By Connie Hammer (http://parentingcoachingforautism.com/author/Connie/)
Not all parents have their children do chores and those that do all have various ways of handling them. What works for one family may not work for another family. When I was growing up I had various small chores to accomplish during the week but Saturday morning was designated as cleaning day, which included changing beds, vacuuming and dusting.
The rule was – No Saturday morning cartoons until ALL chores were completed and passed inspection. This motivated me to get things done quickly because the thought of no Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry was unthinkable to me but my sister couldn’t care less.
How do you get your child to do chores around the house?
Any of the answers to the multiple-choice question above may work for your child but the answer with the best chance of success is D. Most children, not just those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, need direct teaching on how to approach and tackle a chore.
Just as a grocery store manager has to train his employees and teach them how to stock shelves, clean equipment or run a cash register, children with Autism have to be taught clearly and specifically how to do things. It is extremely important to teach each chore thoroughly before you can expect satisfactory results and accept that it will take much repetition before you get the exact outcome you desire.
Developing an attitude that tolerates lower expectations in the beginning while maintaining a goal for steady improvement is an important mindset adjustment to make. This article, Promoting Independence in My ASD Child with Chores, provides many useful strategies and tips that will guide you to shift the way you think about chores in order to maximize successful outcomes.
When you are ready to tackle the assignment of chores to your children here are some things to keep in mind for a stress free and enjoyable experience for all.
- Begin at your child’s level. It is very important to identify your child’s level of ability when it comes to teaching her a new chore. If you want your child to experience success at a task in order to motivate her to repeat it, being realistic about where to start can make all the difference. Start with something you know she will be successful at and slowly increase the level of difficulty as you go.
- Communicate clearly. Is your child verbal or non-verbal? How best does he communicate? Will schedules or lists, whether in picture or text format, be useful? It is important to do whatever you need to in order to appeal to the unique way your child’s mind works. Children on the Autism spectrum tend to be very concrete and literal thinkers, therefore seeing or hearing a task broken down into very small steps with explicit instructions will increase comprehension and the likelihood that the chore will be accomplished the way you want.
- Go slow and be patient. Repetition is the key to mastering any task, regardless of age or ability. Taking the time now to make sure your child acquires the necessary muscle memory for the task will pay off in the long run. Muscle memory is a term for memorizing a procedure by imprinting a specific gross or fine motor task to memory through constant repetition. There are many everyday work or play related activities that are learned in this manner, such as riding a bike, playing a musical instrument, or sweeping a floor. With lots of practice these things become so automatic they do not require much thought.
- Praise effort. Children who are praised for their intelligence only, instead of the effort they put into an activity or chore, become hyper focused on results and do not come to see the process of completing the task as important. Should they fail at a task where successful accomplishment has been the only thing emphasized, they are less likely to try again. They may attribute their failure to a lack of ability, something they believe they can’t change. But giving a child specific praise for the energy they expend on a task helps them see themselves as in control of their success.
- Acknowledge the benefits. Teaching children to do chores, however simple or intricate they may be, helps them feel good about themselves when they see the tangible results. Seeing the fruits of their labor may not strike them as wonderful at first but continued appreciation and recognition of a job well done will help them feel proud and build a positive sense of self. A sense of teamwork is another benefit from doing chores that children will realize as they recognize their contribution to the family.
All in all, teaching a child to do chores is a very important way to make any child more independent – something we all want our children to be.
BY CHRISTINE HSU | APRIL 27, 201
Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have children with high-functioning autism, a new study suggests.
"It has long been known that autism is an umbrella term for a wide range of disorders that impair social and communication skills," lead researcher Professor Amy Kalkbrenner from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health said in a statement released on Thursday.
“What we are seeing is that some disorders on the autism spectrum, more than others, may be influenced by a factor such as whether a mother smokes during pregnancy,” she added.
Kalkbrenner and her research team analyzed a population-based study that compared smoking data from birth certificates of 633,989 children, born in 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1998 from 11 different states.
The findings reveal that 13 percent of the mothers of children included in the study had smoked during pregnancy and that 11 percent of the 3,315 children that were identified as having an autism spectrum disorder at age eight, had mothers who had smoked during pregnancy.
Researchers also found that these children were more likely to have less severe high-functioning autism, like Asperger’s Disorder.
"The study doesn't say for certain that smoking is a risk factor for autism," Kalkbrenner said. "But it does say that if there is an association, it's between smoking and certain types of autism."
The study was published on Wednesday online by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Each time a pregnant woman smokes a cigarette, toxic chemicals get into her bloodstream and then into the baby’s source of oxygen and nutrients, which are essential for a baby’s healthy development.
Smoking while pregnant increases a woman’s chance of having a miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth or having a baby with low birth rate. Babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are also more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and have a higher risk of being born with birth defects like a cleft palate, and developing asthma and ear infections.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2008 Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System, based on data from 29 states, 13 percent of women reported smoking during the last three months of pregnancy.
