Why Do Kids With Autism Stim
Stim is short for stimulatory and it suggests self-stimulatory behavior. For a kid with Autism, it may look like spinning, flapping hands, or rocking. For everyone else it probably looks the same. Most people have a Stim like tapping a pencil or bouncing their leg. I used to know an adult woman who sucked on her hair. Yeah. I know.
The reason for the stim is the same. People stim to manage their emotions- maybe they feel tired, anxious, nervous or bored. Or someone with Autism may also stim to block sensory input. What makes stimming with Autism different is the amount of stimming and the poor social cues.
Kids with Autism stim more than most and also dont filter the stim based on social appropriateness- like making humming noises in the library. Most people would realize that violates social norms, but a kid with Autism may not know, notice, or care.
AS A TEACHER:You can try to retrain a stimmer to replace their preferred stim with a socially appropriate one. Maybe instead of spinning you introduce and train a stress ball. Also, you can manage the environmental structure to lessen the sensory input you have in your classroom. Is the stim to shut out all the sensory noise? It may be emotion related. Is there a clear and predictable routine in your room? That may lessen the anxiety and, thus, the stim. Need to learn more about Visual Schedules, click here.
Be Grateful For The Strong Connection You And Your Child Will Forge
In reflecting over the last 24 years of our journey, I will say this: My son gives me 100 kisses and hugs every day, he is always happy to see me and he will always be with me. He doesnt lie and he doesnt judge. He is welcoming to anyone that wants to enter his world. On the other hand, my father sees me about twice a year since we live 1,000 miles apart. So which dad is better off? Its not better or worse, its just different. Once you understand that, your road will be smoother.
Scott Sanes, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Kids Are Getting Diagnosed Sooner
There’s no laboratory or medical test for detecting autism, so doctors must rely on behavioral signs. In the past, many were reluctant to label a child as autistic until symptoms became obvious. “The average age for diagnosis had been about 3.5, with many children diagnosed much later,” says Amy Wetherby, Ph.D., director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. But that’s changing.
One reason is that pediatricians are becoming more aware of autism. At the same time, autism specialists are better at identifying early telltale signs such as a lack of babbling or pointing. “Most children with autism will show some signs of developmental disruption by their first birthday,” says Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., an autism researcher at Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute.
And while no one is yet diagnosing autism in children that young, doctors can now make a reliable assessment by 24 months when a child’s brain is still rapidly developing. “If we can intervene while a child’s brain is very immature, it will be much easier to help change her behavior,” Dr. Wetherby says.
What To Do If Youre Worried
If your child is developmentally delayed, or if youve observed other red flags for autism, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician right away. In fact, its a good idea to have your child screened by a doctor even if he or she is hitting the developmental milestones on schedule. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children receive routine developmental screenings, as well as specific screenings for autism at 9, 18, and 30 months of age.
Schedule an autism screening. A number of specialized screening tools have been developed to identify children at risk for autism. Most of these screening tools are quick and straightforward, consisting of yes-or-no questions or a checklist of symptoms. Your pediatrician should also get your feedback regarding your childs behavior.
Myths About Autistic Parents
There are a great many myths surrounding autism. These myths can make it hard to understand how an autistic person could be a good parent. Here are just a few such misunderstandings about autism:
- People with autism don’t feel normal emotions. While people with autism may have slightly different reactions to particular situations or experiences than some of their neurotypical peers, they do feel joy, anger, curiosity, frustration, delight, love, and every other emotion.
- People with autism can’t love. As stated above, this is completely untrue.
- People with autism can’t empathize with others. In some cases, it is hard for an autistic person to put themselves into the shoes of someone else who wants, feels, or reacts in ways that are outside of their own experience. But this is true for anyone. For example, it’s hard to empathize with a child who wants to do things you dislike.
- People with autism can’t communicate well. People with high-functioning autism use spoken language as well as neurotypical peers. They may, however, have difficulty with “social communication.” They may need to work harder to make sense of body language or subtle forms of communication such as nonverbal cues.
Know That Medical Issues Can Be Involved
I wish I had known about the invisible medical issues of autism right from the start. For years, I had no idea that gastrointestinal dysfunction, including constipation, acid reflux, inflammation and pain, could dramatically affect my sons sleep patterns, mood, irritability, aggression, attention, and even communication. Our son had to power through those problems all by himself on a daily basis, and it breaks my heart that we never suspected the cause of many of his struggles.
