j-BGQiGqpT1t5BA4dVM4yVIpZsbSpNZ7pZRuopXkQ0

This video is presented to parents with children on the Autism Spectrum but these principles can apply to so many of us that i wanted to share it with you

 
 

Here are some fun seasonal activities that you can do at home that will be enjoyable and something to do with your family, especially as the days get shorter.

SEASONAL FUN:

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Carving a pumpkin-adapting the activity for your child based on their abilities an differences in managing textures in a child-friendly way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sX6OIhqFZ8o

Write a story about carving the pumpkin, use educational workbooks that are consistent with your child’s age https://elemental.medium.com/bring-back-handwriting-its-good-for-your-brain-fe22fe6c81d2

Read stories (actual books) together. For adults look at the book The Reading Brain https://elemental.medium.com/bring-back-handwriting-its-good-for-your-brain-fe22fe6c81d2 which gives you documentation of how doing so, as opposed to reading books electronically with your children can affect your brain!

 

 

RAINY DAY/WEEKEND OR VACATION DAYS:

Instead of going out for a Halloween costume try to make it yourself. Here is something that i found that might be of help in terms of suggestions: https://www.mother.ly/child/no-sew-diy-kids-halloween-costumes?rebelltitem=9#rebelltitem9

 

Here is a youtube video to consider: Paper-Mache

SUNNY/FUN DAYS: STEP OUTSIDE YOUR DOOR:

In NYC https://www.nybg.org/learn/kids-teens/childrens-gardening-program/ and in other cities there are most likely similar types of activities. Novel – if this is not the case is using an avocado seed, allowing it to sprout roots by soaking it in water and allowing it to grow in a pot with dirt. Plant peas from the pods or use others from fruits.

INEXPENSIVE AND SPECIFIC FOR THOSE WITH SENSORY CHALLENGES:

https://www.fatbraintoys.com/special_needs/sensory_integration_disorder.cfm

Leisure time and family functioning in families living with autism spectrum disorder (Autism, August 2019, Vol. 23 Iss. 6)

Additional Resources from Emily Ferjencik May 13, 2019 ASHA LEADER article which I put a link to at the beginning of this post are worth a look!


WOW: THE BIG DIFFERENCE A TINY TOY CAN MAKE
INEXPENSIVE, READILY AVAILABLE OBJECTS CAN TURN TREATMENT INTO A FLOOD OF SENSORY EXPERIENCES FOR THE YOUNGEST OF CLIENTS.
TACKLE FOUNDATIONAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS—NOT JUST LANGUAGE SKILLS—BY INFUSING FUN AND SILLINESS INTO SESSIONS.