The CDC reported last month that about one in 88 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder, the highest estimate to date, making environmental studies like the latest “even more timely,” Kalkbrenner said.
She adds that autism involves a wide-ranging spectrum of conditions that are triggered by a combination of genetics and environment that is so complex, no one study can explain all the causes of autism.
"The goal of this work is to help provide a piece of the puzzle. And in this we were successful," she concluded.
Published by Medicaldaily.com
Thomas (his middle name) is a fifth-grader at the highly competitive P.S. 334, the Anderson School on West 84th. Slim as they get, Thomas recently had his long sandy-blond hair cut short to look like the new James Bond (he took a photo of Daniel Craig to the barber). Unlike Bond, he prefers a uniform of cargo pants and a T-shirt emblazoned with a photo of one of his heroes: Frank Zappa. Thomas hangs out with five friends from the Anderson School. They are “the smart kids.” Thomas’s one of them, and he likes belonging.
Since Thomas could walk, he has heard constantly that he’s smart. Not just from his parents but from any adult who has come in contact with this precocious child. When he applied to Anderson for kindergarten, his intelligence was statistically confirmed. The school is reserved for the top one percent of all applicants, and an IQ test is required. Thomas didn’t just score in the top one percent. He scored in the top one percent of the top one percent.
But as Thomas has progressed through school, this self-awareness that he’s smart hasn’t always translated into fearless confidence when attacking his schoolwork. In fact, Thomas’s father noticed just the opposite. “Thomas didn’t want to try things he wouldn’t be successful at,” his father says. “Some things came very quickly to him, but when they didn’t, he gave up almost immediately, concluding, ‘I’m not good at this.’ ” With no more than a glance, Thomas was dividing the world into two—things he was naturally good at and things he wasn’t.
For instance, in the early grades, Thomas wasn’t very good at spelling, so he simply demurred from spelling out loud. When Thomas took his first look at fractions, he balked. The biggest hurdle came in third grade. He was supposed to learn cursive penmanship, but he wouldn’t even try for weeks. By then, his teacher was demanding homework be completed in cursive. Rather than play catch-up on his penmanship, Thomas refused outright. Thomas’s father tried to reason with him. “Look, just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you don’t have to put out some effort.” (Eventually, he mastered cursive, but not without a lot of cajoling from his father.)
Why does this child, who is measurably at the very top of the charts, lack confidence about his ability to tackle routine school challenges?
Thomas is not alone. For a few decades, it’s been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students (those who score in the top 10 percent on aptitude tests) severely underestimate their own abilities. Those afflicted with this lack of perceived competence adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves. They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.
When parents praise their children’s intelligence, they believe they are providing the solution to this problem. According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart. In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.
But a growing body of research—and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system—strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.
For the past ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team at Columbia (she’s now at Stanford) studied the effect of praise on students in a dozen New York schools. Her seminal work—a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders—paints the picture most clearly.
Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”
Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”
Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.
Why did this happen? “When we praise children for their intelligence,” Dweck wrote in her study summary, “we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.” And that’s what the fifth-graders had done: They’d chosen to look smart and avoid the risk of being embarrassed.
In a subsequent round, none of the fifth-graders had a choice. The test was difficult, designed for kids two years ahead of their grade level. Predictably, everyone failed. But again, the two groups of children, divided at random at the study’s start, responded differently. Those praised for their effort on the first test assumed they simply hadn’t focused hard enough on this test. “They got very involved, willing to try every solution to the puzzles,” Dweck recalled. “Many of them remarked, unprovoked, ‘This is my favorite test.’ ” Not so for those praised for their smarts. They assumed their failure was evidence that they weren’t really smart at all. “Just watching them, you could see the strain. They were sweating and miserable.”
Having artificially induced a round of failure, Dweck’s researchers then gave all the fifth-graders a final round of tests that were engineered to be as easy as the first round. Those who had been praised for their effort significantly improved on their first score—by about 30 percent. Those who’d been told they were smart did worse than they had at the very beginning—by about 20 percent.
Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
In follow-up interviews, Dweck discovered that those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.
Repeating her experiments, Dweck found this effect of praise on performance held true for students of every socioeconomic class. It hit both boys and girls—the very brightest girls especially (they collapsed the most following failure). Even preschoolers weren’t immune to the inverse power of praise.
Jill Abraham is a mother of three in Scarsdale, and her view is typical of those in my straw poll. I told her about Dweck’s research on praise, and she flatly wasn’t interested in brief tests without long-term follow-up. Abraham is one of the 85 percent who think praising her children’s intelligence is important. Her kids are thriving, so she’s proved that praise works in the real world. “I don’t care what the experts say,” Jill says defiantly. “I’m living it.”
