Your Child Has Been Diagnosed With Autism, Now What?

What To Do After Your Child Is Diagnosed With Autism:

Several weeks ago Deborah Michael posted a blog about warning signs that parents should look out for regarding Autism Spectrum Disorders.  That blog article got me thinking about the next steps and how to help prepare parents for those important decisions.  The initial diagnosis is often heart wrecking for parents.  Too many times I have seen parents develop a sense of hopelessness once the diagnosis is given.  Autism is a spectrum disorder.  There are children who are really low functioning and will require one-on-one assistance for the rest of their lives.  Yet, at the same time, there are many children who are really high functioning and will be able to lead normal lives, get married, and live on their own.  I was supposed to write a blog article on a checklist for parents as to what they should do once a diagnosis is given.  After thinking about that, I came to the realization that doing so would be impossible and also act as a disservice towards parents.

Therapies Available For Children With ASD

Hand in HandThere are many therapies available for children with a diagnosis along the Autism spectrum.  Children with the diagnosis often require speech/language therapy to develop their pragmatic and social language skills.  These children often benefit from participating in a social skills group in which they are forced to engage in social activities in a safe, non-judgmental environment.  The children often have difficulties with fine motor functioning and sensory regulation and would benefit from woSchedule A Visit To Our Autism Clinicrking with an occupational therapist to develop those skills.
Additionally, the children often would benefit from participating in behavior therapy to focus on increasing positive, on-task behaviors while extinguishing negative behaviors.  However, due to the fact that Autism is a spectrum set of disorders, one cannot say how many hours a week or even what specific therapies are warranted for any particular child.  As a neuropsychologist, I would work with the individual providers to help develop any particular child’s treatment plan.  So, the only checklist of services parents need to seek for their child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder is:  work with the neuropsychologist who made the initial diagnosis to help develop a treatment plan including speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and social work.  Read more

Bilingual Homes: Do they delay a child’s speech and language skills or enhance them?

Language in the Home, School and Work:

In the fast-paced world of technology and communication, parents are continuing to seek out all opportunities for getting their child ahead of the game.  Most schools believe that it is advantageous to introduce their young students to an additional language in order to facilitate early acquisition of a second language.  As these children grow and enter the workforce, their value becomes increasingly more apparent.  Many families throughout the country currently speak multiple languages within the home and parents continuously weigh the benefits of teaching their child another language.  However, other parents may wonder if they are doing their child a disservice by introducing another language when their child is so young.  While it has been widely proven that children significantly benefit from early exposure to a second language, parents often question whether the acquisition of a second language will hinder their child’s fluency in their first language. Read more

Anxiety Disorders in Children

Anxiety Disorders in Children and When You Should Worry.

Anxiety disorders are considered to be one of the most common type of psychiatric disorders affecting children and adolescents.  However, studies have indicated that fewer than twenty percent of children with anxiety disorders actually receive treatment.  According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition, Text Revised (DSM-IV,TR), there are nine specific anxiety disorders that a child can have.  Although they are all distinct disorders, the commonality that they all  share is intense anxiety.  The focus of the anxiety is what distinguishes the disorders.

Possible long-term consequences of leaving anxiety disorders untreated:

Children and adolescents who do not receive the necessary treatment are at risk for repeated school absences, impaired relations with peers, poor self-esteem, alcohol or drug use, problems adjusting to work situations, and continued anxiety disorders in adulthood.  Although there are quite a few long-term consequences of not treating anxiety, the majority of children with significant anxiety do eventually demonstrate improvement on their own without treatment. One large study (Perrin, Hersen, and Kazdin, 1995) indicated that 82% of children recovered from the initial anxiety after four years, 68% recovered after the first year, and 8% evidenced relapse of anxiety after remission.  Although a good majority of children do eventually recover on their own with no intervention, a portion of children continue to demonstrate significant debilitating anxiety.  Additionally, early intervention for anxiety symptoms would make the child’s life easier and be less at risk for later anxiety relapses.   Read more

