Mercer County Commission approves funding for Project Lifesaver — WVNS

PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — Mercer County Commissioners approved funding for Project Lifesaver during a special meeting on Tuesday, January 28, 2020. Commissioners are giving $5,000 to the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department to begin Project Lifesaver. It is a program that helps law enforcement search for wandering or lost individuals with cognitive conditions, such as autism […]

Mercer County Commission approves funding for Project Lifesaver — WVNS

Repetitive behavior in toddlers may signal autism

Children who show several repetitive behaviors — such as flapping their hands or spinning their toys — at their first birthday have nearly four times the risk of autism of children who don’t show repetitive behaviors. That’s the conclusion from a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology1.

The report bolsters earlier findings that repetitive behaviors may be among the earliest-emerging signs of autism2. The researchers also showed that a simple parent survey taken at home is enough to flag the behaviors.

The study looked at younger siblings of children with autism — so-called baby sibs — who are at 20-fold higher risk of autism than children in the general population.

Intriguingly, the study found that all baby sibs, regardless of later autism diagnosis, show more repetitive behaviors than the low-risk controls do. And children who show many repetitive behaviors, whether they are high or low risk, are 3.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism later on.

Wiggling arms and babbled syllables are mainstays of a baby’s behavioral repertoire, as are a toddler’s love of routine or endlessly replayed cartoons. Children’s fondness for this kind of repetition can resemble the restricted, repetitive behaviors seen in people with autism, which are among the core features of the disorder.

The similarity has made it difficult for researchers to distinguish symptoms of autism from typical milestones of development, and to track when and how repetitive behaviors arise. The results of this study may begin to untangle the timeline.

The repetitive behaviors seen in the new study are present at 12 months of age. “[That] means they are certainly present in the first year of life,” says lead investigator Joseph Piven, professor of psychiatry, pediatrics and psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We’re beginning to understand the timing of the unfolding of these behaviors early on.”

Repetition rating:

The search for early social deficits has garnered substantial attention from researchers, but ritualistic, repetitive behaviors have largely been neglected. That’s unfortunate because repetitive behaviors are often easier for a parent to notice than the absence of a social behavior such as crying to be held.

The researchers analyzed repetitive behaviors in 190 baby sibs and 60 controls at 12 and 24 months of age. The high-risk children in this study came from four centers that are part of the Infant Brain Imaging Study.

“It’s one of the largest samples to look at this age group,” says Jason Wolff, research associate at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

The researchers used a parent questionnaire called the Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised (RBS-R), designed to assess autism traits in toddlers and preschool-age children.

The 43 questions capture six categories of behaviors, ranging from simple motor behaviors such as flicking objects with the fingers to more complicated ones — insisting the handle of a mug must be turned at an exact angle at mealtime, for example.

Even with this relatively brief questionnaire, parents identified those children who went on to be diagnosed with autism as having more repetitive behaviors at 12 months of age than the other children.

When the children were 2 years old, the researchers also assessed them for autism traits using the checklist in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and two other tests. At that time they classified 41 of the high-risk children as having autism, recognizing that more of this group may be diagnosed as they mature.

On average, the children diagnosed with autism, whether baby sibs or controls, had about six repetitive behaviors across many categories compared with one or two behaviors in the children who are not diagnosed with the disorder.

“For the children with autism it looks like it’s a little bit more global, where many different parts of their day may be fixed, and ‘inflexible’ takes on a new meaning,” says Wolff.

The same behaviors take on a slightly different aspect in children with autism, something other researchers say they have also noticed.

”The behavior [in typical children] is embedded in more social behavior, such as a child who spins and laughs and looks to his mom, versus a child with autism who spins all by himself,” says Catherine Lord, professor of psychology in psychiatry and pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College, who was not involved in the research.

The results also support previous findings from Lord’s team of an association between repetitive behaviors and autism traits in children up to 4.5 years of age3. To see similar results in 12-month-old children, she says, “is good news and more confirmation of the validity of the RBS-R.”

The study highlights an early behavioral feature of autism and points to new avenues of inquiry. “The next question to explore is why some children with early repetitive behaviors go on to develop autism and others don’t,” says Wendy Stone, professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the work.

Still, it’s too early call the behavior a biomarker for the disorder, Stone says.