Even those who’ve accepted the new research on praise have trouble putting it into practice. Sue Needleman is both a mother of two and an elementary-school teacher with eleven years’ experience. Last year, she was a fourth-grade teacher at Ridge Ranch Elementary in Paramus, New Jersey. She has never heard of Carol Dweck, but the gist of Dweck’s research has trickled down to her school, and Needleman has learned to say, “I like how you keep trying.” She tries to keep her praise specific, rather than general, so that a child knows exactly what she did to earn the praise (and thus can get more). She will occasionally tell a child, “You’re good at math,” but she’ll never tell a child he’s bad at math.
But that’s at school, as a teacher. At home, old habits die hard. Her 8-year-old daughter and her 5-year-old son are indeed smart, and sometimes she hears herself saying, “You’re great. You did it. You’re smart.” When I press her on this, Needleman says that what comes out of academia often feels artificial. “When I read the mock dialogues, my first thought is, Oh, please. How corny.”
No such qualms exist for teachers at the Life Sciences Secondary School in East Harlem, because they’ve seen Dweck’s theories applied to their junior-high students. Last week, Dweck and her protégée, Lisa Blackwell, published a report in the academic journal Child Development about the effect of a semester-long intervention conducted to improve students’ math scores.
Life Sciences is a health-science magnet school with high aspirations but 700 students whose main attributes are being predominantly minority and low achieving. Blackwell split her kids into two groups for an eight-session workshop. The control group was taught study skills, and the others got study skills and a special module on how intelligence is not innate. These students took turns reading aloud an essay on how the brain grows new neurons when challenged. They saw slides of the brain and acted out skits. “Even as I was teaching these ideas,” Blackwell noted, “I would hear the students joking, calling one another ‘dummy’ or ‘stupid.’ ” After the module was concluded, Blackwell tracked her students’ grades to see if it had any effect.
It didn’t take long. The teachers—who hadn’t known which students had been assigned to which workshop—could pick out the students who had been taught that intelligence can be developed. They improved their study habits and grades. In a single semester, Blackwell reversed the students’ longtime trend of decreasing math grades.
The only difference between the control group and the test group were two lessons, a total of 50 minutes spent teaching not math but a single idea: that the brain is a muscle. Giving it a harder workout makes you smarter. That alone improved their math scores.
“These are very persuasive findings,” says Columbia’s Dr. Geraldine Downey, a specialist in children’s sensitivity to rejection. “They show how you can take a specific theory and develop a curriculum that works.” Downey’s comment is typical of what other scholars in the field are saying. Dr. Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard social psychologist who is an expert in stereotyping, told me, “Carol Dweck is a flat-out genius. I hope the work is taken seriously. It scares people when they see these results.”
Since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem, in which Nathaniel Branden opined that self-esteem was the single most important facet of a person, the belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem has become a movement with broad societal effects. Anything potentially damaging to kids’ self-esteem was axed. Competitions were frowned upon. Soccer coaches stopped counting goals and handed out trophies to everyone. Teachers threw out their red pencils. Criticism was replaced with ubiquitous, even undeserved, praise.
Dweck and Blackwell’s work is part of a larger academic challenge to one of the self-esteem movement’s key tenets: that praise, self-esteem, and performance rise and fall together. From 1970 to 2000, there were over 15,000 scholarly articles written on self-esteem and its relationship to everything—from sex to career advancement. But results were often contradictory or inconclusive. So in 2003 the Association for Psychological Science asked Dr. Roy Baumeister, then a leading proponent of self-esteem, to review this literature. His team concluded that self-esteem was polluted with flawed science. Only 200 of those 15,000 studies met their rigorous standards.
I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.
After reviewing those 200 studies, Baumeister concluded that having high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement. It didn’t even reduce alcohol usage. And it especially did not lower violence of any sort. (Highly aggressive, violent people happen to think very highly of themselves, debunking the theory that people are aggressive to make up for low self-esteem.) At the time, Baumeister was quoted as saying that his findings were “the biggest disappointment of my career.”
Now he’s on Dweck’s side of the argument, and his work is going in a similar direction: He will soon publish an article showing that for college students on the verge of failing in class, esteem-building praise causes their grades to sink further. Baumeister has come to believe the continued appeal of self-esteem is largely tied to parents’ pride in their children’s achievements: It’s so strong that “when they praise their kids, it’s not that far from praising themselves.”
By and large, the literature on praise shows that it can be effective—a positive, motivating force. In one study, University of Notre Dame researchers tested praise’s efficacy on a losing college hockey team. The experiment worked: The team got into the playoffs. But all praise is not equal—and, as Dweck demonstrated, the effects of praise can vary significantly depending on the praise given. To be effective, researchers have found, praise needs to be specific. (The hockey players were specifically complimented on the number of times they checked an opponent.)
