Category Archives: autism

Autism FAQs

Since April is Autism Awareness Month, SmartKnitKIDS wants to help bring awareness to Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders.princewilliamcountypublicschools

from princewilliamcountypublicschools.com

 

What are Autism Spectrum Disorders and Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorders are a range of brain disorders that are characterized by restricted patterns of behavior and impairments in social communication and interactions.  Symptoms can vary drastically from individual to individual in both number and severity, but typically share similar features and origins.

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from speechbudy.com

 

What is autistic disorder?

Autistic disorder is the most common Autism Spectrum Disorder and is commonly referred to as autism.  Autism severely impairs a child’s social interaction and ability to communicate.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger’s Syndrome is a milder form of autism and is the second most common ASD.  Children with Asperger’s Syndrome exhibit a higher language development than children with autism.  Many of them will have normal intellectual ability, but have a disinterest in social communication.

What are the other Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Although Autism and Asperger’s are more known, there are other named disorders on the spectrum.  One is Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified or PDDNOS. Children with PDDNOS demonstrate some of the symptoms similar to autism disorder, but do not meet all the criteria of autism.  Another more rare disorder is Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD). This one affects more boys than girls. Children with this disorder develop normally for approximately two years and then regress in most areas and continue to regress beginning around age 3 or 4.  They experience a pronounced loss in motor, language, social and intellectual skills, as well as loss of bowel and bladder control. They may also experience seizures. Rett syndrome is a genetic disorder in which autistic symptoms begin to develop between 6 and 18 months of age, after early normal development.  Rett syndrome affects females almost exclusively. Those with Rett syndrome typically begin to shun social contact, cease talking, have unique motor behaviors and regress in skills.  The cause of Rett syndrome has been identified as a single gene mutation.

What are the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Symptoms can range from mild to severe.  They can appear gradually or suddenly. Most symptoms will become noticeable by the age of 3, but can be observed as early as birth.  Symptoms can include:

  •  Social Deficits – Social interactions are difficult for children with autism.  They may avoid eye contact. They may avoid interactions with people.  They often have difficulty reading social cues. They may have difficulty controlling emotions, can be disruptive or aggressive.  They may lose control easily when frustrated or uncomfortable.
  •  Communication Difficulties – Communication difficulties vary from child to child.  Some children with autism may have very good language skills, but have difficulty in initiating or sustaining conversations.  Other children may have language delays or regression in language development. Other children may be mute, while others still will have unusual use of language, such as repeating a phrase or parroting.  Children with autism may also have difficulty with body language. Their facial expressions, tone and gestures may not match the verbal content or emotions.
  •  Repetitive Behavior – Many children with autism, or even adults for that matter, insist on consistency.  They will have difficulty with any change, however minor, with their routines. They may exhibit repetitive motions like arm-flapping, freezing, rocking back and forth or walking on their toes.  They may become intensely preoccupied with any certain topic. Or can spend long periods of time arranging toys rather than playing with them.
  •  Sensory Difficulties – Although, children may exhibit Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) without being on the spectrum, many children on the spectrum do exhibit Sensory Processing Disorder.  This is when the brain is unable to balance the senses appropriately. Children with this disorder can be hyper-sensitive or hypo-sensitive to sounds, textures, tastes or smells.  Children may have difficulty with crowds due to the over-stimulus of noise. Many children with SPD and autism have difficulty with tags or seams in their clothes. What may not be noticed at all or even a minor annoyance to some, will feel extremely uncomfortable to children with SPD.  SmartKnitKIDS seamless socks and undergarments can help many of these children.
  •  Unusual Abilities – Some children with ASD can display truly remarkable abilities.  These can include artistic talents, musical abilities without training, or the ability to memorize difficult lists of information.

Who develops autism spectrum disorders?

Autism Spectrum Disorders are three to four times more common in boys than in girls.  However, girls with an ASD tend to have more severe symptoms. Autism touches people of all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups,

What are the causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Most researchers believe that it is a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors that cause ASD.  They are exploring genes which they believe contribute to the development of ASD. Abnormal brain development during the first months of life is being studied.  Researchers hope to determine if structural abnormalities may be caused by genetic and/or environmental factors.

How Did My Child Develop Autism?