“We can’t say from this study whether repetitive behaviors can be used effectively to screen for autism in young children,” she says. “Identifying behavioral differences between groups of children is very different from identifying predictors of autism.”

References:

1: Wolff J.J. et al. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry Epub ahead of print (2014) PubMed

2: Damiano C.R. et al. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 43, 1326-1335 (2012) PubMed

3: Kim S.H. and C. Lord Autism Res. 3, 162-173 (2010) PubMed

Originally published on Spectrum

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Diagnostic manual may need to separate repetitive behaviors

A detailed analysis of the behavior of 6,500 children suggests that five types of autism-related behaviors lumped together in current diagnostic guidelines should each be considered separately, researchers reported today at the 2016 International Meeting for Autism Research in Baltimore.

Children with autism must show difficulties with social communication and at least two of four types of repetitive and restricted behavior, according to the latest edition of the autism diagnostic manual, the DSM-5. These behaviors — repetitive movements, insistence on sameness, restricted interests and sensory sensitivities — emerge early in toddlerhood and are among the strongest predictors of autism.

A fifth behavior, sensory interests, refers to an unusual fascination with lights or ceiling fans. This behavior is currently tucked into the category of sensory sensitivities, but the new findings suggest it deserves a category of its own.

“The DSM-5 lumps together sensory sensitivities and sensory interests, and I think those are two separate things,” says lead researcher Thomas Frazier, director of research at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Autism in Ohio, who presented the findings. “We need to revise our measures to become better at capturing the full range of these symptoms.”

To back up his theory, Frazier and his colleagues analyzed parent-reported autism behaviors in two large databases. They compiled scores on the Social Responsiveness Scale and Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised from the Simons Simplex Collection, which includes 2,600 children with autism as well as their unaffected parents and siblings. (This research project is funded by the Simons Foundation, Spectrum’s parent organization.)

They also gathered information from the Social Responsiveness Scale and Social Communication Questionnaire for 3,907 children enrolled in the Interactive Autism Network, an online database of children with autism and their siblings.

Each item on the questionnaires corresponds to one of the five behavior types. The researchers sorted the scores and then ran a statistical analysis to parse the overlaps among the five types. They analyzed the data from the SSC and IAN separately to see how the two populations compare.

Complex web:

The analysis unveiled a network of interactions between the behaviors, suggesting that they work together to produce the restricted and repetitive behaviors seen in people with autism. However, none of the five behaviors clusters with any of the others, suggesting that they are too different to be combined as the DSM-5 combines them.

“We should treat them as five separate things instead of four or two,” Frazier says. “Future diagnostic criteria should separate sensory sensitivities and sensory interests, then see if that makes us more accurate at identifying people with autism.”

The researchers plan to repeat the analysis in other large datasets to see if their findings hold true.

“I’ve seen patients that have restricted interests and sensory sensitivities but have a borderline need for sameness,” Frazier says. “So if those are really separate and we can identify them more clearly, we might be able to come up with algorithms to more accurately diagnose people with autism.”

These algorithms could also be integrated into mobile apps to guide remote diagnosis. Or, Frazier says, they could help inform the next edition of the diagnostic manual.

“It could mean that when we revise our diagnostic measures, we do it more clearly according to the actual structure of autism, as opposed to what people thought that structure was 20 years ago,” says Frazier.

For more reports from the 2016 International Meeting for Autism Research, please click here.

Originally published on Spectrum

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Stimming, therapeutic for autistic people, deserves acceptance

Rhythmic, repetitive behaviors are a hallmark of autism. Hand-flapping, spinning in circles, body rocking, vocalizations such as grunting and muttering, and other habits can be disquieting to people unfamiliar with them. Scientists and clinicians have long puzzled over what these behaviors mean — and how to respond to them.

For many years, experts thought repetitive movements resulted from deprivation or even trauma, and that they hindered learning. Psychologist Ole Ivar Lovaas, an early autism specialist, reportedly referred to them as “garbage behavior.”1 He made suppressing these habits a priority. Lovaas and his followers electrically shocked, screamed at, shook and slapped autistic children2. Others prescribed antipsychotics and other stupefying drugs. Even in today’s sometimes gentler treatment paradigms, therapists often train children to have ‘quiet hands’ as opposed to freely flapping ones3.

