New Secrets of Autism Using Human Stem Cells

A life-changing human condition, ASD or more commonly known as Autism Spectrum Disorder leaves one with an incapacity that is devastating. Clinical studies on multiple family histories and twins have shown that some cases of ASD are genetic. However, the major do not fall under this category and appears suddenly in young children intermittently or idiopathically.

At the Hussman Institute of Autism (HIA) in USA, a team has been studying emerging methodologies that are related to using of induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs. A group of mature human stem cells from the skin or the blood on being experimentally induced, possess the potential to differentiate into most cell types in the body. Since 2006, the process of induction and differentiation has had period upgradations. “One of the exciting aspects of working with iPSCs is that we can study autism in human neurons that have the exact genetic background of a given individual with autism,” said John P. Hussman, executive director of HIA.

“Mini-brains” or organoids, a resultant from the iPS cells of ASD patients have been produced by another research group from Yale. It came to light that ASD mini-brains are comprised of inhibitory neuron which is a type of nerve cell that multiplies and blocks the production of a protein called FOXG1 and then returns these nerve cells back to their normal population count.

A CIRM funded study led by Rusty Gage on a secondary stem cell model for ASD proposing fresh evidences into the initial neurodevelopmental deficiencies seen in ASD patients were published in the Nature Journal Molecular Psychiatry by the Salk Institute (USA) in partnership with scientists at UC San Diego.

Under clinical conditions, Gage along with team of researchers attempted to create iPS cells specifically from those select ASD patients who had undergone a brain growth of up to 23% faster during their toddler stage. Under constant investigations, the researchers studied the ways by which iPS cells from these select ASD individuals developed into brain stem cells. The next stage of growth turned these brain stem cells into nerve cells. The entire growth progress was mapped and matched to that of healthy iPS cells from normal individuals.

Under close observation of the procedure, the team quickly found an issue with the multiplication of the brain stem cells in order to generate new nerve cells in the brain. The process has been termed as neurogenesis. A surplus amount of nerve cells were being produced as the brain stem cells extracted from ASD iPS cells exhibited additional neurogenesis compared to normal brain stem cells. The nerve cells were incapable of sending signals and establishing a working system of transmission. Due to a lack of the synaptic connections with each other by these additional nerve cells their performance remained anomalous, rendering an inability to be less effective compared to healthy neurons.

IGF-1, a drug that is currently undergoing clinical testing towards probable treatment for autism was used in this instance to treat the nerve cells. The team not aware partial correction in the abnormal activity observed in the ASD neurons. According to a Salk news release, “the group plans to use the patient cells to investigate the molecular mechanisms behind IGF-1's effects, in particular probing for changes in gene expression with treatment.”

Gage's opinion is that: “This technology allows us to generate views of neuron development that have historically been intractable. We're excited by the possibility of using stem cell methods to unravel the biology of autism and to potentially screen for new drug treatments for this debilitating disorder. ”

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Apps Helping Children With Autism

There has been more than 30% increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder since 2012. One in every 68 kids is reportedly on the spectrum these days. Most of them find it hard to convey what they think or feel, whether verbally or nonverbally. It's usually a constant challenge they face.

Sample this: Steve and Frank, both five-year olds, were spending some friendly playtime when they suffered a break in communication. Frank, who had autism, did not respond to Steve after about 20 minutes of playing. A frustrated Steve pushed Frank over a staircase, causing him to fall and get injured.

Speech therapist Hannah Adler decided on addressing the issue and created a communication app for autistic children. She restrained the incident where Steve pushed Frank, even taking photographs of the room to design the app background. She took photos of the kids to use as characters in the app. Hannah showed a replay of the scuffle and the children were able to identify what was wrong with their action.

Custom stories can help children pick up communication skills and understand complex situations. And this is just one of the ways educators, therapists and parents are taking advantage of tablets and smartphones to work with children having autism spectrum disorder.

When the iPad was released in 2010, it was hailed as a miracle device. There were not many autism apps for kids available back then. But there was a mad rush among parents to get their hand on the device. They thread the gadget at their special needs children in the hope of some miracle. But that expected never happened. The iPad was an electronic gadget and not any magic instrument.

Six years down the line, the iPad and tabs are playing a bigger and more important role among people with autism. Technology companies, nongovernmental organizations, and app creators are now exploring better ways to use smartphones and tabs to challenge autism.

Special needs children take to apps in different ways. Lisa, mother of Frank, says that autism apps are helping her son to think visibly and directly interact with the content, sans the cognitive hurdles of an input device like mouse. The app breaks down complex concepts into easily understandable chunks. It also helps Frank and others like him with articulation.

The tab has given Frank more independence. Earlier, Frank was lost trying to figure out what to do for himself, if someone did not structure the day for him. But he's now able to spend time independently.

Hannah conducts workshops on the use of apps for autistic children, teaching parents the best ways to use them. She discourages parents to allow the use of a mobile device for their children as a reward, like letting them watch online videos or play games. She encourages people to hunt for dynamic apps for autistic children that help to tackle the core challenges of autism with fun and interaction.