Researchers are learning more about autism every day, but we still have a lot to learn.  Research does suggest that the development of autism happens in the very early brain development.  Researchers have identified several genes that can cause autism, but these genes only account for 15% of autism cases.  They have also identified more than 100 different genes or gene mutations that can increase a child’s risk of developing autism. But, most researchers believe it is not genes alone that can cause a child to develop autism.  Many scientists believe that it is a combination of genetics and environment, or non-genetic factors. Some environmental factors that increase the likelihood of autism include: advanced parental age at time of conception; prematurity with very low birth weight; maternal diabetes; infection during pregnancy; and certain birth complications, including those that may involve oxygen deprivation to a baby’s brain.  Although researchers are closer than ever to understanding why a child develops autism, this is still a medical frontier. The organization Autism Speaks funds a multitude of studies working towards discovering the causes of autism.

Are Vaccines the Cause?

Researchers have spent two decades extensively looking for any link between childhood vaccinations and autism.  They have had very clear results. Vaccines do not cause autism.

How are Autism Spectrum Disorders diagnosed?

Currently, there is no diagnostic test to detect autism.  But, scientists are hopeful that with more research a diagnostic test may be available in the future.  For now, diagnosis comes from various screening instruments, as well as parental input. These tools are able to measure the prevalence of symptoms of autism.  A child may display symptoms right away or it can occur after several months of normal development. Some of the things to look for in children between 18 months and 3 years include:

  •         Limited pretend play
  •         Lack of pointing to demonstrate interest
  •         Reduced gaze following
  •         Less frequent demonstration of repetitive, stereotypic behaviors
  •         In children with autism between 2 years and 3 years of age, the following features may be observed:  
  •         Communication difficulties
  •         Socialization deficits with caregivers
  •         Perceptual sensitivity
  •         Other difficult behaviors

How are Autism Spectrum Disorders typically treated?

Every person with autism or an autism spectrum disorder is different.  Because of that, there is no exact treatment for it. However, the best outcomes come from the earliest interventions. There are many different methods that might be used depending on each individual.  They can include medications, behavioral therapy, psycho-education, family support groups, educational interventions, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and specialized training.

How Common is Autism?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify that 1 in every 68 American children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  While this is a 10-fold increase over the last 40 years, much of the increase is due to improved diagnosis and awareness. ASD affects more than 2 million people in the US and tens of millions worlwide.

What Should I Do if I Suspect Something is Wrong with My Child?

Early intervention has been shown to provide children with autism the best chance for improving function and maximizing progress.  Talk to your child’s doctor right away. Also, you can contact your state’s Early Intervention Services to have your child screened.

How Do I Get My Child the Help He or She Needs?

A great resource for finding the right professionals is the Autism Treatment Network from Autism Speaks.  The ATN is a network of hospitals, physicians, researchers and families at 17 locations across the US and Canada.  The clinicians at ATN work together to develop the most effective approach to medical care for children and adolescents affected by autism.

What if I Suspect that I Have Autism?

This is possible.  Researchers are learning more and more about autism, but there is so much that is still unknown.  A greater knowledge in identifying autism has lead to a greater prevalence in diagnosis. But, many adults that have Asperger’s Syndrome or other high-functioning forms of autism never received a diagnosis as a child. They only come to a diagnosis when they seek help for problems they have at work or in their social lives.  If you suspect that you may have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, a licensed clinical psychologist, neurologist or psychiatrist can evaluate you and make a diagnosis.

How Do I Deal with this Diagnosis?

When a parent receives a diagnosis that their child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder it can be confusing and emotional.  But, the very best way to move forward for you and your child is to educate yourself. Early intervention has had really great results, and it is important to find out all you can to make sure you take advantage of all the resources available to your child.  Take advantage of resources yourself, too. There are many great online communities or local organizations to obtain advice from other parents.

Will My Child Be Able to Attend School?

Of course!  It is your child’s right to attend school according to the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1990.  The Act says that every child deserves access to a “free and appropriate” education funded by the government, whether is is in a mainstream classroom or special education.

asanv.org

from asanv.org

 
** Sources for the content of this blog include The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and Autism Speaks.

