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May 2011




Archive for May, 2011

Winchester resident, John Williams, an artist with Asperger’s, has an upcoming art show at Frameworks in Burlington.

For John Williams, creativity and art is one of the most crucial aspects of his life.

The Winchester native and burgeoning artist, is a graduate of Winchester High School and UMASS Lowell, where he earned a BFA in Fine Art.

Along the way, Williams has had to overcome Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of autism.

“For me, living with this disability is like having a TV turned on in my head with the channel changer broke/ Art helps me live with my disability. I can escape from the world and channel my energy into creations,” Williams said.

Williams’ love for art began as soon as he came across his first mound of clay.

“It started the moment I could even touch clay at four years old. Originally, I thought I wanted to be a sculptor. My collage work started in High School art class.”

Williams art show is entitled Painting with Paper and premieres at Frameworks, 10 Wall Street, Burlington on May 20 and runs through June 15. Times for viewing are Monday and Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can also stop by Frameworks, Sunday, May 22 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to meet Williams at the Artist’s Reception.

For more information on Williams’ upcoming Painting with Paper art show, visit the Frameworks website by clicking here.

For more on William’s art, visit his website.

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Lorna Wing

Lorna Wing … ‘When Susie was diagnosed there was no support for parents and children. We felt so suddenly different.’ Photograph: David Levene

Her daughter’s diagnosis led psychiatrist Lorna Wing to dedicate her life to increasing our knowledge of autism

Giulia Rhodes

The Guardian , Tuesday 24 May 2011

Lorna Wing can recall the exact moment she realised that her daughter, Susie, was different. They were on a train, sitting opposite another mother and baby, also around six months old. The other child pointed at things through the window, glancing back at his mother to check her attention. It was, explains Wing, something that Susie never did. “A cold chill settled over me and I became very worried,” she says.

Despite years of medical training, Lorna and her husband John, both psychiatrists, knew nothing about autism when Susie was born in 1956. “It might have been mentioned once in a lecture, but as for facts or prevalence, no one knew anything.” So Susie’s diagnosis, at three, left them reeling.

Determined to change things for children like Susie, and their parents, Lorna switched her professional attention. More than 50 years later, she is one of the world’s leading experts in the field, and in 1962 helped found the National Autistic Society. Her research has been instrumental in defining autism as a spectrum, ranging from those severely affected to the – previously ignored – very high functioning. In 1981 she coined the term Asperger’s syndrome (after Hans Asperger, an Austrian doctor who first recorded autistic tendencies in children with high IQs), a sub-group of autism without learning disability, thought to include Albert Einstein.

Now 83 and semi-retired, Wing is delighted that the world of autism is unrecognisable from those dark days. “When Susie was diagnosed there was no support for parents and children,” she recalls. “We felt so suddenly and unexpectedly different to everyone else. Now there is a lot out there, and there are lots of good books. The huge change that has happened is the general recognition that autism exists,” she says.

In the 1950s the condition was thought to affect four or five children in 10,000. Today’s greater awareness, and the work of Wing and her colleagues, places its prevalence at around one in 100: a ratio Wing considers accurate but it has led to claims of an autism epidemic. Wing says: “I can’t see any evidence for an increase in numbers. There are more diagnoses because we now know about the brighter children as well. But who knows? It is conceivable that human beings are evolving to have  more autistic traits because they are so useful.”

Another change has been a focus on the positive elements of autism; a kind of autism pride. “I do believe you need autistic traits for real success in science and the arts, and I am fascinated by the behaviours and personalities of musicians and scientists,” says Wing. She also believes that most of us have some autistic traits. “One of my favourite sayings is that nature never draws a line without smudging it. You cannot separate into those ‘with’ and ‘without’ traits as they are so scattered.”