Hannah says that it's really important for children with autism spectrum disorder to pick up and learn communication skills. But it should be done in a way that interests them.

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15 Tips To Help Employees With Autism Be Rock Stars

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Special intelligence Unit 9900 is dedicated to everything related to geography, including mapping, interpretation of aerial and satellite photographs and space research. Within this unit there is a small unit of highly qualified soldiers, who have remarkable visual and analytical capabilities. They can detect even the smallest details, undetectable to most people. These soldiers all have one thing in common; they are on the autism spectrum. Their job is to take visual materials from satellite images and sensors in the air. With the help of officers and decoding tools, they analyze the images and find specific things necessary to provide the best data to those planning missions. The IDF has found that soldiers with autism can focus for longer periods of time than their neurotypical (non-autistic) counterparts.

SAP, a worldwide leader in enterprise software solutions, is tapping into the extraordinary observation and concentration characteristics of people with autism to do software testing. SAP has pledged that 1% of their global workforce will be autistic by 2020.

Organizations such as IDF, SAP, Microsoft, Walgreens, and Freddie Mac have recognized the extraordinary strengths that many people on the Autism Spectrum possess. This is not a corporate goodwill gesture; these organizations are looking to improve bottom line results and see people with autism as a means to help them get there. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that about 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), that it occurs 1 in 42 among boys and 1 in 189 among girls and occurs along all racial, socioeconomic, and ethnic groups. This is up from 1 in 150 occurrences in the year 2000.

Our son Trevor was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at age 5. It was initially shown as deferred speech and continued with social awkwardness and other emotional and communication difficulties. Even as a toddler, Trevor showed remarkable abilities to focus through activities like puzzles and, in his passion areas, he could memorize and recite the most detailed of facts. As he grew, his passions shifted to movies and photography. During his first two years in junior college he majored in film studies and eventually got a BA cum laude in film & media studies from Arizona State University. Trevor now works for my wife Patty and me where he focuses on movie reviews, photography, and marketing his and other books on autism.

Having Trevor as an employee has been a terrific experience for all of us, but at the same time I've learned that after 30+ years working for companies such as Microsoft and Accenture that a leader needs to be mindful of how a person with autism thinks and works. The changes I needed to make were not massive enough to completely retool my leadership toolbox; but they were important enough that I had to consciously act to ensure our styles meshed.

If your company is embarking on an initiative to hire more people with autism, now is the time to act. Take a look at these 15 tips which have worked for me and may help you create the most supportive and productive environment for your employee with autism (Note: there are two schools of thought as to how to refer to a person with autism. the “person first” camp who say “person with autism.” There is the “identify first” camp who say “autistic person.” Either term is universally correct nor incorrect.

