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Sorry that I have been MIA for a while.  My daughter is getting married in less than a month and between that and my full time, job I am swamped!  I do post on our facebook page as I am able to though: https://www.facebook.com/NextStepForSpecialNeeds  Happy Holidays!  See you in 2015!!

6 Ways to Help Your Child Develop Coping Skills

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At a Glance
Kids with learning and attention issues may react strongly to everyday struggles and lack coping skills.
Parents can help teach healthy coping strategies, like giving names to feelings and brainstorming stress-relief activities.
Over time, kids will turn to these coping strategies on their own.
“Unpredictable.” “Random.” “Explosive.” That’s how some parents of kids with learning and attention issues would describe how their child reacts to everyday struggles.

You can help your child feel more in control of her emotions and reactions. Use these six stress-relief strategies to help her develop coping skills.

1. Give words to feelings.
Strong emotions can be scary for kids. And they can fuel strong reactions. But when children are able to talk about how they’re feeling and what may be causing it, their emotions can feel more manageable. When she’s upset, gently ask your child:

“How are you feeling right now?” Offer her the words to use: mad, sad, frustrated, anxious, worried, embarrassed, etc.
“Where are you feeling it in your body?” She may say her belly feels tight, her heart is racing, her head feels hot, etc.
“What do you think caused it?” Help her think through what happened right before she started to get upset. You might be able to help her see a different perspective or better understand what occurred.
Kids with language processing issues may find it difficult to talk about feelings. You might use a “How am I feeling?” visual chart to help her identify her emotions.

2. Find your child’s triggers.
Think about which situations are toughest for your child. Then consider how you can change your own behavior to help her cope with them. For example:

Does she yell when you tell her to turn off the TV? Offer five-minute warnings before shutting it off.
Does her stress level skyrocket when you ask her to get dressed each morning? A picture schedule might help her anticipate what’s expected.
Are transitions between activities disastrous? Arrange plenty of downtime between each club, sport and meeting.
3. Encourage healthy ways of coping.
What does your child already do to feel good? Maybe she rides her bike, reads a comic book or texts with a friend. Next time you see her getting upset:

Ask if she wants to take a break with one of these calming activities.
Point out that she already has ways to calm herself down.
Over time, she may turn to these coping mechanisms on her own.
4. Brainstorm specific coping strategies.
If your child doesn’t already have particular activities that calm her down, help her come up with some. For example:

Grade-schoolers: “When I’m angry at my brother, I can jump on the trampoline in the basement.”
Middle-schoolers: “If I’m stuck on a math problem, I’ll listen to two songs and then try it again.”
High-schoolers: “When I’m feeling anxious about college applications, I’ll go for a run.”
5. Be present and understanding.
When your child feels emotional, give her your full attention. If she sees you’re distracted, she may feel even further out of control. What does being present look like?

Focus on her. Open bills and check phone messages later.
Model active listening. After she’s done speaking, restate what she’s just said in her own words, not yours. You might say: “It sounds like you felt Mr. Knight was being disrespectful.” This helps her feel heard and understood.
Ask related questions. Help her work through positive next steps. “Is there anything you think you could tell him tomorrow?”
6. Seek help when needed.
When you rely on the help of others, you show your child that there are many components to a healthy coping strategy. For example:

If your child struggles in math, a tutor can teach new long division strategies.
If you argue every time you take her driving, ask a relative to help her get her permit.
If your child feels depressed, schedule an appointment with a counselor.
Connect with other parents—they may provide some useful tips and support. You’ll find more strategies for handling tough situations in Parenting Coach. With outside resources at hand, you and your child can feel more confident about your coping skills.

