Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Connection With Seizures in Children and Autism

Rates of autism and epilepsy tend to coexist at higher rates than with any other type of neurological disorder. Autism and epilepsy share some similarities as far as how they work within the brain region. While no obvious connection source is known, certain factors may contribute to why children and adults with autism face a higher risk of contracting epilepsy.
Rates of Autism and Epilepsy
Rates of autism have increased considerably over the last 50 years. The high concurrence of autism and epilepsy conditions has led to a considerable increase in epilepsy conditions as well. According to the Autism Speaks website, an estimated one third of people suffering from autism will develop epilepsy in the coming years.
As a neurological condition, autism disorder exists on a spectrum, with varying degrees or symptoms experienced by different people. Likewise, people affected by epilepsy experience this condition in different degrees. Data collected by Autism Speaks shows epilepsy rates among people with autism range from 20 to 40 percent compared to a one percent occurrence within the general population. Interestingly enough, it's estimated that five percent of children affected by epilepsy will go on to develop autism disorder.
Similarities Between Autism and Epilepsy
Abnormalities in brain neuron or brain cell activity are characteristic of both autism and epilepsy. Brain neuron activity has to do with how brain cells communicate with one another. For people with autism, these activities have a significant impact on their ability to concentrate, learn and communicate with others. With epilepsy, abnormal neuron activity is almost like a short-circuiting that takes place in the brain, which accounts for the recurring seizures a person may experience.
As brain neuron activity plays a central role for both disorders, some of the brain abnormalities present in autism may very well contribute to the likelihood of a person developing seizures. In effect, any overloads or disturbances in neuron activity found in autism may predispose a person to epilepsy.
Effects of Illness
For some children affected by autism, the first seizure episode may be triggered by an illness. Some seizures may actually be triggered by the onset of a fever in a child. Also known as febrile seizures, these events are not uncommon in children with high fevers, regardless of whether autism is present or not.
The occurrence of fever, in and of itself, represents the immune system kicking into gear. Part of the immune system's response involves creating inflammation as a means to isolate the threat, or germ or virus. According to the Autism Key website, the antibodies released in the process can disrupt neuron activity in the brain of autistic children. When this happens, there's an increased risk of seizure since the brain's neural network has been disrupted.
Environmental Triggers
According to the Journal of Neuroinflammation, 25 percent of children suffering from autism also have some form of allergic condition. In a nutshell, an allergic reaction is an immune system response where the body, in many cases attacks itself in attempt to protect the body from a perceived threat. This response in turn produces inflammation in the affected areas.
Based on the chemicals released in the body and brain during an allergic reaction, environmental triggers, such as allergies and stress may play a role in the connection between seizures and autism. In the case of stress reactions, the chemicals secreted by the brain in response to a stressor can also have disruptive effects on neuron activity.
Effects on the Blood-Brain Barrier
The brain's cells have a protective coating that prevents certain materials from crossing over from the bloodstream into the brain. This coating acts as the blood-brain barrier. For people affected by autism and/or epilepsy, allergies, fevers and stress may affect the blood-brain barrier's ability to properly protect brain cells.
A research study cited in the Journal of Neuroinflammation describes how certain conditions, such as stress, fever and allergic reactions tend to weaken the blood-brain barrier in people affected by autism and seizures. The study also goes onto speculate whether treatment for neuro-inflammation may be more effective in treating epilepsy when anti-seizure medications fail.
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