  1. Expect different processing paces – Some people with autism process information at a different pace and may not “think on their feet” well. Allow the employee some time to process requests and feedback before discussing in depth. Sending an email first with a verbal follow-up is something that works well with Trevor.
  2. Watch the non-verbals – Non-verbal social communication, ie, facial expression and eye contact, can be lacking in people with autism. Do not over-interpret this as rudeness, unhappiness, or some other negative feeling. Also recognize that the employee may not pick up on non-verbal cues from you or co-workers.
  3. Minimize unplanned interrupts (even fun ones) – “Hey, birthday party in the break room right now” is fun for many neurotypicals but for the person with autism it can be an unwelcome disruption of his schedule that he has already worked out. Be conscious of unplanned interruptions by giving advance notice where possible and allowing for the employee to opt out if not business critical. At the same time, do not exclude the employee from activities – this could lead to hurt feelings.
  4. Accept employee input on workstation setup – Because many people with autism have heightened sensitivity to things like sight, touch, smell and sound, their workspace environment could have a significant impact on their ability to be productive. Allow the employee to have a voice in their workstation setup, ie, wearing headphones, reduced lighting, or working farther away from common areas, which will help him be more productive.
  5. Develop quantifiable objectives with monthly “dones” check-ins – This works particularly well with Trevor. We do a monthly meeting where we review his overall objectives and what will get done during the month to get him closer to each objective. At month-end we reviewed what actually got done that month, provide feedback, and set the dones for the next month.
  6. Make use of teachers to help with each objective – Trevor has specific mentors for his photography, movie reviews, and book marketing lines of business who advise him on his work, provide feedback, and answer questions. These mentor sessions have proved to be effective, helping him tap into subject matter expertise that we can not provide, and he has learned how to discern and incorporate input into his work.
  7. Provide more written and visual instruction, less verbal instruction – Generally speaking, people with autism are visual learners and more easily comprehend ideas and direction when they are able to see them and ask questions versus just hearing them. Another helpful technique is to ask the employee to write out a verbal instruction then discuss what was written to ensure clear understanding.
  8. Use calm tone of voice – Loud or stern voices tend to rattle people with autism more than neurotypical people. Being mindful of using a calm voice will help minimizeize confusion and angst.
  9. Use “feedback sliders” – Accepting and incorporating both positive and constructive feedback is absolutely critical to career growth and the employee should not be exempt from feedback. An effective feedback technique is what I call the “feedback slider”; one positive piece of feedback, (the bottom of the bun), then one constructive piece of feedback (the meat), followed up with a re-iteration of the positive piece of feedback (the top of the bun). This bite-sized approach is easier for the person with autism to absorb and reduces over-reaction to constructive feedback.
  10. Encourage being the “go-to” person on some topic – Trevor is my “go-to” person when I need input on how a person with autism will react to my articles, presentations, and videos. He knows that I rely on his input and that my work product will be better because of his perspective. Identify an area where the employee excels, promote him or her as a subject matter expert with your team, and encourage the rest of your team to utilize the expertise. Just try not to interrupt them when asking.
  11. Be blunt on what, when, and why – Autistic people tend to be very literal and are at their best when they are not left to decode unspoken or “between the lines” communication. When defining assignments, ensure there is clarity on what needs to be produced, what the deliverable should look like, why it is important, and when it needs to be done by. Asking the employee to create a mock-up of the deliverable and reviewing the mock-up is a great way to ensure alignment and minimizes rework due to confusion.
  12. Keep appointments and meetings on schedule and give advance notice on schedule changes – People with autism typically are very schedule-minded and have difficulty with unexpected schedule changes. At the same time, there's no such thing as perfect schedule adherence. Try to give advance notice where possible of meetings or projects that will run over or if you might be late for a meeting with him. Also take time to explain why a schedule change is needed; this can help the employee get on board with the change. If you're a leader who typically runs late or does not respect meeting end times, this might be a good opportunity to work on your time management skills …
  13. Allow the employee to opt out of social events – Socializing can be work for many people with autism. Trevor typically runs out of steam after about two hours of socializing, particularly if he's actively engaging in the socialization. Encourage the employee to join in on social events, but allow him to opt out or to leave if he is feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
  14. Do not underestimate intelligence or ability to deliver – People with autism are differentlyabled; they're not less intelligent or less able to get something done. They simply march to their own beat. Every time I underestimated Trevor's ability to do something he proved me wrong. Do not be shy about challenging the employee with a big task or aggressive deadline. Chances are he will rise up to the challenge.
  15. Embrace the differences – Co-worker and manager attitudes and opinions towards people with behavioral and social differences is foundational to a healthy workforce. Creating a welcome work environment benefits not only the employee with autism but the team as a whole. Understanding the differences and assigning tasks that capitalize on them not only creates a happier team but drives greater results.

1 in 68 are born on the autism spectrum. These children grow into adults and will be a key work asset. If you are or will be managing someone with autism, get prepared so you can get the most out of the relationship and help your employee with autism thrive and drive results for you and your organization.

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How Autism Affects Communication in Children

When does communication begin?

Communication begins much before a child learns to talk. Babies, in the first months of their life, show interest to communicate by listening carefully to the sound of human voice, looking at people when they talk, and then engaging in erratic babbling games with parents. Kids learn by seeing how elders communicate. The exchange of smiles and sounds between the children and their caregivers are the first conversations they notice. Even though a child may not utter a word, he / she can pick up what's being said from the syllables.

Infants begin imitating the action and single words of parents. They then start using the first words on their own. Once they know a few single words, children start to string them together for making two-word sentences.

How autism affects communication?

Communication development happens more slowly and differently for children suffering from autism spectrum disorder. Sensory challenges connected to the disorder often make autistic children seem more interested in the environmental sounds. These include whirring of the ceiling fan or vacuum cleaner. They find these sounds more recognizable than that of people talking. In fact, autistic children often seem not to hear what people say.

While none exactly knows the reason, children with autism do not naturally imitate parents like other children. And that's why they require the best communication apps for children. They either do not imitate all or imitate whole sentences (known as echoes) without understanding the meaning of the words. The first words are often delayed among children not using echoes. The words are sometimes unusual (like the letters of an alphabet), and are mostly delayed.

Mild or high functioning autism and communication

Children with Asperger's syndrome often use long sentence to communicate. They may have an intensive vocabulary. But regarding social communication, much more is needed than words. Facial expressions, body language, eye gaze, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues, often tells us more about what common people feel and think about the words they use. Children, to become successful communicators, must know how to respond to these cues. Else, they need one of the best communication apps for children.

Most children start to pay attention to nonverbal cues during infancy, when they search the faces of their parents for acknowledgment, support, and indications about what's going on in their minds. For instance, if they see their mother looking at a toy, they understand that she's going to offer it to them. But a child having mild autism, Asperger's syndrome, or social communication difficulties, may find it difficult to “tune in” to the thoughts of others. They also do not develop the same way like other children.

Difficulty to empathize and see another person's point of view, can make a bilateral conversation highly challenging for autistic children. They are often at a loss about what to say and how to react in a social situation. It's usually difficult for them to make friends with neuro-typicals. Thankfully the best commutation apps for children can be of great help in developing the basic skills among autistic children.

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Autism Awareness and What You Can Do

Karen Duvall of Houston, Texas, thinks about autism spectrum disorder every day in her life in some way or the other. That's because her tall, handsome, affectionate, and hysterically funny son Joshua was diagnosed of autism just a few days after he turned two years old.