Key Takeaways
Emotions feel more manageable when kids know how to describe their feelings.
When you discover your child’s stress triggers, you can make simple changes to defuse meltdowns.
It’s OK (and healthy!) to seek help from professionals to teach your child coping strategies

Read more: http://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/common-challenges/self-control/6-ways-to-help-your-child-develop-coping-skills#ixzz3GnO81QFI

Autism Symptoms Eased By Broccoli Extract, Study Finds

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A chemical that’s found in broccoli and other vegetables may be able to dramatically improve behavior and social skills in those with autism, researchers say.
In as little as four weeks of taking daily doses of the broccoli sprout extract sulforaphane, many teens and adults with autism saw significant gains in behavior, socialization and communication, according to findings published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study involved 40 males ages 13 to 27 with moderate to severe autism, 26 of whom received daily doses of the broccoli sprout extract while the rest were given a placebo.
After 18 weeks, an assessment found that 46 percent of those taking sulforaphane showed noticeable gains in social interaction, 54 percent saw improvements in behavior and 42 percent exhibited better verbal communication.
The impact on those who received sulforaphane was profound in many cases, with some participants taking on new skills like making eye contact and shaking hands, researchers said.
“When we broke the code that revealed who was receiving sulforaphane and who got the placebo, the results weren’t surprising to us, since the improvements were so noticeable,” said Andrew Zimmerman of the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children who worked on the study.
The benefits, however, fell off after the individuals stopped taking sulforaphane, the study found.
Researchers caution that their findings will need to be replicated in a larger study and noted that about a third of those who took sulforaphane did not see any improvement. What’s more, they said the doses of sulforaphane given to study participants would be difficult to achieve by eating broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables.
Sulforaphane is believed to prompt a cellular stress response in the body much like a fever does when a person is ill. Researchers said they were inspired to try the treatment after hearing anecdotally from families that fevers seemed to trigger improvements in autism symptoms.
“We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some of the underlying cellular problems,” said Paul Talalay of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a co-author of the study.

http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2014/10/14/autism-broccoli-study/19757/

Sweethearts with Down syndrome to wed 30 years after meeting

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Austin Underwood says he has loved his fiancée, Jessica Smith, since they were 4 years old, when their mothers met at a support group for children with Down syndrome.

Thirty years later, the Dallas couple will finally tie the knot.

“I want to marry her because I love her. She’s my very own best friend,” Austin told NBC’s Maria Shriver.

The couple have grown from being playmates to prom dates and, next month, husband and wife.

“All I see is a big sun, or a god,” Jessica said of her sweetheart. “A sun — and the moon!”

Their story reflects not only their love, but the determination by their mothers to give their children normal lives.

“’Two people with Down syndrome, they’re really getting married?’ You know, there’s a little bit of stigma still there,” said Austin’s mother, Jan Underwood. “And this is kind of another chip away of removing that stigma.”

Georgia Smith, Jessica’s mother, said that stigma began at birth.

“On the delivery table, the physician said, ‘This is a bummer. This child is a mongoloid,’” she said.

Underwood’s doctor told her something equally disturbing.

“My doctor said, ‘You know, you don’t have to take him home. Your son will never be self-supportive, he will never be self-sufficient,’” she said. But she refused to listen.

“It was like, we’re going to make this work and prove everyone wrong,” she said.

In addition to becoming friends, the two mothers became advocates for children with developmental and intellectual disabilities. They fought when their schools tried segregate their kids with other “special needs” students, insisting they be mainstreamed into traditional classrooms, where they felt expectations were higher.

“I was not going to just have a child with Down syndrome, I was going to have the best child with Down syndrome, because I’m a very competitive person,” Underwood said.

She convinced sports coaches to let Austin play on their teams. Jessica, meanwhile, starred in school plays, her love of theater and other arts encouraged by her parents.

“Everything that we like, we include Jessica, so she likes music and she likes photography,” Smith said. “We wanted to help them be the most prepared they possible can for independence.”

That preparation paid off. Austin and Jessica, now in their 30s, both have jobs, a rarity for people with intellectual disabilities, who have an unemployment rate of nearly 90 percent. The couple also live on their own, dividing household chores like any other couple: She cleans, he cooks.

Last Christmas, Austin got down on one knee to pop the question to Jessica, giving her a diamond ring that once belonged to his mother.

