Water has many healing qualities but have you considered aquatic therapy for your autistic child? Clinicians who have studied aquatic therapy reported a substantial increase in swim skills, attention, muscle strength, balance, tolerating touch, initiating/maintaining eye contact and water safety. Studies have also shown that children who exercise at least 20 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week, saw a reduction in hyperactivity, self-harm and injury, aggression, and destructiveness, and repeated self-stimulatory behaviors that are often associated with children on the spectrum. Here are three ways that swimming can act as a form of therapy for children with autism:
1. Water is comforting: Any physical activity in the water can help relax muscles and ease tension. Water reduces body weight and therefore decreases the stress and impact on the body — which is great for children who sometimes feel like their own body is too much to handle. Many children are even able to tolerate touch much better after aquatic therapy.
2. Social Skills: Group swimming can promote social skills. Swimming lessons allow children to interact with their teacher as well as other students/parents in the class building skills that can be used in alternative situations.
3. Improve focus: Simply taking a class can help improve attention span and learning. Being in a learning environment that allows for physical movement will help for future moments in the classroom. Blowing bubbles in the water and learning to regulate their breath can also improve oral articulation.
4. Better Balance: Aquatic therapy helps strengthen muscles, which increases balance and develops better range of motion.
As an added benefit, your child could become a better swimmer who is less at risk near water and it allows for a fun activity with your child. With summer fast approaching, let’s plan for some pool time!
With all the spooky costumes, scary decorations, eerie noises, and an explosion of sugar, Halloween can be overwhelming for any child and particularly for children with special needs.
Here are some tips for a safe and enjoyable Halloween for your child:
1. Select a costume that combines comfort and fun – Let your child practice wearing their costume at home. This gives you time to make any last minute modifications and time for your child to get used to the costume.
2. Prepare – Many children with special needs do better with a schedule or routine. Write a narrative describing what your child will do on Halloween and visually track where you will go. Read the story several times before Halloween so your child has time to get used to the plan.
3. Practice – Practice trick or treating in a familiar environment. Visit friends and family, if possible, even neighbors.
4. Review positive behavior – Review expectations, such as saying, “Trick-or-Treat!” and “Thank you” and not going inside the home.
5. Have a backup plan- In case there is melt down, consider letting siblings (that might want to go longer) go trick or treating with a friend.
6. Gradual change – If your child has difficulty with change, you may want to decorate your home gradually.
7. Remember, Halloween looks different for every child and you know your child best. Happy Halloween!
Medical marijuana has been touted to cure everything from pain to cancer, but how about as an autism treatment? There is anecdotal evidence that marijuana’s main non-psychoactive compound — cannabidiol or CBD — helps children in ways no other medication has. Now a first-of-its-kind scientific study is trying to determine if the link is real. A clinical trial is underway in Israel to test the benefits of medicinal marijuana for young people with autism. The study began in January at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. The study involves 120 children and young adults, ages 5 to 29, who have mild to severe autism, and it will last through the end of 2018.
Adi Aran, the pediatric neurologist leading the study, said nearly all the participants in the study previously took antipsychotics and nearly half responded negatively. Currently, only two medications have been approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the symptoms of autism. Both are antipsychotic drugs that are not always effective and carry serious side effects.
One major concern is the long-term impact of prescribing cannabis to young patients is the possibility of causing harm to the developing brain; although antipsychotic drugs currently prescribed to autistic children are certainly not without serious side effects.
The strain of CBD that is being used in the study led by Dr. Aran is a high CBD strain or ‘clean 98 percent CBD’. Some anecdotal evidence from other families that have used medical marijuana to treat autism symptoms found that the high CBD strains weren’t necessarily working for those with behavioral issues and found greater success with other strains.
Additional studies will have to be approved to be conducted in the United States before medical marijuana will be sanctioned as a treatment for symptoms of autism and Dr. Aran’s study may be the starting point for additional studies in other countries
Most elementary school teachers will confirm that there is a link between sugar and behavior but now scientists are looking deeper into that correlation.
Researchers at The California Salk Institute observed behaviors in pregnant mice that were fed a diet of high glycemic foods versus a diet of low glycemic foods. The mice in the study were specifically bred to demonstrate symptoms of autism.
High-glycemic foods produce a rapid rise in blood sugar and tend to be rich in simple carbohydrates such as sugar (potatoes, white bread and short-grain rice). Low-glycemic foods don’t produce such a blood-sugar spike. They include foods high in protein (nuts, beans and meat) and complex carbohydrates (whole grains and vegetables). Low-glycemic diets have long been recommended for people with diabetes, to help keep blood sugar on an even level.
