Tag Archives: socialization

Paul Louden

Paul Louden is a radio host with autism who hosts a radio show called “Theories of Mind.”  The show is about how adults go through life with autism.

Find him at KTEK 1110 in Houston, Iradio, or at www.business1110ktek.com.

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History of Autism

From the early 1900s, autism has referred to a range of neuro-psychological conditions. The word “autism,” which has been in use for about 100 years, comes from the Greek word “autos,” meaning “self.” The term describes conditions in which a person is removed from social interaction — hence, an isolated self. Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist, was the first person to use the term. He started using it around 1911 to refer to one group of symptoms of schizophrenia.

In the 1940s, researchers in the United States began to use the term “autism” to describe children with emotional or social problems. Leo Kanner, a doctor from Johns Hopkins University, used it to describe the withdrawn behavior of several children he studied. At about the same time, Hans Asperger, a scientist in Germany, identified a similar condition that’s now called Asperger’s syndrome. Autism and schizophrenia remained linked in many researchers’ minds until the 1960s. It was only then that medical professionals began to have a separate understanding of autism in children. From the 1960s through the 1970s, research into treatments for autism focused on medications treatments such as LSD, electric shock, and behavioral change techniques. The latter relied on pain and punishment.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the role of behavioral therapy and the use of highly controlled learning environments emerged as the primary treatments for many forms of autism and related conditions. Currently, the cornerstones of autism therapy are behavioral therapy and language therapy. Other treatments are added as needed.

Symptoms:

One symptom common to all types of autism is an inability to easily communicate and interact with others. In fact, some people with autism are unable to communicate at all. Others may have difficulty interpreting body language or holding a conversation.

Other symptoms linked to autism may include unusual behaviors in any of these areas:

  • Interest in objects or specialized information
  • Reactions to sensations
  • Physical coordination

These symptoms are usually seen early in development. Most children with severe autism are diagnosed by age 3. Some children with milder forms of autism, such as Asperger’s  syndrome, may not be diagnosed until later, when their problems with social interaction cause difficulties at school.

Types of Autism:

Over time, psychiatrists have developed a systematic way of describing autism and related conditions. All of these conditions are placed within a group of conditions called pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). Within PDDs, the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) category includes the following:

Autistic disorder: Children with autistic disorder cannot use verbal or non-verbal communication to interact effectively with others. Usually, children with autistic disorder have severe delays in learning language. They may have obsessive interest in certain objects or information. They may perform certain behaviors repeatedly. To be diagnosed with autistic disorder, symptoms must have been noted before age 3.

Pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS): Children diagnosed with “atypical autism” are included in this group. Children with PDD-NOS have symptoms that do not exactly fit those of autistic disorder or any other ASD. For example, the symptoms may have developed after age 3. Or the symptoms may not be severe enough to be considered an autistic disorder.

Asperger’s syndrome: Children with Asperger’s syndrome may display many of the same symptoms as children with autistic disorder. However, they usually have average or above-average intelligence and initially show normal development of language. They often want to be social with others but don’t know how to go about it. They may not be able to understand others’ emotions. They may not read facial expressions or body language well. Their symptoms may not become apparent until school, when behavior and communication with peers become more important.

Other conditions share symptoms with PDDs and ASDs. These conditions include the following:

Rett Syndrome: Children with this severe, rare condition begin with normal development from birth through about 5 months of age. However, from about 5 to 48 months of age, head circumference development slows. Children lose motor skills and social interaction and language development become impaired.

Childhood disintegrative disorder: Like Rett syndrome, children begin developing normally. However, from about age 2 to age 10, children are increasingly less able to interact and communicate with others. At the same time, they develop repetitive movements and obsessive behaviors and interests. They lose motor skills, too. This usually leads to them becoming disabled. This autism-like condition is the rarest and most severe in autism spectrum disorder.

What Causes Autism?

Autism runs in families. The underlying causes, however, are unknown. Most researchers agree that the causes are likely to be genetic, metabolic or bio-chemical, and neurological. Others also believe that environmental factors may be involved.

How Is Autism Treated?

Treatments for autism vary depending on the needs of the individual. In general, treatments fall into four categories:

  • Behavioral and communication therapy
  • Medical and dietary therapy
  • Occupational and physical therapy
  • Complementary therapy (music or art therapy, for example)

Behavioral and Communication Therapies:

The primary treatment for autism includes programs that address several key areas. Those areas are behavior, communication, sensory integration, and social skill development. Addressing these areas requires close coordination between parents, teachers, special education professionals, and mental health professionals.

