Archive for January, 2013


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Executive Functioning (EF) is a term often used in conversation when speaking about Autism Spectrum Disorder.
According to Wikipedia (not the fanciest of sources:)), “Executive functions is an umbrella term for cognitive processes that regulate, control, and manage other cognitive processes,[1] such as planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, mental flexibility, task switching,[2] and initiation and monitoring of actions”.

I refer to executive functioning deficits often when speaking to parents about why they need to prepare there children in the morning for the day ahead (visual schedules, verbal walk through of the day).
However, my best attempts at explaining this nuero-developmental process, cannot compare to the wonderful table I recently came across in a journal article, “The Development of Executive Function in Autism”, by
Elizabeth Pellicano and colleagues. In this article, the researchers discuss the impact that EF has on a multitude of routine functions of daily life.

I would recommend the journal article if you’re in the mood for a heady kind of read (took me a few times to get through). If you’re more interested in getting a better idea about the concept of Executive Functioning, I recommend viewing the table below from this link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3420556/table/tab1/

Full article link here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3420556/

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A 9 year old boy has been out of school for almost two years as a result of severe social anxiety and medical related issues. In this time, he has recieved home school instruction from his mother. The time has now come for him to return to school and benefit from a more comprehensive academic and social learning experience. This boy has Asperger’s Disorder.
How do we make this experience more predictable for him (keep him from catastrophizing all of the unknowns)? First, we make a list of questions that need to be answered by us (the parent or practitioner). Gradual exposure to the school’s environment (on a weekend), cartooning/ visual storybaording about worst case scenarios, role play, and other interventions can all come after this initial list of questions.

Here is an example of a list of questions I have created to help this boy begin the process of returning to school:

list of questions

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I was sent this great article about anxiety and Asperger’s from one of my wonderful parents last week and was blown away by the insights inside. The article provides a unique look into how anxiety is felt by the individual with Asperger’s while also giving parents and practitioners a new way of addressing challenging behaviors that this author attributes almost exclusively to anxiety. Aside from being a person with Asperger’s herself, the author is also a mother of children with ASD. I’ve provided a short excerpt from the article below but you really must read the full article to see its true worth.

Excerpt from the Article written by Jennifer O’Toole, author of “Asperkids”.
“What most neurotypicals don’t realize is that we spectrumites, whose bodies and minds are wired differently, live with varying levels and intensities of almost perpetual anxiety. That may sound paranoid — but it’s not. Paranoia is irrational fear. Most Aspies or autistics have been bullied (often many times over by children, adults, even teachers and family members), are constantly assaulted by sensory input, must fend their way daily through social situations which seem random and chaotic, and often think we are at the top of our games when, in fact, the rug is about to be pulled out from under us. In other words, our anxiety is an absolutely rational reaction to the experiences we have.”

FULL ARTICLE AT: http://autismsocietyofnc.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/stuffed-allies-and-dignity-how-understanding-anxiety-can-save-the-day/

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