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Autism and Legos

  • Posted on February 28, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Legos, autism, and growing awareness: Check it out!

Holiday Hiatus

  • Posted on December 24, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Merry Christmas to all,
To all I wish good cheer;
Peace, love, hope, and faith,
To carry through ‘til next year!

Happy 2013!

  • Posted on January 2, 2013 at 9:00 AM

All around the world, people have suffered through the lingering financial crises that have been hitting us all for several years in a row. We have also been hit by natural disasters, man-made tragedies, and upheaving (or not-so-upheaving) election cycles that have left some of us writhing in the aftermath of way too much politics.

All this makes the relatively small problems of my family look, well, relatively small. And yet, we’re all impacted by these events, as well as our own hardships. So, altogether, 2012 was a rather difficult year and I’m glad to see it go.

Now, it is 2013: Like every other year before it, 2013 is full of unknown possibilities. It could be worse than 2012, but it could much better. Of course, I’m hoping for the latter.

So, Happy New Year!!!

I hope we all can strive for the best of our possibilities and work cooperatively for a better world that all of us can enjoy together.

Mommy Minder, Mommy Finder

  • Posted on January 3, 2011 at 8:00 AM

There are a few in the autism community that thoroughly investigate any studies they find interesting.  I’m not one of those.  But once in a while I do find a study that strikes a chord with me.  I don’t latch onto that study as gospel truth, but I do reflect on it once found.

One such study relates to visual skills.

Children with autism may lack certain visual skills needed to be independent in adulthood, new study findings suggest.

For example, they might find it harder than other adults to find shoes in the bedroom or apples in the supermarket, according to researchers at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

The study authors asked 20 children with autism and 20 typical children to press buttons to find a hidden target among multiple illuminated locations in a room. One side of the room had more targets than the other side.

The children with autism took longer to recognize patterns in the test structure that would help them choose where to search for the targets. The findings suggest that the ability to search for objects in a large-scale environment is less efficient and less systematic in children with autism compared to typical children, the researchers pointed out in a university news release.

Personally, I’m a little skeptical that the findings (concerning finding hidden targets in multiple illuminated locations) can be generalized to finding shoes or apples, or that the delays in these skills identified in autistic children necessitates a similar lacking in autistic adults.  However, it does strike a chord with me.

One responsibility that seems to be primarily mine in my household of men is keeping track of things and finding them once they go missing.  To me, it’s always seemed to be a skill of thoroughness.  You put things back into their place, and when they’re not there you look everywhere until you find it.  But, perhaps, there’s more to it than that.

Perhaps I am able to identify things in a manner that my husband and children cannot.  Whether it’s a perceptual ability or a skill, I don’t know.  I mean, if you literally cannot see what you’re looking for—and by see, I mean differentiate the object you’re looking for among the clutter—, then how can you find it?  But, perhaps it is a skill.  Perhaps it is one of those skills that neurotypical individuals (and some neurodiverse individuals like myself) pick up more or less naturally to the extent that they don’t know how to teach it to those who do not acquire the skill in a similar manner.

It’s worth some thought.  Perhaps if I spent less time being annoyed that I am expected to know where everything is even after they’ve moved them and more time helping them develop this skill of minding and finding that I take somewhat for granted, then perhaps we would all be better off. 

On the other hand, from what I’ve heard from other mothers (and not just mothers of autistic kids), this seems to be a common complaint among women.  Perhaps it’s a male/female thing.  I mean, if the study didn’t account for the imbalance between boys and girls with diagnoses of autism, but had a balance between boys and girls in their typical peer group, then perhaps the difference they recorded could be less about typical/autistic development and more about male/female development.

So, what do you think?  Is it a skill or an ability?  Is it related to autism or something else?

Teaching: New Zealand vs. Arizona

  • Posted on June 6, 2010 at 1:32 AM

Compare this:

In May 2009, the team decided he had met the goals of his plan. His family asked for a new review, but Bruno said school-district officials declined, saying Luke was fine.

In October, two months after Dr. Daniel Kessler of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center confirmed autism, it was clear Luke wasn't fine.

The kindergarten teacher complained repeatedly in e-mails to Bruno of Luke's misbehaviors - spitting, hitting, throwing sand at other children and defecating in the classroom.

The teacher also said Luke seemed "defiant" but she didn't believe it was because Luke had autism.

In March, Gentry confirmed autism. The education team created an IEP to address autism.

A week later, Luke's teacher wrote to Bruno, "I don't even want him in my classroom to be honest with you."

Bruno filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to investigate discrimination. The teacher was placed on temporary leave as punishment.

To this:

New Zealand schools should view autism as a learning preference, rather than a difficulty or disability, says UK educationalist Neil Mackay.

His comments come in response to Autism New Zealand’s statement that social stigma, intolerance and ignorance in the education system are holding back the development of children with autism and driving many parents to remove their children from mainstream learning environments.

Neil Mackay is in the country this week presenting training workshops to over a thousand teachers and principals on how to meet atypical learning needs without affecting the classroom experience of other students.

He says that with the growing numbers of autistic learners, teachers need to support their inclusion in the mainstream by understanding their learning preferences and employing practical tools and strategies to improve outcomes in the classroom.

“This means fine-tuning learning so students feel empowered and supported to achieve. For children on the autism spectrum, it’s about helping teachers to understand that these children often need detail, order and certainty in their learning environment and finding practical solutions so these students can operate comfortably and confidently in the classroom,” says Mackay.

Which “z” would you rather live in?

Revealing Research

  • Posted on September 26, 2009 at 12:00 PM

I admit when it came to the “autism epidemic” I took the statistics pretty much at face value.  I didn’t interpret the situation as dire, but I assumed there was a causal factor other than broadened definitions and increased awareness that supported the growing number of autism diagnoses in children.  Left Brain/Right Brain of the UK was the first source I’d seen that convincingly shed both doubt and light on those statistics and raised issues of bias that I needed to consider.

Now, research also coming out of the UK sheds further light on this very important issue.  I read this article posted in Medical News Today:

This ground-breaking study shows for the first time an estimate of how many adults are living with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in England. The study into the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among adults shows that one in every hundred adults living in households has the condition - broadly the same rate as that cited for children.

The implications of this research are, in my opinion, nothing short of profound in their implications of the politics of autism.  Further relevance is revealed in these findings:

  • While 1.0 per cent of the adult population had an autism spectrum disorder, the rate for men was higher (1.8 per cent) than for women (0.2 per cent). This was in line with studies among child populations which show higher rates amongst boys.
  • People who were single were more likely to be assessed with an autism spectrum disorder than other marital statuses.
  • Among men, prevalence of an autism spectrum disorder was lower among those with a degree level qualification than among those with no qualifications.
  • Men renting their home from a social landlord were more likely than those living in other types of housing to have an autism spectrum disorder.
  • Adults with an autism spectrum disorder were no more likely to be using services for those with mental or emotional problems than the rest of the adult general population.

If I ever doubted we needed to take a serious look at how we, both in the US and internationally, approach autism this offers a never-before-seen glimpse that shows very clearly that we do.  Misinformation and assumptions having us looking for causes and solutions to this false “epidemic,” when what we really should be doing (and should have been doing all along) is using our resources to find ways to solve problems people with autism face every day.