All posts tagged: autism spectrum disorder

A Most Precious Word

As a mother, you long for the day your baby can utter those three beautiful words: “I love you.”

It makes the sleepless nights and endless diaper changes seem like distant memories to most typical-raising mothers.

My path is different — changing and twisting — the end not always imaginable or clear. Lilly’s autism diagnosis led me and my husband on a journey of shifting visions and expectations that had been ingrained in our heads from the moment that ultrasound technician wrote “baby girl!”

The good, the bad, the ugly; it all shifts. I was a hands-on auntie and remember so vividly hearing my precious nephew call out for my sister when I babysat him. I would rub my belly gently, anticipating the day my baby girl would call out to me just the same.

But as unexpected as a scattered, quick-moving rain storm on a clear day, I had never imagined or prepared myself that this might not happen. And it didn’t. As a baby, and then a toddler in her crib, not even in pain or distress… Forget the happy babbling and beginning sounds of “Mama, Dadda” echoing from the bedside monitor… I just wanted that feeling of my Lilly being able to call out to her Mommy in time of need. But it never came.

When Lilly started therapy, her team took a close-up picture of me to include in her lessons. Every day, they would show her a picture of me until she could finally say “Mommy” by identifying my photo.

It may seem unnatural, but this is our world. We need to teach her in a way that she can understand. I still have that first picture and it still makes me tear up when I find her playing with it.

photo (2)Two years ago, my wonderful and caring husband made me a “Happy A Mommy’s Day” card. For about a year, Lilly called me “a mommy.” To her, I was a mommy; it makes sense. I should have been grateful, but every piece of my heart wanted her to know that I was HER mommy…

Today, I hear her soft, angelic voice say my name multiple times a day and it is the sweetest song to my ears. She has her share of pain — from GI problems to seizures — and I am forever grateful to the countless hours and years spent by her therapists teaching her the tools to begin to communicate her needs and pain to us.

My favorite line occurs in her midday therapy at home. She will ask her therapist to “go see Mommy.” My heart melts every time and I remind myself to tuck those warm and prideful emotions deep in my heart: to cherish and remember always.

On my ever-changing path of being a mom to the mom of an Autism Angel, I have learned to savor those moments as daily comforts: reminders to live in the present and celebrate her moments of joy and peace, triumph and accomplishment. Because they’re there, even if Lilly’s not saying them like we had always expected to hear them.

I put no agenda or pretense on holidays; waking up on Mother’s Day, I plan on reading this to myself and smiling, because, for the most part, it will be just another day in our autism house… Filled with highs and lows, smiles and tears, but I will be grateful and reminded of the long road it took for my precious babe to utter her first “Mommy.” And, for me, that will always be enough.

— Michelle Steiner, recurring contributor


happymothersdayWhen you’re doing your Mother’s Day shopping this year, consider a gift that gives back to the autism community and acknowledges that you see the challenges and successes of your loved one every day. Purchase jewelry from the “I See You” collection and 20% of your purchase goes to programming at The Autism Research Foundation.

Have stories like Michelle and Lilly? Share them with our autism community to inspire others as we inspire you. Email hello@theautismresearchfoundation.org to get the conversation started today.


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Hopes for an Autism-Detecting Blood Test

Researchers at the JC Self Research Institute of the Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) have reported an exciting new finding that may allow for earlier diagnosis of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), as well as a clearer understanding of the disorder.

Their study found that individuals with ASDs showed significantly decreased metabolism of the amino acid L-tryptophan when compared to normally developing persons, as well as individuals with other neurodevelopmental disorders. Decreased metabolism suggests there is a delay in the processing of this amino acid.

L-tryptophan is an amino acid used by cells to make protein. The body cannot produce L-tryptophan, therefore it must be obtained from the diet. Common sources include chicken, tuna, and turkey. This amino acid plays a significant role in brain development and function. L-tryptophan serves as a critical precursor for several critical neurochemical reactions in the body. For example, L- trpotophan stimulates the release and production of serotonin and melatonin. Abnormalities in the production of serotonin and melatonin have been linked to behavioral and neurodevelopmental problems (Sandyk, 1992).

Researchers also measured the expression of genes known to be involved in metabolizing L-tryptophan. Patients with autism expressed some of these genes at lower levels as well.

Currently, ASD diagnosis depends upon a variety of assessments, including developmental evaluation and parental interviews. The average age of diagnosis is 4.5 years of age, yet symptoms may appear as early as 18 months. No diagnostic blood tests exist to accurately diagnose ASDs.

