Autism

  • Home Adaptation for Immature Grasp

    Ever wonder if there is a quick home adaptation to help your child improve how he or she holds objects […]

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  • April is Autism Awareness Month

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    Recent reported estimates in the news have stated as many as 1 in every 68 children in the United States has autism, a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.  The numbers and methods of obtaining these new estimates are subject to debate, but what is clear is that the increase in cases in going up and up year after year.  Some of this is attributed to the increase in awareness of symptoms, which may be leading to inaccurate diagnosing from parents and doctors.  However, the increase in awareness can also help to get children services needed to improve developmental skills despite having the correct diagnosis.   There are screenings available that include checklists to help in this process.  The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised with Follow-Up is a 2-stage parent-report screening tool to assess risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The M-CHAT-R/F is an autism screening tool designed to identify children 16 to 30 months of age who should receive a more thorough assessment for possible early signs of ASD or developmental delay.  The M-CHAT-R/F is intended to be administered by a trained health care professional, so if you answer the questions at home, please discuss your results with your doctor regardless of the results.  You can view and complete the checklist at no cost on www.m-chat.org.  

    If your child is having difficulty with language and social skills or play, learning, and self-care skills, you should consult with your doctor about having a speech therapist or occupational therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary.  Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

    Celebrating Autism Awareness Month with a reblog of this 2014 blog post. 

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  • Does Your Child Have (Sensory) Issues?

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    As the number of
    children diagnosed in the United States increases each year, so does the
    public’s awareness of autism and its symptoms. Sensory processing problems,
    also referred to as “sensory issues,” are one of the most common symptoms of
    autism. They, however, can be experienced in children without the other
    criteria required for an autism diagnosis, which include communication
    difficulties, social challenges, and repetitive behaviors.

    Sensory
    processing is defined as the way the nervous system receives information from
    the senses and interprets it into motor and behavioral responses. Sensory
    issues occur when the body has a response that is considered to be outside of
    the normal range. For example, a child may be overly sensitive to light and may
    not be able to tolerate brightly lit supermarket. This may cause the child to
    act out or have “issues.” When a child has responses that seriously affect or
    interfere with everyday life, a diagnosis such as Sensory Processing Disorder may
    be given.

    Everybody knows the
    five senses of sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. Yet, sensory input also
    can be received from the sense of balance and spatial orientation in movement
    (vestibular sense) and the sense of position and strength needed in movement
    (proprioceptive sense). When a child is hyper-responsive, that means he or she
    demonstrates a low or hyposensitivity. When a child is hypo-responsive, that
    means he or she demonstrates a high or hypersensitivity.

    Examples of hyposensitivity
    include:

    Touches people or things excessively or when
    not appropriate

    Craves movement and/or has difficulty
    remaining still

    May harm others by not recognizing his or
    her own strength

    Does not respond to requests or name being
    called

    Examples of hypersensitivity
    include:

    Easily distracted or annoyed by background
    noises

    Avoids or is fearful of playground
    equipment like swings or monkey bars

    Walks on tiptoes or is hesitant to walk on
    sand or grass

    Very particular about clothing or food textures

    Occupational
    therapists (OTs) specialize in helping children regulate the sensory system
    through sensory integration therapy. If your child has disruptive sensory
    issues, consider consulting with your pediatrician about prescribing an evaluation
    with an OT who can create and implement a plan specific to your child. I hope
    you find this information helpful. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play
    Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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  • Do Girls Need Therapy As Much as Boys?

    In July 2014 an ad campaign by Always called #LikeAGirl became a movement bringing light to how discriminatory phrases in our culture often puts girls at a disadvantage. As a therapist, I have noted that the majority of my caseload has always been boys. Typically if I do have a female patient, she has a more complicated medical history. I have often pondered whether this disparity was more due to genetics or gender disadvantage. So why do boys receive therapy more than girls?

    It is true that more boys than girls are diagnosed with developmental disorders including autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and speech delays. This is due in part to girls developing language, social, and emotional skills faster than boys. A young female brain is actually known to have more activity, fibers, and white matter compared to the brain of a young boy. However, a 2014 DNA study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics revealed that girls seem to tolerate more genetic mutations than boys do before showing symptoms of autism and are therefore more resilient. Yet, when they are diagnosed, they tend to demonstrate symptoms that are more severe including in cases of ADHD and intellectual disability.

    Interestingly, a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry looked at gender differences in ADHD and showed that females demonstrated more internalizing disorders such as separation anxiety verses the externalizing disorders common to males like oppositional defiant and conduct disorders. Taking both studies into consideration, I feel it is possible that girls may display different, less disruptive symptoms and hence fly under the radar. Perhaps the emotional maturity of young girls verses boys allows for more internal sign that are overlooked by parents and educators? Maybe it is not that girls tolerate mutations more than boys but that adults are less tolerant of the behavior displayed by boys? The debate is not likely to end anytime soon; but, in the meantime, let’s consider that acting like a girl may cause girls to be under-diagnosed.

    Symptoms of ADHD in girls include dreaminess, forgetfulness, or messiness that may lead to difficulty with completing school assignments, expression of anxiety in social situations, and feelings of inadequacy with school work. If observed, consider consulting with your primary care physician about seeking an evaluation with a pediatric occupational therapist. I hope you find this helpful. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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