Every year, 2 April is observed as the World Autism Awareness Day. Karen's email inbox overflows with newsletters from various autism groups. Her Facebook page too is filled with similar reminders. Karen says that it's encouraging to see people rally together to support special needs children. But she also wonders, what significance the day has to people who are not directly affected by any form of autism spectrum disorder? What would have autism meant to her before it was detected in Joshua? Probably nothing much.

One in every 68 children, one in every 42 boys, is affected with autism spectrum disorder in the US. But these are just dry statistics for those who are not personally affected. A family, which does not have an autistic child, will sometimes never understand what it's like to attend a special needs classroom.

Awareness about autism is most important. Aware people can understand. They can empathize and restrain their judgment. They try to be helpful and teach others about special needs.

If you see a boy throwing tantrums, bang in the middle of a supermarket, do not just feel annoyed. Do not mutter under your breath. The child's action could have been meltdown because of overstimulation of his / her senses. Children with autism spectrum disorder usually find it difficult to express themselves. They are easily overwhelmed by loud noise, bright lights and all the activities around them. Autistic children find it difficult to process information that neuro-typical people like us simply filter out.

Whenever you see a not-so-typical child engrossed in his or her tab or iPad, do not be judicialal. Chances are that the child has autism spectrum disorder. Such devices not only help in communication, they are also great tools to help children who are easily overwhelmed by activities around them. These gadgets lend a focus, usually a white noise, against a surrounding cacophony of noises that an autistic child can not handle.

So, the next time you see some child refusing food, or eating with both of their hands, or hand-fed by parents, stop being judgmental. It's not uncommon for autistic children to have sensory problems with food. They may even avoid touching certain textures. Since autism spectrum disorder often affects a child's motor skills, they struggle while eating with utensils.

Never be surprised if you see a grownup child being moved in a stroller. The child is not lazy. Strollers are necessary for many older autistic children who have poor motor skills and struggle to walk even medium distances. Such children are also known to drift away from sight. Strollers keep them on track.

People, who are not directly connected to children with autism, can still do their bit by spreading awareness. There's more to be done in this regard than just highlighting the numbers.

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Autism and Motor Skills

In addition to the three main difficulties of social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and communication challenges, autistic children often find problems with their coordination, posture, and motor planning. Recent studies have revealed that difficulties in movement are common to autistic children, and kids with weaker motor skills, suffer from greater communicative skill deficiencies.

Autistic children have varying levels of difficulties while processing sensory information, along with difficulty to use skilful attention. Both add to the challenges that autistic children face while picking up motor skills.

What's required to learn motor skills?

Learning motor skills depends upon the brain's ability to forge a connection between various parts of the brain involved to control bodily movements. It includes the ability to pick up sensory information from the environment and the body to predict what may happen next, and to plan actions and adapt them as required.

Neuro-typical children can easily make these brain connections in the course of daily experience. They are eager to take up new challenges, explore various ways to achieve their goals, and expect mastering new skills with practice. They get the “I can do” sense of efficiency.

Children with autism often have to resort to apps to encourage physical activity for learning motor skills. This is because there's a difference in the way an autistic child's brain forms new connections. They often need additional practice to learn a new skill.

Difficulties faced by autistic children while learning motor skills

  • Avoiding tasks and challenges that call for physical effort; associated with being fearful or cautious of the work. Apps to encourage physical activity can greatly help.
  • Getting upset in case of mistakes or inability to execute a task in the first attempt.
  • Difficulty to integrate past experience and sensory information for planning and monitoring actions.
  • Poor working memory, attention and persistence in case of repeated failures.
  • Poor prediction ability.
  • Poor use of visual information.
  • Balance response usually slow and not adapted to the task.

Annie practicing watering water

Even apparently simple acts like picking up a bowl of water and pouring it into a container requires a level of integration of information from several sources that include the environment, body sensors, and past experience with identical action, for carrying out the task.

Past experience is important to plan the action

  • Positive emotional response: Pouring water is a familiar task. I'm confident you can do this.
  • Negative emotional response: You may have tried it before and found difficult.
  • You may spill the water and make a mess. I'm angry about it.
  • The weight of the bowl needs to be gauged to determine the strength required to lift it.

Information required to plan the action

Visual : The position of the beaker, its shape and size.
Body : Where my hand is now.
Transformation : Movements needed for moving the hand from the current position to the end.

Autistic children can tackle such situations with apps to encourage physical activity. But they have to be introduced at a proper time, so that it's either too early, nor too late.

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Choosing the Best Fun Educational Apps Over Digital Candy

In many ways, we are living in the golden age of learning. The internet has opened up a wealth of information and knowledge, and all that we want to know is available at the touch of a mouse button.

Unfortunately, many of us are not able to tap this treasure properly, and it becomes a constant pain. Whether its managers hiring to form their team, or parents wanting to educate their children, the frustration is apparent everywhere.

