Don’t Let Diminished Coverage Of Coronavirus Fool You

The mainstream news outlets have mostly transitioned from daily coverage of coronavirus to the recent string of BLM protests and sporadic riots, but don’t let it fool you: coronavirus cases are actually on the rise worldwide, with more announced each day than the day before. Even though cases are leveling off in certain areas of the United States, the danger still exists. And that means we must remain vigilant in protecting our kids and elderly loved ones.

There has been a great deal of misinformation circulating among certain groups, mostly leaning conservative. The biggest on the list is that this pandemic isn’t as bad as past pandemics for which we did much less. While that is not the case, failing to take precautions for an illness decades ago doesn’t mean that making the same failures today makes sense. We needed to react to the novel coronavirus, and so we did.

Another piece of misinformation involves the wearing of masks, which can reduce a sick person’s chance to spread the infection by preventing the spread of droplets when a person sneezes. 

No one is restricting your right to live as a free American citizen — but they are restricting your ability to put other people in harm’s way when there is no reason to do so. Do you wear a seatbelt? Do you drink while you drive? Exactly. The government’s sole function is to protect American citizens from threats both foreign and domestic. Don’t be a domestic threat. Do what you’re told — and act like an adult so our children can remain safe.

Although local and state governments are pushing us along the path to reopening businesses around the country, please be smart and safe when deciding whether or not to rejoin the fray. The virus is not gone. Our common sense should not be so quickly pushed out the door while the virus is still a threat.

How To Handle Young Kids With SPD During Quarantine

All right, we’re not quite there yet. No national shutdown has been announced. In fact, local governments around the United States have spoken against such action — which shows a somewhat ignorant and indifferent view of how bad the coronavirus covid-19 outbreak could become. But parents are still worried — and rightly so — about the possibility of being cooped up at home with young kids who suffer from sensory processing disorder as the reality of a national quarantine becomes ever more likely.

The biggest issue that kids with SPD must deal with is hypersensitivity to a number of senses, including tactile sensation or sound. That means the biggest thing you need to keep in mind as a parent is what’s going on around the house.

With all the kids at home at once, there can be a greatly increased level of anxiety. But the reverse can occur as well. There can be a lot of excitement, feelings of aggression, depression, and a desire for exercise. These feelings can be even more exacerbated once the family dog realizes that you’re not going to work and they’re not going to school. He’s going to love the extra attention. 

But for your sake and for that of your kids’, it might be necessary to implement a divide and conquer tactic while you’re stuck inside.

What does that mean? First, keep your older kids separated from the younger ones. Keep them locked away playing video games in the basement while you spend time with anyone suffering from a behavioral or developmental disorder like ADHD or the autism spectrum. You can make sure there are no loud noises or unwanted contact in the room. If Fluffy the family dog makes your child feel better, then by all means — invite him into the room.

Limit television, smartphone, and computer use. Encourage learning exercises like reading. If teachers have provided homework while school is canceled, be careful to ration how much your child does at any one time. Your goal is to keep them from feeling overwhelmed while providing the same nurturing environment in which they excel. 

When reading and homework aren’t options, try board games. Spend a chunk of time cleaning to divert any energy your child may have building up inside. Try listening to music. When all else fails, then it’s time for a little TV — but try not to overdo it, and be sure to turn it off well before bedtime.

Is Netflix Production “Atypical” A Realistic Portrayal Of Autism?

It’s easy to acknowledge that television in general is more accepting of individual differences than society at large, but it seems that most viewers are starting to wake up to the fact that celebrating differences isn’t so bad. We’re all different. Some of us just can’t hide it as well as others. Such is the case for many of those who are on the autism spectrum. Netflix’s TV show Atypical has allowed viewers to stream three seasons, and is expected to produce a fourth.

Talented 27-year-old actor Keir Gilchrist plays Sam, a high school student who is noteworthy for two big reasons: he’s obsessed with penguins and he’s autistic.

But how does Gilchrist’s portrayal of Sam stack up to what those on the spectrum actually go through? Gilchrist long ago admitted that he was friends with one or two people who are on the spectrum. Still, outsiders have pointed out that while his portrayal and the show’s writing seem to indicate that they know people on the spectrum, people on the spectrum obviously weren’t intimately involved in the show’s production. 

Mighty contributor Adriana White wrote: “It now seems obvious to me that the show was envisioned and created by someone who knows someone with autism, perhaps very well, but it is definitely not the same show we would be getting with an autistic person, or several autistic people, working behind the scenes. This is why I hope Netflix takes the autistic community’s concerns to heart, and makes a concerted effort to hire autistic writers, and more autistic actors.”

