Saturday, June 30, 2012

Brain Scans Detect Autism in Infants

A new study coordinated by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital has used brain scans to identify brain changes associated with autism.

The researchers took 92 six-month old infants at high risk for autism and used a specialized MRI called diffusion tensor imaging. The babies were followed until the age of 24 months, at which time 30% has an autism diagnosis. The wiring differences were then identified from the original scans.

This news means children may be diagnosed before symptoms emerge. Their parents can then get early intervention, which is key to the best outcome possible.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Possible New Diagnostic Test for Autism

One of the challenging aspects of making a diagnosis of autism is that there are no definitive tests. Evaluators must rely on a collection of data to determine if the child in question has problems in communication, relationships, and behavior.

This may be about to change. A new study from Boston Children's Hospital revealed that children with autism show less connectivity between brain regions than their typical peers. This difference can be identified through an EEG. The differences were especially apparent in language-related brain areas.

What does this mean?

  • The researchers believe that EEGs could be used to definitively identify autism in children as young as two years old. 
  • This will standardize diagnostic criteria so that children will no longer be identified with autism in one area but not in another.
  • Early identification means early intervention and better outcomes for these children and their families. 
In short, good news all around. 

The next step? Repeating this study with children identified with Aspergers' Syndrome. Children with autism who also had other disorders such as Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, or extremely premature birth. This will determine if EEG diagnosis is also appropriate in these cases.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Persistence Comes from Fathers!

Whether you're finishing up a difficult project, passing a hard class, or just showing up for work every day, thank your father.

A new study from Brigham Young University indicates that when fathers teach their children persistence, there are higher engagement rates in school and much less delinquency.

A habit of persistence pays off later in life as these youngsters are better prepared to work hard and cope with the stress we all face.

How does this happen? Children learn the following from their dads:

1. Love, compassion, and warmth.
2. Why rules exist and why they must be followed.
3. How to work hard and be self-sufficient.

Fathers who followed the above steps had kids with higher levels of persistence. This is one indicator of the important role of fathers in the lives of children.

What do we learn from this? If a biological father is not in the picture, it's very important that a substitute male role model be available for the sake of the children. This "dad sub" must make an effort to express affection, take time to talk about rules and how the world works, and set the example of hard work.

Thanks, Dad!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Disability Scams

School's out for summer. That means families have a little more time to spend together. Concerned parents will encourage their children to read and participate in other activities that help their children get ready for the next academic year.

Unfortunately, that means the scammers who are out to make a buck rather than help children are out in force. 

Every year I hear from parents who have been sucked into one type of "get smart quick" scheme or another. They often spend thousands of dollars in misguided attempts to improve the intellectual abilities of their young ones. 

I've seen parents who've spent thousands of dollars on acupuncture to cure autism, brain training to cure Down Syndrome, eye training for ADHD, and a host of other fake treatments. These mothers and fathers are the good ones, just trying to help their children, but it makes educators crazy to see these families doing without so some phony business can steal their cash. Not to mention the letdown afterwards.

How can you keep from being a victim? Here are a few warning signs:

  • The service provider is in a disreputable location such as an alley or warehouse district.
  • They can't provide you with proven independent university studies.
  • The company may warn you that "the entire medical community" doesn't want your child's problem cured so the doctors can make more money. Really? If a cure is discovered for autism, you don't think it would be all over the news?
  • This individual or group of people can't produce independent studies that prove their methods work. 
  • There are no "satisfied customers" available for you to call.
  • The treatment in question cures "everything". Learning disabilities come from many sources, and therefore need different types of treatment. 
  • They state their methods are a cure. 
  • You're asked not to tell your pediatrician or teachers about their treatment.
  • They ask for cash only. 
If you've already been taken, it's not too late.

  • Call the Better Business Bureau and the State Attorney's office.
  • Tell everyone you know--especially through blog posts, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • If you were able to pay with a credit card, dispute the charges.
  • Opening your mouth is the best way to put them out of business.