Sincerity of praise is also crucial. Just as we can sniff out the true meaning of a backhanded compliment or a disingenuous apology, children, too, scrutinize praise for hidden agendas. Only young children—under the age of 7—take praise at face value: Older children are just as suspicious of it as adults.
Psychologist Wulf-Uwe Meyer, a pioneer in the field, conducted a series of studies where children watched other students receive praise. According to Meyer’s findings, by the age of 12, children believe that earning praise from a teacher is not a sign you did well—it’s actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. And teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it’s a teacher’s criticism—not praise at all—that really conveys a positive belief in a student’s aptitude.
In the opinion of cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham, a teacher who praises a child may be unwittingly sending the message that the student reached the limit of his innate ability, while a teacher who criticizes a pupil conveys the message that he can improve his performance even further.
New York University professor of psychiatry Judith Brook explains that the issue for parents is one of credibility. “Praise is important, but not vacuous praise,” she says. “It has to be based on a real thing—some skill or talent they have.” Once children hear praise they interpret as meritless, they discount not just the insincere praise, but sincere praise as well.
Scholars from Reed College and Stanford reviewed over 150 praise studies. Their meta-analysis determined that praised students become risk-averse and lack perceived autonomy. The scholars found consistent correlations between a liberal use of praise and students’ “shorter task persistence, more eye-checking with the teacher, and inflected speech such that answers have the intonation of questions.”
Dweck’s research on overpraised kids strongly suggests that image maintenance becomes their primary concern—they are more competitive and more interested in tearing others down. A raft of very alarming studies illustrate this.
In one, students are given two puzzle tests. Between the first and the second, they are offered a choice between learning a new puzzle strategy for the second test or finding out how they did compared with other students on the first test: They have only enough time to do one or the other. Students praised for intelligence choose to find out their class rank, rather than use the time to prepare.
In another, students get a do-it-yourself report card and are told these forms will be mailed to students at another school—they’ll never meet these students and don’t know their names. Of the kids praised for their intelligence, 40 percent lie, inflating their scores. Of the kids praised for effort, few lie.
When students transition into junior high, some who’d done well in elementary school inevitably struggle in the larger and more demanding environment. Those who equated their earlier success with their innate ability surmise they’ve been dumb all along. Their grades never recover because the likely key to their recovery—increasing effort—they view as just further proof of their failure. In interviews many confess they would “seriously consider cheating.”
Students turn to cheating because they haven’t developed a strategy for handling failure. The problem is compounded when a parent ignores a child’s failures and insists he’ll do better next time. Michigan scholar Jennifer Crocker studies this exact scenario and explains that the child may come to believe failure is something so terrible, the family can’t acknowledge its existence. A child deprived of the opportunity to discuss mistakes can’t learn from them.
My son, Luke, is in kindergarten. He seems supersensitive to the potential judgment of his peers. Luke justifies it by saying, “I’m shy,” but he’s not really shy. He has no fear of strange cities or talking to strangers, and at his school, he has sung in front of large audiences. Rather, I’d say he’s proud and self-conscious. His school has simple uniforms (navy T-shirt, navy pants), and he loves that his choice of clothes can’t be ridiculed, “because then they’d be teasing themselves too.”
After reading Carol Dweck’s research, I began to alter how I praised him, but not completely. I suppose my hesitation was that the mind-set Dweck wants students to have—a firm belief that the way to bounce back from failure is to work harder—sounds awfully clichéd: Try, try again.
But it turns out that the ability to repeatedly respond to failure by exerting more effort—instead of simply giving up—is a trait well studied in psychology. People with this trait, persistence, rebound well and can sustain their motivation through long periods of delayed gratification. Delving into this research, I learned that persistence turns out to be more than a conscious act of will; it’s also an unconscious response, governed by a circuit in the brain. Dr. Robert Cloninger at Washington University in St. Louis located the circuit in a part of the brain called the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex. It monitors the reward center of the brain, and like a switch, it intervenes when there’s a lack of immediate reward. When it switches on, it’s telling the rest of the brain, “Don’t stop trying. There’s dopa [the brain’s chemical reward for success] on the horizon.” While putting people through MRI scans, Cloninger could see this switch lighting up regularly in some. In others, barely at all.
What makes some people wired to have an active circuit?
Cloninger has trained rats and mice in mazes to have persistence by carefully not rewarding them when they get to the finish. “The key is intermittent reinforcement,” says Cloninger. The brain has to learn that frustrating spells can be worked through. “A person who grows up getting too frequent rewards will not have persistence, because they’ll quit when the rewards disappear.”
That sold me. I’d thought “praise junkie” was just an expression—but suddenly, it seemed as if I could be setting up my son’s brain for an actual chemical need for constant reward.
What would it mean, to give up praising our children so often? Well, if I am one example, there are stages of withdrawal, each of them subtle. In the first stage, I fell off the wagon around other parents when they were busy praising their kids. I didn’t want Luke to feel left out. I felt like a former alcoholic who continues to drink socially. I became a Social Praiser.