A major part of the problem is the immense volume of content available. It's an information overload and web surfers are lost in it. For instance, there are over 85,000 apps, tagged educational in some way. But how many of them are among the best fun educational apps for children?

Of course, not all of them are not for education, with a huge majority nothing more than digital candy. Most apps branded as “educational” are equivalent to sugary foods, say Jonathan Campbell, a special children educator. Jonathan is the co-author of a research investing educational apps. Many apps, he says, ends up distracting children. He has reviewed some of the best fun educational apps, in the light of the science of learning, and compiled the following points.

  • Most apps quite excessively on passive activities like swapping.
  • They heavily use distracting whistles and bells instead of allowing a learner focus on the immediate task.
  • Presents knowledge in a vacuum that does not help the child connect between existing and new information.
  • There's an absence of human element. They need to support social interaction among each other.
  • Most apps follow a rigid learning style. They should not tell a child what he / she must know, but help in guiding the exploration the learner embarks.

Parents should know that claims of educational content are usually unregulated. App developers can indiscriminately slap the “educational” label on their products. Jonathan, using scientific research as a guide, helps parents to evaluate the gamut of best fun educational apps.

But all of these places the burden to discover the correct app on the parents themselves. Hopefully, the researchers undertanned by Jonathan and people like him will help users do that successfully, especially when most of the apps appear “educational” only from the top but are actually miles off it.

This is typified by using so-called enhancements. Whether they are games, hot spots, or sounds, these apps are great in grabbing the user's attention. But they score low in value.

Jonathan says that while the whistles and bells could be fun, studies suggest that these sounds are actually distractions and reduce interest, rather than enhancement learning.

Usage of apps is on the rise. But it's important to ensure that the use is effective and has a tangible benefit on your child's education. Like most other things in life, apps too must be checked before handing them over to your children. A good way in this regard is to read expert reviews of the best fun educational apps. Being cautious first can help avoid later problems.

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Parents, Teachers, and Special Education

At a time when budget cuts are commonplace, staff shorter, larger class size, and understanding the laws governing special education in the US, is imperative to build an inclusive learning environment for all students, from those with learning and physical disabilities, to the exceptionally gifted ones, as well as all children in between.

The National Center for Education Statistics' numbers reveal that about 70 percent of students going to elementary and middle school. The number of children with special education needs is also on the rise.

With the focus on inclusive classes, both parents and teachers have to understand the legal requirements, as well as the costs involved towards special education in public schools.

What is special education?

Special education involves academic programs to help individuals who are mentally, emotionally, or physically impaired. The program may include children with severe disabilities, and those with moderate or mild language difficulties, emotional or cognitive disabilities, or other impairment that hinder learning. In some schools, educators use top educational apps for kindgartners to impart education to kids.

What is least-restrictive learning environment?

Least-restrictive environment means schools receiving public funding, must give students an opportunity to attend regular classrooms as much as possible. Schools must allow special students to participate in standard learning environment along with the neuro-typical students.

In some cases, special children with severe impairment may have to spend time in a special classroom designed to accommodate their particular disability, with the help of some top educational apps for kindgartners. But most of their time, as much as 80 percent, is usually spent in a regular classroom environment along the neuro-typical students.

Special education inclusion

Giving all students the opportunity to attend regular classrooms, instructions and learning, is what is known as inclusion. The term “inclusive classes” is rather new. It complies with the Rehabilitation Act (1973) and also the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1975). The latter act was amended in 2012, to measure the success of special education programs.

Identification of special education students

Studies have revealed that after the age of seven, it's usually difficult to bring up special children to a grade-level performance. Kids with mild to extreme mental and physical disabilities have wide-ranging special needs. It requires educators to focus on setting up a consistent classroom environment along with paced instructions, behavior management, and individualized lesson plans. Top educational apps for kindgartners can be much helpful in this regard. Research has suggested that the sooner special needs children are exposed to these apps, the faster they can adapt to regular classrooms.

Special needs children who receive no early intervention, often drop out of school at a much higher rate, which can be twice that of neuro-typical students. It absolutely costs the society far more than properly educating them.

The role doctors play

The family physician can play a major role to help identify kids with cognitive and physical disabilities. But it's majorly the responsibility of teachers and parents to determine whether the child is suffering from learning disabilities and needs special education.

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5 Ways Parents Can Support Special Educators

In many schools across the US, special education teachers are often at the short end of the stick regarding getting support from their classroom. The student-teacher ratio is unusually low, and there's almost no parent participation because of the smaller pool of people in the first place.

We are still in an age with a large number of self-contained classrooms that run low on supplies and adequate support. This is because they are not connected to a grade level school where resources are shared. Here's how you can support special education teachers and help them get through the year.

Become a room parent

There are times when a special educator goes without a room parent. There's no fault with the students' families though. They are already stretched thin. If your child receives special education and participates in general education for most of the day, try splitting your time with another parent for providing support. A special education classroom often needs coverage for attending special luncheons and school-wide events.