But growing evidence suggests that repetitive behaviors have been misunderstood — and that they may in fact be incredibly useful. My colleagues and I have found that the behaviors give autistic people a sense of control, helping them cope with overwhelming external stimuli, and a way to calm and communicate their moods. On the other hand, many autistic people say that engaging in repetitive behaviors makes them feel like social outcasts.

Autistic adults have defended their right to these behaviors. Reclaiming the technical term ‘self-stimulatory behaviors’ as ‘stimming,’ they have self-published blogs, vlogs (video logs) and books that reveal how it helps them cope4. Society needs to take their lead and accept these behaviors by understanding their benefits.

Uncontainable emotion:

Theoretical debates swirl about why autistic people stim, with many experts believing the behaviors are purposeless. In a study published earlier this year, my colleagues and I interviewed 31 autistic adults about their stimming behaviors5. Ours was the first peer-reviewed article I’m aware of to gather in-depth data about stimming directly from autistic people.

One of our most noteworthy findings is that although many participants said their stims are automatic and uncontrollable, none consistently dislike them. Most people described the behaviors as calming, and no one contradicted this account for stims that do not cause injury.

Another key finding is that stims are a response to either sensory overload (such as a noisy room) or overpowering thoughts (such as anxiety about work). Whether the source is the outside world or a person’s mind, the result is a state we called ‘uncontainable emotion.’ Autistic people can be overwhelmed by sensations, new information and their own thoughts. Study participants told us that stimming soothes these intense feelings, helping them regain a sense of control.

“It sort of metronomes everything in your body to sort of go at that speed,” a male participant said, “so it just sort of helps quell everything.”

Stimming also sometimes serves as a way for people to communicate their moods. Participants said they sometimes stim out of joy or excitement and other times out of anxiety or boredom, but that the emotion colors the behavior. For example, hand-flapping that reflects a positive emotional state often involves holding the arms out and making a waving motion, whereas in hand-flapping due to distress, autistic people tend to keep their hands and arms near the torso.

Participants reported that some insightful family members and close friends knew how to “read” their emotions by observing the nuances of their stim behaviors. It is evident that such understanding holds the key to social acceptance of stimming.

Breaking the rules:

Finally, most participants described encountering social judgment and rejection because of their stimming. Many regularly felt like social outcasts and thought they were perceived as weird or immature.

In response to rejection, participants concealed their stims (for instance, under a desk), transmuted them (for example, replacing hand-flapping with activities such as tennis and chess that engage the hands and arms) and suppressed them (stimming only when alone or around accepting people).

One of our study participants recalled that as a child she loved to spin and swing but later realized that these behaviors are unacceptable. “It actually still feels glorious if there’s nobody around and I can skip, or I can spin, and it’s like I’m breaking the rules,” she says.

Suppressing stims is far from beneficial, our study showed. The effort takes a lot of energy and makes people feel, in the words of another female participant, “more on edge.” Educators have often considered stims a distraction, but many autistic people say the opposite is true. Stims are the equivalent of doodling, they say, freeing the mind to concentrate on other things.

Nevertheless, therapeutic attempts to eliminate stimming remain common. The approach is misguided because it strips people of a key means of coping. One caveat: Some forms of stimming, such as head-banging, are harmful and do warrant sensitive, consensual treatment. No participant wanted to engage in self-injurious stims, which were involuntary.

Loud hands:

I hope that greater awareness of autistic people’s experiences with stimming makes repetitive behaviors such as finger-flicking or squealing more accepted — not just in classrooms but in supermarkets, movie theaters and all public places.

The neurodiversity movement, which celebrates autism both as a way of being and a disability to accept and support, has embraced stimming. “Loud hands” is the defiant rallying cry4. Stimming resources include Stimtastic, which sells stim toys and chewable jewelry, and Stim Your Heart Out, a dance project that encourages stimming in mainstream society.

The way to help autistic people is not to discourage stimming but to address certain reasons they stim: sensory overload or distress. Our participants mentioned several environmental modifications, including earplugs and rimmed hats to reduce sensory input, settings that meet autistic people’s needs or schedules that include breaks. Anecdotal evidence suggests that when stimming is not enough to relieve stress, autistic people might welcome calming medications or training in emotional self-regulation.

Preliminary research I’ve done suggests that there are commonalities between stimming and the ‘fidgeting’ that neurotypical people do. The bottom line may be that everyone stims, in one form or another. Recognizing that fact might aid acceptance.

