Dr. Liz, Autism Expert for Parents.com, answers the question, "Could my daughter have Autism?"
Check out her response: http://www.parents.com/advice/toddlers-preschoolers/development/could-my-daughter-have-autism/
Click here to see Dr. Liz's response: http://www.parents.com/advice/toddlers-preschoolers/development/why-isnt-my-2-year-old-talking/
What brain changes transform children from creatures of impulse into fully functioning adults? In a 2001 study that used fMRI imaging, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh identified the key brain changes that signal mental maturity.
Once a child hits adolescence, the brain, having mastered basic cognitive abilities, no longer grows in size. The adolescent years are a flurry of complex reorganization as the brain decides what’s needed, what’s unnecessary, and how to achieve maximal efficiency.
Adolescent brains undergo synaptic pruning, in which useful neural connections are nourished while lesser connections wither away. Nipping unnecessary synapses in the bud actually leads to deactivation in many regions as the growing brain sheds excess neural activity like baby fat. At the same time, the brain begins to activate regions such as the prefrontal cortex that handle abstract cognitive abilities. Of these abilities, impulse control is key in attaining adult-level mental maturity.
Researchers used fMRI brain scans to compare brain activation in 254 subjects as they performed an antisaccade task. These subjects were divided into children (ages 8-13), adolescents (14-17), and adults (18-30). Adults performed the best and children the worst, but more interesting is how their differences manifested.
The antisaccade task measures impulse control by tracking subjects’ saccades, or eye movements. As subjects stare at a blank screen, a light flashes briefly. The goal is to look in the opposite direction from the light. This simple premise is a complex task—and, for untrained brains, an effortful one. It requires superior impulse control to both keep task goals in mind and resist the instinct to look.
Children, who made many errors, largely activated the brain's supramarginal gyrus. This may indicate that children relied more on visual cues to compensate for other immature brain processes.
Adolescents, in contrast, activated the prefrontal cortex more than other groups. Activity in this area, which manages working memory and executive control, evinces brains beginning to maintain higher-level plans and goals.
Adult brains showed the widest pattern of brain activity, lighting up over 5 different brain regions. This is strong evidence that the ability to voluntarily start and stop behavior—to plan rather than merely react—is a mature product of the synaptic pruning and organization that happens in adolescence. The adult brain is an efficient engine, quickly processing varied information to form a cohesive strategy.
Luckily, research has found that you can optimize these crucial adult abilities well past adolescence. By shaping new neural patterns, various Lumosity exercises have been shown to improve working memory and executive control. Why not try out Color Match, our own game of impulse control, or the advanced working memory game Memory Lane? Unlock Lumosity today to get all 35+ games!
Yale University Press Release:
New Haven, Conn.-- Preliminary results from an ongoing, large-scale study by Yale School of Medicine researchers shows that oxytocin — a naturally occurring substance produced in the brain and throughout the body— increased brain function in regions that are known to process social information in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
A Yale Child Study Center research team that includes postdoctoral fellow Ilanit Gordon and Kevin Pelphrey, the Harris Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, will present the results on Saturday, May 19 at 3 p.m. at the International Meeting for Autism Research.
“Our findings provide the first, critical steps toward devising more effective treatments for the core social deficits in autism, which may involve a combination of clinical interventions with an administration of oxytocin,” said Gordon. “Such a treatment approach will fundamentally improve our understanding of autism and its treatment.”
Social-communicative dysfunctions are a core characteristic of autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that can have an enormous emotional and financial burden on the affected individual, their families, and society.
Gordon said that while a great deal of progress has been made in the field of autism research, there remain few effective treatments and none that directly target the core social dysfunction. Oxytocin has recently received attention for its involvement in regulating social abilities because of its role in many aspects of social behavior and social cognition in humans and other species.
To assess the impact of oxytocin on the brain function, Gordon and her team conducted a first-of-its-kind, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on children and adolescents aged 7 to 18 with ASD. The team members gave the children a single dose of oxytocin in a nasal spray and used functional magnetic resonance brain imaging to observe its effect.
The team found that oxytocin increased activations in brain regions known to process social information. Gordon said these brain activations were linked to tasks involving multiple social information processing routes, such as seeing, hearing, and processing information relevant to understanding other people.
Other authors on the study include Randi H. Bennett, Brent C. vander Wyk, James F. Leckman, and Ruth Feldman.
May 13, 2012
One in 3 lack job experience or higher education, researchers say, based on data gathered before unemployment peaked from the recession. About half a million autistic children will reach adulthood in the next decade.
CHICAGO — One in 3 young adults with autism have no paid job experience or college or technical education nearly seven years after high school graduation, a study finds. That's a poorer showing than those with other disabilities, including the mentally disabled, the researchers said.
With roughly half a million autistic children who will reach adulthood in the next decade, experts say policymakers urgently need to address the issue.
The study was done well before unemployment peaked from the recession. The situation today is tough even for young adults who don't have such limitations.
The study, to be published online Monday in Pediatrics, was based on data from 2007 to 2008. It found that within two years of leaving high school, more than half of those with autism had no job experience or college or technical education.
Things improved as they got older. Yet nearly seven years after high school, 35% of autistic young adults still had no paid employment or education beyond high school.
Those figures compare with 26% of mentally disabled young adults, 7% of young adults with speech and language problems, and 3% of those with learning disabilities.
Those with autism may fare worse because many also have the other disabilities studied.
Government data suggest that 1 in 88 U.S. children have autism and there's evidence that the rate is rising.
The researchers analyzed data from a national study of children receiving special education services, prepared for the U.S. Department of Education. About 2,000 young adults with one of four types of disabilities were involved, including 500 with autism.
