Autism Awareness Day

Autism awareness cover

On the evenings of April 1 and 2, 2011, prominent buildings across North America and the world — including the Empire State Building in New York City and the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada — will turn their lights blue to raise awareness for autism and to commemorate World Autism Awareness Day on Saturday, April 2.
Autism is a complex neurological disorder that typically lasts throughout a persons lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism disorders (ASD)
It is estimated that as many as 67 million individuals are affected by autism, making it more common in most countries than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.
It  occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a persons ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe. All these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and also by repetitive behaviors.
Autism spectrum disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, while first diagnosis usually takes place around 18-24 months.
Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child’s failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills. Pediatricians may initially dismiss signs of autism, thinking a child will “catch up”, and may advise parents to “wait and see”. New research shows that when parents suspect something is wrong with their child, they are usually correct. If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait: speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism.
Early behavioral intervention can result in significant improvements.
Although parents may have concerns about labeling a toddler as “autistic”, the earlier a diagnosis is given, the earlier interventions can begin. Currently, there are no effective means to prevent autism, no single effective treatment, and no known cure.
Research indicates, that early behavioral intervention for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements in IQ and language ability for many young children with autism spectrum disorders. As soon as autism is diagnosed, behavioral intervention should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.
In many countries autism is not a recognized disorder and diagnosis can be difficult. Countries must take a commitment to building capacity for early recognition by raising awareness. Screening methods for detection of at-risk children are available for toddlers as young as 18 months of age. Such screening can occur during a regular well-baby check up.
The most effective treatments are early, evidence-based  behavioral interventions. Many children also benefit from speech-language therapy and occupational therapy.
Red Flags of Autism:
• No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
• No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
• No babbling by 12 months
• No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
• No words by 16 months
• No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
• No response when the child’s name is called by 10 months
• Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age.

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Autistic Children

Autistic children

Teaching Autistic Children through Art

We want the absolute best for our autistic children! We want to use all the latest ideas and therapies! But what we are finding is what works for one autistic child, doesn’t necessary work for another. And so it continues! There is currently a new angle, a new look, a new intelligent way to look at autism for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Teaching Autistic children through art seems to give them a voice which was silent before but now is a bridge to let them speak, basically inviting you into their world. This disorder would be due to their sensory needs such as visual and tactile, and possibly potential non verbal expression plus their need to draw to visualize and the need for hands-on- therapy.
And surprisingly, it comes to us from the autistic children themselves. We are listening like never before, as it seems the autistic community are teaching themselves through art. There have been many inspirational testimonials from autistic children ages 12 and up that are truly stunning. Through their creative art the autistic child is able to express their feelings, though non verbal and any expressions which they find difficult to express verbally. It seems this very safe way to express their feelings and it is actually working.
There is much literature available resounding this new finding and some of it is even written by autistic children themselves. So by teaching autistic children through art it demonstrates its effectiveness, thereby indicating that it may be a clinically-sound safe treatment option. There is much that can benefit an autistic child through this art therapy such as an increase of self awareness, developing problem solving strategies, giving them their own creative thinking knowing they are in a safe environment. There may be many changes of behaviors and development of social skills. So the benefits are many and they may not come all at once or maybe they come slowly but it’s certainly worth a “look see”.
Teaching autistic children through art can be taught by art therapists. But it seems the goals that parents want for their autistic children are the same as any therapist:
 Opportunity for creative expression with different art techniques whether abstract or imagination. Therapists can design individual art techniques for certain needs.
  Art therapy provides safe and enjoyable sensory integration through exploration of the art. It’s a nurturing relationship giving the art a way to create product and meaning with self accomplishment.
 Communication awareness for those autistic children who have difficulty expressing themselves, giving them a safe forum for emotion and self –expression.
 Art is a visual activity and with integration can be so much fun which helps in social skills and expressions, giving a strong form to peer support.
 Leisure, Recreation go along with social skills and can be developed through observing and learning from others whether a therapist or group or family. It’s a strong form of support.
With the building of trust you can provide directives to encourage communication to the child which will reap great rewards.
Of course safety is an absolute when working with any art supplies. Depending on the age and comprehension of the child, the use of pencil, clay, paint, collage or even glue should be closely watched. With the building of trust you can reap great rewards and encourage communication which in the long run makes for a happier child. There may be many goals reached, so depending on the age of the child and what they are interested in see what rewards you can gather.

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