Autism Awareness Promos

Welcome to April SmartKnitKIDS families!! April is National Autism Awareness Month and your friends at SmartKnitKIDS have a barrel full of goodies to share.

Bugsley Bucks Return

First, up, Bugsley Bucks! For the third year running and back by popular demand are our SmartKnitKIDS Bugsley Bucks.  Here’s how they’ll work.  During the month of April, you’ll get a $10 Bugsley Bucks card for every order that includes any SmartKnitKIDS or Big Kids with a subtotal of $25 to under $55.  Bugsley Bucks cards can be used as a gift card on smartknit.com orders between May 15 and June 18, 2018.  Likewise, you’ll get a $20 Bugsley Bucks card for orders between $55 and under $100 OR a $30 Bugsley Bucks card for orders over $100.  Only one Bugsley Bucks card per order.

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Free Gifts

Each order to smartknit.com during the month of April that includes at least one SmartKnitKIDS or Big Kids item will also get two great free gifts – an Autism Awareness Car Decal AND Tangler Puzzle.  Of course, they are while supplies last, so be sure to get your orders in early.

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Mermaid Pillows and $20 SmartKnit.com Gift Cards

Have you seen these amazing and soothing Mermaid Pillows?  We’re all kind of gaga over them here at SmartKnitKIDS.  So, we’re giving away 5 of them during Autism Awareness Month!  Each Monday in April, we’ll be giving away 1 Mermaid Pillow, and pairing it with a $20 gift card to smartknit.com.

ENTER HERE

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Surprise Sales

Oh my!  There’s more.  Be sure to be part of our mailing list to find out about some surprise sales that might be sprinkled throughout the month!

We’re very excited about all of our great goodies for our SmartKnitKIDS families and we hope you are, too!

Pets for Kids with Autism

February 20 is National Love Your Pet Day! Pets can be an amazing thing for children with autism, sensory disorders or any number of other special needs.  Animal therapy has increased in recent years to treat a multitude of health conditions, such as cancer, epilepsy, heart disease, emotional and behavioral disorders and chronic pain.  It seems only logical that someone would study the effects of animal therapy on children with autism.

dog

In 2014, the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine did just that.  MU’s Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction found that autistic kids who have a family pet at home have more advanced social skills and are more assertive and communicative than autistic kids without pets.

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Dr. Gretchen Carlisle, the lead author, and her team, studied 70 families who have children that are patients at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.  While most of the families had dogs, several had a variety of other animals including fish, farm animals, rabbits, reptiles, birds and even a spider.

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Dr. Carlisle’s data showed that children who live in homes that include pets were more likely to introduce themselves, ask questions and respond to other people’s questions – all things that can be difficult for children with autism.  The researchers felt that the pets helped to provide an opportunity for the children to interact with others without realizing they were doing it.

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But, Dr. Carlisle cautions that finding the right animal is key and is also different for each autistic child.  Dogs typically are the most common pets, especially for children, due to their energy, affection and playfulness.  But, for a child with a sensitivity to noise, a barking dog may not be the best option.  Cats can be great for a child like this – or rabbits, gerbils, etc.  It’s important to match your child’s needs and personality to a pet that he or she can really bond with.  There are a number of animals that can make really great pets: guinea pigs, iguanas, farm animals (as long as you live in the proper environment for them.)  Remember, someone in this study actually had a spider!

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There are several other studies that conclude that owning a pet can really be beneficial to most people.  Bonding with a pet has been shown to encourage empathy towards other humans.  Pets have been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate and can even help children and adults to gain independence that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

There are so many reasons to love your pets and the benefits that they have for autistic kids are just a few of those reasons.  Give your furry friends some extra love this Tuesday . . . or maybe some of their favorite treats!

The information for this blog post came from the following articles.  Read more at the links below:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/autism-and-pets-more-evidence-social-benefits
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pets-help-autistic-kids-advance-social-skills/

https://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2014/1230-children-with-autism-who-live-with-pets-are-more-assertive/

https://blog.brainbalancecenters.com/2014/09/benefits-pet-ownership-children-special-needs

** Photos are from bhmpics.com; copperpointresort.com; dailymail.co.uk and foodexposed.co.za

 

 

Guest Blog: Top Five Distractions for Children in the Classroom

From Buzzies.