The couple are writing their own vows for the June wedding, which will have a Western theme to capture their love for country music.

“We both are really happy about getting married,” Austin said.

His mother sees the celebration as a confirmation of what is possible when children are empowered to dream big.

“Absolutely, because you always want the best for your children,” she said. “You want total happiness for them. And this is it.”

http://www.today.com/news/sweethearts-down-syndrome-wed-30-years-after-meeting-2D79669604

Inclusive Classrooms Provide Language Boost, Study Finds

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For young children with disabilities, the key to mastering language may be surrounding them with their typically-developing peers, researchers say.
Over the course of just one school year, a new study finds that preschoolers with disabilities who attended mainstream classes with highly-skilled peers were using language on par with their classmates without disabilities.
By comparison, kids with special needs who were surrounded by children with weak language skills remained far behind their typically-developing peers at the end of the school year.
The findings come from a study of 670 Ohio preschoolers, slightly more than half of whom had a disability like autism, language impairment or Down syndrome. All of the kids’ language skills were measured in the fall and spring using a standardized assessment.
Children with disabilities in classrooms with highly-skilled peers outperformed those surrounded by the lowest-skilled youngsters by 40 percent in the spring testing, according to findings published online in the journal Psychological Science.
“In a sense, the typically-developing children act as experts who can help their classmates who have disabilities,” said Laura Justice, a professor of teaching and learning at The Ohio State University who co-authored the study.
While kids with disabilities saw a big boost from attending class with children with strong language skills, researchers note that the kids with the greatest abilities did not see any downside from interacting with those who were not as advanced.
“The biggest problem comes when we have a classroom of children with disabilities with no highly-skilled peers among them,” Justice said. “In that case, they have limited opportunity to improve their use of language.”
The findings highlight the importance of inclusion for young kids with disabilities, researchers say.
“We have to give serious thought to how we organize our classrooms to give students with disabilities the best chance to succeed,” Justice said.

http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2014/07/29/inclusive-language-boost/19558/

People With Down Syndrome Are Pioneers In Alzheimer’s Research

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When researchers at the University of California, San Diego wanted to study an experimental Alzheimer’s drug last year, they sought help from an unlikely group: people with Down syndrome.

“I had a CAT scan on my head, and I was in a special machine. It’s called an MRI,” says Justin McCowan, 39, whose parents drove him 125 miles from Santa Monica so he could participate in the study. McCowan also took brain function tests and spent hours with a needle in his arm so researchers could monitor levels of certain chemicals in his blood.

Scientists have long sought a way to detect Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear.
Shots – Health News
Alzheimer’s Blood Test Raises Ethical Questions
Alzheimer’s researchers are increasingly interested in people like McCowan because “people with Down syndrome represent the world’s largest population of individuals predisposed to getting Alzheimer’s disease,” says Michael Rafii, director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at UCSD.

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that’s best known for causing intellectual disability. But it also causes Alzheimer’s. “By the age of 40, 100 percent of all individuals with Down syndrome have the pathology of Alzheimer’s in their brain,” Rafii says.

Down syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21. And one of the genes on chromosome 21 happens to control the production of amyloid, the substance that forms the sticky plaques associated with Alzheimer’s.

Signature log shows how dementia degraded a woman’s ability to write her own name.
Signature log shows how dementia degraded a woman’s ability to write her own name.

UCSD
Because their bodies produce extra amyloid, most people with Down syndrome develop problems with thinking and memory by the time they reach 60. Rafii has chronicled the decline of one of his patients, a woman named Irma, by collecting her signatures from medical forms over the years.

The first one is from 1999, when Irma was in her mid-50s. “You can see her signature is on the line, it’s clear, she wrote it in script,” Rafii says. By 2005, though, she has switched to large block letters. By 2009, Irma is misspelling her name. By 2011, “there are only a few characters written that resemble letters,” Rafii says. “And in the very last year it’s completely blank.”

