A Mom Assess Her Role as a Parent of an Autistic Child

Isaac loves his iPad. It is with him from the moment he wakes until the second he goes to sleep. He has a few games he likes and he really enjoys looking through the photos but his all time love is YouTube. He is pretty typical of many 8 year old boys in that sense. […]

via How My Severely Autistic Son Used YouTube To Speak To Me — faithmummy

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It’s Almost Back-to-School Time for Children and Tees with Autism, ADHD, and Learning Disabilities. Here Are Some Useful Resources

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Back to school can be stressful for most children. For children with a learning disability, ADHD, dyslexia, or autism, these worries are often more severe. Our latest blog piece offers parents tips to make this transition ritual much less stressful.

Last Friday, we posted a link to our latest blog piece for parents of anxious children (often those with a learning disability, ADHD, or autism).

We add another free resource, from Autism Parenting magazine. It was published last year, but it is still available:

 

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Here is another helpful link for parents of a child with autism. This free resource has been around since last year, but it is still available for free. It contains much helpful material. Of course, we have advocacy services for parents in New Jersey.

A Second Look at “Uniquely Human”

The book Uniquely Human argues that autistic behaviors are human behaviors.
We feature many of our articles in “Celebrating Individual Abilities” on our new agency blog, which also contains announcements of Advancing Opportunities, along with brief items of disability news that are not sufficiently detailed for this blog. In addition, we reviewed Uniquely Human in this space last year. To see it again, with an update on Dr. Barry Prizant’s brief speech at the United Nations on World Autism Day, March 31, please check out the article on our newly rebuilt and much-improved website, as we continue our blog series on autism appreciation and awareness with a review of Dr. Prizant’s excellent book, “Uniquely Human.”

Rutgers University Offers an Inclusive Setting for Autistic Students

The Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services offers autistic adults inclusion in a community setting

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney was on hand this week to meet with the first adult with autism at the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services (RCAAS) day center. That program was launched late 2015.

“The Center for Adult Autism Services is working to accomplish something that I think everyone agrees should be our top priority,” said Senator Sweeney in a statement on his website. “It allows adults with autism to live as fulfilling a life as possible. We want everyone, no matter what challenges they face, to reach their fullest potential. This support can make a real difference in their lives.”

Rutgers Center Autism

When the first phase of the program is in full operation, the center will offer up to 60 adults with autism (living off campus) fulfilling university jobs. The effort will supported by Rutgers clinical staff and graduate students. The following (second) phase calls for a residential program for 20 adults with autism. These individuals will work on campus and live alongside Rutgers graduate students in an apartment-style residence. These inclusive settings will offer individuals with autism the satisfaction and learning that come from employment. As such, the program will present Rutgers students with important educational opportunities as well.

 

The University’s Douglass campus is already host to the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center. This on-site program for children and teens on the autism spectrum is accessible to graduate and undergraduate students in education and psychology.

Advancing Opportunities applauds efforts in New Jersey to provide people with intellectual and developmental disabilities settings for full participation in society.

April: Fostering an Awareness, Appreciation, and Understanding of Autism

World Autism Awareness Day

Central to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is “respect for the inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons… and full and effective participation and inclusion in society” (Article 3). This concept is reflected in this year’s theme for World Autism Awareness Day, “Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination.”

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In the U.S. and throughout the world, the rate of autism is high, affecting children and adults of all socioeconomic and ethnic groups. According to the U.N., “Appropriate support, accommodation, and acceptance of this neurological condition allow those on the spectrum to enjoy equal opportunity, and full and effective participation in society.”

On March 31, 2017, the U.N. held conference on multiple aspects of autism, Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination, which included the following:

In welcoming everyone, Cristina Gallach, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said “We come together to renew our commitment to raising awareness of the rights of persons with autism – to equal opportunity and full participation in society, on an equal basis, with other citizens. To achieve this inclusive society that we aspire to, we must… ensure that the fundamental rights enshrined in the CRPD are respected.” This is a right that has been recognized since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was declared in 1948. Continued Ms. Gallach, “When [people with autism] enjoy equal opportunity for self-determination and autonomy, persons with autism will be empowered to make an even stronger positive impact on our shared future.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could not be present, but he prepared a statement: “On this World Autism Awareness Day, let us play a part in changing attitudes toward persons with autism and in recognizing their rights as citizens who, like everyone else, are entitled to claim those rights and make decisions for their lives in accordance with their own will and preferences. Let us also renew our promise engraved in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind, and ensure that all people can contribute as active members to a peaceful and prosperous society.”

The keynote speaker, Simon Baron-Cohen, Director, Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, was gave an overview of the autism spectrum.

In regard to the “commitment to leave no one behind,” Jackie Pilgrim, a noted disability advocate spoke about dignity. In her work with NAMI Durham she spoke of her organization’s new 8-hour course for police and first-responders to replace the inadequate 1.5 hour course used previously, one for which they have shown “passion” to learn.