Then I tried to use the specific-type praise that Dweck recommends. I praised Luke, but I attempted to praise his “process.” This was easier said than done. What are the processes that go on in a 5-year-old’s mind? In my impression, 80 percent of his brain processes lengthy scenarios for his action figures.
But every night he has math homework and is supposed to read a phonics book aloud. Each takes about five minutes if he concentrates, but he’s easily distracted. So I praised him for concentrating without asking to take a break. If he listened to instructions carefully, I praised him for that. After soccer games, I praised him for looking to pass, rather than just saying, “You played great.” And if he worked hard to get to the ball, I praised the effort he applied.
Just as the research promised, this focused praise helped him see strategies he could apply the next day. It was remarkable how noticeably effective this new form of praise was.
Truth be told, while my son was getting along fine under the new praise regime, it was I who was suffering. It turns out that I was the real praise junkie in the family. Praising him for just a particular skill or task felt like I left other parts of him ignored and unappreciated. I recognized that praising him with the universal “You’re great—I’m proud of you” was a way I expressed unconditional love.
Offering praise has become a sort of panacea for the anxieties of modern parenting. Out of our children’s lives from breakfast to dinner, we turn it up a notch when we get home. In those few hours together, we want them to hear the things we can’t say during the day--We are in your corner, we are here for you, we believe in you.
In a similar way, we put our children in high-pressure environments, seeking out the best schools we can find, then we use the constant praise to soften the intensity of those environments. We expect so much of them, but we hide our expectations behind constant glowing praise. The duplicity became glaring to me.
Eventually, in my final stage of praise withdrawal, I realized that not telling my son he was smart meant I was leaving it up to him to make his own conclusion about his intelligence. Jumping in with praise is like jumping in too soon with the answer to a homework problem—it robs him of the chance to make the deduction himself.
But what if he makes the wrong conclusion?
Can I really leave this up to him, at his age?
I’m still an anxious parent. This morning, I tested him on the way to school: “What happens to your brain, again, when it gets to think about something hard?”
“It gets bigger, like a muscle,” he responded, having aced this one before.
Published on ADDitudeMag.com
by Edward Hallowell, M.D.
Your job is greater than you ever expected and more taxing than anyone knows. Some days you just want to give up... but you go on loving your ADHD child in the face of all the adversity and nasty comments." - Dr. Ned Hallowell
I have ADHD, as does my daughter and one of my sons. If you have a child diagnosed with the condition, it's important to help him feel good about himself.
In my daily practice, I see and treat kids with attention deficit disorder. Being with them usually makes me smile. They have a special something -- a spark, a delightful quirk that they sometimes try to hide. I seek it out and try to nurture it.
You should do the same. Search for and promote your child's strengths as you deal with his challenges. When your child feels good about who he is and what life has to offer, he will be happy and successful.
It’s Hard WorkI’m not saying it’s easy. I don’t have to tell you how hard it is to raise a child who has ADHD. Here are a few things I find challenging:
> Asking, "How many times do I have to tell you?" and never getting an answer.
> Socks that migrate to the attic, basement, behind the washer, in the freezer, toilet, or car — everywhere but the dresser.
> Homework without end. In your child's mind, homework is some strange creature that seems to grow as she tries to cut it down to size. Your daughter works on it for three hours, then shows you what she’s done, which is almost nothing. When you scream, "Why didn’t you spend those three hours doing the homework you were supposed to do?" she looks at you and answers, honestly, "I don’t know." That’s the truth. She doesn’t know. This makes you feel like going ballistic.
> Personal time zones. In the world of ADHD, there are only two time zones: now and not now. Test in a week? Not now.
> Teachers who don’t understand. After you think you’ve explained your child's ADHD to them, they send home a note the next day, saying, "Joseph needs to pay more attention in class. Please urge him to do that."
A Mystery to You -- and OthersSometimes you don’t even understand your child’s behaviors. You can’t figure out why your daughter behaves in such an inconsistent, self-sabotaging way. How can she be prepared for a test the night before, only to forget everything when she takes it the next day?
Your mother certainly doesn’t understand. When you ask for help, her refrain is: "All he needs is discipline. You remember what I would do if you ever did that?" You do remember, and you shudder. You’re glad your mom isn’t in charge anymore.
Words such as structure, supervision, and persistence don’t begin to describe the task you have to tackle every day. Your job is greater than you ever expected and more taxing than anyone knows. Some days you just want to give up.
But you don’t, because it’s not in you to do that. You ask, "How long will this take?" It reminds me of the Supremes song, "You Can’t Hurry Love." It’s especially true of the extraordinary kind of love parents give. You have to hang in there with your child, loving him in the face of adversity and the nasty comments you get from people you might otherwise like and admire.