Advocate Kerry Magro shared these sentiments, but believes that the show has grown over the years. Reviewing the third season, Magro wrote: “I love how I could relate in several ways to Sam’s character. Growing up with autism, I also started in college at 19 and it was a dream come true. After years during my adolescence of being told by experts that I would be lucky to graduate from high school one day, I truly saw getting into college as a milestone that I could do anything I wanted in this world.”

When asked how the character of Sam is relatable, Gilchrist opened up about how he gets into the character’s head. “I don’t know that it’s as difficult as people think it is. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the autism spectrum. I’ve even been amazed when I started playing the part that people really had no idea what autism even was. Even if they’ve met people on the spectrum, they don’t understand how it works at all. But it’s very relatable.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder And ADHD Share Genetic Similarities

Those who grow up with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD often have overlapping symptoms — turns out, that’s no coincidence. The two behavioral disorders result from the same mutations to identical genes. They have more in common than scientists once thought. The study was recently published in Nature Neuroscience and sheds light on common misconceptions surrounding the two disorders.

The paper reads, “The study shows that many more genes for ADHD and autism can be identified directly by studying more people in a similar way with extensive DNA sequencing, thereby providing a more complete picture of the biological causal mechanisms and possible approaches to medical treatment. 

Researchers from Aarhus University, Copenhagen University, and the Lundbeck Foundation shared their results to discover genetic similarities found in the exome sequences of around 8,000 kids who were already diagnosed with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder. An additional control group of 5,000 kids without either behavioral disorder was used to reinforce the results.

Lead Researcher Anders Borglum said, “In the study, the gene that is most frequently affected by mutations in people with ADHD or autism is the so-called MAP1A gene. The gene is involved in the formation of the physical structure of nerve cells — their inner ‘skeleton,’ so to speak — and is important for the development of the brain.”

He continued, “We discovered an increased burden of mutations that destroy or severely affect the MAP1A gene in those with ADHD and autism, while very few of the control subject had changes in the gene.”

Studies like Borglum’s are much more common now that the human genome is so easily and cheaply mapped — something that was impossible only ten or twenty years ago. The massive amounts of human knowledge accumulated because of these new studies is overwhelming.

This study, for example, represents the first to include genome mapping and DNA analysis of both behavioral conditions at once.

Borglum said, “The very fact that mutations are found to the same extent and in the same genes in children with autism and in children with ADHD, points towards the same biological mechanisms being involved. This is the first time that the genome has been mapped so comprehensively for both ADHD and autism, and the discovery that children with ADHD have the same amount of deleterious gene mutations in their DNA as children with autism is both striking and quite surprising.”

This is progress, and could change how we communicate effectively with our kids — in addition to how we effectively educate their parents.

Studies Find That Sensory Processing Disorder More Common Than Once Thought

There’s that oft-repeated line about how kids aren’t really autisitc: “They just grew up with parents who didn’t know how to discipline them,” people will say. But science is finally catching up to the willful ignorance of the masses. We’re finally getting a chance to teach people about the reality of sensory processing disorder (SPD) and how many children will grow up with some form of it.

Even though SPD has been found to be much more common than once thought, scientists say it still isn’t understood very well — even by the scientific community.

A Pine Grove Country Club event at Iron Mountain in Michigan was recently held in order to inform parents about SPD and educate them on how best to approach the possibility that their children may be growing up with it.

Carol Kranowitz is a National SPD Trainer and Author. She said at the event, “It’s a common, but misunderstood, neurological problem that affects not only children but also teenagers and adults. The behaviors of a person with SPD often look like others.”

That’s because kids experience symptoms of SPD differently. Each person is different, which is just one reason why educating parents and exploring options to treat SPD is difficult; it requires a lot of time personalizing treatment to do correctly. 

Kranowitz explained this phenomenon, and more, to at least 200 service providers at the Iron Mountain event. That’s important, because police and medical personnel often don’t understand when they might be dealing with a person suffering from SPD over, say, a drug addiction. That’s why these interactions can sometimes become dangerous for both the person experiencing SPD and police who don’t understand.

She said, “So we see a fidgeting child, we think, oh, it’s ADHD, let’s him him a psycho stimulant — when in fact, the child is fidgeting because the seams in his socks are annoying him so much, that’s the only thing he is thinking about.”

The point Kranowitz was trying to make wasn’t difficult to understand: sometimes it’s important to figure out what might be bothering an individual, even when that particular complaint might not be made by others. No detail is too small or insignificant, and it’s important to understand the hypersensitivities that some people experience, sometimes even as adults.

DIISD Department of Early Childhood Director Casey McCormick said, “[Kranowitz is] helping us identify the different types of sensory issues that kids may have and then strategies we can use to support them.”