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Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome



By Terri Mauro, About.com Guide  May 24, 2011

Recently Updated: Parents who wonder why their kids won’t look them in the eye can get a good kid’s-eye view of the problem from “Eye Contact,” an excerpt from the book Freaks, Geeks, and Asperger Syndrome (the book they gave Max on Parenthood). Teen author Luke Jackson gives a great description of why eye contact is problematical for kids on the autism spectrum — soul-searing at worst, highly distracting at best. He suggests other places kids can look to pretend to be making eye contact. Better still, if adults can understand that listening is more important than looking (and often mutually exclusive), the whole problem can be avoided. If you’ve been upset over your child’s lack of eye contact, and have forced it in an effort to demand attention, there’s some interesting food for thought here. I’ve added a link to the Readers Respond page on advice to parents of kids newly diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, so after you’ve read Luke’s suggestions, add some of your own.

Source: http://specialchildren.about.com/b/2011/05/24/eye-contact-is-overrated.htm



Today, Senators Menendez and Enzi will be introducing legislation extending the Combating Autism Act for three more years. The Combating Autism Act was passed in 2005 without the involvement or consultation of a single Autistic person, let alone the broader self-advocate community. Without legislative action by Congress, the Act would expire on September 30th of this year. While we respect the Senators’ good intentions, the Menendez-Enzi legislation would freeze in place the current flawed CAA programs, which fail to make any provision for services, do not incorporate anything about adults on the autism spectrum and exclude self-advocates. As a result, ASAN opposes any long term re-authorization of CAA without badly needed investments in services and vital program reforms to ensure self-advocates are involved at every level. We’re urging you to call your Senators and tell them to OPPOSE the Menendez-Enzi re-authorization legislation as too long an extension without any of the needed reforms. You can reach them through the Capital Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 by giving your state and asking to be put through to your Senator. Making the call and urging their opposition is important even if you don’t feel comfortable having a longer conversation, but if you want to provide additional reasons to oppose this extension we have provided several below:

· A three year extension of the existing Combating Autism Act means a three year delay before Congress takes any meaningful action on services for Autistic people across the lifespan. It means three years before any new supports for adults on the autism spectrum are introduced and three years before any of the problems with the status quo are fixed. We can’t afford to wait that long.

· CAA’s existing programs enable a severe bias in the autism research agenda against services and adult issues. According to the recently released IACC Research Portfolio, less than one percent of autism research dollars spent in 2009 went to research relating to adults while only three percent went to research about improving services, supports and education! This inequity calls out for change.

· CAA’s existing structure excludes the very people who should be at the center of the autism conversation: Autistic people ourselves. By locking in place for another three years a bill that was passed without the involvement of self-advocates, Congress would be sending a message that the needs and perspectives of Autistic adults don’t matter.

Any long term extension of CAA must involve additional investments in services, greater inclusion of self-advocates in every program and more respectful language shifting from “combating autism” to supporting Autistic people. Call Congress today at (202) 224-3121! Remember to call twice in order to reach both of your Senators. If for accessibility reasons, you need to e-mail your Senators instead you can find their e-mails on the Senate website at this link.


We need your help to remind Congress they can’t ignore the voices of the Autistic community. As always, Nothing About Us, Without Us!



The Autistic Self Advocacy Network


By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 17, 2011

The pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, but according to a new study, it can backfire and make some people feel worse.

Authors of the review in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, said that happiness shouldn’t be thought of as a universally good thing.

According to June Gruber of Yale University, who co- wrote the article with Iris Mauss of the University of Denver and Maya Tamir of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, often people may end up worse off than when they started. And although the advice in the self-help literature on happiness is not necessarily bad, doing things with the motivation or expectation that these things ought to make you happy lead to disappointment and decreased happiness.

For example, one study by Mauss and colleagues found that people who read a newspaper article extolling the value of happiness felt worse after watching a happy film than people who read a newspaper article that didn’t mention happiness —presumably because they were disappointed they didn’t feel happier.

Too much happiness may also be a problem. One study followed children from the 1920s to old age and found that those who died younger were rated as highly cheerful by their teachers.

Extreme perceptions of happiness has been found by researchers to be unrealistic as scientists find people often do not think as creatively and tend to take more risks. For example, people who have mania, such as in bipolar disorder, have an excess degree of positive emotions that can lead them to risky behavior like substance abuse, driving too fast, or spending their life savings.