Janet Lintala, West Virginia
Four Legs And Fur May Change Your Child’s World And Give You Hope
“We were on an endless search for that one thing that was going to make the difference for our son … and then we adopted Xena, a severely abused and neglected puppy. The moment my son and Xena met, there was an immediate and undeniable bond. He spoke freely to her; he sang to her; he played with her. They were inseparable. We spent years and thousands of dollars on therapy hoping to accomplish what this dog was able to attain instantly. My son finally had a relationship where there was no judgment or expectations placed on him, but there was a friendship that allowed him to let it all go, open up and be himself. I am not saying that all families living with autism should have a dog, but I will say that miracles do come true, and your miracle may be at your local shelter waiting for you.”
Linda Hickey, Johns Creek, Georgia
Autism: What To Look For
Children with autism spectrum disorder are characterized by a combination of two unusual kinds of behaviors: deficits in communication and social skills, and restricted or repetitive behaviors. These symptoms may vary greatly in severity.
Social communication and social interaction: Signs of social deficits you might notice in a developing child include aversion to displays of affection like cuddling and hugging and a preference for solitary play. In younger kids, say under 3, failure to respond to their own name is a red flag, as is disinterest in giving, sharing, or showing objects of interest. In older children, warning signs include difficulty carrying on a reciprocal conversation, lack of eye contact, and difficulty using and reading body language. These children may have difficulty recognizing others emotions, responding appropriately to different social situations, and understanding social relationships.
Restricted or repetitive behaviors: Key behavioral signs include the performance of repetitive actions and rituals, and fixation on minute details to the point of distraction. Children with autism can be upset by the slightest change in daily routine. In young kids, signs of autism include ordering toys instead of playing with them. In older children, the repetitive behavior can manifest as a consuming interest in a specific topic or object.
Diagnosis Of Autism: What We Do Know
Autistic children benefit from early diagnosis, preferably in the first two years of life. Early diagnosis allows behavioral therapy or other treatments to begin early when it seems to be most effective. If you are concerned about your child, talk to your doctor about a referral to see a specialist who can help determine if follow-up is needed. Signs of autism may include symptoms such as:
- no babbling or pointing by age 1
- no single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
- no response to name
- loss of language or social skills
- poor eye contact
Please Let My Child Play With Your Child
A study done in Australia found that 42% of teens and adults on the Autism Spectrum do not feel comfortable leaving their own home because they often feel others treat them negatively. Not only is this heartbreaking for the affected individuals, it also leads to further misunderstanding and stigma about autism by the general public. Children with autism like to play with their peers, and largely benefit from being included in things like play dates and sports teams.
Research Early Signs And Treatment
There’s been widespread controversy about a possible connection between vaccines and the soaring autism rates. Some parents of children whose autistic symptoms first appeared shortly after their measles-mumps-rubella immunization are convinced the shot was the cause, but repeated studies have failed to find scientific evidence. Although one small, heavily publicized British study published in 1998 suggested a link, 10 of the 13 authors publicly retracted the findings in March 2004, saying they were unreliable. The study, lead by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, only studied a small sample of 12 kids, eight of whom were diagnosed with autism. By early 2010, the same British journal, The Lancet, that published his findings retracted his study and in January 2011, the British Medical Journal publicly denounced Dr. Wakefield’s research as “fraudulent.” The British Medical Journal announced that Dr. Wakefield had “falsified data” and tampered with his research results to give the MMR vaccine bad publicity. At the time of his study, Dr. Wakefield had been involved in a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine and would have gained money if he’d won, making his research an obvious conflict of interest.
Understanding The Connection Between Social Skills And Autism
All of these social skills problems are rooted in some of the basic elements of ASD:
- Delays and difficulty in acquiring verbal communication skills
- Inability to read non-verbal communication cues
- Repetitive or obsessive behaviors and insistence on an adherence to fixed routine
- Overwhelming sensory inputs
These combinations of traits make it enormously difficult for ASD patients to acquire the basic social skills that most of us take for granted.
This deficit is often misread as a desire to avoid people or social situations, but that couldnt be further from the truth: most individuals with ASD badly want to interact with others, they simply dont have the skillset to do so easily.
This, in turn, can breed frustration that only fuels the fire. People on the spectrum may have outbursts and throw tantrums or express themselves inappropriately in social contexts, essentially as a result of boiling over at their difficulty to either understand their place in a social situation or make themselves understood to others.
Autisms Genetic Risk Factors
Research tells us that autism tends to run in families. Changes in certain genes increase the risk that a child will develop autism. If a parent carries one or more of these gene changes, they may get passed to a child . Other times, these genetic changes arise spontaneously in an early embryo or the sperm and/or egg that combine to create the embryo. Again, the majority of these gene changes do not cause autism by themselves. They simply increase risk for the disorder
It Won’t Always Be Like This
“During the hardest times, when my son wasnt sleeping or eating or when he melted down over lights and sounds, I wish I knew it wouldnt always be like this. I wish someone would have told me that the child I have now will grow and change and regress and thrive. You will feel frozen in time at different points. Know that it will get better. And harder. It will change.”