People like Irma used to be rare because the medical problems associated with Down syndrome meant they rarely lived long enough to get dementia. Today, though, better medical treatments mean people with the disorder often live into their 60s.

And that has created a huge opportunity for Alzheimer’s research, says William Mobley, chairman of the neuroscience department at UCSD. “This is the one group in the world that you could argue would benefit most by the institution of early therapy,” he says.

Early therapy means starting people on drug treatment years before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear. The approach has been hard to test because, in the general population, there’s no good way to know who is going to develop Alzheimer’s. But for people with Down syndrome, it’s a near certainty.

Justin and his mother, Annamarie McCowan, make a salad together.
Justin and his mother, Annamarie McCowan, make a salad together.

Benjamin B. Morris for NPR
Finding a drug that prevents Alzheimer’s in people with Down syndrome could help millions of people who don’t have the disorder, Mobley says. “This approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease might apply to all of us,” he says. “Imagine someday a drug that we all start taking when we’re 25 so we never get Alzheimer’s disease.”

That’s a long-term goal. But already, people with Down syndrome are making a difference in Alzheimer’s research. Early work with Down patients helped confirm the importance of amyloid. More recently, people with the disorder helped test an eye exam that may offer a simple way to screen for Alzheimer’s.

And then there’s the study that Justin McCowan signed up for. It involves a drug from Transition Therapeutics called ELND005 that, in mice, can prevent the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s. Scientists hope the drug can do the same thing in people, including those with Down syndrome.

McCowan says he volunteered for the study because he wants to help other people, especially a friend of his named Maria, who also has Down syndrome. “I feel very sad about Maria because she doesn’t remember anything,” McCowan says.

His parents, Don and Annamarie McCowan, say their son’s memory is still sharp. They hope that what scientists are learning from people like Justin will keep it that way.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/08/25/341672950/people-with-down-syndrome-are-pioneers-in-alzheimers-research

Schizophrenia Isn’t One Disorder but Eight

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New research shows that schizophrenia isn’t a single disease but a group of eight genetically distinct disorders, each with its own set of symptoms. The finding could be a first step toward improved diagnosis and treatment for the debilitating psychiatric illness.

The research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is reported online Sept. 15 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

About 80 percent of the risk for schizophrenia is known to be inherited, but scientists have struggled to identify specific genes for the condition. Now, in a novel approach analyzing genetic influences on more than 4,000 people with schizophrenia, the research team has identified distinct gene clusters that contribute to eight different classes of schizophrenia.

“Genes don’t operate by themselves,” said C. Robert Cloninger, MD, PhD, one of the study’s senior investigators. “They function in concert much like an orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.”

Cloninger, the Wallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry and Genetics, and his colleagues matched precise DNA variations in people with and without schizophrenia to symptoms in individual patients. In all, the researchers analyzed nearly 700,000 sites within the genome where a single unit of DNA is changed, often referred to as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). They looked at SNPs in 4,200 people with schizophrenia and 3,800 healthy controls, learning how individual genetic variations interacted with each other to produce the illness.

ROBERT BOSTON
Igor Zwir, PhD, one of the senior investigators, helped match precise DNA variations in people with and without schizophrenia to symptoms in individual patients.
In some patients with hallucinations or delusions, for example, the researchers matched distinct genetic features to patients’ symptoms, demonstrating that specific genetic variations interacted to create a 95 percent certainty of schizophrenia. In another group, they found that disorganized speech and behavior were specifically associated with a set of DNA variations that carried a 100 percent risk of schizophrenia.

“What we’ve done here, after a decade of frustration in the field of psychiatric genetics, is identify the way genes interact with each other, how the ‘orchestra’ is either harmonious and leads to health, or disorganized in ways that lead to distinct classes of schizophrenia,” Cloninger said.

Although individual genes have only weak and inconsistent associations with schizophrenia, groups of interacting gene clusters create an extremely high and consistent risk of illness, on the order of 70 to 100 percent. That makes it almost impossible for people with those genetic variations to avoid the condition. In all, the researchers identified 42 clusters of genetic variations that dramatically increased the risk of schizophrenia.