It is hard to listen to some of the things people say about your child. You have to be careful how you respond, because you are trying to build bridges, not burn them. Still, it is tempting -- and perhaps healthy -- to do a little burning now and then for the sake of your child.
New Genes Contributing to Autism Discovered; Genetic Links Between Neurodevelopment and Psychiatric Disorders Chromosomes
A new approach to investigating hard-to-find chromosomal abnormalities has identified 33 genes associated with autism and related disorders, 22 for the first time. (Credit: © lily / Fotolia)
ScienceDaily — A new approach to investigating hard-to-find chromosomal abnormalities has identified 33 genes associated with autism and related disorders, 22 for the first time. Several of these genes also appear to be altered in different ways in individuals with psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, symptoms of which may begin in adolescence or adulthood. Results of the study by a multi-institutional research team will appear in the April 27 issue of Cell and have been released online.
"By sequencing the genomes of a group of children with neurodevelopmental abnormalities, including autism, who were also known to have abnormal chromosomes, we identified the precise points where the DNA strands are disrupted and segments exchanged within or between chromosomes. As a result, we were able to discover a series of genes that have a strong individual impact on these disorders," says James Gusella, PhD, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Human Genetic Research (MGH CHGR) and senior author of the Cell paper. "We also found that many of these genes play a role in diverse clinical situations -- from severe intellectual disability to adult-onset schizophrenia -- leading to the conclusion that these genes are very sensitive to even subtle perturbations."
Physicians evaluating children with neurodevelopmental abnormalities often order tests to examine their chromosomes, but while these tests can detect significant abnormalities in chromosomal structure, they typically cannot identify a specific gene as being disrupted. Structural variants known as balanced chromosome abnormalities (BCAs) -- in which DNA segments are moved into different locations in the same chromosome or exchanged with segments in other chromosomes, leaving the overall size of the chromosomes unchanged -- are known to be significantly more common in individuals with autism spectrum disorders than in a control population. Several years ago Gusella and Cynthia Morton, PhD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital initiated the Developmental Genome Anatomy Project to identify developmentally important genes by investigating BCAs, but the task of identifying specific chromosome breakpoints has been slow and laborious.
To get a clearer view of the potential impact of BCAs on autism, the research team took advantage of a new approach developed by Michael Talkowski, PhD, of the MGH CHGR, lead author of the Cell paper, which allows the sequencing of an individual's entire genome in a way that detects the breakpoints of BCAs. The whole procedure can be accomplished in less than two weeks rather than the many months previously required. Screening the genomes of 38 individuals diagnosed with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders found chromosomal breakpoints and rearrangements in non-protein-coding regions that disrupted 33 genes, only 11 of which previously had been suspected in these disorders.
April 9, 2012By Elina At Parenting© VeerWe’re always worrying about losing the baby weight following delivery, but a new study featured in Pediatrics might have potential moms paying more attention to the scalebefore they conceive. A mother’s obesity during pregnancy may raise the risk of autism in her baby by 67 percent, reports MSNBC.
The study is part of an ongoing effort to find preventable factors that may increase the risk of autism. Researchers compared the medical histories of 1,000 children in California to take a closer look at the impact of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure on pregnancy. They found that while women with diabetes were only slightly more likely to have a baby with autism, they were twice as likely to have a child with a different neurodevelopmental disorder.
The reason for these findings remains uncertain, though it is possible that high levels of blood glucose in obese and diabetic women may have a negative impact on a fetus’ developing brain. Higher levels of glucose can cause a baby to grow faster and require more oxygen as a result—if insufficient oxygen is provided, problems with brain development can arise. The inflammatory proteins produced by fat cells are another possible cause, since they are involved in normal brain development. Too many or too few of these proteins might have an adverse effect on how the brain develops. Either way, researchers remain unsure of the impact of diabetes or obesity on fetal growth.
While researchers note that more research is needed to confirm the connection between maternal obesity and autism, they point out that U.S. autism rates have increased along with obesity. Until more information is known, the study’s lead author Paula Krakowiak suggests that obese moms take these new findings as another reason to lose weight. A woman is considered obese when she's about 35 or more pounds overweight or has a body-mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.
“It doesn’t hurt anybody to lose weight and it comes with other benefits to the mom. So losing weight not only will help you, but it also might potentially help your child to be healthier,” Krakowiak says.
Families of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) earn 28 percent less than families whose children have no health problems and 21 percent less than parents of those with other health conditions, according to a new study.
The findings revealed that the average $18,000 income gap between families with autistic children and those without is mostly because mothers with autistic children do not have jobs or take lower paying jobs and work fewer hours.
Researchers based their findings off of national household surveys done yearly between 2002 and 2008 that included 261 children with autism and more than 64,000 without health problems.
Researchers adjusted for factors like parents' age, race, education and health, and found that there were no differences between fathers, there were considerable differences in income between mothers.