But even for people who don’t have a psychiatric disorder, “too high of a degree of happiness can be bad,” Gruber said. Inappropriate happiness also occurs in people with mania, such as feeling happy when you see someone crying over the loss of a loved one or when you hear a friend was injured in a car crash.

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ScienceDaily (May 18, 2011) — Greater awareness of ‘specific language impairment’ (SLI), a language disorder, is needed to ensure better outcomes for the 3-6 per cent of UK school children affected by this disability. Children with SLI have difficulties with most or all aspects of language including grammar, vocabulary and literacy as well as with short term memory. According to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), they also have problems with higher order thinking skills. SLI may have a greater impact on these children than the better know disorder, dyslexia.

“The lack of understanding of specific language impairment contrasts markedly with the broader understanding and acceptance of similar disabilities such as dyslexia,” says researcher Professor Lucy Henry of London South Bank University.

SLI and dyslexia are similar in that both involve a ‘specific’ disability, which is generally believed to affect one particular aspect of a child’s thinking and ability to deal with information. In the case of dyslexia, the dimension that is affected concerns reading. In the case of SLI, the dimension affected is language with grammar, vocabulary, the understanding of meaning, and the ability to use sounds appropriately all potentially being affected.

“SLI is often diagnosed when it is noticed that a child’s speech is poorer than his or her other abilities. The speech difficulties can involve grammar, a small vocabulary or other aspects of language. In addition, because language is important for reading, around half of children identified with SLI also have difficulties with reading. These problems are not due to them having a general learning disability, autism, hearing impairments or brain injury, ” Professor Henry explains.

This new research also found significant weaknesses with higher order thinking skills — including multi-tasking while trying to remember something, generating ideas, finding solutions to new or demanding tasks, and ignoring irrelevant information where necessary.

With these added difficulties children with SLI may struggle to cope with many classroom learning activities. As Professor Henry highlights: “The key aspect for children in the classroom is learning new skills and dealing with novelty — and as higher order thinking skills are exactly the tools required to do this successfully, children with SLI often fall behind their peers.”

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By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression commonly occur together. According to Ari Tuckman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in ADHD and wrote the book More Attention, Less Deficit: Successful Strategies for Adults with ADHD: “ADHD makes people’s lives harder, so it makes sense that they have more to be depressed about. This is especially true because ADHD difficulties usually persist — it’s not like going through a bad break-up where things get better with time.”

Because ADHD is lifelong, it “robs the person of optimism that things will ever improve, at least before a diagnosis is made and treatment started.”

Below, Tuckman talks about both disorders, which is treated first and what readers can do.

Depression Signs

At first glance, depression and ADHD have a lot in common. They both make it difficult to concentrate, initiate projects or sleep well. They’re also associated with mood changes and irritability. But, according to Tuckman:

“Once you get into the details, they look very different. The biggest difference is that ADHD has been lifelong and pretty much existed across most aspects of the person’s life. Depression comes and goes or the person spent big parts of their life not depressed so the symptoms wouldn’t be present then if they were from the depression.”

Here’s what depression looks like, he said:

“People who are depressed generally don’t enjoy life as much as they used to. They may feel sad or empty or even irritable and angry. They don’t feel like themselves and have more trouble getting going on things, even activities that they would otherwise enjoy. They may sleep more than usual, or less. They may also eat more than usual, or less. They may also find that their concentration and memory don’t feel as strong.”

You’ll find a list of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms here.

Missing ADHD

It’s not uncommon for professionals to diagnose a person with depression but to miss their underlying ADHD — which can happen especially with girls and women, Tuckman said.

“People find what they are looking for and tend to not find what they aren’t looking for. If a clinician doesn’t think about ADHD often, they won’t see it in their patients.”

Which Disorder To Treat First

If “ADHD struggles are driving the depression,” Tuckman said, then he focuses on the ADHD first. This results in a “two-for-one,” he said, because “treating the ADHD improves their depression,” making the person “more effective and feel better about themselves.”

But he’ll focus on the depression, “if the depression is severe enough that it is interfering with their ability to address their ADHD.” He added that: “Most of the time, though, we are treating both simultaneously, at least in therapy. For medication, patients are usually started on something for one condition first, before adding in a second medication.”