Steven Kapp is research fellow in autism and neurodiversity at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

References:
  1. Silberman S. (2015) Neurotribes: The legacy of autism and the future of neurodiversity. New York, NY: Penguin
  2. Grant A. (1965) Screams, slaps, and love. Life (pp. 87–97) Full text
  3. Richter Z.A. (2017) Melting down the family unit: A neuroqueer critique of table-readiness. In M. Rembis (Ed.), Disabling domesticity (pp. 335-348) New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan
  4. Bascom J. (2012) Loud hands: Autistic people, speaking. Washington, D.C.: Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  5. Kapp S.K. et al. Autism Epub ahead of print (2019) PubMed

Originally published on Spectrum

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Rethinking repetitive behaviors in autism

As Raya Shields goes about her day, she sometimes rocks back and forth, flutters her hands and presses down on her eyelids with her fingers to create a kaleidoscope of visual patterns.

Shields has ‘stimmed’ like this for as long as she can remember. She can be seen fidgeting with a piece of fabric in some of her baby photos. In other pictures, she is folding herself into a human pretzel of arms and legs. Now 28, Shields cannot imagine going even an hour without stimming. In loud, busy environments, such as on the subway train she takes to get to work, she calms herself by rocking or folding herself up. And when she visits a favorite place, such as her neighborhood laundromat, she jumps up and down with excitement, flapping her hands.

“[Stimming] helps me feel grounded when I’m anxious or overwhelmed, but it’s also a way that I express my joy, fascination or excitement,” she says. Shields is autistic, and she also has Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Others haven’t always looked kindly on her stims, or repetitive behaviors. Her teachers told her to suppress her stims, calling them inappropriate and disruptive — and so she tried to stifle them. To stop herself from snapping her fingers in high school, she sometimes crossed her fingers so tightly that they hurt. But that made it almost impossible to write, and her schoolwork suffered.

As an adult, Shields started to encounter autistic people who saw stimming as a positive part of their identity. Over time, she grew to embrace her own stims. Last year, in fact, Shields helped launch the first International Day of the Stim to provide an outlet for autistic people to celebrate their stims. Throughout the day, they shared their stimming experiences on social media or in coffee shops all across Canada. The event had a grassroots feel, says Anne Borden, co-founder of Autistics for Autistics (A4A), a self-advocacy organization that helped coordinate the event. “It was really an example of autistic people reclaiming something that, through negative and abusive therapies, had been taken away,” she says.

For many people like Borden and Shields, a shift in the perception of repetitive behaviors is long overdue. Restricted and repetitive behaviors are a central feature of autism and include not only repetitive movements such as hand-flapping, but also an intense interest in particular topics — such as train schedules or maps — and difficulty altering routines. Most scientists historically viewed them as something to eliminate or at least minimize — especially if it appeared to hinder a child’s daily life.

But studies suggest that some of the behaviors, such as body-rocking and arm-waving, help guide typical development. And many non-autistic children also engage in stims such as fidgeting or fiddling with objects. What’s more, a growing body of evidence from the past decade reinforces the notion that repetitive behaviors can help autistic people relieve sensory overload, cope with anxiety and express emotion.

As such, scientists have begun to realize that taking the behaviors away might do autistic people more harm than good. “There’s been a changing in thought about repetitive behaviors,” says Benjamin Yerys, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

Research on the roots of repetitive behaviors is also beginning to suggest that people may stim just for pleasure: Some repetitive behaviors activate the brain’s reward circuitry. “There’s been a lot of autistic researchers that have really been quite vocal about this, and I think we are listening to that as a field,” says Clare Harrop, assistant professor of allied health sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As experts increasingly accept the positive sides of stimming, they are tailoring treatment plans for autism to consider the purposes these behaviors so often serve.

Typical ties:

The idea of eliminating repetitive behaviors sprang from some of the first accounts of autism. In the 1940s, Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger both described the behaviors as a way for autistic people to shut out the external world. This negative view gained momentum from later studies that suggested the behaviors can compromise socialization, interfere with learning and impair cognitive abilities. As a result, some autism therapies, including the widely used applied behavior analysis, initially focused on eradicating repetitive behaviors, even by way of physical restraint, slapping or electric shocks.