The study found that women with autistic children were six percent less likely to work, worked less than seven hours and made 56 percent or $14,755 less than mothers of kids with no health issues and 35 percent less than mothers of children with other health limitations, according to Dr. Zuleyha Cidav of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
However, researchers found no significant differences in the fathers’ employment, work hours or earnings between dads with children affected with ASD or those with no health conditions.
Cidav said that these findings are not surprising because mothers are generally the primary caregiver and decision maker, therefore they have to “devote considerable personal resources to obtaining health care services for their children,” and sacrifice on things like personal career and income, according to a statement.
The study authors also pointed out that the mothers of children with ASD studied actually had more potential for higher earnings because they were significantly more educated and older than mothers of children who are healthy or have other health conditions.
Researchers noted that previous studies focused on assessing the financial impact of childhood autism by examining direct costs to the healthcare system, but have largely ignored that indirect financial impact on families can actually be quite significant.
Parents of ASD children either have to choose reduced opportunities to work for time on needed care, and have limited ability for the high cost of specialized child care, or increase the amount of time they spend working to pay for needed care and risk their home life to suffer.
Autism spectrum disorders, ranging from mild Asperger's syndrome to severe mental retardation and social disability, affect roughly one in 110 children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers said that more community-based resources are required to support families and their work obligations, and new policies that recognize the full impact of autism on families are needed to better assisted these families.
"When evaluating new interventions and policies, it is important to include costs and benefits to all parties affected by an intervention, including the family," the authors wrote.
"Accurately accounting for family effects in cost-effectiveness analyses can improve our understanding of the full costs and benefits of ASD-related interventions and guide policy makers in allocating resources for ASD treatment," they added. "Otherwise, undervaluing new financing policies are likely to create negative consequences for families."
The findings are published in the March 19 issue of Pediatrics.
Published by Medicaldaily.com
Special Needs Magazine is a web-based magazine that is geared to providing resources for parenting children with special needs. Dr. Liz's article, "Aligning the Mis-Aligned... Understanding your Parenting Style and Aligning Yourself as Parents" is published in the April 2012 edition.
Dr. Liz will be a regular contributor to Special Needs Magazine, so check back regularly for future articles!
Click here to read the article: http://www.specialneeds.com/children-and-parents/general-special-needs/aligning-mis-aligned
Published on Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com)
Imperfectly Happy By Amy Przeworski, Ph.D.
As I child I often had dreams of the adult I would become--a pediatrician in a crisp white coat, an adored mom, the first female President of the United States, a tv journalist with perfectly coifed hair and impeccable makeup breaking tough stories. I could imagine the perfect house that I would live in with a white picket fence and bright green grass in the yard. I could even imagine the perfect marriage to the perfect husband and the perfectly behaved children I would have.
My real life looks little like this. My perfectly behaved toddler sometimes throws dinner on the floor. My perfect husband and I sometimes argue and our backyard resembles a mud puddle when it rains significantly. The terms "coifed" and "crisp" would never be applied to me (except in jest) and our perfect white picket fence just so happens to be made of old chain link.
As I grew up, the content of the dreams changed, but what took a very long time to change was the desire to be perfect. I have often wondered where that came from. When did I start coloring within the lines and worrying about my mistakes? When did my goal in life become to be infallible? I still don't know the answers to these questions and probably will never know. But what I do know is that in having the goal of perfection, I lost the goal of happiness.
These days I embrace my imperfect life and the many imperfections in it. What I learned over time is that the imperfections in others were the very things that I loved the most. They were the things that made the person intriguing and made me want to know more--the essential humanity in others that drew me close. It was through realizing that that I began to embrace my own imperfections and accept them as part of me, rather than something that I needed to fix. I embrace the imperfections in my child as well--pointing them out as unique and wonderful qualities of her that make her so loveable.
So how do we become so perfectionistic? And how do we combat those perfectionistic tendencies so we can embrace the imperfectly perfect people who we are?
IThe first step in combating perfectionism is to deliberately be imperfect. Make small mistakes and do not fix them. This exposure to being imperfect is anxiety-provoking and uncomfortable for those of us who are perfectionistic; and that is how you know that real work is being done.
The second step is to figure out why you want to be perfect. Perfectionism can be social in nature or about your own standards. For example, if I want to do a perfect job on a blog post, it might be because I have high standards for myself or it could be because I think that someone else would be disappointed if they saw me make an error. The motivation behind my perfectionism can help me to realize where I need to deliberately make mistakes--whether in something that only I will see or something that someone else will see.
The third type of perfectionism is the perfectionistic standards a person holds for others, for example one's child or significant other. Our children, and even our significant others, are a reflection of us, and, as such, if we are perfectionistic, we want them to be perfect too. But since it is impossible to be perfect, this can lead to a child or significant other feeling like a disappointment or a failure--the last thing that we want someone we care about to feel.