Medical and Dietary Therapies:

The goal of medication is to make it easier for the person with autism to participate in activities such as learning and behavioral therapy. Drugs used to treat anxiety, attention problems, depression, hyperactivity, and impulsivity may be recommended. These do not “cure” autism, but they can treat underlying dysfunctional symptoms that get in the individual’s way of learning and growing.

There is some evidence that people with autism may have certain deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. These deficiencies don’t cause autism.  Supplements, though, may be recommended to improve nutrition. Vitamin B and magnesium are two of the most frequent supplements used for people with autism. However, one can overdose on these vitamins, so mega-vitamins should be avoided.

Diet changes may also help with some symptoms of autism. Food allergies, for example, may make behavior problems worse. Removing the allergen from the diet may improve behavior issues.

Complementary Therapies:

These treatments may help increase learning and communications skills in some people with autism. Complementary therapies include music, art, or animal therapy, such as horseback riding or swimming with dolphins.

Future Research and Treatment of Autism:

Researchers, health professionals, parents, and persons with autism all have strong opinions about the direction future autism research should take. Everyone would like to find a cure for autism. However, many feel that finding a cure is unlikely. Instead, scarce resources should be devoted toward helping people with autism find better ways to live with the condition.

No matter what the view toward the future, many techniques and treatments exist now that can help relieve the pain and suffering of autism. These treatments offer many options for improving quality of life of people with autism.

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/09/02/436742377/neurotribes-examines-the-history-and-myths-of-the-autism-spectrum

Best Apps for Autistic Kids

Yes, it can be frustrating for kids with autism to communicate or socialize. Here’s are the best apps:

  1. Talking Larry: helps improve language skills as they make Talking Larry repeat their words, whistle, and talk
  2. Prologquo2Go: an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) solution for people who have difficulty speaking or cannot speak at all. Because the program allows users to talk with symbols or typed text, the app speaks in a natural-sounding voice that suits their age and character and is especially helpful for kids with language development delays.
  3. Injini-Child Development Game Suite: features 10 games and 90 puzzles that were developed based on two years of feedback from parents, early childhood educators, and occupational, speech, and cognitive experts. With its play-based learning style, toddlers and preschoolers will practice fine motor and language skills, visual processing, memory, spatial awareness, and understanding cause and effect.
  4. TOBY Playpad: uses a dynamic curriculum to create a program of tasks for you and your child to do. Tasks, which were designed by a speech pathologist, clinical psychologist and occupational therapist, increase or decrease in difficulty based on your child’s progress.
  5. Tiny Fractions: starts out very simply, but offers a visually interactive way to learn fractions.
  6. Grace: offers non-speaking kids an easy way to communicate independently via pictures
  7. What’s the Word: shows four pictures and lets users choose the word that describes them all. The app builds vocabulary, and is a simple and fun way for children with autism to engage.
  8.  SpeechTree: another augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app that uses an interactive learning program to provide beginning and emerging AAC communicators with lots of practice, encouragement, and support.
  9. TapToTalk: an excellent way to give nonverbal or developmentally delayed children a voice and mode of communication all their own.
  10. Look At Me: helps kids learn how to better maintain eye contact, uses photos, facial recognition tech, and a series of games to help kids read emotions and communicate with other people.

 

Communication and Socialization

Communication and social skills are problems for people with autism.

iPads may help boosting skills in kids with autism.

A UCLA professor said the children used the IPad when they were engaged in play. It focused on helping them initiate conversation, using the iPad to comment on what they were doing. The iPad worked because it’s a visual stimulant with auditory feedback. For example, children would mispronounce a word, hear it pronounced correctly on the iPad, and learn to say it correctly.

Even though, it’s only a tool, it’s very efficient for some people with autism who have difficulties in speaking and communicating.

On the other hand, there are sensory friendly activities with apps that help children with autism. Social activities are very challenging when the noise level is high or the crowd of people is overwhelming when attending an activity. Coping skills are often nonexistent and parents and people get frustrated. Sensory friendly activities that control the noise level and limit the number of participants are very helpful to parents who are looking for fun activities for their child. Lights and sounds that are pleasing to children who are sensory challenged are great points to consider when looking for an activity. Examples: roller skating, movies, and bowling in sensory-friendly environments.

iPads also help improve language skills:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ipads-improve-language-skills-in-autistic-kids/

 

Another thing, it is EXTREMELY important for children with autism to learn how to read, write, and communicate like everyone else even if it’s difficult to do so.

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-12-autistic-kids.html
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-08-people-autism-spectrum-disorders-idioms.html

 

A robot that teaches social skills:

https://www.wfaa.com/amp/article?section=features&subsection=original&headline=robot-teaching-social-skills-to-students-on-autism-spectrum&contentId=287-552399995&__twitter_impression=true