Donate supplies “

Hand sanitizers, cleaning wipes, tissues, and similar things, usually exhaust fast in a special kids' classroom. Ask the educator whether there's any stock that you can replenish. Special educators often get used to asking for supplies. It that comes as a surprise if someone comes and gives some stuff and sound words of encouragement. Maybe some parents can contribute funds to buy a real world gaming app tab as a teaching instrument for the class.

Join a PTA

This is one of the best ways by which you can help a special education teacher. Some parent-teacher associations (PTAs) have a committee to include families of special needs children in school activities. If your child's school does not have a PTA, suggest having one at the next general assembly. You can also contact the PTA president. Part of a school PTA's mission involves including all students to align their mission at the national level.

Communicate regularly

Well, some teachers often get frustrated with the parents over-communicating. Everyone has his / her own comfort level. Special educators find it easy to communicate with those with what they have a professional relationship. It's important that the classroom teacher knows how things are going in home, or how the family spend its weekend, especially where children are working on functional communication. Communicate with your child's educator regularly, and at home, introduce real world gaming apps to improve social skills.

Say “Thank you”

The National Teacher Appreciation Week, popularly known as the national teacher's week, is held in May every year. Parents and schools take time to thank teachers for what they have done for their children. Unfortunately, special educators are often left out of the larger celebrations. This is because room parents are the people who coordinate gifts, encourage cards and treat each other to thank you. This is often found lacking for special educators. Say thank you to special teachers. They may not be used to it and come as a surprise. But they'll love it and get encouraged to teach better.

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Apps for the Special Needs Child

A recent study by veteran special needs children educator Lara Young at a leading US university, has highlighted the importance of understanding communication of children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Her research investigated the ways of teaching through alternative methods of communication to such children, who can not use speech. It has led to a fresh approach to assess children's preferences for communication that has the potential to improve treatment results.

A part of Lara's study included looking at the preferences of a child to use a particular communication system, and measure their effect to develop their communication skills. Four children from Wisconsin and eight from Florida took part in Lara's research, learning how to ask for toys or snacks and using three different alternatives to speech: pointing to and exchanging pictures, sign language, and using a speech generating software program, in her study . Lara used a learning mobile app for kids on her tab. She found that seven of the 12 children in her study preferred using speech-generative technology for communication. The learning mobile app for kids was a hit.

The special educator's research also revealed that children preferred better at learning and maintaining communication skills, if they used their preferred option to communicate.

Lara says that giving autistic children an opportunity to select their preferred method of communication may be viewed as encouraging self-determination. It may also bolster their progress when they are learning to communicate, she says.

Lara's research has brought much cheer to advocates of mobile learning apps for kids. It's exciting because the results have provided critical evidence to demonstrate how effective a learning mobile app for kids can be to help communication. New technologies like smart phones and tabs, loaded with speech-generating software, have proved to be pathbreaking in this regard.

Lara, to ensure that all those who participated in the research continued their communication development after the study was complete, fundraised to buy a tab for one of the children in her research. Jeff Richardson. Lara describes Jeff as a bright and charismatic young boy who is extremely eager to communicate, but whose speech is largely illegible.

The tab proved to be Jeff's preferred mode of communication. While teaching a range of basic communication skills, Lara worked with the child's family to use the tab to take pictures of his friends, teachers, and neighbors. She programmed the learning mobile app for kids so that Jeff could touch the photos to create voice outputs with personalized settings for each person important to him.

This is really incredible, says Lara. The tab is a useful gift for Jeff who now uses it to express himself. Others are beginning to understand him for the first time.

Lara has been an active advocate for using technology for autistic and special children. It's foolishness to turn away from technology, especially when it has opened up immense possibilities, she says. And there are results to prove the usefulness. She has urged tech companies to come out with more apps for special children.

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Taking a Closer Look at Social Skills of Autistic Children

Social skills are at the heart of what enables people to successfully communicate with each other, both nonverbally and verbally. Poor social skills are characterized in an autistic child's difficulty to maintain friends. But learning these skills is essential for them. It helps them to negotiate the trials and tribulations in later life. It's essential for teachers to make parents understand the importance of reinforcing social skills at home. Some simple lessons, like following directions, asking for permission, or simply saying “I am sorry”, can be easily taught at a home environment. More social skills can be taught with the help of good educational apps for kids to help an autistic student pick up important survival techniques. They can also learn how to express their feelings, tolerate and accept others, and understand how they are taken by other people.

Setting up and maintaining healthy social interactions all through the life has to be promoted consistently with the help of good educational apps for kids, both at school and home.

Regular enforcement of home-school rules

Explicit expectations of behavior are taught and rewarded at school. This is done as consistently as possible. The ultimate goal is to teach students become responsible citizens. It's a good sense to involve parental support for reinforcing the same standard at home to help autistic children learn and internalize the goals.

Consistency is the key

That's why, in any special children classroom, teachers want parents to follow the habits and behaviors taught in school. For instance, if the teacher wants students to keep the desks, study area, and materials tidy and organized, the same behavior can be implemented at home. The teacher, as a reciprocal check, may appropriately award those students who consistently follow the same behavior both in school and home. It's such a kind of consistent school / home set of expectations that can help an autistic child to learn desirable behaviors. He / she can then use them for their advantage in their adulthood.