So if you are a perfectionist, think about whether you hold high standards for others. If so, try to embrace the imperfections in others. For example, if a child draws a picture for you and in it, the sun is green, you can either correct the child "That's great honey, but the sun is green in this picture and it should be yellow," or you can embrace the imperfection "I love how you made the sun green! What a creative choice! What made you decide to make it green?" You can view this imperfection as an error or as something unique and exciting about your child--something that you love.
The same applies to your own imperfections. The more that you find ways to love these imperfections and see them as your own special qualities, the less perfectionism will maintain its hold over you. Instead, you may just find yourself being imperfectly happy.
A message from Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston, a pediatrician and engineer at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Over the past decade, an increasing number of children have been diagnosed with autism, Asperger syndrome, and other spectrum disorders with a prognosis for high functioning. As these children reach driving age, it is increasingly common for our developmental pediatricians to be asked by parents if their teens with high-functioning autism should drive. I'm sure you've gotten these questions too.In Pennsylvania, the law requires teens to obtain medical certification before they can get a learner's permit. The predriving examination becomes an excellent time to address medical and other concerns that could affect safe driving. In states that do not have this requirement, physicians should be prepared to address driving issues with families during routine care.High-functioning autism may affect the teen's ability to learn to drive safely because it is characterized by subtle impairment in social interaction, communication, and motor coordination skills, as well as difficulty in regulating emotions, all of which come into play when driving. Driving is a multidimensional, complex task that requires not only operational skills, like driving straight, but also cognitive and higher-order thinking skills.To drive safely, teens need mature executive functioning and cognitive ability to attend to and detect hazards and quickly choose a safe response. They need social interaction skills to interpret the body language and actions of other drivers and road users, and communication skills to convey their actions to others. They need coordination to quickly put in place actions to avoid crashes. Teens with development disabilities, such as high-functioning autism, may have challenges with any or all of these requirements. Very little is known about how high-functioning autism affects one's ability to drive.In a step to better understand this relationship, our Young Driver Research Team surveyed almost 300 parents of teens diagnosed with high-functioning autism and found that two thirds of these teens, who are of legal driving age in their state, are either current drivers or plan to drive. They also identified a few predictive characteristics among those teens who are likely to become drivers:
Thursday, March 29, 2012
By Lawrence Borges, M.D., ABC News Medical Unit
One in 88 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, by age 8, according to a study released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- a rate that has risen far above the 2006 estimate of 1 in 110.
But experts remain locked in debate about whether these numbers tell the whole story.
The CDC report, which analyzed data from 2008, indicates a 23 percent rise in diagnoses of ASDs over a two-year period.
The news could be most alarming for boys. The study reports that on average 1 in 54 boys was diagnosed with autism, compared to only 1 in 252 girls.
But what this rise actually means is still a mystery. Some doctors contacted by ABC News believe a broader definition of autism has contributed to rising rates.
"I think it has to do with changing diagnostic criteria, including mine over the years which have made me label many more children as being on the autism spectrum than say 10-20 years ago," said Dr. Isabelle Rapin, professor of pediatrics and neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "Not only physicians, but parents, teachers, therapists and the public are much more aware of the symptoms of autism, and I suspect some may apply the diagnosis based on one symptom, which is inadequate."
Dr. Lisa Shulman, also at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, echoed this concern.
"Over the years, children with autistic disorder remain a relatively small group in our center," said Shulman, director of Infant and Toddler Services at Einstein and an associate professor of pediatrics. "It is the group of children with milder social-communicative impairment and without a large array of mannerisms and atypical interests consistent with an ASD diagnosis that has increased significantly."
The data was collected by The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring network, an organization funded by the CDC to track autism rates. For this report, the ADDM reviewed medical records of 8-year-old children from 14 different areas across the country.
The study focused specifically on 8-year-olds because most autism spectrum diagnoses are made by the time a child reaches their eighth birthday. The signs of autism are often seen much earlier, however. Some experts believe that the first hints of abnormal behavior can be seen as early as 6 to 12 months.
"If parents suspect something is wrong with their child's development, or that their child is losing skills, they should talk to their pediatrician or another developmental expert," said Rebecca Landa, director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Md., in a news release. Landa has published a list of 10 infant behaviors to watch for that may herald a developmental problem.
Still, experts say that parents need not start analyzing their babies just yet.
According to the CDC, a child should only be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) if they meet criteria for one of three diseases outlined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, commonly referred to as the DSM-IV.
These are Autistic disorder, Pervasive developmental disorder -- not otherwise specified, or Asperger disorder. Generally, the CDC describes them as, "a group of developmental disabilities characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication and by restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior." The CDC has also published extended definitions for these disorders online.
A proposed change for the upcoming fifth edition of the DSM would include Asperger disorder as a sub-category of Autistic disorder. It is not known how this change might affect autism reporting in the future, but research is under way to answer this question.
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles