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Archive for December, 2012

Although a little brainy for me, this excerpt from a longer article on anxiety explains the importance of the sensory system in deciphering environmental threats (that which provokes evolutionarily beneficial fear and the less beneficial anxiety). When we think about the unbalanced sensory system of the individual with ASD, we begin to understand why anxiety or an “exaggerated fear response” leads to behaviors of aggression, running away, social isolation,refusal to eat certain foods, etc. To be fair, this behavior would be beneficial if the stimuli being processed was in fact a real threat or danger to the individual (being in a room with closed doors could in some contexts be a threat to one’s physical safety- but maybe not when that room is a classroom) . Far too often, we as practitioners/parents are left thinking “What just happened?”, “Why did he do that?”.
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Check this out.

“Organisms develop mechanisms to adapt to their changing environment (Tinbergen 1963; Seligman 1970; Mayr 1974). They use exquisitely designed sensory systems to receive environmental cues and respond appropriately, favoring cues that aid survival and reproduction, while avoiding those that indicate danger (Hollis 1982; Domjan 2005)… Perhaps the most crucial of these functions is the ability to recognize a threat: an increase in temperature, a poisonous fruit, or the scent of a predator. Individuals that fail to detect and avoid threats are likely to experience injury or death; thus, the machinery governing threat response must be precise (Plutchik 1980). Fear and anxiety are complex behaviors that represent responses to environmental threats. These two behaviors differ in that fear is a response to a real or clearly identifiable threat and functions to remove the individual from a harmful situation (Belzung and Philippot 2007). In contrast, anxiety is a contrived or exaggerated fear response (Chaffey et al. 2002) and often proceeds in the absence of a truly threatening stimulus. This important distinction has led most psychologists and evolutionary biologists to regard fear as an appropriate and adaptive response (Barlow and Durand 2011), and anxiety as psychologically unhealthy and often associated with unwarranted physiological stress across multiple organ systems (Kessler et al. 2005).”

Link to the full article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3505513/

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Profile of “Peter”

The following Profile was written by a mother following my request that she tell me about her son’s strengths, challenges, and uniqueness. I ask parents/caregivers to complete these profiles for several reasons: 1) To share in writing with others what only they know about their child. 2) To recognize the incredible growth their child has made over the years. 3) To understand their role in that growth and their extensive understanding of their child’s strengths and needs. 4) To be reminded that their is hope and to get out of the present day-to-day feeling that nothing is changing. 5) To practice observational skills and bring more clarity/focus into the child’s specific needs (and how best to address these needs based on what we know).

There are many other reasons why this exercise is valuable that you will only come to know after you do it.

PLease read this wonderful example. It really inspired me.

Profile of Peter

“Peter is a very tall 10 year old boy. Physically one might notice his smaller head right away (he has microcephaly) or his skinny frame. Microcephaly means essentially “small head”. Peter’s type of microcephaly is an inherited congenital type (meaning he was born with it). He sees a genetics doctor at HOSPITAL to help us navigate issues that have come up. However; the first thing I always notice is the “light” in his eyes and his zest for life.

Peter joined our family when he was 3 months old. Over the years he has faced challenge after challenge. Peter has special needs. That is just the truth. His special needs include: childhood onset glaucoma, ADHD, Tourette syndrome (tic’s) microcephaly, visual, auditory and sensory processing disorders. He also struggles with fine motor tasks. At times it can be frustrating, and sad, to watch Peter deal with it all, and then sometimes suffer because of things he has no control over. I am always incredibly thankful for the medical care that we are able to access for Peter. Despite these challenges, he has an incredible “happy” attitude and love of life!

Peter has a very busy body. He is constantly in motion. ADHD is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Peter’s case is moderate. Different sensory strategies, heavy work and occupational therapy can help him be successful. He attends OT every Thursday afternoon.

Tourette syndrome and ADHD sort of co-exist together. If you have one diagnosis you are more likely to have the other. Peter was diagnosed 6 months ago, and has had a myriad of tics (eye blinking, nose sniffing, shirt chewing, and clearing of the throat). This is followed at HOSPITAL. Currently his tics are manifesting as an interesting vocal noise and shirt or clothes chewing. This is especially noticeable when he is anxious.

Glaucoma is the big one at our house these days. Essentially glaucoma is an older person’s disease. But there are cases of early childhood onset glaucoma (which is what Peter has). 1 in 10,000 were the odds in this lottery that we won. Basically the eye builds up pressure because the fluid in the eye doesn’t drain the way it is suppose to. This build up, puts pressure on Peter’s optic nerve, and if too much pressure is put on the nerve it causes irreversible vision loss, starting first with one’s side vision (or peripherally vision) which is what is happening to Peter. He takes eye drops each night and they are helping to relieve the pressure in the eyes. We go monthly to some appointment regarding his eyes. Peter is followed at _HOSPITAL.

Sensory processing disorder is the inability to normally process and filter sensory stimuli in the environment. Typical people are able to filter the humming of florescent lights or the refrigerator noise or not be bothered by minty toothpaste or scratchy tags in their shirts. Peter is not able to filter this sensory input. It causes him to overload and build up in intensity. This may be seen in his behaviors, mood changes or acting out. He needs someone (although we are teaching this independently) to help “bring him down”. This can be done by heavy work, weighted clothing items or blankets, swings, pressure, (strategies to help him).

Auditory processing disorder is the inability to discriminate effectively through things that we hear. This mostly translates into difficult time processing spoken language, reading and decoding text. This is being addressed along with sensory in the new therapy that Peter is doing with the iLs (Integrated Listening Systems).

Peter has difficulty with visual processing. It is extremely difficult for him to see something on the white board and then produce a copy on his paper. It takes an incredible amount of effort! He hates to draw, or build with legos. Handwriting and letter formation continue to be a huge struggle. He receives occupational therapy at school and private occupational therapy to address these skills. Also writing a story or getting his ideas from his head to the paper is a monumental task. It isn’t for lack of ideas, but the physical writing process that causes so much grief.

Peter is one of the friendliest people I know. He knows no stranger and is always willing to encourage and brighten anyone’s day. His name actually means “bringer of light”. It is this same friendliness that often causes issues with his peers, as he loves to hug people and has a difficult time with social cues as it relates to spatial boundaries. This can cause him to be alienated at times.

At school Peter is very social and an excellent reader. He is reading at grade level. However, because of his glaucoma he must sit facing the white board straight on. This is because of his loss of peripheral vision.

Peter is an amazing kid! His passion for life and his caring and empathy for others is inspiring. Peter is my hero!”

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