Parents and teachers know that it can be challenging to keep children focused and on task. Classrooms are full of distractions, especially for children with attention deficit disorders or autism spectrum disorders. It is important to understand why children are distracted so that we can create calm and focused learning spaces.

Here are the top five distractions for children in the classroom, according to Neuropsychologist Dr. Amy Serin:

1) internal distractions, internal thoughts, anxiety, etc.
2) sensory sensitivities, too much noise, light, temperature sensitivities, etc.
3) too much sitting still- kids need to move in order to stay focused. Sitting still for too long makes it hard
4) Sudden distractions- loud noises, other kids chatting, etc and
5) Teacher talking too long…kids attention spans are short and teaching in a way that exceeds these spans will mean distractibility because the methods aren’t developmentally appropriate.

Buzzies can help some children to focus by lessening reactivity to sensory distractions and by lowering stress associated with internal thoughts or distractions. Buzzies basic is a version of Buzzies that children can take anywhere and use in the classroom. Buzzies original and Buzzies basic act passively and in real time, they don’ t just buzz to remind a kid to pay attention. There is nothing like Buzzies! Fidget toys, reminders, teacher prompts, etc. all can be helpful but Buzzies work continuously and in real time to help reduce the stress response, which can lead to better focus in some children.

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5 Tips for Helping Teens and Adults with Autism Manage Stress

In Bugsley’s Blog, we talk a lot about issues faced by autistic children, aspergers and sensory processing disorder.  In regards to these conditions, there are a lot of things that we, as a community, have learned over the years, and there are a lot of things that we still don’t know.  But, one thing we know for sure is that children living with autism, aspergers and sensory processing disorder grow up to be adults with the same conditions.

Many of the issues that these children live with, they will continue to live with as they become adults and this can lead to added stress.  And just like anyone else, autistic people can have stress from many areas of everyday life.  An autistic person that is not handling stress well may have any of these key signs: anxiety, crying spells, depression, desperation, difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed, hopelessness, lack of enjoyment, nervousness, sadness, thoughts of suicide, trouble sleeping or worry.  But, there are lots of ways to help people living with autism to cope and manage stress.  Here are several.

kid-and-stress

from raisesmartkid.com

Help Them Engage in a Hobby – Hobbies help people to relax, recharge and are a good release of stress.  The possibilities for a rewarding hobby are as numerous as the stars.  Perhaps one may be interested in a creative hobby like music, painting, knitting or woodwork.  Reading is a good hobby.  Some like mysteries or poetry.  Maybe writing poetry, as well as reading.  Maybe a sport like soccer or running.  Do a little exploring to find out what you enjoy.

Let Them Make Home Decisions – Sometimes loss of control is a trigger of stress.  Returning some control, even small things, can help alleviate some stress.  Choosing what to eat for dinner, what to watch on TV, when to complete household chores and what to do on a Saturday afternoon may be things that will help give back some lost control.

Encourage Them to Be Open About Emotions – Holding back on one’s emotions may greatly contribute to stress.  Helping and encouraging talk about them can help manage some stress.

Stay Involved – Some autistic people are high functioning, while some are not.  As high-functioning autistics become teens and then adults, there is a tendency to step back and let them take the reins.  And this is okay, but stay involved in their lives.  Keep abreast of their progress in high school and college.  Engage in conversation about their interests and other aspects of their lives.  The interest and encouragement can help lower stress.

Offer Support – Finally, offer plenty of understanding, support and reassurance to help them work through their stresses.

Bugsley Bucks for Autism Awareness Month

Nearly 25 years ago, the Autism Society designated the month of April as Autism Awareness Month.  What they began was a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all.  Today, the prevalence of autism is 1 in every 88 American children.

SmartKnitKIDS works every day in manufacturing products that help children with sensory differences. Many children with autism also have these sensory issues and therefore, irritations like clothing seams can feel like big irritations to these kids.  SmartKnitKIDS socks are seamless, leaving nothing to irritate sensitive feet and toes.  The form-fitting design gives children’s feet a gentle “hug”, which provides closeness and gentle pressure that are soothing to children.  SmartKnitKIDS uses this same technology and design in a host of other products for kids with sensory issues, including Big Kids SocksKids UndiesCompresso T, and Bralette.