Explain the concept of “readiness”

Federal laws mandate that school districts have to educate special students in local schools to the maximum possible extant. Many parents want to include their autistic children in regular classrooms because they believe their child would have greater opportunities for improving social interaction, raise self-esteem, and get a sense of belonging. These are all desirable reasons. But teachers must make parents understand that the inclusion should be carefully thought out. It must be suitable for a child's unique needs and could possibly include a learning environment in which the children will acquire the social skills and also grasp the curriculum.

The app way

Teachers of autistic students are usually well equipped for predicting whether students will be successful in a general education program. They can do this by observing a special child over time and collecting and assessing behavioral / performance data from the current placement of the child. Introducing autistic children to some good educational apps for kids is a great idea. These apps will teach the child several preliminary things and make him / her prepare for the life ahead.

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Social Security Benefits and Working With Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is a condition of the brain which is marked by an unusual preoccupation of oneself, leading to difficulty in communication, accessibility to interact socially, and the inability to imagine. Adults with autism, for obvious reasons, face challenges in performing any kind of work that calls for attention or paying undivided attention for an extended period of time.

But in some cases, people with autism spectrum disorder, may adjust to the work environment. This happens only if the person has Asperger's syndrome of high-functioning autism. However, statistically speaking, most adults with autism are not able to work full-time or land gainful employment to live independently. Certain significant attempts by several companies to create an environment where adults with autism spectrum disorder will be able to work, only about 5% of such people have been able to land properly employment globally.

The cause behind autism spectrum disorder is unknown. Early detection is the key for autism treatment, when it can be treated both theoretically and medically. A child with autism has a much better chance to live independently when he / she grows up, than an adult.

The US Social Security Administration (SSA), fortunately, recognizes autism spectrum disorder as a full disability among both adults and children. To get social security benefits as an adult, the person must prove to be incapable of performing any work that's available to a neuro-typical individual having the same level of education and abilities.

Autism and physical work

Autism spectrum does not directly affect the ability to carry out physical tasks. However, it does affect the ability to concentrate and receive instructions to execute those tasks. People with a milder form of autism spectrum disorder may overcome challenges to employment in offices where supervisors are trained to deal with autistic employees. But others, adults with autism are usually unable to carry out any proper gainful activity.

To be considered as fully disabled by the SSA, a person must have significant and obvious social function impairment, face difficulty to concentrate and communicate and in cognitive functions.

Receiving social security benefits as an autistic child does not mean that he / she will continue to get the benefits as an adult. The social security disability (SSD) diary is opened when the autistic child turns 18. It's advisable to be represented by a SSD lawyer, if the young adult wants to continue getting the social security benefits. There are appeals and procedures and reconsideration is much more than just a cakewalk.

Autism and the ability to perform sedentary work

In several cases, it's often simpler to prove that adults with autism spectrum disorder are unable to perform any sedentary work. This is because such work typically involves a great degree of concentration and interaction with other people. An autistic adult, by definition, usually has great difficulty to perform such type of work.

Adult with autism spectrum disorder may always require legal assistance to apply for SSD benefits, particularly when their first claim is denied and an appeal becomes necessary. Try to hire an SSD lawyer who is experienced to win SSD claims for autistic adults.

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Unraveling Autism

Autism is a developmental condition that is characterized by poor communication and social interaction. While the condition is present at birth, the signs start showing when the child is 2-3 years old.

What causes autism?

A few years ago, no one knew what causes the condition. This is no longer the case. The condition is thought about by many factors that include:

Genetic problems : Experts believe that the condition is thought about by presence of multiple genes interacting with each other. The genes cause the baby's brain to develop abnormally in the uterus.

Environmental factors : These are factors that influence the child at the time of conception, during pregnancy and during birth. One of the most common factors that has been shown to bring about the condition is deprivation of oxygen during pregnancy or during birth.

Signs that your child has autism

As mentioned, the signs of the condition start showing at the age of 2-3 years. Tell tale signs that your child might be having the condition include:

Poor social skills : Autistic children have been shown to have a difficult time interpreting other people emotions. They are also unable to hold eye contact, conversations, and can not even respond to their name. In most cases, they like being alone.

Language : It's common for autistic children to talk in a sing-song or robotic voice. In some cases they are unable to speak properly. In some cases they do not talk at all. According to experts, the child might use words that they hear without understanding their meaning.

Behavior : Children with autism often rock back and forth, bite themselves or others, spin around, flap their arms, and bang their heads on objects. It's also common for them to stare at objects for long periods of time.

Treatment of autism

There is no known cure for the condition but with early detection, the child can be taken through therapy where he / she can learn a wide range of skills such as making eye contact, hugging and others that show confidence and emotion. The most common therapies include:

Occupational therapy : It helps the autistic child in many ways including: improving play skills, transition to new activities, attention, stamina, aggression, interaction between the child and caregivers, responses to touch and other stimuli, and motor skills such as balance, posture and manipulation of small objects.

