Category Archives: Autism News

Autism and Employment

Finding meaningful employment can be a struggle for anyone. As a caregiver or parent of a young adult with ASD moving into the workforce, you want to not only to prepare your family member on how to gain and maintain employment, but also aid in where to look for help and guidance on the transition from school to the workforce. Milestones Day School and Transition Service can help provide many resources as well as trained personnel to take you and your young adult to the next phase in this journey. Here are a few tips.

  • Work with your son or daughter to assist them in articulating their strengths, talents and challenges to their transition teacher or counselor.

  • Encourage your child to request a career assessment from the school’s transition coordinator or a vocational rehabilitation counselor.

  • Explore the option of supported employment where a job coach, co-workers, business supervisors, and mentors who can be utilized as employment supports for people with autism.
  • Encourage skill development at home such as teamwork, counting change, social skills, taking directions, manners etc.
  • Encourage self-advocacy where your young adult speaks for him/herself in a challenging situation.
  • Work with teachers and transition team members on employment opportunities and how they may or may not match with your young adult.

Resources –

The Symbolism Behind the Autism Jigsaw Pieces

In 1963, the puzzle piece logo was first introduced by the National Autistic Society. We often see this logo on bumper stickers, pins, key chains, coffee mugs, license plates and any number of keepsake items or promotional materials. Historically the logo was meant simply as a method of raising autism awareness. For many families impacted by autism spectrum disorders, it has come to mean a commitment to funding research for a cure. Today, however, the symbol has come to be a bit more complex and is not without its critics. Here is a quick breakdown of the symbolism of the puzzle piece, its colors and the criticism of these.

Puzzles can be difficult to solve given the number of pieces and the intricacy of the puzzle. Autism, like a puzzle, has many complexities and mysteries. ASD is not easily defined within set terms and definitions. The logo tells people that even though the disorder is not easy to understand, it is worth understanding and spending time on for the sake of those who have it it. It is a rallying point for people who want to bring the attention of other people to autism. The different shapes represent the diversity of people who are dealing with autism whether they are autistic or they are the family members of someone with autism. The interconnectedness of the pieces symbolize that this disorder affects all of us. The colors used are bright and basic, which symbolizes hope for defeating the disorder.

While the puzzle piece logo seems like a memorable and harmless advocacy symbol, it does have its critics. Many families do not like the branding that their child is a puzzle to be “solved” but rather a unique individual. Others are critical of the logo in that it shows the puzzle is missing a piece, or something is missing from their child or family member.

What are your thoughts on this logo? For almost sixty years this logo has been raising awareness for research and funding for autism needs. Whether you are a critic or supporter, it seems this logo is here for a while longer.

 

What is the Autism Omnibus Bill

Last month we hosted a discussion during Wisdom Wednesdays on the Autism Omnibus Bill.  Our community achieved a huge victory  when the Autism Omnibus bill passed in late 2014 when  the Governor signed the Autism Omnibus Bill into law as Ch. 226 of the Acts of 2016. If you missed our Wednesday discussion here is a bot more on this landmark bill.

The Autism Omnibus Bill is a landmark bill addressing unmet needs of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It was passed through the House and Senate unanimously. The specifics can be found at The Autism Center. An enormous amount of effort from within the ASD community and the Massachusetts Advocates for Children organization.

The bill includes the following key provisions:

  • A requirement that MassHealth cover medically necessary treatments for children with ASD who are under 21 years old – including ABA therapies as well as dedicated and non-dedicated AAC devices.
  • Extension of Department of Developmental Services (DDS) eligibility to many persons with Autism, Prader Willi Syndrome and Smith-Magenis syndrome.
  • The creation of an Autism Endorsement for special education teachers to enable them to voluntarily gain in-depth knowledge about the complexities of educating students with ASD.
  • The creation of tax-free saving accounts (called “Achieving a Better Life Experience” or ABLE) to help families cover anticipated disability-related expenses for individuals with ASD and other physical and developmental disabilities.
  • Requiring DMH and DDS to develop and implement a plan to provide services to individuals who have both a mental illness and a developmental disabilities; and
    Establishing the Autism Commission as a permanent entity.

If you are looking for more information on this bill and what it may mean for your child talk to the professionals at Milestones.

Myths and Facts – Autism

Autism is in the news front and center.  Reports of the latest statistics from the Center for Disease Control, research, therapies, schools, and of course the inevitable feel good story of an autism success story.  Unfortunately, with autism being discussed by experts and laypeople alike, there are bound to be falsehoods reported and perpetuated.  Let’s look at some of the myths and facts of autism.  With help from the experts at Johns-Hopkins School of Education, Autism Speaks, and Autism Awareness we have complied several of the most common myths about autism that we hope to dispel with education and honest discussions.

Myth: Autism spectrum disorders are not increasing in incidence. They are just being better diagnosed, and diagnosed earlier so the numbers are increasing.
Fact: Autism spectrum disorders are increasing across the globe at an alarming rate. Some states are considered to be in an autism epidemic. Many states experienced a 500-1000% increase in the past few years. No one knows the cause or causes for the increase. Better and earlier diagnosis can only account for a fraction of the current increases in numbers.

