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!
We all have big dreams for our children. When they are first born there are limitless opportunities before them; and then you get the diagnosis. Although now you have answers to some of your questions regarding your child there are more questions looming as to their future.
Struggling with the diagnosis and what the future may or may not hold often times brings families closer together but more frequently it tears families apart. A study by Wymbs and Pelham examined divorce rates and predictors of divorce among parents of children with ADHD. The divorce rate among parents of children with ADHD was nearly twice that of couples in the general population. Among parents of children with autism, S. Hartly in the Journal of Family Psychology found couples had a higher rate of divorce than the comparison group (23.5% vs. 13.8%).
The birth of a child changes the dynamic with any couple but the partnership may take a big loss in terms of sleep, sex, and privacy. While that may only last several months with a neurotypical child it may extend into years with a child on the spectrum and may put the marriage on the back burner.
What can you and your partner do to grow together along this journey rather than apart?
- Take time to do things as a couple, don’t sacrifice your marriage
- Listen to your partner’s needs and frustrations
- Talk help when it is offered, it is not a sign of weakness
- Affirm each other’s victories, whether big or small
- Attend support groups as a couple rather than alone
Having a child on the spectrum is quite different from the everyday problems that most parents experience but it nevertheless prepares you to learn and grow in ways we might have never imagined. Don’t let the challenge define you, rather let it grow you as an individual and as a couple.
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.
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.
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.
Nothing is better than a good night’s sleep but this is particularly critical in young children as sleep directly impacts mental and physical development. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems and cognitive problems that impact their ability to learn in school.
Studies have illustrated that rates of disturbed sleep are particularly high among children with Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD). Persistent sleep disturbances are known to have a negative effect on a child’s learning and behavior, which is particularly serious for children with ASD who already have difficulties in these areas.
Recently, researchers at the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute identified that approximately 90% of children diagnosed with autism have methylation impairments . Methylation impairment may alter the way the brain produces chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and glutamate which are critical to initiating a normal sleep pattern. Calm Focus supplies serotonin precursors, GABA and glutamate along with other natural ingredients that support healthy sleep onset and maintenance. Calm Focus may also be taken at a lower dose to combat daytime anxiety without the risk of over sedation or addiction.