With the end of the year comes the end of my blogging for PsychCentral. When I was asked to participate in this endeavor, I committed to blogging for only a few months as a trial period. That time has come to an end. Although the door has been left open for me to return at a later date should circumstances change, I want to say thank you to John Grohol and the PsychCentral staff and to the readers for their interest and comments. In this last blog, I want to comment on an area that gets too little attention because it is so misunderstood. It's misunderstood by nearly everyone, not just those in the ASD community. I want to talk about clinical hypnosis.
Mark opens the present and says with disappointment, “Oh, I already have that.” Mary sees the new DVD she’s received and says, “I hate that movie” or John has a reaction of apathy when given a __________ (fill in the blank). These and other ‘less appropriate’ reactions are not uncommon when kids on the spectrum receive gifts. Pre-teaching and practice is the best intervention here. BEFORE your family and friends arrive with gifts for your child, it’s important to practice how to receive gifts.
I imagine if you’re searching for information about autism, ‘lucky’ is probably not the word you’d use to describe your feelings at the moment. For those new to autism spectrum disorders though, I wonder if you realize how lucky you are to begin your search for information at a time when resources are growing exponentially? I just read about another resource that will soon be available – the first Global Autism Center in Israel. The purpose is to have a site in which research can be conducted with global collaboration and reach. The New York based charity; International Center for Autism Research and Education (ICare4autism) will acquire the campus of Bezalel Academy of Art. They will convert it in 2013 to include a state-of-the-art research facility, a university-level school of autism studies, a model school to apply the latest research to students with ASD and a foundation to support education and treatment worldwide.
A metaphor often used to describe sensory processing issues is the foundation of a house. I don't know where I first heard this metaphor, so my apologies for not giving credit where it might be due. As in building a house, one must first have a firm foundation on which to build a house before proceeding with the framing. The framing must be secure before adding the walls and roof. All these foundational components must be in place, before you can paint the walls and decorate the house. If the foundation is not solid, the house eventually begins to have cracks and problems emerge.
Years ago I was giving a presentation and talked about how I used toy trains in therapy to address a number of therapeutic goals with children on the autism spectrum. I talked about how valuable the trains were in developing social skills, vocabulary, spatial concepts, number concepts, flexibility, and a number of other core skills. About a month later, a colleague of mine was attending an IEP meeting at a school and the school speech therapist indicated she had attended my presentation. She went on to tell my colleague (also a speech therapist) that she had bought a train set and yet, the child she was working with had not significantly changed. I don't know how she could have misunderstood what I was saying in the workshop: it's not the train that makes the difference, it's how you use the train in therapy!
Given the current plethora of information about two recent studies for diagnosing autism, it seemed only relevant to mention them in this blog. Titles like “Instant Test for Autism,” “First Biological Test for Autism” and “Brain Scans Detect Autism” are all over the Internet and news reports. The newest test is called the Lange-Lainhart test after the lead researchers Nicholas Lange and Janet Lainhart. Nicholas Lange is an associate professor at Harvard and director of the Neurostatistics Laboratory at McLean, while Janet Lainhart is a researcher at the University of Utah. The test is used to measure deviation in brain circuitry using a technique called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) with an MRI. Using this technique, the researchers were able to detect autism with 94% accuracy when they measured six aspects of the brain’s circuitry that correlated with clinical symptoms of autism.
I was watching an old episode of the T.V. show CSI-Las Vegas, when Dr. Gil Grissom was still in charge and Warrick Brown was still a cast member. But, I digress for those of you who don’t know this show or care about the cast. The show is about a group of investigators and forensic scientists who investigate crimes in the Las Vegas area. So what does this have to do with autism spectrum disorders? The show wasn’t about any special needs individual, but the end of the show had me thinking…
In a recent study, researchers found that the IQs of children with high functioning autism don’t predict their academic success. Am I being too cynical or could this have been published in the Journal of Duh ? (Add your own sarcastic tone here) Anyone who has worked with, lived with or is personally diagnosed with an autism spectrum (and can critically analyze themselves) has known this for years. Test scores are usually NOT an adequate means of assessing a child with ASD"s abilities, let alone predicting them! I would add, that it is not just IQ scores that don’t predict academic performance, but I have advocated for years that language test scores don’t predict language abilities either, especially in high functioning individuals.
I recently heard about a school system in New Jersey that has decided to develop a convenience store within their school to help teach special needs students in a real-life circumstance about job skills. It’s about time! For years I have been advising teachers, parents and other therapists that working in isolated contexts is only good to a point. We MUST help our kids apply the skills in real world contexts if we’re going to serve them in the long run. I think of all the times I used the other people in my offices for “practice.” Taking my clients to their offices, learning to knock on doors, ask questions, have a conversation, request something, learn to greet or say ‘goodbye” and the list goes on. I have also had office locations that were in shopping centers that allowed me to take kids out in the real world and deal with spontaneous everyday experiences at grocery stores, drug stores, and the ever popular bakery and frozen yogurt shops for treats!
In my last blog I addressed the issue of teaching our kids the skills they need versus doing the skills for them. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is their independence. Obviously, not every child on the spectrum has the same capabilities for being independent. That is a judgment call that only those around a child can make. But even then, there are differences in how one parent versus another sees their child’s abilities or one professional versus another. My general philosophy is to give a child the benefit of the doubt, and slowly provide more and more support as they need it rather than the reverse of providing the support and then withdrawing it. Although this will not work for all children, I have found that it’s easier to add supports where necessary instead of making our children dependent and then removing those supports.