10 Parenting Tips to Know Before Special Educators Evaluate Your Child for Eligibility!

Do you suspect that your child may have a disability such as Autism? Are you in the process of setting up a school evaluation for your child? This article is for you and will discuss 10 parenting tips that will help you before your child is evaluated.
1. Do not depend on special educators to diagnose your child's autism, or other types of disabilities. Many school administrators put pressure on school psychologists, not to find children eligible for special education under the category of autism (this could be related to the cost of the services, or other issues not known by the parents), as well as other types of disabilities such as specific learning disabilities (SLD).
2. If you suspect a disability of any type, you need to take your child for an independent educational evaluation (IEE), with a qualified evaluator, not in your school district. I would recommend a clinical psychologist or a neuropsychologist. By doing this you are increasing your child's chances of receiving an appropriate evaluation, and in determining specifically what services your child needs to receive an appropriate education!
3. Ask other parents of children with disabilities if they know any evaluators that are parent and child friendly, complete comprehensive testing, write whether a child is eligible for special education, and writes very specific recommendations for services that a child needs!
4. If you do decide to allow your district to evaluate your child, you do not have to "consent" to all testing that the school wants to do. Some school personnel will recommend testing in areas of strength and not of weakness; if you believe this is happening to your child, tell them that you will not "consent" to testing in that specific area.
5. If the school wants to do an autism rating scale, I would recommend the (CARS), which is the Childhood Autism Rating Scale. This scale is easy to fill out and very accurate. Be careful that you tell the school psychologist that you will be filling out the scale and not school personnel. I have seen many times where the rating scale states the child does not have Autism, and I find out that the scale was filled out by special educators-do not agree to this!
6. Rating scales are often used in other areas also such as adaptive behavior; again make sure that you are filling out the scale, and not school personnel (or the results are probably not accurate).
7. When you sign the consent form make sure that you are asking for all testing reports at least ten days before the eligibility meeting; or you will be postponing the meeting.
8. If you took your child for an IEE, you will send the report to the school before the eligibility meeting (also make arrangements for the independent evaluator to participate in the meeting, but this can be done by telephone)
9. Try to see if you can find an experienced advocate or an experienced parent to attend the meeting with you. The eligibility meeting can be overwhelming, it will benefit you if you have someone who understands the special education process go with you.
10. During the eligibility meeting ask lots of questions, especially about terminology that you do not understand. If your child is found ineligible (despite the school's testing or the IEE), make sure that your disagreement with this decision is written into the paperwork. Your options are to "obtain" an IEE at public expense if the school evaluated your child (and you disagree with the evaluation), or if you have an IEE that the school refuses to "consider" you may have to file for a due process hearing.
The eligibility process can be very trying; if you keep in mind these tips and bring an experienced person with you to the meeting your child's chances improve of being found eligible for special education! Good luck!
JoAnn Collins is the mother of two adults with disabilities, and has helped families navigate the special education system, as an advocate, for over 15 years. She is a presenter and author of the book "Disability Deception; Lies Disability Educators Tell and How Parents Can Beat Them at Their Own Game." The book has a lot of resources and information to help parents fight for an appropriate education for their child. For a free E newsletter entitled "The Special Education Spotlight" send an E mail to: For more information on the book, testimonials about the book, and a link to more articles go to:
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Can School Districts Prevent Autism Service Dogs From Attending School With a Child?

