March 16, 2015 3:00 pm Published by Francisco Monegro, Ph.D., M.D.
At workshops with parents of individuals with autism, a question frequently asked is, “what caused autism?” Unfortunately, autism spectrum disorder is a very complex neurodevelopmental disorder with multifactorial inter-individual’s components. Scientists have identified different biomarkers associated with autism spectrum disorder such as levels of serotonin, oxytocin, melatonin, immune cytokines, genetic/genomic and epigenetic markers, lymphocyte subtypes, multiple neuropsychological and brain imaging parameters (Armand, et al. 2015; Ruggeri, 2013).
Armand and colleagues (2015) conducted a pilot study where they analyzed the salivary proteome (proteins produced by an organism) in individuals with autism spectrum disorder compared to a neurotypical control group. This pilot study found statistically significant differences in several salivary proteins in individuals with autism spectrum disorder which might be involved in immunological responses and inflammatory conditions. The proteins elevated in the sample group with autism are consistent with current theories of autism etiology. For instance, Lactoferrin [LTF], which might be implicated in the immune responses of the digestive system; Prolactin inducible protein, which is considered a biomarker for breast and prostate cancer and may also have immune system regulatory function, and Ig gamma-1 chain C region and Ig Kappa chain C region, which play a role in immunological and inflammatory conditions. Therefore, this pilot study supports the notion that elevated levels of inflammatory biomarkers are present in males with autism spectrum disorder. Obviously, more extensive studies are required to validate these findings.
March 9, 2015 3:00 pm Published by Kristen DuMoulin, Ph.D.
A new study finds that even experts can’t reliably detect autism by merely observing a child during a 10- to 20-minute well-child checkup. The finding underscores the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that all toddlers receive formal screening for autism at 18 and 24 months.
In the study, at Brigham Young University, autism experts viewed two 10-minute videos for each of 42 children, ages 15 to 33 months, receiving checkups. Unknown to the experts, 14 of the children had been diagnosed with autism. The experts viewing the videos missed just over a third of the autism cases.
March 2, 2015 3:00 pm Published by Sara Giangiobbe, MAT
Throughout the course of our lives, each of us has been presented with having to make decisions about the path we wanted to take. Whether it is furthering our education, choosing a career path, or even starting a family, we ultimately have the power to make our own decisions that will impact our future. Although we may ask others for help and guidance, we are undoubtedly a part of this process.
For those individuals with developmental disabilities, this is unfortunately not always the case. Due to a variety of cognitive, communication, and social deficits, it isn’t always easy for these individuals to make their wants and needs known to others. Instead of being a vital part of their life planning process, many times these decisions are left in the hands of others. As a sibling of an individual with autism, I have experienced this first-hand. Helping to make decisions for my brother, in terms of what programs he should participate in, and what goals he should work on, is a natural part of caring for someone with a disability. The same can be said for professionals in the field. We look to make up for the deficits of those we support by doing our best to help make the choices for them that will ultimately be in their best interest.
However, there is a way to combine the genuine, caring nature behind wanting to help make these decisions for these individuals, while also making sure their voices can be heard. The concept of person centered planning is not a new one, but it is one that is now being implemented more often, and is becoming more encouraged and supported by OPWDD.
Traditional planning involves looking at existing services and supports, and trying to select what fits best for each person’s specific needs. This system does not take a close look at the person’s natural and community supports, or look at the bigger picture of what they want out of their own lives. With person centered planning, the individual is the “star of the show” so to speak, and they are given a platform in which they can discuss what their hopes and dreams are. From there, their “circle of support” works on utilizing a variety of resources (including non-traditional ones) in order to best help them achieve these goals.
Certainly, this is not always easy, especially if the individual does not use verbal language to communicate. That being said, we are now being given access to a number of resources to help even those individuals be a part of person centered planning.
It also is not always easy to help someone work towards a dream that may not necessarily be easy to obtain. What is important, however, is that we give our individuals the same opportunities in life that we are given. Each of us has the power to pursue their dreams to the fullest extent possible. We may not always get there, but we are given the chance to try. It is important that even those with developmental disabilities are given the chance to try, and they may discover new talents and abilities as a result.
Person centered planning continues to evolve and grow, and is now reaching more people than ever. It allows those with developmental disabilities to have more control over how their life path will go, and it also allows for those people who are close to them to help them truly lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.