Sunday, February 28, 2010

Autism, Schizophrenia and Environmental Toxicity

I’m always interested in articles about autism and schizophrenia; my older sister became schizophrenic when she was 21. In a span of months I lost my sister and my best friend.

A number of autistic and schizophrenic patients have been found to have mutations of neurexin 1a, a protein which helps to form and maintain nerve signals in the brain. Scientists have recently discovered that mice with the same protein mutation display behaviors consistent with schizophrenia and autism.

In a recent Science Daily article, Dr Steve Clapcote from the University of Leeds's states, “these illnesses are complex; they involve not only our genetics, but also environment and experience. It's possible the genetics might create a predisposition, making some people more likely to develop autism or schizophrenia.”

Dr. Clapcote will be experimenting on mice to see how they respond to antipsychotic drugs. Now this sounds all fine and dandy, but our family experience with these drugs is that they have terrible side effects. If we are fairly sure there is an environmental trigger, why aren’t we looking at toxins in our environment?

In a recent article in Pediatrics Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine states, “That there is indirect evidence for an environmental contribution to autism that comes from studies demonstrating the sensitivity of the developing brain to external exposures such as lead, ethyl alcohol and methyl mercury. But the most powerful proof-of-concept evidence derives from studies specifically linking autism to exposures in early pregnancy - thalidomide, misoprostol, and valproic acid; maternal rubella infection; and the organophosphate insecticide, chlorpyrifos.”

At the conclusion of the article Dr Landrigan states that fewer than 20% of high-volume chemicals have been tested for neurodevelopmental toxicity.

Incidences of childhood cancer, diabetes, autism and ADD/ADHD continue to rise. Let’s put our children’s interest first and test these chemicals before we expose the public to them.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The UPS Store

I had to go to the UPS store today. I love the UPS store because I love enjoy the UPS ladies. Being somewhat of a hermit, these ladies offer me a nice hello w/ a smile, brief conversation and I go off on my merry way. Easy social interactions, just the way I like it!

I walked in, checked my mail and went to the front desk to pick up a package. As Bernie, my favoriet UPS lady, handed me my package out of the corner of my eye I saw an elderly lady next to me fall over. Bernie asked if she was all right, and her husband replied, “it’s ok she just fainted.”

The elderly lady’s face was ashen and she wasn’t responding well to her husband’s questions. Her husband said she was OK so I could leave with a good conscience right? After all I was, and am, and continue to be crazy busy. A few people walked out and I was about to, but I remembered Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. If I were an elderly person who had just fainted I wouldn’t want everyone to walk on by…

So I told the man, “I’m CPR certified, would you like me to stay with you?” He replied, “yes.” So I sat beside the lady on the floor. I could see that her husband cared for her deeply. He was holding her head, a loving gesture, but not good for blood flow… So I said, “we should probably lay her head flat, it will help her if she’s fainted.” He gently laid her head down and we started talking. After about five minutes or so her color came back and she started feeling better. We both helped her up and leaning on her husband she walked outside and got in the truck.

As I was leaving the UPS ladies thanked me, it turns out no one else knew CPR. I felt shaky walking out of there, the truth is I’m trained in CPR but I hope I never have to use it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Autism & Sign Language

Should we teach kids with autism who have limited or no verbal communication sign language? It’s a good question. When we first started our journey many were afraid teaching a child with autism sign language would hurt their ability to become verbal. However, research as well as reports from parents and teachers has shown that in many cases sign language has actually helped children with autism become more verbal.

Sign language is inexpensive, portable, and a quick form of communication. (I especially like the inexpensive part, since most parents I talk to are constantly struggling with therapy costs…)

More benefits of sing language include:

  • Reducing negative behaviors such as tantrums, aggression or self injury which are often a result of being unable to communicate a want or need.
  • It gives people with autism a form of communication helping them to interact socially.
  • It can also cue a child during social situations or to give a caution or warning sign for potentially dangerous situations.
  • Some parents report enjoying a closer bond with their children by opening up a door for communication.

  • You can visit National Autism Resources for more information on sign language and autism.

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    It's Friday

    It's Friday and I can't believe next week we start March! As many of you may know my Mom was in a terrible car accident last July. (The same weekend my family moved to Benicia, CA.) She had a tire blow out on the free way and rolled her car seven times. She was in the hospital until mid November.

    From November until two weeks ago she lived with me. and we went to therapy 3-5 times a week. It was exhausting, but now she can walk, dress herself, take a shower by herself. I am so grateful to God for bringing her through this!
    Last week I took her down to Southern California to stay with my brother. So all of the sudden I have more free time.
    I'm thankful for the break but I miss her.
    I'm in a new city and all of the sudden I feel like a fish out of water.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    Raising a Teen on the Spectrum

    People often ask, “How is it raising a teenager with autism?” Let me say that I am in the middle of this and I’m learning as I go. So here are a few things that I have learned so far.

    Always respond positively to any question.

    Last month my son came home and asked, “what do they mean when they ask me, ‘does size matter?’” No matter how much a question makes me want to cringe, I always tell my son, “I’m glad you asked me this.” I told him exactly what the question meant. Afterwards, I asked do you need help dealing w/ this? We then decided this is a stupid question that doesn’t deserve a response, so if they ask him again he will just ignore them.

    Make sure you get all the facts before jumping to any conclusions.

    One day G came home flustered and told me he needed help with a bully. As soon as I heard that I was livid. I took a deep breath, calmed myself and started to ask him all about his situation. Listen carefully, ask for specific examples: what did she say, what did she do, show me what she did. As he explained how the "bully girl" was treating him I realized this was not a bully situation, but a crush. Now there have been other times, when he has been bullied and we have needed to come up with a plan to deal with it.

    Work with your child to come up with solutions to problems that he feels comfortable with.

    There are lots of ways to deal with a problem. The way I feel comfortable dealing with a problem is not always the way G feels comfortable. At one point a bully in one of his classes started harassing G w/ sexual statements. G didn’t know how to respond and became embarrassed and flustered, this caused the bullying to escalate. I wanted G to tell the bully, “I don’t appreciate the way you are talking to me. Shut up or I’m going to talk to the teacher.” G felt he couldn’t do that, it was too hard trying to talk when he felt that upset. So he decided to e-mail the classroom teacher, which was easier then talking to the teacher. The teacher moved their seats, and helped G to resolve the situation.

    I could write a book on this topic, but these seem to be the best lessons I’ve learned so far.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    Studies Reveal Why Kids Get Bullied and Rejected

    Kids who have trouble reading social cues are likely to be bullied. No surprise here! Anyhow an article by Live Science offers five steps for helping a child "read" a social interaction go awry and discover what he can do next time.

    The five steps are:
    1. Ask the child what happened without judgement.
    2. Ask the child to identify their mistake. (Often children only know that someone got upset, but don't understand their own role in the outcome.) I don't agree with this after all there is no excuse for bullying, instead I might ask what could you have done differntly?
    3. Help the child identify the cue they missed or mistake they made.
    4. Create an imaginary but similar scenario where the child can make the right choice.
    5. Lastly, give the child "social homework" by asking him to practice this new skill.

    To read the full article click here.

    To buy the book this article is based on click here.