Autism is a broad term for different disorders that are connect to the development of the brain. These disorders have certain characteristics such as:
- Difficulties in social interaction
- Verbal and nonverbal communication
- Repetitive behaviors
Doctors first categorized Autism characteristics into multiple subtypes that covered autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. Then in May of 2013 the disorders where merged together under the umbrella of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
One of the classic signs of Autism is impaired social interaction. A baby can be unresponsive to people or may focus solely on one particular item for long periods of time. They may seem to be developing normally except when it comes to social interactions.
The child will then fail to respond to their name and will generally avoid eye contact. They have a hard time figuring out what people are thinking or feeling because they lack the understanding that comes with voice tones or facial expressions. They may also lack empathy.
Some of the early symptoms that doctors and parents can look for in a child that they suspect has ASD are:
- The child does not babble by age 1
- The child does not speak in single word from by 16 months or in two word phrases by age 2
- The child does not respond to their name
- The child has a loss in language
- The child has poor eye contact
- The child does not smile
Some of the later clues that a child has autism are:
- The child has a difficult time making friends
- The child struggles to make or keep conversation going with others
- The child does not have imaginative or social play
- The child uses unusual or repetitive language
- The child is extremely preoccupied with certain objects or subjects
- The child has a strict routine
As of right know doctors are not sure what causes autism. Doctors and scientists that genetic and environmental conditions are the likely causes of ASD. They have found a number of genes that are associated with Autism. Some studies have shown that there are irregularities in several areas of the brain in people with ASD. Other studies have shown that ASD is linked to having abnormal levels or serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. All these studies have suggested that ASD may be caused by a disruption in normal brain development, but it still requires further study.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 1 in 88 children have ASD in America and that this has increased in the past 40 years. They have also found that Autism is about 5 times more common in boys, 1 in 54 boys compared to 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed every year.
Exercising and sports are not only good for our bodies, but they are also good for our minds as well. Team sports help children to work as a team and gain some social skills as well as confidence. However, these team sports aren’t the best for kids with autism because of the coordination that is required. With that said, there are several sports that are perfect for kids with autism. Here are three examples:
If your child doesn’t have particularly good ball-handling skills, then swimming could be the perfect sport for them. Learning how to swim could be challenging, but in the end it could be very rewarding for the child. Teaching them simple strokes and playing typical water games would give them a great amount of exercise and also strengthen their body and mind. Participating in a swim team organization could also be valuable because the child could interact with others, but still perform individually. Or maybe another watersport like stand up paddleboarding is a good option.
2) Track and Field
There are many events in track and field that could be perfect for children with autism. The training can be as calm or as intense as you think your child can handle. Like swimming, track and field is a team sport, but kids compete individually. Events like running and jumping could give a child with autism a great amount of confidence while also stimulating their mind. Since there are several events that can be trained on, your child will have a better chance of remaining engaged in activities rather than getting bored at the repetitiveness.
3) Horseback Riding
Horseback riding is a great therapeutic activity for children with autism. Autistic children seem to be able to communicate better with animals than other humans so this is the perfect opportunity to allow them to bond with their horse. Aside from the fact that horseback riding can be a little expensive, making multiple trips to take your child could be beneficial to them. Since human interaction is not their strength, allowing them to bond with a horse could enhance their social skills and would be very rewarding and relaxing for your child.
Having your autistic child being involved with one of these three sports could be very important in their development. Not only will it give them something to work toward achieving, but it could also increase their social skills. Of course, if you find out that your child doesn’t like any of these sports, then don’t force them to continue on. As many people say, the best sport for your child is the one that they love the most. You may discover that your autistic child is not a fan of any type of outdoor sports but thrives in a home gym or workout room on something like an indoor rowing machine or treadmill.
Experiment with your child to see what they respond the best to and encourage them to set goals and try to reach them. Set a specific training program so they have something to fall back on and know exactly what they have to do to achieve their goals. This could end up being one of the most rewarding experiences that you and your autistic child have together.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or FASD, is the condition that describes what happens to a child whose mother who drank alcohol during the pregnancy. The effects of this can be long term and plenty of things can show up as an effect of it. It includes things like physical, behavioral, mental and/or learning disabilities that show up in the child. Sometimes these things are temporary and other times they are life long effects.
