Autism Research: A Missing Piece
Over the last few decades, a significant body of research has zeroed in on challenges to neural connectivity as key to understanding autism . Previous theories have been laid successively to rest, including the early suggestion that autism may be a traumatic response to cold parenting ; an extreme language impairment , a single basic learning impediment such as a limited attention span, an amnesiac disorder, or an auditory processing deficit ; or closely correlated with intellectual disability . Recent interest in the supposed inability of children with autism to invoke a Theory of Mind faltered once this multidimensional concept was deconstructed . Many researchers now argue that no such inborn mental mechanism exists, and look instead to the study of dynamic systems to understand different embodied experiences .
To have autism is like having a short in a computer. I know what I want to do, but my body gets confused and it does not correctly carry out the order my brain sends it. I take in information, but my body scrambles the output .
For such individuals, unusual challenges and exceptional skills can exist side by side, in the same brain domains . Self-advocate Sue Rubin reflects:
It is funny how we are considered strange or different, even though our recollection of complex patterns, memory for precise detail, and overall capabilities many times exceed those of the people who are pointing or staring .
Babies With Asd Flapping Hands
Why do autistic children flap their hands? This repetitive motion is something that is known as stimming or self-stimulation. Almost everyone in the world has preferred stimming behaviors. Some people crack their fingers, scratch their chin, or bite their lips. You might pick at your cuticles or twirl your ring. These are all examples of stimming.
For autistic children, stimming motions can be quite large and carry on for extended durations.
- Flapping hands
- Walking on tiptoes or pacing
While someone without ASD will notice when people have an adverse reaction to their stimming , individuals with autism have no sense of socially inappropriate stimming.
A child with ASD might spin or flap their hands for upwards of 20 minutes without realizing that it is an odd thing to do. When observing these motions for the first time, you may think that the child is dancing. However, the child is simply performing a self-stimulation tactic, which usually helps them cope with a challenging situation.
Stimming is a way for those with autism to express frustration, calm themselves down, distract themselves from an overwhelming situation, or feel comfortable in a new place. What can be confusing is that when children with ASD dance, many of these same motions may appear.
Tips For Teaching Music To People With Autism
How did Toms teachers succeed? Like all good teachers, they used a combination of different teaching tools, a lot of patience, a sense of humor, and a good deal of flexibility. In addition, these techniques were particularly effective:
Autistic Toddlers Do Not Tune In To Sounds With Others
Unlike typical toddlers, those with autism tend not to share experiences involving sound dancing to music with their parents, for example, or directing a parents attention toward a cats meow according to a new study.
Sharing sounds in this way is a form of joint attention focusing on something intentionally with another person which helps young children learn social skills and how to communicate. Joint attention also occurs when, for instance, a parent looks at a toy and names it, and their child follows their gaze to look at it, too. Children typically develop joint attention as toddlers, but autistic children often do not, and a lack of that skill is thought to be one of the earliest signs of autism.
Previous work has focused on visual joint attention, often in the context of a parent trying to get a child to look at their face or at a particular object. The new study examined joint attention elicited by a range of sounds. As with new sights, children with autism are often interested in new sounds, the researchers found, but less interested in sharing them.
This work is one step toward finding out how variations in childrens experiences of sharing sounds might relate to later language development, says lead researcher Lauren Adamson, Regents professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. The findings were published in August in Autism Research.
Communication Through Music Can Engage And Organise An Autistic Child In Moving And Feeling And Is Effective For Both Therapy And Diagnosis
Modern developmental psychology shows that the classical psychodynamic theory of Mahler or Klein underestimated the young infants self-organisation and capacity for interpersonal awareness . Methods of supporting emotional functioning, communication and learning now address more directly the motives that the child inherently brings to relationships . They are sensitive to the feelings of fragmented body- and self-awareness and weak perceptual grasp of objects and the behaviours of other persons that some autistic adults describe vividly . Children with autism have trouble imaging or representing the form of their bodies and how their body movements can be coordinated and addressed to investigate surroundings, and they may even show signs of not recognising parts of their bodies as belonging to themselves . This accords well with ideas of a core function of embodiment or somatic marking underlying the functional coherence and dynamic coordination of the mind . It also makes sense of the social difficulties of people with autism, when one recognises that all intersubjective contact between human beings is mediated by movements of the body, as a whole and with differentiated partial movements of expression .
