March 18, 2008 2:55 pm Published by Kristen DuMoulin, Ph.D.
Wednesday 2nd April has been designated World Autism Awareness Day by the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The April 2 events will take place on three continents and in venues ranging from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to local bookstores and the worldwide web, and are expected to generate significant national and international media coverage.
World Autism Day hopes to break the “barrier of shame” of people suffering from autism and raise international awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of the brain disorder, which was estimated to affect 35 million people worldwide.
QSAC will be participating in A Day to Believe: Autism Awareness Day at Shea to also help raise awareness of autism.
March 10, 2008 12:46 am Published by Francisco Monegro, Ph.D., M.D.
A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to observe the operations of the Princeton Child Developmental Institute (PCDI). It was in this institute that the communication system so-called “Teaching Conversation to Children with Autism” and the “Activity Schedules for Children with Autism” were developed. During the tour through the facility we were attentive to understand how they were addressing some challenging behaviors with the low functioning autistic individuals [e.g. physical aggression, property destruction and self-injurious behaviors]. We learned that they reduced these types of behaviors by combining the Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and activity schedules with physical activities.
When I review the literature, I found an extensive and significant body of research documents about autism and physical activities. Physical activities in conjunction with Applied Behavioral Analysis or other modalities such as TEACCH plays an important role in the healthy lifestyle of autistic individuals as well as in developing communication abilities, social skills, and reducing maladaptive behaviors (Muller, et. al. 2008; Tood & Reid 2006; Schultheis, et. al. 2000).
According to the National Research Council (2001), motor functioning of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been a neglected area despite the fact that participation in physical activity has been shown to have multiple benefits, including reduction of stereotypic behavior (Todd and Reid, 2006).
Several studies have documented an association between clumsiness, gross and fine motor apraxia, with autism (Ghaziuddin 1998; Minshew & Golstein, 1997). In addition, a few studies reported abnormal postural balance in individuals with autism. Minshwe in 2004 found that autistic subjects had reduced postural stability. Data from several motor system studies suggests that more general involvement of neural circuitry beyond the neural systems for social behavior, communication, and reasoning, will promote better sensory integration. Increased physical activities may improve proprioception and maintain balance, posture, and the body’s orientation in space controlled by the vestibular system. In addition, it may also reduce aggression, self-injurious behaviors and / or repetitive behaviors for some individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Celiberti, et.al.1997; Rosenthal-Malek & Mitchell, 1997).
Tood & Reid 2006 demonstrated that an instructional strategy that included self-monitoring, verbal cuing and edible reinforcers was associated with increased sustained participation in a physical exercises program. In addition, by engaging individual with autism in physical activities we can improve their cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular exercises not only improve autistic’s heart, lungs, and circulatory system, but are likely to decrease inappropriate behaviors and promote appropriate behaviors (Watters & Watters, 1980; Kern, Koegel & Dunlap, 1984).
At Qsac Day Habilitation and Residential Programs we emphasize the important role of the motor system and physical activity in promoting a healthy lifestyle, contributing to improve abnormalities in neural connectivity [neuroplasticity] and reducing challenging behaviors in autistic individuals.