Does Your Child Have Bad Behavior at School, or Is it Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory integration (SI) is the organization of sensory input and sensations (touch, sight, sound, smell, taste, movement, body awareness, and the pull of gravity) in order to produce appropriate responses to situations, events, emotions, and expectations throughout the day. Sensory input flows constantly into our brain from our body and from the environment at a very rapid rate. The brain takes in information from our sensory systems and forms a combined picture of this information so that the body can make sense of its surroundings and react to them appropriately. This sensory information needs to be processed, organized and co-coordinated, and acted upon if a person is to behave appropriately and learn efficiently. If these sensations can be well managed, the brain can form perceptions, then concepts, and then derive meanings which results in acquiring skills and learning. Sensory integration provides a crucial foundation for more complex learning and behavior to develop.

While the process of SI occurs automatically and without effort for most of us, for some, the process is inefficient and is called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). SPD is a neurological problem, which affects behavior, learning, and Read more

Alternative Therapy: If it sounds too good to be true…. guess what?

Several weeks ago I attended a library lecture at which a gentleman was discussing his therapeutic company.  The individual was describing how his intervention can “miraculously improve” learning disabilities, ADHD, and Autism.  I found myself thinking, “Wow, this guys is good.”  And what I mean is that he was good at being a salesman.  Parents all too often are looking for a quick cure- an instant fix for whatever condition their children have.  We as clinicians all too often get mad at these parents for trying alternative therapies instead of what we know to be scientifically sound interventions.  However, who can seriously blame these parents?  They want the best for their children.  These parents desperately want their children to behave and appear like a neurotypical child.  They want quick fixes and lasting change. 

A relatively recent book, Snake Oil Science ,by R. Barker Bausell, explains the fallacy behind many alternative interventions.  In the book he explains how patients and physicians are often sold into the benefits of alternative therapies with no real rhyme or reason as to the proposed mechanisms for improvement.  Bausell’s main arguments against alternative interventions are two-fold: 

1) there is no explanation behind the reason for change and

2) the research behind the therapies is often quite lousy

This is a great read for any clinician who provides recommendations for parents or patients in general. 

Dr. Teri Hull wrote a blog article a few weeks ago describing the limitations of Developmental Vision Therapy as an intervention.  This is a touchy subject for many people, as there are numerous practitioners and patients who have either prescribed or benefited from vision therapy or some other alternative intervention.  I would admit that there are certain people who benefit from such interventions.  However, what we know from sound scientific research is that these studies do not benefit a sample at the population level.

I am curious as to everyone’s thoughts on alternative interventions.

What do you as parents think? 

Therapists who are reading this blog, what are your opinions? 

Do you ever refer parents to such alternative therapies? 

What have your results been?

Behavior Vision Therapy? Do your Homework!

Vision

Here’s an excerpt from the Abstract:

Learning disabilities are complex problems that require complex solutions. Early recognition and referral to qualified educational professionals for evidence based evaluations and treatments seem necessary to achieve the best possible outcome. Most experts believe that dyslexia is a language based disorder. Vision problems can interfere with the process of learning; however, vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities. Scientific evidence does not support the efficacy of eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses for improving the long-term educational performance in these complex pediatric neurocognitive conditions. Diagnostic and treatment approaches that lack scientific evidence of efficacy, including eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses, are not endorsed and should not be recommended.

Download Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision here.

This speaks to the importance and necessity of providing parents with information about what treatments and interventions are supported by research.  There is quite a bit of misinformation out there and it may seem overwhelming for parents to try to tease apart what is good for their kids.  As clinicians , It is our job to help parents by stressing the importance of only using treatments that have been found to be effective through research.  Many of these so-called treatments that have been found to not be effective are very costly, it is a disservice to allow parents to spend valuable resources (time, money, energy) on such treatments.