Team Sports That May Be A Poor Match
While there are always exceptions to the rule, cooperative team sports such as soccer, basketball, lacrosse, and hockey may be particularly tough for a child with autism. That’s because:
- Coordination: Team sports that require ball or puck handling also require a high level of strength and coordination. Autism often goes along with lowered muscle tone and problems with coordination. As a result, autistic children may have a tough time playing well.
- Environment: Team sports are often played in environments that are very hot, cold, loud, or bright. Most children with autism have sensory challenges that make loud noise, bright lights, and temperature extremes difficult to handle. The outcome can be a very unhappy or even uncooperative child.
- Social communication: Teams are all about social communication, and playing team sports requires advanced social communication skills. Autism is a disorder in which those skills are compromised. It can be tough for autistic kids to fit into a team, communicate well with team members, or predict what another team member is likely to do.
All that said, however, many groups are eager to provide autistic children with opportunities to take part in team sports “just like everyone else.”
If your child seems interested, you may want to look into special needs sports teams such as those created by the Challenger Club, which offers opportunities designed specifically for kids with challenges and disabilities.
Physically Demanding Activities & Exercises For Kids With Autism
Children of any age with autism will have moments throughout the day where they just need to get their wiggles out. Being at home all day will only add to the stir-craziness, which can result in some difficult behaviors. Take a couple hours out of the day, which can be broken up into several minute intervals, to run your child through physical exercise. Heres a few in-home exercise for kids ideas:
- Army Drills: A combination of pushups, situps, jumping jacks, and running in place.
- Stair Relays: Have the child retrieve toys at one end of the stairs and then run up to place toys in a basket.
- Dance Party: Get your music list rolling and have a dance-off.
- Indoor Obstacle Courses: Using furniture, pillows, blankets, and other items you dont mind having your child climb on to create a fun obstacle course. Check This Out
- Hopscotch: Outline a hopscotch game on the carpet with tape or sidewalk chalk outside. See How
- Crawl Relay Races: Use a combination of bear crawls, crab walks, and alligator crawls.
- Pediatric Yoga: Pull up a few Youtube tutorials about yoga for kids. Heres One We Love
- Indoor Tag: Use nerf guns, bouncy balls, bean bags, or other soft tossable items to duke it out over a game of tag.
- Nature Walks and Jogs: For some quarantine orders, you can still go outside and walk around your neighborhood.
What Is Music Therapy
A music therapy session is led by an established healthcare professional. They use music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs.
The therapy can be delivered 1-1 or in a group which encourages socialisation. A session will usually provide some structured musical activities alongside some free expression time.
Music therapy is designed to express feelings, enhance communication, promote physical rehabilitation, manage stress and promote quality of life. Many skills are encouraged through the sessions including:
- turn taking
- awareness of self and others.
In most sessions a large and varied selection of percussion instruments is available to allow freedom of choice. My son was very overwhelmed by the amount of instruments in his music therapists room which resembled a hoarders den. After a couple of sessions with me joining him he got used to the environment and absolutely loved exploring all the different sounds and sensory experiences.
The sessions provide an opportunity to play musical instruments with no experience needed. There is no right or wrong way to play or interact with music. Creative and spontaneous freedom of expression is encouraged and never criticised.
Lack Of Imitation Skills
Typically-developing children watch how others play with toys and imitate them. For example, a typically developing child might choose to line up blocks one next to the other the first time they play with them. But as soon as the typically developing child sees others build with the blocks, the child will imitate that behavior.
A child with autism may not even notice that others are playing with blocks at all and is very unlikely to observe others’ behavior and then intuitively begin to imitate that behavior.
Using Music At Home With Your Child
The best thing to do is expose young children to lots of different types of music. Different musical styles and sounds are important to see what preferences they have. But remember most of us like different music depending on our mood and our preferences change over time.