Speech therapy : From its name, this is a form of therapy that is aimed at helping the child fix the language problem and speech disorders. Many techniques are used in fixing the problem. They include: electronic talkers, picture boards, typing, signaling, sounds of people, song and many others.


This is what you need to know about autism and the treatment options that are available. While there is not a cure for the condition, studies show that with early identification of the problem, it is possible for the child to live a normal life.

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Brain Changes Kids With Autism, ADHD, And OCD

The recent MRI research shows the shared brain biology having links to symptoms that occur across various health conditions. The study results registered by scientist team in Toronto should similarities in brain conditions in children with autism spectrum syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The study finding published in the American Journal of Psychiatry for the month of July 2016, concluded on a brain imaging of white matter in 200 children living with autism, OCD, ADHD, or no diagnosis.

Brain white matters are made up of nerve fibers connecting cell bodies across the brain and are responsible for communication between various brain regions.

Dr. Stephanie Ameis, one of the scientists noted that they found injury in the brain's white matter in the main tract linking the right and the left hemispheres of the child's brain with either of OCD, ADHD, or autism. The result was astonishing compared with the control group made up of healthy children with no symptoms of autism, OCD, or ADHD.

The injury found in white matter tract, specifically in the corpus callosum, the larger in the brain and the first to mature.

A new study done by a research team from CAHM, involving children in Hospital for sick children and others from Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital had the same results. Children with autism and ADHD had more severe impairments affecting their brain's white matter than those with OCD condition.

The research team further noted that the result reinforces the fact that autism and ADHD have an onset at a tender age than the OCD and worse when different white matter tracts are undergoing rapid development.

The three neurodevelopmental disorders (Autism, ADHD, and OCD) are linked by some of the same genes, so the common symptoms, this conflicting as the conditions have been studies separately and affecting about 15% of children and youth in the world.

This study is part of the major Ontario initiative toward examining various children brain related conditions collectively (Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders Network (POND)) to fully understand their differences similarities, as well as develop more effective ad targeted therapies to the kids benefits.

What the brain-behavior link?

Most of the behaviors contributing to children impairment in autism, OCD, and ADHD-like attention problem, as well as social difficulties, are known to occur in these conditions. They often differ in severity for child to child and their brain's white matter was structure is associated with the spectrum of behavioral symptoms noted across these diagnoses.

Kids with greater brain impairments have noted to have a higher impairment in function in daily life, regardless of their diagnosis, noted Dr. Ameis who is also working with Hospital for Sick Children.

This finding has revolutionized the nature of understanding of the brain-related disorder, says senior author Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou who works with Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital and head of POND Network.

The study provides biological evidence on how the brain structure relates to the spectrum of behavioral symptoms that runs across different development conditions highlighting the shared biology across such conditions. These points out the best treatment targeting a spectrum of behaviors may be relevant for all three conditions.

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It’s a Struggle for Adults With Autism to Find Jobs

Like many other 24-year olds, Kenneth Parker loves to play computer games. The young adult from Orlando, Florida, wants to be a game developer himself. He has a simple reason behind his ambition: to develop a game which none was yet made and see people playing it.

Kenneth, as of now, is unemployed. But he is not alone. More than 57 percent of autistic adults were gainfully employed at some point of time in their lives. The rate of unemployment for young autistic adults is significantly lower than those with speech impairment and intellectual disabilities.

But people like Kenneth, are stuck in the middle. He will not be satisfied in a low-skill or menial work, or a job that feels as if he was given to him out of charity. Beside, he has to battle several issues to organize himself that often turns off most prospective employers.

Kenneth's mother Florence, is well aware of the challenges of employing adults with autism. Florence, a nurse by profession, employed her son and a few others with developmental disabilities in the healthcare center she ran. Kenneth first worked in the maintenance department and then in other activities, entertaining seniors with scientific demonstrations.

Florence says, her goal was to run a quality healthcare center, offering good service to the patients, while at the same time being financially independent. She tried to help all the young adults, including her son, to succeed. She had to work hard with all the managers and supervisors so that they understood the needs of each employee. Kenneth admits that he did things that a “normal” employee will not do, like leaving work unattended. He just could not organize things. Activities that were important to others had no meaning for Kenneth. At the same time, people failed to understand what he said or meant.

But Kenneth was not alone. There was another young adult with autism, a woman, who would finish her work and then sit idle for hours, not knowing what to do next, because she was not given any clear instructions.

Things that are obvious to most people are usually not as such to people with autism. It takes a lot more specific instructions and loads of patience to deal with autistic adults.

Florence retired from her nursing home business about a year ago. She now plans to start another business where people like her son will get employment. She looks to various nonprofit organizations that train adults with autism, for inspiration. In fact, she has started a social group on the internet to help autistic individuals develop job skills. She now dreams to establish a brick-and-mortar community building for those having autism.

Florence says it has been some amazing friendships that she has forged over the years with these special people. She thinks it's an extreme error for most of us to think that people on the autism spectrum are not social.

But there seems to be no easy fix or any immediate solution to change the mindset of the general people on providing employment to people with autism. It'll take time.

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