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Researchers at GGC are hopeful that their finding may lead to the development of an earlier blood-screening test for autism. A blood test that identifies low levels of L-tryptophan may allow doctors to identify metabolic deficits in the brain. In other words, the test would examine the gene’s expression in attempt to distinguish between children with and without ASDs.

SynapDx, a laboratory services company, is funding the study in hopes of developing and marketing the blood test. SynapDx completed a study in 2012 using an in-house developed blood test as a means of autism diagnosis. The study blindly compared 170 children with ASDs and 115 without. The blood test correctly identified the children two-thirds of the time. This trial’s success has led the company to continue conducting further studies in hopes of validating the development.

The release of a screening test could validate doctors’ clinical evaluations and diagnosis of ASDs. While a blood test may not offer sufficient evidence to diagnose ASD independently, it will certainly decrease the amount of time of needed to confirm a diagnosis. Using a clinically significant blood test in conjunction with patient evaluations will increase the validity and objective nature of a diagnosis.

An earlier diagnosis will allow for more effective and timely therapies for affected children and families. Speeding up the diagnostic process will grant families access to treatments earlier, allowing for better results. The National Institute of Health has granted additional funding to GGC’s autism research in hopes of turning this recent finding into a simple blood test for autism.

In addition, this information helps researchers to better understand a possible biochemical mechanism behind ASDs. These findings provide evidence that the disorder may be related to the metabolic pathways involving L-tryptophan. This finding allows will researchers to further focus on the exact point that the disruption is occurring.

Important discoveries such as these bring research organizations one step closer to improved ASD diagnosis and therapy. To read more about this study, click here.

Because clinical and neurobiological research is constantly advancing, staying up to speed with groundbreaking research can be extremely overwhelming for families. However, The Autism Research Foundation (TARF) believes staying informed is key to promoting awareness and a better understanding of autism. TARF hopes to assist you in keeping up with the latest research by updating this blog on a regular basis, as well as hosting the Current Trends in Autism Research Conference.

Citations:

Boccuto, Luigi, Chin-Fu Chen, Ayla Pittman, Cindy Skinner, Heather McCartney, Kelly Jones, Barry Bochner, Roger Stevenson, and Charles Schwartz. “Decreased Tryptophan Metabolism in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Molecular Autism 16 (2013): 4-16.

Greenwood Genetic Center. Advancement Paves Way for Early Blood Test and Therapeutic OptionsGreenwood Genetics – GGC Reports Autism Discovery. 5 June 2013. Web.

Sandyk, R. “L-tryptophan in Neuropsychiatric Disorders: A Review.” International Journal of Neuroscience (1992): 127-44.

theautismresearchfoundationHopes for an Autism-Detecting Blood Test
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Measles Surge in Britain after Autism Related Vaccine Scare

Last year, the United Kingdom had a record breaking 2,000 cases of measles. The U.K. has already reported more than 1,200 cases in 2013 thus far. The country now ranks second in Europe for the highest occurrence of this contagious disease, falling only behind Romania. This is a dangerous, life-threatening sickness that can easily be eliminated with proper preventative care. Researchers believe these numbers can be attributed to a decrease in the number of parents choosing to vaccine their children, representing a great medical setback.

Doctors believe unfounded fear of vaccines, spurred by Andrew Wakefield’s un-scientific 1998 publication, to be the cause of this measles outbreak in the United Kingdom. Wakefield’s highly flawed findings suggested a causal relationship between the childhood vaccine “MMR” and autism. The MMR vaccine is an immunization vaccine responsible for protection against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. Parents of over one million children in Britain refused to vaccinate their child with the MMR vaccine in fear of increasing their child’s risk for autism.

Since that time, it is imperative to note that Wakefield’s findings have been rejected by numerous major medical groups and the paper was eventually retracted. The MMR vaccine — distributed to hundreds of millions of people globally — has a proven record of safety. The General Medican Council applied it’s most severe sanction to the case and banned Wakefield from continuing to practice medicine. Despite substantial objections to this outdated research, his work leaves behind a legacy of the “Wakefield scare.” And still, over a decade later, many parents remain fearful of the MMR vaccine’s potential effects.

MMR vaccine

Concerned health officials are trying to stop this epidemic by opening emergency vaccination clinics throughout Britain. The majority of diagnosed individuals are older children and teens who were never vaccinated. Officials hope to reach 1 million children aged 10 to 16 with these emergency clinics.