Barry Prizant, author of the landmark book Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, summarized his philosophy:

Uniquely Human

  • De-pathologize autistic behavior (echolalia, stimming). It’s the way we deal with stress and self-regulate. They should not be repressed or otherwise “managed.”
  • Autism is not a tragedy, it can become one
  • Self-determination begins in early childhood. Children at an early age
  • Let’s look at ourselves.

Added Micheal John Carley. The best way to help is to examine ourselves and change the way we view people with autism.

An autism research and education organization, Autism Speaks, initiated the worldwide Light It Up Blue, campaign in its effort to raise autism awareness.    Among many in the autism community, both advocates and self-advocates, Autism Speaks is highly controversial, because that organization is seeking a cure, whereas many people prefer to see autism as simply another way of being, “different, not broken.”

 

National Autism Awareness Month

A ribbon made of multicolored puzzle pieces.  It has become one the most recognizable symbols of autism in the world.  The various colors reflect the many “faces” of autism, a condition often referred to as the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because no two people with autism are alike.  (The cognitive abilities of people with ASD range from “nonverbal” to intellectually brilliant.)  The ribbon symbolizes solidarity and hope of a happy, fulfilling life for people with autism.  The puzzle pieces remind us that the condition and the people with it are still very much a mystery.

Autism Awareness Month first came to be some 25 years ago, when the Autism Society of America undertook an effort to promote autism awareness.  The primary objective was to “promote … inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with autism  is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest quality of life.”

 

Three short films that treat autism awareness and appreciation are worth noting:

  • “Make it Stop.” This is a brand-new awareness video to foster understanding of people with autism.
  •  “Talking in Pictures.”  This documentary dispels myths and stereotypes… at least as they apply to everyone with autism. “It’s not that we’re doing it wrong, it’s not that we’re autistic enough to fit in with the world’s idea of autism, it’s that the world’s idea of autism isn’t big enough to fit us all in!”
  • “Perfectly Normal,” is a film about Jordan, a man with Asperger’s, who discusses his everyday life, of which the New York Times publicized an important excerpt.

Furthermore, Sesame Street will debut Julia, a character with autism. This event will be covered in a later article.

 

And some noteworthy facts on autism:

  • In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease for Disease Control estimated the prevalence of autism as being 1 in 68 births.
  • Autism comes from the Greek autos” meaning “self.” Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler in 1910 used the New Latin term autismus to describe schizophrenic symptoms of children; US psychiatrist Leo Kanner first used the term autism in 1943.
  • Asperger’s syndrome is named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who in 1944 first described the symptoms in children he was observing.

With a sincere effort of autism awareness, we will be able to treat this population with the dignity they deserve.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

All of us at Advancing Opportunities wish you, our consumers, families, and supporters (including those of you who have generously followed this blog!) peace and happiness for the holidays:

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Merry Christmas

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Happy Chanukkah – Chag Sameach

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The very best for Kwanzaa

 

And just in time for the holidays, here’s a special treat.  Overcoming her autistic social fears, this lovely ten-year-old girl gives a stunning rendition of Hallelujah that would have made Leonard Cohen proud.

 

 

Helping Individuals with Pica

Most of us are aware that infants like putting small nonfood objects in their mouth.  Some older children and even adults, however, continue the practice.  Then, this activity becomes an eating disorder called pica.  In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines pica as the “persistent eating of non-nutritive, nonfood substances for a period of at least one month,” particularly when doing so is not appropriate to the developmental level of the individual.  These substances can even include one’s own hair or finger nails.  Pica is especially dangerous when the individual ingests hazardous or poisonous materials such as paint chips that may contain lead, unsanitary items, or objects rendered sharp when they are broken.

pica magpie

The name Pica comes from the Medieval Latin word for magpie, a bird known to eat many different things.  The earliest known use of the term in medical literature was in 1563. Illustration by Eliza Turck, from Walter Swaysland, Familiar Wild Birds, (London: Cassell & Co., 1883). Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pica often occurs in persons who have another mental disorder, such as anorexia, anxiety, or autism.  Among the latter, autistic individuals may enjoy the sensory stimulation this activity may provide.  It is not an effort to gain attention or the result of an inability to communicate needs.  The DSM-5 states that when pica occurs with another condition or disorder, is severe enough to warrant clinical attention.

All people who care for the individual must also be alerted to take the necessary steps to keep him or her safe, including the following:

  • Keep those items out of reach of the individual in the home and places in the community. At home, careful and frequent cleaning are critically important.
  • Communicate what is food and what isn’t and reinforcing those lessons
  • Enrich the individual’s sensory environment in ways that do not involve putting things into one’s mouth, such as activities that keep the hands busy
  • Follow through with established behavior plans (e.g., with Applied Behavior Analysis). This may include a system of rewards or schedule of small snacks of actual food items.

As with any psychological condition, preventing undesirable behaviors with healthy ones takes a great deal of patience, understanding, and being alert.