At about 2.5 years old my son would get very upset when I sang nursery rhymes to him. I assumed he didnt like my tone deaf singing voice. Then he started to get upset with singing at nursery too. It took a while for me to figure it out. His distress was because he knew he was supposed to be joining in. The problem was he didnt know how.
My son loves music, he did as a baby and does now. I found his reaction to nursery rhymes very odd. He now has a better language understanding and can follow more of the rhymes. It is clear to me now that the issue was understanding. I wish I had realised this earlier as there is so much I could have done to make it easier for him to join in. I started early with visuals for my youngest and it does make a big difference.
Here are some of our favourite musical activities to do at home.
On Research Focus And Design
In summary, this parent proposes that it is time to take a break from the enumeration of what people with autism appear to be not doing and construct a research agenda based on the assumption that they are exploring and developing, and that investigating how that is occurring will open new vistas. If any area of study can force us to leave teleology at the door, as the price of admission, it is autism. Measured as progress toward pre-defined and self-obvious goals, development in autism becomes a dry account of missed marks; when activity and adaptation are given primacy in research and practice, we begin to see differently.
What we are seeing is a developmental difference that appears to be marked by profound challenges to neurological connectivity, resulting in a cascade of confusing perceptual experiences that disrupts the finely-tuned choreography of social interaction. A promising question researchers might ask concerns the role of rhythm and timing in the rapid, yet highly sensitive, operations involved in piecing together coherent sensory and motor experience, and whether temporal accommodations and supports can be mobilized to reduce an overloaded processing system and enhance performance. Is there plasticity in the perceptual and motor systems of children diagnosed with autism, and does it differ in speed and degree according to type of sensory input, task structure, and the type of accommodations and supports utilized to guide them?
Lack Of Joint Attention Skills
Joint attention skills are the skills we use when we attend to something with another person. People use joint attention skills when they share a game together, look at a puzzle together, or otherwise think and work in a pair or group.
People with autism often have impaired joint attention skills. While these skills can be taught, they may never develop on their own.
Answer The Five Questions At The End Of This Post And If You Answer No To Two Or More Begin Early Intervention Right Away But First Here Are Some Early Warning Signs Of Asd
Early Warning Signs: First Year
Even young infants are very social, so its possible to detect signs of autism in how babies interact with their world. At this age, a child with an ASD may:
- Not turn to a mothers voice
- Not respond to his own name
- Not look people in the eye
- Have no babbling or pointing by age one
- Not smile or respond to social cues from others
Babies who do not have autism can have these behaviors, too, but it’s best to contact your doctor right away with any concerns.
At 12 Months
- A child with typical development will turn his head when he hears his name.
- A child with ASD might not turn to look, even after his name is repeated several times, but will respond to other sounds.
At 18 Months
- A child with delayed speech skills will point, gesture, or use facial expressions to make up for her lack of talking.
- A child with ASD might make no attempt to compensate for delayed speech or might limit speech to parroting what is heard on TV or what she just heard.
At 24 Months
- A child with typical development brings a picture to show his mother and shares his joy from it with her.
- A child with ASD might bring her a bottle of bubbles to open, but he does not look at his mom’s face when she does or share in the pleasure of playing together.
ASD at any age might include the following signs:
- Repeated motions
- Avoiding eye contact or physical touch
- Delays in learning to talk
- Repeating words or phrases
- Getting upset by minor changes
Signs That Your Baby May Have Autism
Most of these are markers that would show up between the 6 months to 1 year range. Before that, many of these may not show up at all. It is also important to know that any one of these traits on its own is not a diagnosis. If your child is showing a number of these traits over the 6 month period, it is always good to see a doctor for assessment. Early diagnosis and treatment can really make a difference in skills building later on. Again this list should not be considered a diagnosis, only used as a tool to start a conversation with your doctor who can then start a proper assessment process.
Early Signs Of Autism: Does My Toddler Have It
A few columns ago, while attempting to explain why toddlers do crazy things, I mentioned that my 21-month-old son likes to line up his toy cars over and over and over again. A reader highlighted this habit in the comments section and asked whether Id had my son screened for autism. Her implication, I think, was that I should be concernedrepetitive behaviors can be early signs of the developmental disorder, and autism symptoms usually appear before kids turn 2.