Dickinson-Iron Early On Coordinator Cherie Fila said, “If we can understand that better, we can help them learn what they need to do, or we can help them arrange their environment better.”

Did You Know That October Is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) affects nearly 1 in 20 of us, even though most of us don’t know much about it. October represents SPD Awareness Month, so there is no better time to learn everything there is to know! This month, let’s try to end a few of the misconceptions related to these behavioral disorders and stem the flood of misinformation. 

Did you know that while many kids living on the autism spectrum are also suffering from some form of SPD, autism itself isn’t actually SPD? Technically, SPD isn’t even a set of behavioral disorders. Actually, it’s a neurological condition that sometimes presents through those behavioral problems. The diagnosis of SPD remains complicated, in part because even doctors don’t know to routinely look for it when similar symptoms present. 

The behavioral issues often associated with this neurological condition are a result of mostly environmental factors. A child will become stressed because they do not know how to respond to certain stimuli — like noise, tactile sensation, or temperature fluctuations — and so they can act out because they don’t have any other way of coping or relieving that stress.

SPD educators will gladly provide information related to the learning methods often required of kids with SPD. It’s not that they can’t learn — it’s that they learn differently from most other kids. Activities that include tactile sensation are important to kids growing up with SPD because they need to learn how to adapt to these new experiences.

Teachers can provide kids with classroom-like learning experiences by taking them outside and asking them to touch and describe certain objects they find in the local environment. These might include sticks, leaves, or trees. Science teachers can benefit kids by letting them touch biological objects like fur, skin, shells, etc.

Believe it or not, there are a number of ways to teach math and science using sensory functions like touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste! Including all of these functions as often as possible is an important way to help children learn and grow.

Do you know how to interact with kids who suffer from autism or forms of SPD?

Make sure the children are receiving enough individual attention. Educators must learn to spot the warning signs of a child’s stress. Baby steps are also an important way of helping kids work to a goal. When the stress becomes too much for someone to handle, it’s important that they have a designated safe space where they can go, no questions asked. 

Last but not least, every child with SPD is different and has different needs. Educators and parents must work together to learn about a child’s learning style and help them become an important part of the community over time.

Teenager Suffering From Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder Goes Blind

Children who suffer from sensory processing disorder (SPD) are often diagnosed with other disorders as well. One such disorder called avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is being blamed for causing a teen to go blind because he was not comfortable eating a wide range of nutritious foods. Children are known for their picky eating habits, so what signs should a parent watch out for when determining a child’s diet?

Many children with ARFID are turned off by various textures, smells, colors, etc., and refuse to eat most foods. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and lethargy — or in this case, blindness.

About 5 percent of children — mostly boys — are affected by ARFID. The disorder affects kids more often than adults, who usually grow past the picky eating habits. 

How might a parent recognize the disorder in their own child? The following symptoms might be displayed: 

  • Slow eating
  • Will not gain weight
  • Reduced sociability
  • Eating habits not the result of poor body image
  • No obvious physical or mental illness

For many parents, the lack of a wide array of symptoms can make diagnosis difficult or impossible, especially when the case of ARFID is mild.

According to a report published in England’s Annals of Internal Medicine, the 14-year-old who lost his eyesight was severely vitamin deficient. His weight was normal for his age, but likely only because the foods he ate were highly processed and high-fat, such as chips, bread, pork, and fries.

The study’s authors said, “The researchers concluded that the patient’s ‘junk food’ diet and limited intake of vitamins and minerals resulted in the onset of nutritional optic neuropathy.” 

Dr. Sejal Parekh of ABC News said, “His doctors did initially diagnose him with mild nutritional deficiencies, specifically Vitamin B12, and prescribed the right shots.”

The boy did not complete the assigned regimen.

Many victims of ARFID have physical symptoms no one would connect with the disorder, and that was initially the case for the boy. He was eventually diagnosed, but not before his vision was beyond repair.

Parekh said, “ARFID differs from anorexia in that it is not driven by body image or weight concerns. ARFID can be recognized in child with other sensory processing disorders and autism.”

Other complications of ARFID include anxiety disorders, developmental delays, gastrointestinal diseases, and low weight. Treatment includes meal coaching, food exposure therapy, education, counseling, and behavioral therapies. This might occur in the home, or patients may be hospitalized.

What Is “Sensory Day” At The Ohio State Fair?

The world is becoming a much more inclusive place for those of us who have special needs, even as a lot of people still believe that vaccinations cause autism (hint: they don’t. But failing to vaccinate your children might result in a short life for your kid and others). The Ohio State Fair knows that a lot of the kids who visit each year fall into the category of those who require a little extra help to adapt to the rest of us, which is why it hosted a “Sensory Day” on Wednesday, July 31. Hopefully other organizations will follow this example.