Do you have a child with PDD or autism that is receiving special education services? Are you considering, getting an autism service dog for your child, and you wonder what the school's reaction will be? Have you been refused to have an autism service dog attend school with your child and wonder what the law says about it? This article will discuss the requirements for school districts allowing autism service dogs to enter public school buildings, with a child that they are working with.
Autism Service Dogs help children with autism in several ways: the dog can assist children safely access different environments, the dog can be a calming influence, the dog can work on interrupting repetitive behavior by nudging the child, the dog can prevent the child from wandering away (by a tether), and the dog can track the child when they have wandered. Side effects of the dog is that children with autism that have one tend to be calmer and also tend to interact in social situations better than children with autism that do not have a dog.
But schools across the country have taken the position that these dogs are not service dogs, and that they are drawing the line to protect the health and safety of all students. I actually believe that the reason many school districts are refusing to allow the dogs is due to precedent. If they allow one autism service dog in then they must allow more. Parents have been suing school districts over this issue from California to Illinois. Recently 2 Illinois parents won court orders allowing the dogs to accompany their children to school.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has a section that addresses this issue. The ADA definition is that the dog must be individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. The ADA does not require the dog to be certified, to be considered a service dog. The service dog must be given total access to any public places where the person with a disability goes under the ADA requirements.
The Department of Justice has taken a stand for the child and parent in these cases. Alejandro Miyar a spokesman for the US Department of Justice states that the ADA requires public schools to allow service dogs to accompany children they serve to class. He also stated that autism is considered a covered disability under the ADA.
Another thing that school districts are doing to try and prevent autism service dogs is to state that this is an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) issue, and must be agreed to by the IEP team. I do not believe that this is the case, and parents should not fall into this trap. The actual issue is that the ADA allows access to service dogs in public places-so the issue is access for the dog. Another issue is, that the school district is discriminating against the child's disability, by refusing to allow the dog to attend class with the child with autism.
The newest tactic used by school districts is that the dog cannot be in the class due to another child's allergies. I think that this argument will not hold up in court due to the fact that the child can be placed in another class, the child could take medication if bothered by the dog, and other ways to limit the child's contact with the dog.
The ADA is clear; public schools must allow service dogs to attend class with a child. Several courts have ruled that it is a violation of the ADA to refuse to allow the dogs in class with a child with autism. If you are considering this for your child you must understand what the school's position may be, and how to overcome it, for the benefit of your child's education! Your child is depending on you to advocate for what they need! Good luck in your fight!
JoAnn Collins is the mother of two adults with disabilities, and has helped families navigate the special education system, as an advocate, for over 15 years. She is a presenter and author of the book "Disability Deception; Lies Disability Educators Tell and How Parents Can Beat Them at Their Own Game." The book has a lot of resources and information to help parents fight for an appropriate education for their child. For a free E newsletter entitled "The Special Education Spotlight" send an E mail to: For more information on the book, testimonials about the book, and a link to more articles go to:
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Essential Autism Services

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) or Autism is the disorder of neural development. This is noted in different types of development disorders like verbal and non verbal communication, repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. The symptoms of ASDs become visible before a child is three years old and normally has a strong genetic basis. Though there is no treatment available for ASDs, early diagnosis and medical help can improve self- care and communication skills in children. Yet again this does not completely eradicate the disorder. There is a need for different types of autism services that helps overcome these disorders and improve development skills in a child.
Some services include music therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavior analysis and speech and language therapy. These services are tailored depending on the child's need and focuses on increasing the quality of the child's life. The purpose of such services is to inculcate education, employment and social care. This involves educating and developing individuals with autism, helping them find and keep a job and supporting them through the help of a community.
Standard health services include designing and maintaining a healthy individual by including a range of treatments and therapies that are listed below.
The main service done in treatment of autism is medications. This involves directly or indirectly consuming prescribed chemical substances. These chemical substances are used in the medical diagnose, cure, treatment or prevention of a disease. Another core service use of alternative medicines like physiotherapies, natural medicines and pet therapies. This is again done depending on the physiological need and requirement of the affected child. Diets, nutritional supplements and hormones are also given key importance. This is also used as a complementary or alternative medicine.
On the physical level, behavioral and developmental therapies are one of the main services that are used in a large and diverse range. Behavioral is instilled in the child through teaching and coaching by therapists, teachers, and parents. While developmental targets the core dearth in the child. Psychotherapeutic is also an important aspect in this service. Here the child comes to a complete understanding of his/her abilities, difficulties, motivations or worries. This is done in connection with the therapist.
Motor and sensory therapies are yet another important service. Motor therapy aims at improving the motor function of the whole body or parts while sensory therapy aim at improving the sensitivity to, one or more senses. In some cases the child affected with autism finds it difficult to communicate through speech. Alternative communication therapy is undertaken for such problems. They are trained to use external device, electronic or sign languages. In some instances alternative communication enhances the usual means of communication.
Although there is no complete cure for autism such autism services help the child to recover gradually. Most children with autism lack social support, relationships, employment opportunities or self-determination such services train and support the child to overcome such liabilities and live independently.
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How To Work With Your Autistic Child For Social Settings