Though their diets differed, the two groups of mice consumed the same amount of calories and maintained similar weights. After the pregnancy and the pups were weaned, the groups were maintained on the same diet and researchers tested the behavior and brain development between the two groups.
All the mice in the high-glycemic diet group demonstrated autism-like behaviors. They avoided contact with new mice placed near their chambers. They repeated actions with no apparent purpose and groomed excessively. By contrast, the mice in the low-glycemic group showed an overall reduction in their autism-like behaviors. They spent more time near new mice and less time performing repetitive behaviors such as excessive self-grooming.
Researchers continued to look for the differences between the two groups and found that the mice fed the high-glycemic diet had far lower levels of doublecortin- a protein associated with newly developing neurons. In addition, the mice on the high-glycemic diet showed more evidence of gene activity associated with inflammation and higher numbers of microglia (immune cells in the brain).
There is a great deal of research in support of sugar producing chronic low levels of inflammation and more recent studies have implicated inflammation during pregnancy with an increased risk of autism, although most of these studies focused on inflammation during pregnancy. Some researchers have proposed that the chronic inflammation produced by sugar is why diabetes during pregnancy increases the risk of autism in offspring.
Although much research still needs to be continued, a low-glycemic diet is generally considered healthful. Focus Formulations products address this issue by having very little if any sugar added to their products and they are engineered to address nutritionally deficient needs in autistic children. Autistic children often have nutrient imbalances either due to metabolic deficiencies or limited diets and it is prudent for families to work with a nutritionist for the optimal health of your child.
We all know about chiropractic care for a bad back but what about for a child with autism? A recently published study in the Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research, focused on a three year old child recently diagnosed with autism. The child suffered from delayed motor, cognitive, and speech skills and also suffered from frequent headaches, vomiting, and insomnia. During the study, the child received subluxation-based specific chiropractic care to assess the benefits, if any, the treatment would supply. After one month of treatment, the child appeared to have reduced headaches, vomiting, and insomnia. Her autism-related issues also appeared to improve, including her eye contact, attitude, and language development.
Spinal adjustments are often used on other parts of the body and are often known for treating common illness such as headaches and allergies. Chiropractors call certain misalignments vertebral subluxations, which result in problems with the spine and nervous system. Autism symptoms are intimately involved in the reaction of the nervous system and some autism researchers believe that the nerve damage could lead to neuroendocrine events that exacerbate autism symptoms.
Although much more research needs to be done concerning chiropractic alignment and autism, a multi-disciplinary approach to treating your child’s symptoms is encouraged. Working together with your primary care physician, chiropractors, occupational therapists, and other health care providers will often provide the best overall support for your child.
“I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.”
Are dogs more sensitive to human nature or do they simply perceive the world in a different manner such as those with autism? In the book Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, by Temple Grandin, Grandin examines the surprising similarities between an animal’s mind and an autistic mind. Autism is a neurological disorder with various theories on causation. Scientists who study autism believe that the disorder is caused by under development of certain brain circuits, and over development of other brain circuits. The imbalance of the nervous system results in the common symptoms you see in autism such as speech delays, sound and texture sensitivities and developmental delays. Grandin observes that people with autism, ‘are closer to animals than normal people are.’ Grandin contributes the differences between typical human mentality and animal mentality, not as a matter of IQ but as a matter of perception and emotion.
Grandin, autistic herself, states that she has no language based thoughts; all of her thoughts are in pictures. Since animals do not have verbal language and many children with autism are non-verbal, memories and thoughts are stored as pictures, sounds, or other sensory impressions. Sensory-based information by its very nature is more detailed than word-based memories; therefore animals may understand intentions, emotions, images, or thoughts behind the words, even if the words themselves aren’t totally understood. You may also observe an animal “sensing” something way before a human and can even be trained to alert others to seizures and illness. Primarily, animals and people with autism are visual thinkers; while most people use a combination of verbal and visual skills for communication.
We would all love to communicate better with our pets and that communication strengthens our bond with them. Grandin, who is an expert in animal behavior, claims that her autism helps her understand and empathize with animals. Grandin is also a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, an advocate in the autism community and an activist for the humane treatment of animals.
Find out more about theories on autism and treatments at: www.focusformulations.com
You may feel frustrated right now that your child is not hitting the milestones that you see other children reaching. Will my child ever sleep through the night? Will my child ever speak? Will my child make connections with other peers? Rest assured that your child will not be the same down the road as he/she is today. Age two is vastly different from age 12 and age 12 is very different from 24.