The fair has organized a day without flashing lights or music, and tried to cut down on loud sounds as well. The Ohio State Fair also tried to organize more streamlined parking to get kids to the fun festivities that much faster. Long lines moved fast.

Director Shawn Henry of the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence said: “If you are overwhelmed and need a break, you can go in the quiet room. We’ll have fidgets and other items just to make the environment something that’s inviting, that’s relaxing, then, you can go back out and enjoy other activities.”

The hope is that the Ohio State Fair will draw more attention as perhaps the most inclusive event in the country. General Manager Virgil Strickler said: “The Ohio State Fair isn’t just about food and rides. It is about community. We want to make the fair as enjoyable as possible for all Ohioans, and Sensory Friendly Morning is one way we can achieve that goal.”

In order to increase enjoyment for all attendees, the space was reorganized with prompts that help everyone get to their next ride a little bit faster. The schedule was presented visually to help people find the right ride at the right time. 

Up to sixteen percent of young children may suffer from a sensory processing disorder, although many parents and doctors still fail to diagnose these concerns. Those kids who are affected may not respond to touch, sound, or visual stimuli the same way the rest of us do. They can become very sensitive to strange patterns of unfamiliar environments, and may be easily distracted when those situations present.

Hopefully the Ohio State Fair’s new considerations will make it easier for parents to enjoy the day with their children who have special needs in the future as well, which should result in a great experience for many summers to come!

Why Do Kids With Sensory Processing Disorder Have A Tougher Time In Summer?

When you have a child who is learning to grow up with sensory processing disorder, you might be surprised to know that summer can be one of the most difficult times of the year. While much of the other three seasons is spent inside, most people prefer to be outside during the warmest months. That means parents will take their kids out and about as often as possible. This change in routine can be a real pain for kids with SPD.

Director of the Children’s Center Early Intervention and Family Support Jeff Johnson explains: “There are people talking, there are smells coming off the grill and their bare feet are touching the grass and the wind is whipping and the leaves are rustling and there’s a dog barking…All of that piled onto somebody with a generalized sensory input problem could put them over the edge.”

Different kids have different needs, as any parent of a child on the spectrum already knows. For example, some kids won’t like to be touched. A spray sunscreen can work wonders for those who don’t want to be lathered up. Then again, those who can’t stand the sound of a spray can will probably prefer it the old-fashioned way.

One crucial component of understanding how to help your kids with SPD make the most of the summer months involves communication. You need to go the extra mile to let them know that in most situations they can control how long they stay outside, what kind of activities they’re comfortable with, and how to say “no” to the ones they aren’t comfortable with.

There are other forms of entertainment available as well, and not all of them have to take place outside. Older kids might respond well to video games. Visual kids might do well with toys aimed at the fidgeters out there. Others might prefer an array of musical instruments to pass the time, and using these might even help them adapt to the discomfort of an outdoors environment in some situations.

Another issue with the outdoors is the temperature. Many kids are sensitive to heat. In other words, “excessive heat” means something completely different to them than it does to everyone else. Some might display a mild dislike for the sun, while others will actually start to develop symptoms that, in the worst cases, can even become life-threatening. Sensitivity isn’t always just in the head or the way the mind works. Sometimes it’s a literal physical intolerance, and that means heat stroke can come on more easily. 

It’s best to make sure your kids know how to tell you when it gets to be just too much!

Common Sensitivities For Those With SPD

It is very important to understand that Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a disorder that affects the nervous system. It is the nervous system’s inability to properly organize sensory stimuli from the environment. The best way to explain how SPD works is to think about having a conversation with someone at a coffee shop. While many people are capable of tuning out background music, noise from the other patrons and can focus on having a conversation, others cannot. All the stimuli are competing for attention in the brain at once which can create anxiety and cause a sense of being overwhelmed. There’s an old adage that everyone is on the Autism spectrum – well the same can be true for SPD. Here are some common sensitivities:

Hate Getting Hair Cut – Especially in men who use razors to groom their hair, the vibration stimulates the sensation of both touch as well as sound which can be very difficult to process for people who have SPD.

Clothing Labels Annoy You – While we know there is a label in the back of our shirt, most of us are able to forget that it’s there. We’ve all had the occasional tag that has annoyed us. The difference for people suffering from SPD, they will be fixated on the label until it is resolved and not be able to focus on anything else.

New Cleaning Smells Bother You – The smell of cleaning problems, especially with those who have an olfactory sensitivity can be too much to bear. Even cleaners that are allegedly scent free can be detected by those who are ultra sensitive to smells.

Needing To Touch Things To Relax – Fidget spinners before they became a fad were actually a toy that was developed to help kids calm down when stressed. Mermaid pillows are a great example of something tactile that can help someone relax.