Current studies indicate that about one out of about 160 children is affected with autism or some type or level of autistic spectrum disorder. One of the biggest problems with having an autistic child is that they do not care to or cannot participate in social functions or social gatherings and they have trouble communicating verbally. This clearly creates problems for the child as they develop and mature because they do not interact with children of their own age group to learn how to act and behave in a social setting.
This aspect presents a very unique challenge to the parents of an autistic child. Needless to say, it is difficult to accept the fact that your child is afflicted with autism, but of course as parents, you want to do everything you can for your child to allow them to lead as normal a life as possible. Some parents are even in denial of the fact that their child has autism, but the quicker you as parents can accept that fact, the sooner you can deal with it and get the specialized help that your autistic child needs at this point in their development.
As a parent, you may need to develop a thick skin. What this means is that some people in the general public will make rude remarks or comments about an autistic child. While most people will accept that fact and be helpful and sympathetic, you need to be emotionally prepared for the occasional thoughtless jerk who makes a rude or crude comment about your autistic child. It does you no good to get angry or embarrassed or to cause a scene, and you need to be pacified with the fact that the jerk who made the comment makes himself look incredibly stupid to others via his remark.
One of the ways to allow your autistic child to learn how to act and behave in the general public is via role playing at home. You can pretend to be at a social gathering such as a school picnic and do role-playing, which will allow your child to become comfortable with this setting gradually over a period of time. Keep your role playing sessions short at home, since the attention span of an autistic child is limited, and forcing them to continue with it after their attention is exhausted will simply put a negative spin on being in such a social situation, which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
One of the traits of an autistic child is that they do not look people in the eye. It is unknown why this is the case but it is thought to perhaps be a function of the child actually realizing that they are not the same as their peers, and this aspect is a reflection of a sign of low self-esteem. While there is no way to prove that via scientific studies, that is a popular train of thought. Whatever the cause though, you may want to work with your child at home, and perhaps even with a reward system for when they are able to look you in the eyes. The model of "proper behavior warrants a reward" has been effective for many, but do not make the reward large, just something very small, like being allowed to play with their favorite toy.
It will take work, but as parents, you have the ability to help shape your child's future. Do not put the entire task on the shoulders of the school, but rather, work with your child at home to create a pleasant and loving atmosphere, and to work with your autistic child to help them function.
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Do Autistic People Have Different Brains?

It appears that the brains of children with autism are significantly larger than the brain of neurotypicals, but this difference decreases with age. The researcher Corchesne and his accomplices have found out that 90% the 30 studied boys with autism had a larger than normal brain volume. Yet this difference was not to be seen in the womb, so this seems to indicate that there has been a form of brain overgrowth during postnatal (after birth) development. Normally during early brain development a child loses a substantial amount of neural connectivity, to allow for more specialized brain function. Actually the phenomena of synesthesia, which was often associated with autism, seems to be caused by the failure to lose neural connectivity during development.
Another area in which the brain of people with an autistic spectrum disorder and the brain of neurotypical differ is the cerebellum. A part of the brain, most commonly associated with motor activity. Yet, what is not commonly known, is that this area of the brain is also associated with attention. When adolescents with autism where compared with their neurotypical peers, the children with autism showed less activation in the cerebellum in relation to attention and more in relation to motor activity. This suggests that there's a difference in the way that the cerebellum works in people with an autism spectrum disorder, when compared to neurotypical people. This is particularly interesting, because autism is also heavily linked with a disruption in motor coordination.
There have also been shown slight differences in the amygdala and hippocampus and areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with social cognition. Yet great caution is needed when clear roles are assigned to those very complex brain structures. This is especially the case when dealing with autism, because the localization of brain function (localization is defined as the clear correspondence of a specific part of the brain to a specific brain function) is far less consistent in people with an autism spectrum whose brains tend to be organized in a different way, and in a way that differs from person to person.
Although the differences between the brains of a neurotypical and someone with an autism spectrum disorder are not clear-cut. Modern neuropsychology clearly states that the differences are present and are profound. Yet it is important to remember that this does not mean that the brain differences cause autism, it might be actually the other way around- autism might cause the differences in brain structure. What it does prove, in association with other evidence, is that autism is primarily a biological disorder.
I'm an aspiring psychotherapist who blogs about psychology. If you want to know more about autism, psychopathology and practical ways of improving your mental health, please visit it by clicking here
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