 

Myth: People with autism can’t feel or express any emotion—happy or sad.
Fact: Autism doesn’t make an individual unable to feel the emotions you feel, it just makes the person communicate emotions (and perceive your expressions) in different ways.

 

 Myth: Autism is caused by bad parenting.
Fact: In the 1950s, a theory called the “refrigerator mother hypothesis” arose suggesting that autism was caused by mothers who lacked emotional warmth. This has long been disproved.

 

Myth: Therapies for people with autism are covered by insurance.
Fact:  Most insurance companies exclude autism from the coverage plan and only half of the 50 states currently require coverage for treatments of autism spectrum disorders.

 

Myth: Autism spectrum disorders get worse as children get older.
Fact: Autism spectrum disorders are not degenerative. Children and adults with autism should continuously improve. They are most likely to improve with specialized, individualized services and opportunities for supported inclusion. If they are not improving, make changes in service delivery.

 

Myth: Certain intensive, behavioral based programs “cure” autism spectrum disorders if they are delivered at the right age and intensity.
Fact: There is no cure for autism spectrum disorders.

Benefits of Early Autism Diagnosis Research

Finding out your child may have the markers for Autism or any of the Autism Spectrum Disorders can be like a punch in the gut for parents.  No one wants their child to struggle.  Thankfully as the prevalence of autism has made front page news, the flurry of research has increased greatly.  Some of the latest studies show the benefits of earlier diagnosis on treatment and outcomes for children deemed to be on the spectrum.

Diagnosis for autism or autism spectrum disorders is usually done around age three.  Dr. Rebecca Landa, a speech-language pathologist of the Kennedy Krieger Institute believes delays in communication, social skills and motor skills can be recognized as early as 14 months. If a diagnosis can be made earlier, when the child’s brain is more malleable and still developing circuitry, treatment can begin with increased positive outcomes. (Special Needs Resources) She has put forth a list of ten symptoms that every parent should be aware of during the first six to twelve months of a child’s life. She suggests taking action immediately and inform your pediatrician if you notice any of the following characteristics:

  • Rarely smiles when approached by caregiver
  • Rarely tries to imitate sounds or movements of others
  • Delayed or infrequent babbling
  • Does not respond to their name with increased consistency
  • Does not gesture to communicate by 10 months
  • Poor eye contact
  • Seeks your attention infrequently
  • Repeatedly stiffens arms, legs or displays unusual body movements
  • Does not reach up toward you when you reach to pick them up
  • Delays in motor development

In addition to Landa’s research, Dr. Alan Evans of McGill University in Montreal is working to develop “at risk” biomarkers for autism. He believes abnormal development may be detected in brain scans as early as 6 months, even before other signs are noted. Evans is working to identify differences in the wiring of infants in those children who eventually develop autism.  His study is detecting new clues for early diagnosis.

These latest studies and progress in research will help with early diagnosis.  Research has shown that early intervention can improve a child’s overall development. Children who receive autism-appropriate education and support at key developmental stages are more likely to gain essential social skills and react better in society. In short, early detection can provide an autistic child with the potential for a better quality of life.

Communication and Autism

Ever wonder about the prevalence of speech disorders and how they can impact your child’s behavior and learning?  According to the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders(NIDCD)  the prevalence of speech sound disorders in young children is 8 to 9 percent. By the first grade, roughly 5 percent of children have noticeable speech disorders; the majority of these speech disorders have no known cause. How does autism fit into these statistics?  Let’s look at communication issues and how they play a role in autism or autism spectrum disorders(ASD).

The word “autism” has its origin in the Greek word “autos,” which means “self.” Children with ASD often are self-absorbed and seem to exist in a private world where they are unable to successfully communicate and interact with others. Children with ASD may have difficulty developing language skills and understanding what others say to them. They also may have difficulty communicating nonverbally, such as through hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions. (Source: NIDCD)

Not every child with ASD will have a language problem but here are some of the common communication problems encountered by children with autism.

  • Nonverbal conversation skill Issues – Children with autism are often unable to use gestures or eye contact to make their point or get their feelings and needs known.  Occupational, physical and speech therapies can help the child practice situations where mannerisms and facial expressions are appropriate.
  • Repetitive Language Issues – Autistic children may say things over and over that have no meaning or possibly repeat what they hear(called echolalia). Other children will use robot like speech, repeat phrases even when not appropriate or speak in high pitched or loud tones.
  • Language Development Issues – Many children with ASD develop some speech and language skills, but not to a normal level of ability, and their progress is usually uneven.
  • Specific Interests – Approximately 10% of autistic children have very specific interests in which they can speak at  length about. Unfortunately carrying on a two way conversation about that same topic may not be as easy.

Speech disorders have a specific set of treatments to improve the disorder.  Speech therapies can help children with the daily frustrations of getting their point across.

News on Autism Insurance

This January brought good news to families with autistic children.  Six states rang In New Year with stronger autism insurance laws. As of January 1, 2015 thousands of children with autism now have coverage for behavioral health treatment and physical, occupational and speech therapies.

Kansas, Nebraska, Washington, Oregon, Maine and Maryland mark the states where coverage for diagnosis and treatment now are expanded or newly available.  This makes a total of 38 states that require coverage and treatment for autism. Utah will also be expanding coverage in 2016.