The first measles vaccine –introduced in the 1960′s — has drastically reduced the number of measles cases in children. By 2001, measles deaths dropped by 70 percent worldwide. However, the disease remains one of the leading causes of death in children under age 5, killing more than 150,000 people every year. This contagious disease is most common in developing countries. It is spread by coughing, sneezing, and close contact with infected people. Symptoms include fever, cough, and a rash on the face.

Britain’s Department of Health strongly advises parents to immunize their children. However, unlike many states in the United States, children in the U.K. are not required to receive proper vaccinations before beginning school. The measles vaccination rate in the U.S. remains above 90 percent, with only 55 reported cases last year.

The “Wakefield scare” may continue to have a detrimental effect on the health of children and teens in the U.K. until MMR rumors are abandoned. Fortunately, a trend away from the rumors seems to be occurring as currently 90 percent of children under 5 in the U.K. have received the necessary vaccines. However, vaccination is below 50 percent for children aged 10 to 16 in some regions. Hopefully the emergency vaccination clinics can address this gap and British health officials will continue to encourage the dismissal of any remaining MMR rumors.

So how can you help? Do your part to ensure your child’s health safety and stay informed on the latest research regarding important vaccinations! Share this post on your social media by using the buttons on the top and bottom of this page. And, of course, consult with your child’s physicians to learn of all the associated with the MMRE vaccine.

To learn more about this story, visit this site.

Citations:

Associated Press. “Measles Surge in Britain Years after Vaccine/autism Scare.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 20 May 2013. Web.

John Burns. “British Medical Council Bars Doctor Who Linked Vaccine with Autism.” The New York Times (2010). at <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/health/policy/25autism.html?_r=0>

Godlee F ,Smith J ,Marcovitch H. Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent. BMJ 2011;342:c7452

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Gaze Shifting Testing for Earlier ASD Diagnosis

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now estimates roughly 1 in 50 school-aged children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  This estimated increase in ASD prevalence suggests that steps are being taken to improve diagnosis of the disorder. ASD is not generally diagnosed until after three years of age, yet a recent study published in the American Journal Psychiatry examined the possibility of diagnosing ASD in children as young as seven months old.

This study included fifty-seven “high-risk” infants with an older sibling diagnosed with ASD and forty “low-risk” infants with typically developing older siblings. The infants participated in the study at seven months old and returned for a clinical assessment after their second birthday. This assessment determined which of these children should be diagnosed with ASD. Knowledge of their diagnosis was then used to analyze the study’s data.

The study measured the brain activity and amount of time required for a seven month old infant to shift their gaze during a visual attention task. Researchers compared the eye movements and visual attention of infants later diagnosed with ASDs, to those of a typically developing infant of the same age.

To do so, researchers engaged infants in the Gap/Overlap Task. During the Gap Task, infants sat on their parent’s laps and watched images appear on a monitor. The first image appeared in the center of the screen, attracted the infant’s gaze, and then disappeared. A gap of time passed before a second image appeared on the edge of the screen. Advanced eye tracking equipment captured the infant’s eye movements. These measurements provided researchers with the exact timing of the shift in gaze.

The Overlap Task measured eye-movements as well, but also included a measure of brain activity. During this portion, the image remained in the center of the screen, while a second image appeared at the edge. Eye tracking equipment measured the time it took infants to shift their gaze to the peripheral image. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the researchers also measured the amount of processing occurring in different regions, in the infant’s brain to determine if there were patterns that distinguished the two groups.

Results showed a difference of 25 to 50 milliseconds on average between infants later diagnosed with ASD and their typically developing counterparts.  Researchers believe this delay can be accounted for by differences in the developing neurological circuits of a child’s brain. During this period of early infancy, the brain’s pathways for communication are forming quickly. These pathways influence how the infant interprets and responds to the environment.

Researchers identified the splenium of the corpus callosum as one such pathway that may be related to the difference in gaze shifting. This structure is an important neural connection between the brain’s left and right hemisphere. Results revealed a correlation between large splenium size and the speed with which infants shift their gaze. The ability of an infant to rapidly switch gazes improved with increased size of the splenium in typically developing infants.

However, researchers found no similar correlation in infants later diagnosed with ASD.