We all grow and change with maturity and autism does not prevent a child from developing and changing over time; they simply may not do it as quickly as a neurotypical child. Autism involves several developmental delays; delay does not mean it will not happen but simply not on the “normal” developmental time frame.
Developmental delays in verbal communication can be especially frustrating. The National Center of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities states that 25 to 30 percent of children diagnosed with autism will speak some words by 12 to 18 months. However, those children may have a diminished capacity for, or lose the ability altogether, to communicate verbally. Nearly 40 percent of children diagnosed will never be able to speak at all. The remaining percentage of children may be able to communicate verbally at a much later age. Keep in mind that verbal challenges seen at age 3 will look very different at age 15 and will also look very different as an adult.
Connecting socially is also important and we want our children to connect with peers. Children with autism often times do not have the social skills to make connections and developmental delays can compound the problem. Children with autism are often socially and emotionally at a much younger age than their peers. At a young age this divide can be huge but as they age this gap gets smaller.
Be patient, being in the “waiting room” is never easy but continue to relish your child’s victories and continue to encourage and support them.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood neurobiological disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that as of July 2015, close to 6 million, American children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lifetimes. Symptoms of ADHD include: aggression, excitability, fidgeting, hyperactivity, impulsivity, irritability, lack of restraint, or persistent repetition of words or actions.
Despite the risk of using amphetamines in children, Adderall is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for children diagnosed with ADHD. Side effects of Adderall include:
Dizziness Blurred vision
Headache Sleep problems
Stimulant drugs like Adderall are addictive and using them recreationally may increase the chances of developing a psychological and physical dependence on them. Long term use of Adderall may also include physical damage to the brain and internal organs.
Adderall increases the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, but what if there was a way to do that naturally without any harmful side effects? Cognition Focus works by providing the key precursors that are involved in memory and cognitive processes. They cross the blood brain barrier and produce the neurotransmitters that are vital in this process.
The major ingredients in Cognition Focus are L-glutamic acid which is a major neurotransmitter that provides fuel for the brain and stimulates mental alertness and memory. It also contains choline bitartrate and N-acetyl L-carnitine which are able to cross the blood brain barrier and work at the level of the neural synapse. Calm Focus works by providing the key precursors that are involved in the sleep process. Calm Focus also helps to combat the effects of oxidative stress which is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to detoxify their harmful effects.
Using Cognition Focus during the day and Calm Focus at night provides a synergistic balance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), allowing you to stay focused and calm for a productive day.
A common right of passage for many children is the experience of summer camp and for children with autism that may not be an easy task. Fortunately, there are many camps that are specifically geared for children on the spectrum.
Here are a few items to consider in finding a camp that is the right fit for your child:
1. Is your child ready for camp? Is it just for the day, weekend or a sleep away camp?
2. What is the age range of the campers?
3. Does the camp have special needs standards?
4. What is the safety policy?
5. Are there any therapeutics activities such as equestrian therapy, behavior management, social skills groups or sensory integration?
6. What percentage of the campers have autism?
7. What is the camper to staff ratio?
8. Is an aide permitted to accompany a camper?
9. Are medical professionals available on site?
10. What are the fees and are scholarships available?
Check out the link below for camps in your area and start preparing for a fun and relaxing summer with your family.
No one wants to receive the diagnosis of autism and recent statistics reveal that autism is on the rise with 1 in 68 children now being diagnosed with autism. While diagnosis is on the rise, most children are not diagnosed until age 2. All evidence points to early detection and intervention as the most successful treatment option, but do you know the early signs of autism? Below are common signs that may indicate your child may be autistic and require further observation.
1. Delayed motor development – Parents love the milestones that their children achieve such as rolling over, crawling and walking. Any delays may warrant further investigation.
2. Repetitive or obsessive behavior – watch for unusual body movements with the hands or arms and unusual body postures.
3. Disinterest in other family members – Does your child look to you for comfort (eye contact) and extend their arms to be picked up? Lack of interest in bonding at an early age may lead to difficulty relating to others as they mature.
4. Unresponsiveness to their name and environment– Is your baby hard of hearing or simply not responding to verbal cues? Is your baby imitating sounds, smiles and facial expressions?
5. Lack of smiling – Does your child smile back and laugh? This should be normal behavior by six months of age.
With any condition, your physician or a specialist can help you determine if further care is needed. With early detection and treatment children on the autism spectrum have the potential to lead full and rewarding lives.