The therapy no longer uses such extreme deterrents; therapists now encourage children to adopt alternative behaviors in place of challenging ones — clasping hands together, for example, to curb hand-flapping. But many autistic people still protest against this approach. Any attempt to alter stimming, Shields says, is a form of violence against autistic people because it denies them control over their own bodies. “Everyone should be really worried about any kind of therapy that has that as a goal or an aim,” she says.

There is ample evidence, in fact, that some stims are not all that unusual. Repetitive movements, such as arm-waving and rhythmic kicking, serve important functions during typical development. Early repetitive movements help infants explore how their bodies move as they transition to goal-directed motions such as reaching and crawling. In autistic children, the latter behaviors may not fully overtake the repetitive ones, says Jason Wolff, associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “That developmental process that we see in all children just might be interrupted in some way in kids with autism,” he says.

A different developmental trajectory in autism may reflect altered sensory processing: If sensory feedback from the environment is not properly integrated with motor signals, autistic infants may not be able to refine their early repetitive movements into more complex, goal-directed ones.

As they get older, autistic and typical children both continue to engage in repetitive behaviors, such as fiddling with objects as they play, according to a 2014 study. Children with autism just display more of these behaviors, as well as a greater variety, compared with typical children. It may also be harder to redirect autistic children from the behaviors, says Harrop, who led the analysis.

The developmental patterns of repetitive behaviors may also vary by type. Wolff and his colleagues tracked repetitive behaviors in 202 younger siblings of autistic children, who have high odds of being diagnosed with the condition, and 53 typical children. Among the baby sibs who were later diagnosed with autism, repetitive motor behaviors — such as hand-flapping and rocking — increased steadily throughout toddlerhood, whereas they decreased in everyone else. But other repetitive quirks, such as wanting to keep to routines, increased in all of the children, although the increase was most pronounced in the autistic children. The team is continuing to track repetitive behaviors in all of the children as they reach school age.

It will be important for researchers to compare repetitive behaviors in autistic people with those in children who have other conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia, Wolff says: “A really interesting place for our field to go is to understand the similarities and differences in these patterns of behaviors across all types of conditions, including typical development.”

“Stimming helps me feel grounded when I’m anxious or overwhelmed, but it’s also a way that I express my joy.” Raya Shields

Finding meaning:

Repetitive behaviors serve important functions not only during development. They appear to help autistic people in a number of ways.

Many people with autism stim as a way to calm themselves and cope with overwhelming thoughts or sensations. Some stims may serve as a mode of communication, says autistic researcher Steven Kapp, who gathered the perspectives of 31 autistic adults earlier this year. Skin-picking, for example, speaks to stress; open and outward hand flaps can signal positive emotions, whereas flaps closer to the body can reflect negative feelings. Stims, in other words, are an outlet for “uncontainable emotion,” says Kapp, lecturer in psychology at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. “Obviously we don’t need a treatment for happiness.”

Kapp’s findings echo what many autistic people have said for years. Results from other studies, too, are increasingly aligning with these ideas. Brain-imaging work, for example, is confirming that some repetitive behaviors are pleasurable. When autistic adults look at pictures of things people on the spectrum are often interested in, such as vehicles and technology, they show increased activation in a brain region associated with reward. This same region, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, responds less to monetary rewards in autistic participants than in controls, hinting at a difference in what autistic people find rewarding.

There are also differences between autistic and typical children in the caudate nucleus, another brain region involved in generating a sense of reward, according to new work from Yerys and his colleagues. Compared with typical children, those with autism show less activation in this structure in response to video clips of social gestures or facial expressions of approval, and more in response to personalized video clips of their special interests. The higher the activation in response to a special interest, the greater the child’s social impairment.

The findings expand upon the social motivation hypothesis, or the idea that autistic people find social interaction less rewarding than special interests. This change in priorities could be at the root of some repetitive behaviors, Yerys says. “I am a personal believer that the more research we would do on it, I think we would find that there is a lot of positive valence and emotion associated with repetitive behaviors.”

Repetitive movements may also help autistic people adjust the degree of stimulation they experience. That idea has been around for decades, says Matthew Goodwin, associate professor of health sciences and computer science at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. But researchers have been able to test it only in the past several years, thanks to new wearable technology that can track heart rate and other physiological signals in minute detail.