Although 25 milliseconds seems brief, this delayed reaction time implies a possible overall difference in the way the infant’s brain is developing. A small delay at this early stage may hint at larger differences in cognitive and social development. Thus, this attention shifting delay may well serve as a precursor to other well-known symptoms of autism. Such symptoms including difficulty making eye contact and coordinating gaze. Research consistently suggests an association between autism and deficits in pursuit eye movement. Further gaze testing research may allow professionals the opportunity to predict the development of these symptoms as opposed for waiting for them to occur.

By detecting neurological differences through research on subtle delays at the infant stage of development, researchers hope to improve ASD diagnosis at an earlier age. Earlier diagnosis will help parents to recognize their infant’s needs and begin working to help their child reach his or her full potential. These potential diagnostic tools such as fMRI might be useful longitudinally as well to chart an individual’s progress during early intervention therapies.

To read more about this study, check out the full article.

Citations:

NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human D. “Gaze Shifting Delay Has Potential To Diagnose Autism At 7 Months.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 27 Mar. 2013. Web. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/258189.php>

Takarae, Y., Minshew, N., Luna, B., Krisky, C. & Sweeney, J. Pursuit Eye Movement Deficits in Autism. Brain: A Journal of Neurology 127, 2584–2594 (2004).

theautismresearchfoundationGaze Shifting Testing for Earlier ASD Diagnosis
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Theory of Mind in Autism

A few months ago our staff attended The Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, DC. While there, a speaker named Diana Tamir presented her research on theory of mind in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Tamir says, “theory of mind — the capacity to infer others’ mental states — is crucial for the development of social communication.” She showed that when reading fiction, people can experience what others are feeling beyond their own emotional state. Research done by Atsushi Senju supported her idea, demonstrating that the lack of theory of mind in children with ASDs may “relate to impairment in social interaction and communication found in ASD.” [1]

So what does this mean?

Individuals who may not have strong theory of mind (capacity to understand or predict another’s emotions or actions) may be more apt to have an autism diagnosis.

Tamir points out that reading fiction has been shown to increase a child’s theory of mind because it can draw out emotions from the reader through characters and events. Picking up a great book is an indirect way to stimulate social interaction: it can help develop larger imaginations and, over time, teach individuals how to predict social cues without immersing them in what could be an uncomfortable face-to-face situation.

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Tamir’s research focused on two things: the extent to which vivid physical scenes are pictured while reading, and the mental content of the reader. Her results showed that the participants who read the most fiction demonstrated the most enhanced theory of mind. So, if reading can stimulate emotions and help improve the ability to understand another’s perspective, this is a great tool for children and adults with ASD to improve their social perception.

Just watching a narrative on television or at the movies won’t cut it: videos allow the audience to focus their attention on whatever he or she likes, but books require the audience to focus on precisely what the author is trying to convey.

Luckily for parents and educators, books are available on intermediate tools like iPads and Kindles. We don’t have to pry our kids from the stimulating TV screen; we can transition them to another media app. (Did you catch my last blog post on apps?)

While there isn’t a ton of completed research out there about reading and theory of mind, we can say this: it is important to read for any child, more than many may have ever thought before.

We will keep you updated on Tamir’s fascinating reading research as it develops. In the meantime, start turning some pages!

Not sure what books to pick up? Here are a few great links to other blogs and websites that describe books their children enjoyed reading and were a fun and exciting read.

Happy reading!

– Taylor Platt

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For Kids: http://www.beagooddad.com/237/good-books-for-children-with-autism/

For Kids:http://www.autismreads.com/2011/01/reading-for-children-with-autism-links.html

For Special Needs: http://www.bookskidslove.com/specialneeds.htm

For Adults and Young Adults: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6642883.html

Find anything at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/6wczzdh

1. Senju A. Spontaneous Theory of Mind and Its Absence in Autism Spectrum Disorders [Internet]. The Neuroscientist: A Review Journal Bringing Neurobiology, Neurology and Psychiatry 2011 May;[cited 2011 Dec 2] Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21609942

2. Mar RA, Oatley K, Djikic M, Mullin J. Emotion and narrative fiction: Interactive influences before, during, and after reading. Cogn Emot 2011 Aug;25(5):818-833.[cited 2011 Dec 2 ]

3. D.I Tamir, A.B Bricker, J.P Mitchell. Reading fiction improves reading minds: The role of the default network .Program No. 430.05 2011 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2011. Online.


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Children with ASD more attracted to screen-based media

It is not uncommon for parents to worry about their child/teen’s excessive fascination with technology.  To be honest, the amount of time I spend glued to my computer on a weekly basis is probably a bit worrisome to anyone who walks by me in the study lounge. However, a recent study at the University of Missouri (MU) led to the conclusion that children and teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) use screen-based media, such as television or video games, more often than their peers and are more likely to develop problematic video game habits.