It's the largest study to date on the topic and the results "are quite a cause for concern," said lead author Paul Shattuck, an assistant professor at Washington University's Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis.
"There is this wave of young children who have been diagnosed with autism who are aging toward adulthood," he said. "We're kind of setting ourselves up for a scary situation if we don't think about that and how we're going to help these folks and their families."
BY DR. KENNETH SHORE
Matthew’s homework habits are a puzzle to his parents. He sits at his desk for hours, seemingly working but accomplishing little. It’s only when his mother or father sits with him that he perks up and things begin to click. His teacher reports a similar pattern in school.
Matthew’s parents aren’t sure what to make of this. Is he showing signs of a learning problem, or is he trying to get someone to ease his frustration?
Answering these questions can be a challenge for parents, but fortunately they have the benefit of some useful information sources. A learning disability, namely a specific problem in acquiring information resulting in academic deficiencies, may be evident from:
If this is so, fight the impulse to rescue him from difficult assignments. Giving your child answers or completing his work conveys your lack of confidence in him. Self-confidence wanes; dependency grows. In addition, the teacher may get a false picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
In short, is the problem one of disability or dependency?Does this mean you should be uninvolved in your child’s homework? No. Supervising homework is an important way to promote school success. But supervising doesn’t mean always being by his side. Think of yourself as a resource, able to help if needed, but otherwise letting your child handle the assignment. Give clues or pose leading questions rather than providing answers.
2. Learning problemsOn the other hand, your work with your child may intensify your concerns that he has a learning problem. He may:
Published on ADDitudeMag.com
Many kids with ADHD and learning disabilities also struggle with poor self-esteem. Here's how parents can help.
by Larry Silver, M.D.
When children feel good about themselves, everything goes a little easier for them and their parents. But poor self-esteem is a big problem for ADHD children — and an even bigger problem for the 50 percent or so of ADHD children who also have learning difficulties.
To feel good about themselves, children need two things: the sense that they’re successful, both socially and academically, and unconditional love from their parents. If either ingredient is missing, a child will have a hard time developing a sense of self-esteem.
A child might reveal his unhappiness by saying, “I hate my life” or “No one likes me” or “I’m just dumb.”
Does your child say or do things that suggest that he feels he isn’t “good enough” or is unworthy of love? Do her words or behavior suggest that she feels like a failure at school? That her peers aren’t especially fond of her, or that she is otherwise unsuccessful socially?
Negative reactions?Think back over the past few weeks. Were there times when you or your spouse felt so frustrated by your child’s behavior that you yelled at him or said things that you later regretted? Were there times when you or your spouse tried to avoid your child?
If so, sit down with your spouse and discuss why the two of you are having trouble being calm and affectionate. If it is because of your child’s hyperactivity, inattention, or impulsive behaviors, is his ADHD being properly treated?
If it is her poor performance at school and battles around homework, might she have undiagnosed learning difficulties? If your child’s ADHD behaviors are triggering negative reactions from you, other family members, or other children, it’s essential that you consider the impact this has on his self-esteem.
Not long ago, I worked with an eight-year-old named Billy. Clearly, he needed to be on ADHD medication, but his parents were wary about putting him on medication throughout the day. At their insistence, I put Billy on a drug regimen that would cover him only at school.
When we met again two weeks later, Billy’s parents told me that he was doing much better at school. But I discovered that there were big problems at home. Billy’s parents were yelling at him on a regular basis — to stop interrupting, to quit jumping on the furniture, to sit still at mealtimes, and so on. When I asked Billy’s parents to consider the effect their yelling might be having on Billy’s self-esteem, they quickly agreed to add medication coverage for evenings and weekends.
Consider what’s going on at school. If your child isn’t keeping up and feels like a failure in the classroom, find out why. Talk to his teacher. Is he having trouble sitting still, staying focused, and participating fully in class? If so, he may be taking the wrong ADHD medication — or may be taking the right medication at the wrong dosage or on the wrong schedule. (If teachers describe your child as hyperactive, distractible, or impulsive, his AD/HD is probably not being medicated appropriately.)
Be sure to educate your child’s teacher about ADHD. Ask her to report back to you about any side effects your child might be experiencing, and explain to her how simple accommodations can help. Perhaps all your child needs is better supervision during unstructured times (walking in the hall, during recess, and so on). Maybe he simply needs a little help refocusing when he drifts away in class.
Does your child struggle with reading, writing, or math, even though she’s able to sit still and focus during class? Consider the possibility that she has a learning disability.
The importance of friends
As you work to help your child achieve academic success, see what you can do to improve her acceptance among her peers. Observe her as she interacts with them during free play, during structured activities, and in organized sports. Ask his teacher how he behaves in the classroom and on the playground.
Watch your child when he plays outdoors or when he invites a friend over (try not to be conspicuous). Is he too shy and fearful to be an engaging playmate? Is he too rough, or too retiring? Does she have trouble interpreting other children’s body language? Is she too distractible, impulsive, or hyperactive to play? Does he avoid sports because of poor motor skills or hand-eye coordination? Does she have trouble understanding the rules and strategies involved in team sports? In board games?
Once you have a sense of what your child’s specific social problems are, look for solutions. Maybe he needs a different medication regimen or social skills group therapy. Maybe she can try a sport that doesn’t require the same level of fine motor skills or hand-eye coordination.
Or maybe you can find a non-athletic activity he enjoys. It’s not easy to boost a child’s self-esteem. But if you can love your child unconditionally, and if you are willing to do a little detective work regarding peer and school problems, your child should begin to feel better about himself. Good luck!
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