Kate Swenson, Cottage Grove, Minnesota
Wide Awake: Why Children With Autism Struggle With Sleep
Half of children who have autism have trouble falling or staying asleep, which may make their symptoms worse. Scientists are just beginning to explore what goes wrong in the midnight hour.
Bramli was giving the stink eye to the grown-ups in her room, shooting resentful glances their way. Around 7:30 p.m. on a warm June evening, daylight was fading outside her home in Morgan Hill, California. A 5-year-old with curly brown hair, Bramli was dressed in pink-and-green pajamas and rigged from head to toe with more than 20 sensors. Crowning her head was a snug black spandex cap studded with electrodes connected to black wires that bunched together and ran down her back.
The girl was about to undergo an evaluation that would track her brainwaves, eye movements, heart, muscle activity and breathing as she slept. But Bramli, who has severe autism and is nonverbal, is an energetic, trampoline-loving whirlwind who doesnt often sit still for long. Just putting all the monitoring equipment on her was no small feat.
Bramli wriggled, whimpered, moaned and sobbed as two Stanford University researchers gently cajoled her through the hook-up process. The girls mother, Haley Bennett, went all out to distract her with treats that were normally off limits after dinner: lollipops, soda and play time on the Nintendo and mini iPad.
Wired for bedtime: Haley Bennett distracts her daughter Bramli with treats while researchers attach sensors to monitor the girl during sleep.
Finding A Place In The Social World
Even if they escape bullying, many teens with ASD struggle with social isolation. A large national study of teens receiving special education services revealed that students with ASD were less likely to take part in social activities than adolescents with speech and language disorders, learning disabilities or intellectual disability.1
More than 40 percent of the teens with ASD never saw friends outside of school. Half were never invited to take part in activities. For 54 percent, friends never called.1
A smaller study found that “social withdrawal worsened with age for a substantial proportion of youths” with ASD between ages 9 and 18, regardless of IQ.2
“Teens say actually the hardest part is not having friends. People think they don’t want to have friends, but they do,” Ms. Sicile-Kira said.
Dr. Keefer said many teens and young adults with ASD want, at a minimum, to be accepted. “There is a desire to be accepted, to have people around you who are nice to you and with whom you can share your interests,” she said.
The “special interests” common to autism can be an escape from social interaction, if a teen occupies himself solely with his favorite topic. “But, if used correctly, those special interests can be a way to connect with other people. An interest in gaming, for instance, is often a way for teenage boys to connect with one another,” Dr. Keefer said.
- See IAN’s Adults with Autism section.
Endogenous Opiate Precursor Theory
In 1979, Jaak Panksepp proposed a connection between autism and opiates, noting that injections of minute quantities of opiates in young laboratory animals induce symptoms similar to those observed among autistic children. The possibility of a relationship between autism and the consumption of and was first articulated by Kalle Reichelt in 1991.
Opiate theory hypothesizes that autism is the result of a metabolic disorder in which opioid peptides and , produced through metabolism of gluten and casein , pass through an abnormally permeable intestinal wall and then proceed to exert an effect on neurotransmission through binding with opioid receptors. It has been postulated that the resulting excess of opioids affects brain maturation, and causes autistic symptoms, including behavioural difficulties, attention problems, and alterations in communicative capacity and social and cognitive functioning.
Although high levels of these opioids are eliminated in the urine, it has been suggested that a small part of them cross into the brain causing interference of signal transmission and disruption of normal activity. Three studies have reported that urine samples of people with autism show an increased 24-hour peptide excretion. A study with a control group found no appreciable differences in opioid levels in urine samples of people with autism compared to controls. Two studies showed an increased opioid levels in cerebrospinal fluid of people with autism.
Please Be Patient With My Child
Children on the Autism Spectrum often have a slew of sensory issues and meltdowns in common. Because no one would expect a family with autistic children to stay home all hours of the day, these meltdowns often happen in stores, at parks, and in other public places. Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum simply want others to understand that these meltdowns are not brought on by bad behavior, and to please remain patient with both the parents and the child. Rolling your eyes or mumbling snide comments are not helpful. It will not change the immediate situation and can even add further stress to both parent and child.