MU researchers studied screen-based media use among 202 children and adolescents with ASDs, as well as 127 of their typically developing siblings. Those with ASDs spent more time playing exclusive video games and less time on interactive social media websites, such as Facebook or Twitter. They also spent more time watching TV and playing video games than participating in physical or social activities. The typically developing siblings spent more time engaged in non-screen activities.

A further study examined 169 adolescent boys with ASD. Findings showed a correlation between problematic video game addiction, and oppositional behaviors, such as refusing directions and engaging in arguments. This study does not imply causation; therefore results do not prove that video games are the cause of oppositional behavior. It may just be that video games provide a distraction from stresses these individuals experience.

Researchers questioned why children with ASD experience increased attraction to video games. Possible explanations include the idea that video games offer visually engaging experiences, which do not require face-to-face communication or social interaction, which can be more stressful or uncertain. Figuring out why these children are so attracted to screen-based technology may allow researchers to develop therapies that are similarly engaging. Some researchers have begun to investigate how to incorporate therapy in a virtual environment to teach skills that could translate into actual social reactions. An example of one such study is taking place at UC Davis Medical Center. By creating a virtual reality for participants, researchers are able to track gazing and eye movements, as well as create mock situations with faces appearing on the computer screen. These virtual reality methods provide participants with practice making appropriate eye contact in a more comfortable situation. For more information on the virtual reality studies at UC Davis, visit the full article.

Until further research determines a way to translate this visual attraction into a more beneficial screen-based experience, researchers at MU warn parents against allowing children with ASD to spend too much time glued to the screen. Parents should encourage their children to participate in more social or physical activities (which can be easier said than done). This article by Autism Digest offers helpful tips in considering what sport may be most appropriate for your child. The Autism Research Foundation offers several programs, such as Athletes 4 Autism andArt 4 Autism, to provide opportunities for children to get off the couch and explore their talents!

Check out the full article to learn more about this study.

Citations:

University of Missouri-Columbia. “Children and Teens With Autism More Likely to Become Preoccupied With Video Games.” ScienceDaily. 17 Apr. 2013. Web.

Virtual Reality: An Intervention for Autism. (2010). <http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2010-2011/09/20100916_MIND_virtual-autism.html>

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Awesome Apps for Autism

Most of us know what an app is. For those who don’t: “app” is short for application software, which helps a device user perform specific tasks. Most smartphones, handheld devices, and computers have apps that allow us to play games, catch up on the news, and connect us to social media.

Recently Hewlett-Packard (HP) hosted a “hackathon” for autism at their campus in Cupertino, California. What is a hackathon? I asked myself the same question.

At the hackathon about 100 HP tech members and autism advocates came together to work towards developing touch screen apps for children with autism. Working with children who have autism, the team members began to develop apps that would help overcome the challenges individuals on the spectrum face daily. Some of the new apps include speech and verbal learning, communication assistants, and, of course, games. These new apps — soon to be released on the web for free! — encourage children to develop communication skills, learn according to their interests, and develop social relations with other children by sharing a common interest in technology.

Communication and social skills have the opportunity to improve drastically with these new apps. In a case study about a child with ASD, researchers used FM audio trainers and video inputs to see if social skills and communication skills improved with these devices. After weeks of treatment, the case study showed that the individual had a substantial increase to attention of visual and auditory cues.

With the assistance of the external devices, the child had an increase in communication. [1] Similarly these new apps for smart phones are designed to use visual and auditory cues to assist children in developing communication and behavioral skills.

apps

A study on the new technology of smart phones addresses the old system of communicating, PECS, and compares it to the updated communication systems that are on apps. PECS used laminated cards to teach and improve communication and social skills. PECS is very successful but does have some limitations. Using the laminated cards for PECS can be an overwhelming, paper dependent process. With new technology that allows the cards do be digitized on a touch screen, children, teachers, and parents can have an easier time using the PECS system. The Pix Talk system, similar to the apps created at the hackathon, is designed to use visual and verbal cues to enhance communication and behavioral skills. The Pix talk system creates a personalized and more involved way for children to communicate their needs. Motivation for ASD children to use these new programs also increases with the use of a computer, smart phone, or a touch screen device. Technology is becoming more and more important in providing easy, fun ways for children with ASD to communicate and socialize. [2]

Most children these days know how to play on iPad and use a touch screen. The innovations of the hackathon will drawl on the easy use of a touch screen for ASD children and allow them to download apps that are not only educational and beneficial, but also fun. To check out more of the apps that are to be offered and to suggest any idea you think would make a good app head to http://www.hackingautism.org/hackathon

Starting at a young age, technology is engrained in your life. The advent of the touch screen and these new apps will allow ASD children to learn life skills that will help improve their everyday living. Everything from social relationships, communication, independence, and visual and auditory learning has the opportunity to improve with these new apps.