Reading her comment, I realized that I had a lot to learn about autism. Sure, we hear about the disorder all the time in the media, but much of what were told is either highly controversial or total hogwash, like the idea the U.S. is in the throes of an autism epidemic or the notion that vaccines cause autism . Maybe I just dont read enough, but I have rarely come across information about how I, as a parent, might identify the signs of autism in my child. And this lack of awareness, if it extends to other parents, could be a problem, because research suggests that some autistic children greatly benefit from early behavioral intervention programs that can boost social and language skills, IQs, independence, and adaptability.
Lack Of Social Communication Skills
In order to be successful in pretend play and imitation, typically-developing children actively seek out engagement and communication and quickly learn how to “read” the intentions of other people.
Children with autism tend to be self-absorbed, and have little desire or ability to communicate or engage with playmates. Peers may see this behavior as hurtful , or may simply ignore the child with autism. In some cases, children with autism are bullied, scorned, or ostracized.
#5: Group Music Classes
Does your community offer simple music programs such as Kindermusik, Lets Play Music or other group music classes? These are music programs that require a parent to accompany a child to each class. Observe a class and from your observations, determine if your autistic child would fit into the class and would be something they would like and enjoy. Many autistic children do not like crowds, noise, and too much stimulation. Be aware of this when you are looking for a class.
Research group music classes that would be appropriate for your autistic child and give them a positive experience.
One suggestion: if you are concerned about your child acting appropriately in the classask the teacher if you can purchase or borrow the music she will be playing in class. Then play this music for your child repeatedly prior to class. And explain to your child some of the things he/she will be expected to dosuch as participating in activities such as sitting, singing, dancing, taking turns, etc.
Autistic children love and respond to music. And as illustrated, music helps them communicate, socialize and feel a part of the world.
To access the resources and studies included in this post, refer to my book, .
Do you have an autistic child? How do you use music to engage with your child? Has it been helpful for your child? Please comment in the section below.
Home Activities Perfect For Your Child With Autism
As much of the world finds itself staying in to prevent the spread of the unfamiliar COVID-19 or coronavirus, millions of kids are finding themselves limited to entertainment and exercise within the walls of their own home. This includes a vast number of children with autism who are struggling with the new and unexpected changes to their daily living routines.
After a few weeks and a few more to come, you may be running out of ideas, so weve put together at home activities for your autistic child. If you have the AngelSense GPS Tracker for Kids there are some additional tips and activities you can do with it here.
We also put together a list of online freebies for kids to help as well.
In-home Activities Perfect for Children with Autism
Since autism is a wide spectrum, you cant expect all children to respond the same way when they are told that they will be staying home for the next several weeks, and in some cases without an answer as to when theyll be able to go back out into the community. As a parent, you are more familiar with how your child will react than just about anyone. Assess their response, expect some resistance and behavioral problems that come with the changes, allow for them to be upset, and then start adjusting your in-home plan to keep them occupied and engaged.
What Singing Aloud Reveals About Autism
Dance party: People feel different levels of embarrassment when theyre dancing, watching themselves dance or watching someone else dance.
When Kanye West grabs the microphone unannounced at a music awards show, most of us reflexively cringe with embarrassment. As uncomfortable as it might feel, this pang of vicarious humiliation is actually a form of empathy the ability to share the thoughts and feelings of another person. And according to a new study, it can teach us something about autism.
People with autism are often said to struggle with empathy. But this difficulty doesnt necessarily mean theyre impervious to other peoples emotions. Rather, they may have trouble matching their own feelings to those of others, suggests a study published 2 March in Autism Research.
The researchers asked 17 people with high-functioning autism and 24 controls to sing, dance and tell a joke, and then rate how embarrassed they felt. A week later, the study participants came back to the lab to watch videos of themselves performing and rated how embarrassed they felt.
Participants also watched videos of other people performing the same acts. This time, they rated how embarrassed they thought the performer might feel, as well as how embarrassed they felt watching the performance. This second concept is known as empathic embarrassment the awkwardness we feel on behalf of someone else.