Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Six Tips for Preventing Wandering in People with Autism

As Autism Awareness Month 2017 comes to an end, we were heartened to learn of a new study which found that wandering, a common behavior among people with autism and other developmental disabilities, may be treatable with behavioral interventions. 

The study, “Clinical Outcomes of Behavioral Treatments for Elopement in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities,” provides hope in the face of the deeply disturbing conclusions of another more recent study, “Injury Mortality in Individuals with Autism,” that found children and teens with autism are 40 times as likely to die from injuries as those without ASDs. Additionally, and equally as shocking, the study found the average age of death for those with ASDs was only 36 years old as opposed to 72 in the non-autistic population. Clearly, it is imperative that we find effective ways of preventing senseless injuries and deaths that result from wandering. Here are some tips and resources that will help keep more people with autism safe.

1. Swimming lessons
According to Guohua Li, MD, DrPH,  professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and the senior author of the study on injury mortality, “Once a child is diagnosed with autism, usually between two years and three years of age, pediatricians and parents should immediately help enroll the child in swimming classes, before any behavioral therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy. Swimming ability for kids with autism is an imperative survival skill,” Dr Li said. In addition to their tendency for wandering, Li also noted that children and teens with autism often gravitate toward water. “With impaired communication and social skills, autistic kids tend to seek relief of their heightened anxiety from the serenity of water bodies. Unfortunately, this behavior too often leads to tragedies,” said Li.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Happy OT Month!

Hooray! It’s Occupational Therapy Awareness Month! Here at Enabling Devices, we’re all about celebrating the amazing work of these dedicated professionals. We thought we’d take this opportunity to explore the field and learn more about what makes these very special people tick. What are the qualities necessary to have a successful career as an OT? What training is involved? To get some answers, we talked with pediatric occupational therapist Jennifer Wingrat, OTR-L, ScD, who works in the acclaimed Child and Family Support Program (CFSD) at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

Enabling Devices: What made you decide to go into this field?

Jennifer Wingrat: I fell into it when I was a senior in high school. I was doing my senior project at an OT hand clinic. I liked working with the patients, making splints, helping people to live to their potential. I’ve been practicing for at least 20 years! In the past I’ve worked with different [populations]—people with spinal cord injuries, general pediatrics and others.

Nowadays you work with children. What’s that like?
I’ve always liked working with kids and I took that track in OT school. Now, I work in an early intervention program and most of the treatment is done in the patients’ homes. It’s a lot of fun.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gotta Look Sharp

There’s good news for differently abled fashion mavens or even people who simply want dressing with disabilities to be a little bit easier—the 20 percent of Americans with disabilities are finally feeling the love from designers on Madison Avenue and beyond.

From big names like Tommy Hilfiger and Nike to niche designers like Lucy Jones, Maura Horton and Stephanie Alves (who was previously featured in Enabling’s blog), there’s a growing recognition that consumers with disabilities represent a large and growing market for the fashion industry. What took them so long???
Accessible Runway
Launched in 2016, Tommy Hilfiger’s adaptive collection was created in collaboration with a nonprofit called Runway of Dreams.  The nonprofit, founded by fashion designer, Mindy Scheier, was a labor of love. Scheier created it for her son Oliver who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and wanted to dress like his peers.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What’s New in Autism Research?

According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “One in 68 school-age kids across the country are estimated to have autism.” Such alarming statistics demand answers and researchers are busy studying the developmental disorder and its significant ramifications, not only for the people who have autism and their families, but for our society as well. In commemoration of National Autism Awareness Month, we’ve scoured the internet, to uncover the latest research findings on topics related to autism spectrum disorders.  Here’s what we found.

1. Brain scans can help predict development of autism in siblings
In February 2017, scientists at the University of Minnesota published findings of a 12-year-long study in the journal Nature, that could result in earlier detection of autism in children who have a genetic predisposition to developing the disorder. Basing their research on science from the 1990s that found children with autism had larger brain volume than children without autism, scientists took brain scans of more than 100 siblings of children with autism, at 6, 12 and 24 months of age. The researchers discovered that some siblings who later developed autism, experienced a rapid expansion of brain surface between the ages of 6-12 months. Using a computer program built for the study, scientists compared the brain scans of the siblings to the scans of children in a separate study group and could predict with 80 percent accuracy, which children would go on to develop autism. That’s a major development since early detection and intervention can make a huge difference when it comes to treatment efficacy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

New in the Neighborhood!

April is Autism month, and the beloved public television show, Sesame Street, will celebrate the occasion with the TV debut of a brand-new character named Julia!

Though Julia, an adorable four-year-old Muppet with autism was first introduced in 2015, as part of nonprofit educational organization, Sesame Workshop’s online autism initiative, her prior appearances were limited to Sesame Street’s website, e-books, app and videos. On April 10, viewers of Sesame Street will meet Julia— the first new character to join the furry Muppet clan in ten years—for the first time.

According to a press release, Julia’s debut evidences the start of a “rich new phase of the [autism] initiative,” known as Sesame Street and Autism: See the Amazing in All Children … and signals “a strong, continuing commitment to the autism community.” Julia’s role has expanded because her creators realize that she can have reach more people and have a greater impact if the show’s viewers get to know her.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Happy Trails!

Well, folks, we’ve made it. We’ve reached the first day of spring. Regardless of what the weather is like in your area, you’re probably looking forward to a time very soon, when you’ll be able to go out and enjoy nature. That’s a good thing! According to the National Wildlife Association’s Be Out There campaign, spending time outdoors has substantial benefits to our physical, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. For children with disabilities, those benefits are even greater says Kathy Ambrosini, director of education at the Mohonk Preserve in New Paltz, N.Y.  In addition to her professional credentials, Ambrosini is also the mother of a child with autism.

“For these kids,” says Ambrosini, “time spent in natural settings can offer relief from their symptoms and an environment that helps them to think differently as they begin to craft new strategies for managing their disabilities.”

But, if you or someone you love has a disability, finding safe and accessible places for a hike, bird-watching outing or picnic isn’t necessarily a given. Making the issue more complex is the fact that what’s accessible to one person may not be accessible to another.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Karen and Marie Killilea: Trailblazers in CP Awareness

March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month and at Enabling Devices, we believe that one of the best ways of raising awareness is through books! Few books did more to raise awareness about CP and the potential of people with CP than the 1952 best-seller, “Karen” by Marie Killilea. Killilea also published a sequel called, “With Love from Karen” in 1963 and “Wren,” a children’s version of Karen’s story published in 1968.

Written long before the Americans with Disabilities Act and decades before people with disabilities had the benefits of technology, at a time when doctors routinely told parents whose children were born with CP to institutionalize and forget about them, “Karen,” which tells the true story of Karen Killilea, was nothing short of groundbreaking.

When she was born in 1940, Karen Killilea was three months early and weighed less than two pounds. As she failed to reach developmental milestones, Karen’s parents consulted with doctors who were unable to provide a clear diagnosis but were overwhelmingly pessimistic about the little girl’s prognosis. According to Marie Killileas’ 1991 obituary, doctors told her and her husband James that their daughter’s “case was hopeless”. They said that “Karen had no intellect, could never learn to walk or communicate with others.” But Marie knew they were wrong.