SmartKnitKIDS believes in spreading awareness of the condition, as well as celebrating the amazing individuals that live with autism daily. To celebrate these great kiddos, we are offering one amazing deal on SmartKnitKIDS and Big Kids products.  For any purchases made in the month of April that are at least $25*, SmartKnit will send you a Bugsley Bucks card in your order.  The Bugsley Bucks cards will then work like cash on a single purchase made between May 1 and June 15.

$25 – $49.99 Spent = $5 in Bugsley Bucks
$50 – $74.99 Spent = $10 in Bugsley Bucks
$75 – $99.99 Spent = $15 in Bugsley Bucks
$100 – $124.99 Spent = $20 in Bugsley Bucks
$125+ Spent = $25 in Bugsley Bucks

And we haven’t forgotten about those ordering small amounts either.  Any order under $25 will receive 10% off at checkout!

So, this April, we encourage you to do something to raise awareness for autism.  Wear blue. Put a blue light on your front porch. Participate in a local autism event. And don’t forget to order your SmartKnitKIDS products for extra Bugsley Bucks!!

* Subtotal must reach $25.  Tax and shipping are not included.  See www.smartknit.com/rewards for more details.

 

 

 

 

Visiting Santa with an Autistic or Sensory Sensitive Child

Santa's Hands

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The annual visit to Santa is one of the hallmarks of the holiday season.  But, this fun and happy tradition can be a scary and stressful activity for a child with autism or sensory disorder.

There’s a growing trend across the country to offer stress free time with Santa for special needs children.  Many of them, Like Caring Santa, are sponsored by autism awareness groups like Autism Speaks.  Perhaps you saw the story done last week and published in USA today about a young autistic child that had a very unique and memorable visit with Santa.  Pictures were posted all around social media sites of young Brayden Deely, along with Santa, sprawled out on the floor enjoying a few stress free moments together.  It was a memorable picture and one many parents hope for.

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For more information about Caring Santa, please visit the link at Autism Speaks.

Events like Caring Santa are truly making strides in helping children with autism or other special needs to enjoy some of the traditional activities associated with the holiday season.  But, the locations where it is offered are still fairly sparse.  Some parents don’t have the option of a Caring Santa event close at hand, but would still like to give their children the opportunity to visit with Santa.  Follow these tips to have a more successful trip with your child:

  1. Prepare your child with a mental picture – You may have to do some advance work to observe how the Santa in your area operates. Where does the line form?  What are the options that your child has when talking to Santa (sit on his lap, sit beside him, or stand beside him)? What does the area look like?  Will there be photos?  Will Santa have helpers there, such as elves?  The more details you can tell your child about, the more likely they are to feel comfortable.
  2. Plan ahead – During your visit, or a call afterwards, ask if it is possible for Santa and his staff to offer special accommodations for special needs children. Find out if there are any special details that you should be aware of.
  3. Go during a week day – Week days are generally less busy than evenings or weekends. You might be able to avoid long lines, as well as over-stimulating crowds.
  4. Make a schedule for the day – Some children like to know exactly what events will transpire in a given day. You can print off a schedule and point out where the Santa visit is.  Let your child hold it and follow along.
  5. Dress your child comfortably – Resist the temptation to dress your child in the adorable, but uncomfortable, Christmas outfit. Visiting Santa may be a little overwhelming, and an uncomfortable outfit might just be too much.  Save the Christmas outfit for some cute photos another day.
  6. Give your child an incentive for being good – No matter how well you’ve planned, you may still have to wait. Plan ahead of time to have an incentive for being good, such as new toy or a special privilege.
  7. Be open to other options – Despite all your best plans, your child just may not be able to tolerate visiting a mall Santa. Look into schools or churches that offer time with Santa.  Or, even have a family member rent a Santa suit and visit the child at home.  This might turn into an even better tradition for your family.
  8. Read a story or watch a video about visiting Santa – This is another way to help your child to be prepared for his or her Santa visit. We found the video below, which very calmly describes what your child will experience during a Santa visit.

Most importantly, make the visit fun for your child.  If it is too stressful or frustrating than it won’t be enjoyable for anyone.  You’ll want to create fun and lasting memories that your child will remember each year.