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Article Date: 20 May 2011 – 2:00 PDT

Urgent action must be taken to ensure Australians with disabilities – including children and young people – are protected from unnecessary restrictive practices that put their lives and wellbeing at risk, along with those of the people working with and caring for them, according to the Australian Psychological Society (APS).

Training is urgently required to ensure that those working in residential homes, disability services, prisons, special and mainstream schools and aged care facilities are able to use simple strategies which research has shown are safer and more effective in dealing with the challenging behaviours that can result when individuals with disabilities become distressed. The strategies are contained in expert guidelines which have been researched, developed and recently released by the Australian Psychological Society in collaboration with leading disability experts. The guidelines were highlighted in a recent investigation into the use of restrictive practices on children with autism on ABC’s 7.30.

Dr Rebecca Mathews, psychologist and manager of practice standards at the Australian Psychological Society said: “Challenging behaviours in people with disabilities can arise for a number of reasons and we need to take the time to assess each individual’s social, emotional and psychological needs to ensure that they receive appropriate support to avoid these distressing incidents. It is misguided to just blame staff, who deserve better training and support to help them provide the best possible care and services to people with disabilities.”

It is believed that at least a quarter of all people with an intellectual disability will be subject at some time to some form of restraint, including physical restraint (someone holding them down) chemical (through the use of sedatives or other drugs), mechanical (by harnesses or straps) and seclusion (which can include confinement and withdrawal of privileges or special objects).

Yet proactive interventions as simple as providing appropriate activities and stimulation, skills for communication or reducing noise in the environment can significantly reduce instances of stress and difficult behaviour.

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ScienceDaily (May 19, 2011) — Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Department of Psychology participated in a multi-site study to examine different teaching models for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The study is one of the first to look at the fidelity of treatment models for preschoolers with autism. The findings are published online in the current issue of the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The report concludes the first phase of a four-year project to analyze the comparative efficacy of preschool programs for children with ASD. It involves developing and validating assessment measures to demonstrate that the classrooms in the study are actually implementing the teaching models at high levels of adherence.

The researchers found that the assessment instruments they developed accurately measured how well the models were executed in the classrooms and that these measurements were able to discriminate between diverse teaching approaches. The goal is for these tools to provide an evaluation method for intervention programs for children with autism, all over the country, explains Michael Alessandri, clinical professor of Psychology, in the College of Arts and Sciences, executive director of UM/Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, (UM-NSU CARD), director of the Division of Community Outreach and Development at UM and principal investigator for the UM component of the project.


“This is an important first step. We hope that the utilization of these kinds of fidelity tools will enable schools to more closely monitor the degree to which intervention methods are being delivered, relative to what the model intends,” he said. “If these useful methods are adopted, parents will have a way to assess the quality of their child’s treatment.”

The scientists looked at two comprehensive programs for autistic children in preschool: the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Learning Experiences and Alternative Programs for Preschoolers and Their Parents (LEAP). The two models were chosen because they are well established and widely used in public school systems in the U.S.

The study took place in 34 classrooms, during four months of the school year. A maximum of four observations were made in each class. The findings may help explain differences in children’s responses to different intervention treatments, explains Anibal Gutierrez, assistant scientist of UM-NSU CARD and co-author of the study.

“If we can ensure that the different programs are all good programs, implemented at a high level of fidelity, then we may be able to attribute differences in outcomes to individual child differences,” said Gutierrez. “We could explain why children with a particular profile may benefit from one program over another.”

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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 17, 2011

Emerging research suggests childhood physical abuse increases the chance of dysfunctional physical disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and chemical sensitivities among women.

“Women who reported they had been physically abused as children have twice the odds of chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivities, and 65 percent higher odds of fibromyalgia,” said lead investigator Esme Fuller-Thomson, Ph.D.

“These findings persisted even after controlling for potentially confounding factors such as other adverse childhood experiences, age, race, mental health and adult socioeconomic status.”

The research by Fuller-Thompson and colleagues from the University of Toronto will be published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma.

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