Some of the common effects that you will see include:
- abnormal facial features
- slowness of growth
- central nervous system problems
How this happens is that pregnant women drink alcohol when they should not be, since they are pregnant. By doing this, they pass the alcohol along to their unborn babies through the blood stream. The end result of this behavior is physical and mental disabilities that are collectively known as FASD.
The numbers are not available when it comes to the prevalence of FASD in the United States. However, it is known that FASD seems to occur more often in certain tribes of Native Americans and Alaska natives. The important take away here is that any time a pregnant women drinks alcohol, she is increasing the risk of FASD with the child that she is carrying.
Doctors can diagnose FASD with the following criteria:
- Growth deficiency in height and/or weight either prenatally or postnatally.
- Specific pattern of facial anomalies: short eye slits, smooth or indistinct philtrum (the ridges running vertically between the nose and lips) and a thin upper lip.
- Some brain damage to the central nervous system demonstrated through microcephaly (small size of the brain), tremors, hyperactivity, fine or gross motor problems, attention deficits, learning disabilities, intellectual impairments and possible intellectual disability.
- Evidence of alcohol use by the birth mother during pregnancy (however, some diagnoses are made without this criteria).
If this diagnosis is given, know that there is no cure and that it does usually get worse with age. That being said, early identification is better for the child so that they can get help to live up to their potential.
Three new bills came out February 2 regarding DDS and the people we advocate for and support. Please note that H.B. 6279 is right in line with Rosa’s Law, which was signed into law by President Obama last year. We will be monitoring the progress of all of these bills and will be sure to alert you when they are up for Public Hearings.
S.B. 885, “AN ACT PERMITTING INQUIRY ACCESS TO THE DEPARTMENT OF DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES’ ABUSE AND NEGLECT REGISTRY FOR CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS WHICH RECRUIT VOLUNTEERS TO WORK WITH PERSONS WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES.”
To ensure that individuals with substantiated abuse or neglect allegations against persons receiving services from the Department of Developmental Services are not permitted to serve as volunteers for charitable organizations such as the Special Olympics.
H.B. 6278, “AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEPARTMENT OF DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES DIVISION OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER SERVICES.”
To make technical changes to statutes that include autism related terminology and repeal a statute concerning the autism spectrum disorder pilot program which terminated on June 30, 2009.
H.B. 6279, “AN ACT CONCERNING REVISIONS TO STATUTES RELATING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES INCLUDING THE UTILIZATION OF RESPECTFUL LANGUAGE WHEN REFERRING TO PERSONS WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY.”
To: (1) Utilize person first, respectful language in statutes relating to the Department of Developmental Services that refer to persons with intellectual disability, (2) eliminate obsolete statutes and reporting requirements, and (3) have the statutes accurately reflect the department’s responsibilities for licensing community companion homes and community living arrangements.
February 2 — With his first budget scheduled to be announced Wednesday, February 16, 2011, Governor Malloy has begun releasing information as to how he plans to balance the state budget. He started last week when he met with his agency commissioners to discuss his plans to balance the unprecedented deficit of $3.5 billion dollars.
First, he outlined his plans for nearly $2 billion in spending cuts. Second, he outlined his goal for the $1.5 billion dollar remainder that would be gained in revenues.
Governor Malloy has ruled out any further borrowing or the use of early retirements incentives for state employees. He has also vowed that he will fully fund state pensions.
House & Senate Republicans released a joint plan for addressing the state’s budget deficit. It is attached for your interest and review. The plan calls for, among other things:
• implementing the Constitutional spending cap
• freezing state employee salaries for 2 years
• repealing unallocated bond authorizations after 5 years
• requiring state-funded programs to sunset after 2 years unless a review shows that they have met their stated purposes (does not include federally funded programs such as Medicaid)
• close Riverview Hospital
• consolidate state agencies, including the creation of a Department of Human Services
• increase reliance on private providers for human services
It is anticipated that The Appropriations Committee will hold budget hearings during the weeks of February 21st and 28th. We will keep you posted as information becomes available.