“In the past, scientists had been looking for associations between individual genes and schizophrenia,” explained Dragan Svrakic, PhD, MD, a co-investigator and a professor of psychiatry at Washington University. “When one study would identify an association, no one else could replicate it. What was missing was the idea that these genes don’t act independently. They work in concert to disrupt the brain’s structure and function, and that results in the illness.”

Svrakic said it was only when the research team was able to organize the genetic variations and the patients’ symptoms into groups that they could see that particular clusters of DNA variations acted together to cause specific types of symptoms.

Then they divided patients according to the type and severity of their symptoms, such as different types of hallucinations or delusions, and other symptoms, such as lack of initiative, problems organizing thoughts or a lack of connection between emotions and thoughts. The results indicated that those symptom profiles describe eight qualitatively distinct disorders based on underlying genetic conditions.

ROBERT BOSTON
Dragan Svrakic, MD, PhD, (left), one of the study’s senior investigators, discusses the schizophrenia research with Cloninger.
The investigators also replicated their findings in two additional DNA databases of people with schizophrenia, an indicator that identifying the gene variations that are working together is a valid avenue to explore for improving diagnosis and treatment.

By identifying groups of genetic variations and matching them to symptoms in individual patients, it soon may be possible to target treatments to specific pathways that cause problems, according to co-investigator Igor Zwir, PhD, research associate in psychiatry at Washington University and associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Granada, Spain.

And Cloninger added it may be possible to use the same approach to better understand how genes work together to cause other common but complex disorders.

“People have been looking at genes to get a better handle on heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, and it’s been a real disappointment,” he said. “Most of the variability in the severity of disease has not been explained, but we were able to find that different sets of genetic variations were leading to distinct clinical syndromes. So I think this really could change the way people approach understanding the causes of complex diseases.”

http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/27358.aspx

This Teen Has Autism. He’s Also One Of The Top High School Runners In The Country.

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When Mike Brannigan was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with autism. At the time, his doctors said he would likely need a special school and a group home. His mom, Edie, admits she thought he’d “never be able to function in the world.”

Fast-forward several years.

Brannigan is now 17, and is a senior at Northport High School, a public school in Long Island, New York. He’s doing well academically, he has friends — and he also happens to be one of the best young athletes in the country.

In fact, according to NBC News, Brannigan is one of the top 10 high school runners in the United States. He’s “so lightning fast,” the news outlet writes, that “he can run a mile in four minutes and seven seconds flat.”

Brannigan’s mom, Edie, says she believes her son’s love of running has been instrumental in helping him blossom as a person and to focus academically.

Before he discovered running, “the gap was far and wide between Mikey and the peers in his age group,” his mother told high school running website DyeStat earlier this year. “I wish I could [scientifically] prove it, but within two years he was age-appropriate with his typical peers. We knew right then that whatever he was doing with the running was doing something in his brain at a pronounced rate. It was a miracle.”

With his impressive track record and wow-worthy work ethic (he runs “every day, sixty plus miles a week,” NBC says), it should come as no surprise that Brannigan is currently being wooed by more than 200 colleges — including Duke, Georgetown and Stanford — that have already expressed interest in recruiting the young man.

Brannigan hopes to attend a Division One school; but his dreams are even bigger than that. “I want to be a professional athlete,” he told NBC, adding that he hopes to one day represent the United States at the Olympic Games.

People who have witnessed Brannigan’s talent and dedication first-hand say the young man is well on his way to achieving this goal.

“It’s gonna end with Mikey being on an Olympic team,” Steven Cuomo, Brannigan’s longtime coach, told Running Times last year. “I didn’t say a Paralympics team. I said Olympic team. Then we’re gonna blow the lid off what people think [athletes with autism] can and cannot do.”

Click here for a video of the story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/04/mike-brannigan-autism-runner_n_5761772.html