Why Do Kids With Autism Walk Without Shoes
I have a few pairs of shoes in my closet I could do without, dont you? The reason is because they pinch my toes or feel a little tight. Well, think about the sensory information that comes in from your foot. Even in comfortable shoes, you entire foot on the ground is a lot of sensory input. Walking on your toes is less input. Thats one theory anyway. Another is that it could relate to motor development, but I have found the first to be more true.
AS A TEACHER:It is okay to allow a student to work in their station without shoes , but be sure you have a clear procedure to get the shoes on when needed. When time for PE or lunch or bus rolls around, use a visual to indicate it is time for shoes.
Youll need to practice it ahead of time, so bust out the timer and visual, indicate it is time, and build up the students shoe stamina and tolerance for that kind of sensory input. Consider using a Token Board with a rule card on it to improve visual cues and compliance. Score some Free Boards .
What Research Is Being Done
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world. NINDS and several other NIH Institutes and Centers support research on autism spectrum disorder.
Nearly 20 years ago the formed the Autism Coordinating Committee to enhance the quality, pace, and coordination of efforts at the NIH to find a cure for autism. The NIH/ACC has been instrumental in promoting research to understand and advance ASD. The NIH/ACC also participates in the broader Federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee , composed of representatives from various U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies, the Department of Education, and other governmental organizations, as well as public members, including individuals with ASD and representatives of patient advocacy organizations. One responsibility of the IACC is to develop a strategic plan for ASD research, which guides research programs supported by and other participating organizations.
Signs And Symptoms Of Autism In Babies And Toddlers
If autism is caught in infancy, treatment can take full advantage of the young brains remarkable plasticity. Although autism is hard to diagnose before 24 months, symptoms often surface between 12 and 18 months. If signs are detected by 18 months of age, intensive treatment may help to rewire the brain and reverse the symptoms.
The earliest signs of autism involve the absence of typical behaviorsnot the presence of atypical onesso they can be tough to spot. In some cases, the earliest symptoms of autism are even misinterpreted as signs of a good baby, since the infant may seem quiet, independent, and undemanding. However, you can catch warning signs early if you know what to look for.
Some autistic infants dont respond to cuddling, reach out to be picked up, or look at their mothers when being fed.
My Autistic Child Has Feelings
A common challenge children on the Autism Spectrum and their parents face is the assumption that because an autistic child cannot verbalize or express their feelings like a neurotypical child might, those feelings must not exist. But nothing could be further from the truth. As one parent bluntly describes, Even children who dont speak can still hear you. Dont talk to me over my children like they arent there, especially if youre going to sympathetically tell me what a saint I am for dealing with a horrible situation every day. Im not a saint. Im their mother. And she HEARS YOU and understands that youre saying shes a burden to me.
What Role Do Genes Play
Twin and family studies strongly suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to autism. Identical twin studies show that if one twin is affected, then the other will be affected between 36 to 95 percent of the time. There are a number of studies in progress to determine the specific genetic factors associated with the development of ASD. In families with one child with ASD, the risk of having a second child with the disorder also increases. Many of the genes found to be associated with autism are involved in the function of the chemical connections between brain neurons . Researchers are looking for clues about which genes contribute to increased susceptibility. In some cases, parents and other relatives of a child with ASD show mild impairments in social communication skills or engage in repetitive behaviors. Evidence also suggests that emotional disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia occur more frequently than average in the families of people with ASD.
My Autistic Child Is Not Trying To Be Difficult
As one parent stated about her autistic son on the popular website Baby Gaga, He isnt giving us a hard time. Hes having a hard time. No child on the Autism Spectrum is trying to behave badly when they experience a meltdown. The biology of autism is complicated and extensive, and much of it cannot even be tested for medically. Children on the Autism Spectrum have trouble with their methylation pathways. Their intestinal tracts do not absorb nutrients well. This impairs their immune system and guts, which then leads to issues in the brain. Because the brain and body of an autistic child do not always work as one, they have to express their pain and frustration in the form of things like meltdowns.
What Is The Difference Between Autism And Autism Spectrum Disorder
The term autism was changed to autism spectrum disorder in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association. ASD is now an umbrella term that covers the following conditions:
- Autistic disorder.
- Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified .
- Asperger syndrome.
People with ASD have trouble with social interactions and with interpreting and using non-verbal and verbal communication in social contexts. Individuals with ASD may also have the following difficulties:
- Inflexible interests.
- Insistence on sameness in environment or routine.
- Repetitive motor and sensory behaviors, like flapping arms or rocking.
- Increased or decreased reactions to sensory stimuli.
How well someone with ASD can function in day-to-day life depends on the severity of their symptoms. Given that autism varies widely in severity and everyday impairment, the symptoms of some people arent always easily recognized.