One touching story of how these apps can change a child’s life is the story of Jordan, a 10-year-old boy with autism. As a boy who could not communicate verbally, technology changed his life. His heartwarming poem, “Silent No More,” describes his journey from a non-communicative boy to someone who has endless possibilities in the realm of communication technology.

To read his poem — which I highly recommend — and other stories of success with technology head to http://www.hackingautism.org/stories-of-hope. In the words of HP executive, Phil McKinney, “Today is about making technology that gives people a voice, and the ability to participate”.

What apps do you love? Share in a comment and start the conversation here!

– Taylor Platt

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To read more about the “hackathon”: http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_19098013

We’ll be adding links to the apps we believe are helpful to our marketplace atwww.theautismresearchfoundation.org/marketplace.php .

Until then head over to http://www.autismepicenter.com/autism-blog/blog5.php to read some more information about the iPad and the new apps that are coming out.

Another great website to check out ishttp://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/communicationdevelopment.htm. This website provides great detailed information about the communication development for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. It also gives suggestions to parents and caregivers about how to improve communication skills.

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De Leo G, Gonzales CH, Battagiri P, Leroy G. A smart-phone application and a companion website for the improvement of the communication skills of children with autism: clinical rationale, technical development and preliminary results. J Med Syst 2011 Aug;35(4):703-711.[cited 2011 Oct 21 ]

Baharav E, Darling R. Case report: Using an auditory trainer with caregiver video modeling to enhance communication and socialization behaviors in autism. J Autism Dev Disord 2008 Apr;38(4):771-775.[cited 2011 Oct 21 ]

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Science Media Director: Lindsay

Hi! I'm Lindsay Rosen, your Science Blogger at The Autism Research Foundation.

Hello,

I’m Lindsay Rosen, your Science Media Director at The Autism Research Foundation.

My name is Lindsay Rosen. I graduated this spring from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.  During my time at Miami I’ve worked at the University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-CARD).

Through UM-CARD, I’ve participated in research on parent-child relationships. We examined general comments and direct requests made by parents to determine the most effective way to evoke reactions from children with autism. I also spent time with children and teens diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders outside of the lab, working as a camp counselor at UM-NSU Explorers Camp, and assisting with monthly “Teen Time” events.

Through both efforts in the autism community, I have formed meaningful relationships and grown to care for the children I work with. These children are such kindhearted and loving kids, yet they are often misunderstood. My passion lies in improving the lives of these awesome individuals and I believe the best way to do so is by increasing autism awareness and education. I am excited to provide valuable education in my weekly blogs to help make people aware while also improving general autism knowledge.

I applied to intern at The Autism Research Foundation (TARF) because of their impressive awareness campaigns and cutting-edge research. The Foundation’s dedication to the cause is admirable and I am proud to be a part of the team. I moved to Boston after graduation to assist with TARF’s inclusion programs, awareness campaigns, and research. To read more about what TARF offers, click here: http://theautismresearchfoundation.org/inclusion-programs/

In addition, I will be writing an Autism Science Blog for TARF’s website. This blog will present the newest and most important science to the public in an understandable way that describes the science appropriately.  Flashy scientific discoveries are often promoted by the media in a manner that leads to misinformation in the autism community. I hope to counteract some of this confusion by providing easy-to-understand interpretations of these theories. With all of the existing autism information out there, it’s not an easy job, but I am confident I can be a great support for families of all circumstances: whether you’re navigating a new diagnosis or you are a seasoned parent of someone with an ASD.

My experiences have led me to view autism not as a disorder, but as a unique lifestyle that we should all make an effort to understand and appreciate, rather than ignore and chastise. I believe my work with The Autism Research Foundation will allow me to do just that and I feel truly privileged to be working with a dedicated staff of individuals equally passionate about this cause.

Looking forward to developing an understanding of autism with you,

Lindsay

theautismresearchfoundationScience Media Director: Lindsay
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