In March, Goodwin and his team asked 10 autistic children and young adults to don vests embedded with heart-rate sensors. Video cameras recorded the participants’ body-rocking and hand-flapping throughout the day. Both behaviors, the researchers found, tracked with a distinctive cardiovascular pattern recorded by the sensors: About four seconds before the participants rocked or flapped, their heart rates tended to quicken. The heart rates peaked once the movements started, and then slowed back down again.

The spike in heart rate before the stims is surprising, Goodwin says — as is the fact that this pattern holds across different types of movements and different people. By way of an explanation, he says that hand-flapping and body-rocking might help autistic individuals manage input from their environment, and some people may even do it intentionally. “Our results would suggest that you can’t rule this function out,” he says. Goodwin’s lab has also found subtle variations in how people perform repetitive behaviors, hinting at the idea that different people use these behaviors in distinct ways.

Goodwin says his findings highlight the dangers of assuming repetitive motor behaviors are purposeless. “Maybe [autistic people] are doing it for a reason, and we should figure out that reason before we decide to take it away from their repertoire.”

“Maybe autistic people are doing it for a reason, and we should figure out that reason.” Matthew Goodwin

Drawing the line:

With the growing awareness that repetitive behaviors can have benefits, clinicians are beginning to take a new approach to autism treatments. Instead of stamping these behaviors out or redirecting them, they are trying to learn what drives the behaviors in each person and whether some are better left alone. “We’ve come to understand that individualization and honoring the individual matters, so that we’re a little more careful about what we target and the rationale for doing so,” Wolff says.

Many experts now aim to intervene only when necessary. For example, Yerys says he would not want to eliminate behaviors that soothe overstimulation or spark happiness. But “at the same time,” he says, “I want to balance that as a clinician with seeing whether any behavior gets in the way of having a higher quality of life.”

Finding that balance is not always easy. Caregivers sometimes ask clinicians to focus on treating these behaviors if they find them extremely stressful — for instance when a child repeatedly bangs his head against a wall or bites, or if the behaviors restrict family life. “On both sides there needs to be education and discussion so we can come to a common understanding of what are the positives and the benefits [of repetitive behavior] and then also where it can get in the way,” Yerys says. Clinicians also feel compelled to intervene when repetitive behaviors amount to self-harm, he says.

Scientists are still figuring out exactly when and how to intervene in these instances. Shields says she redirects her own biting stims with ‘chewlery,’ specially designed pendants and bracelets that she can bite when she feels agitated, instead of her own arm. But there are no drugs or behavioral interventions that effectively stem all repetitive behaviors. “In general, we don’t know enough about why these behaviors are occurring, which makes treatment more difficult,” says Brian Boyd, associate professor of applied behavioral science at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

Some experts say the best approach is to treat the factors that may underlie repetitive behaviors, such as a general discomfort with change. Boyd’s team, for example, has developed a method that guides parents to encourage play and flexible behaviors over repetitive ones in their autistic children. The approach showed promise for decreasing a range of repetitive behaviors in one small study of preschoolers. Another therapy, dubbed ‘Unstuck and On Target,’ aims to ease rigidity in autistic children, teaching them the value of being flexible and solving problems.

Keeping a check on sensory overload, simply by wearing sunglasses or a brimmed hat, for example, can also alleviate the need to stim in some cases. And the same holds true for designated, stim-friendly spaces in classrooms and other potentially overstimulating environments, such as airports and stadiums.

Finding the best ways to intervene — and learning when not to — can only be achieved with greater input from the autistic community, including from those who are minimally verbal, Shields says. When she sometimes tries to curb her stims in public to avoid harassment or staring, she finds it exhausting. “It’s important [for researchers] to recognize that it’s the way autistic people move through our world and engage with it,” she says. “It’s part of the way we learn and process information, and it’s a way we express our feelings and communicate.”

Originally published on Spectrum

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Deputies participate in ‘Project Lifesaver’ training — WMBB – mypanhandle.com

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Deputies with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is spending their weekend in training. They are going through a course entitled, ‘Project Lifesaver’ that is aimed to better prepare those in uniform to interact with individuals with mental health issues or special needs. This includes Alzheimer’s, Autism, Down Syndrome and other […]

Deputies participate in ‘Project Lifesaver’ training — WMBB – mypanhandle.com