I Get Asked All the Time, “What Are Early Indicators of Autism?”

One year old baby boy looking at sunflower

Written by Christine Wilson M.S., CCC-SLP

Signs and symptoms of autism in babies and toddlers

If autism is caught in infancy, treatment can take full advantage of the young brain’s remarkable plasticity. Although autism is hard to diagnose before 24 months, symptoms often surface between 12 and 18 months.  If signs are detected by 18 months of age, intensive treatment may help to rewire the brain and reverse the symptoms.

The earliest signs of autism involve the absence of normal behaviors—not the presence of abnormal ones—so they can be tough to spot. In some cases, the earliest symptoms of autism are even misinterpreted as signs of a “good baby,” since the infant may seem quiet, independent, and undemanding. However, you can catch warning signs early if you know what to look for.

Some autistic infants don’t respond to cuddling, reach out to be picked up, or look at their mothers when being fed.

Early signs of autism in babies and toddlers

  • Doesn’t make eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed).
  • Doesn’t smile when smiled at.
  • Doesn’t respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice.
  • Doesn’t follow objects visually.
  • Doesn’t point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate.
  • Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out.
  • Doesn’t make noises to get your attention.
  • Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling.
  • Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions.
  • Doesn’t reach out to be picked up.
  • Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment.
  • Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests.

Following Delays = Immediate Evaluation

  • By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions.
  • By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions.
  • By 12 months: Lack of response to name.
  • By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk.”
  • By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving.
  • By 16 months: No spoken words.
  • By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating.

Grants for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism.

This list is only a resource to assist you in finding possible grants from charitable organizations. All questions regarding grants should be directed to the organization listed, via their website or phone number. The Kaufman Children’s Center has made every effort to provide high-quality and helpful grant information listed below, but they cannot be held liable for errors or the quality of the grant sources. Information should be independently verified and confirmed.

  1. www.aacfinc.org Aid for Autistic Children Foundation, Inc.™ mission: Reduce the financial burden on poverty stricken and disenfranchised families and caretakers coping with autism, through debt forgiveness, so attention and resources can be focused on creating a proper living and learning environment for their autistic loved one.
  2. www.aboutprojectIam.com is strictly a fundraising foundation whose main function is to distribute money to families in the Toledo area so they can have their children diagnosed, treated, and moving forward while living with Autism.
  3. www.act-today.org fund effective treatments, assessments and needed life supports with grants from $100-$5,000. Applications with multiple children with ASD and households with income below $100,000 are reviewed first.
  4. www.acttodayformilitaryfamilies.org real help for military families dealing with autism.
  5. www.angelautismnetwork.org A.N.G.E.L. Inc offers assistance and support for children with autism living in Wisconsin.
  6. www.autismcares.org This collaborative agency offers funding to families across the US who are living with autism and also are coping with a major crisis such as flood or fire. AutismCares assists families who meet the eligibility criteria to cover costs associated with housing, automobile repair, insurance premiums, medical care, prescriptions, daycare, funeral expenses, and other items on a case-by-case basis. Income cap of $40,000.
  7. www.autismescapes.org primary purpose is to arrange air travel on private jets for families in need of medical care for their children.
  8. www.bloomingwithautism.org $80,000 annual income cap and grants for $2,000 for therapies.
  9. www.friendsofjacob.org Provide financial assistance for medical bills, therapy, equipment, therapeutic horseback riding and respite care for Michigan residents.
  10. www.generationrescue.org Many individuals with autism suffer from treatable conditions like gut issues, sleep disorders and mitochondrial dysfunction which directly impact speech development, behavior and focus. Our grant program provides the opportunity to pursue treating these underlying symptoms of autism.
  11. www.gohfoundation.org Spectrum of Hope Foundation provides advocacy grants to families in California.
  12. www.theisaacfoundation.org The ISAAC Foundation provides financial grants for therapy to families in Spokane, Stevens, Lincoln, Whitman and Kootenai Counties in Washington state.
  13. www.itaalk.org provides interactive technology to children (0-22) with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and educational training on interactive technology to families, educators, and service providers of children with special needs.
  14. www.jacksplaceforautism.com Jack’s Place for Autism Foundation has created “Jack’s Dollars”, a Scholarship Program to help families in Michigan afford the support they need for a variety of programs.
  15. www.lend4health.blogspot.com/ a unique program that provides interest free microloans (in the amount of a few hundred dollars) to families from other families. Families interested in receiving a loan post on the blog, and may receive contributions that must be paid back over time.
  16. www.lilmackids.org The Lil MAC Kids Foundation was formed to assist needy families in Ohio and Minnesota bridge the gap for therapies for ASD. Applications are accepted October-November and awarded by December 15th.
  17. www.maggieshope.org always looking for ways to directly help families in need that are affected by autism.
  18. www.mygoalautism.org The purpose of MyGOAL Family Grant is to enrich the body, mind, and spirit of individual(s) with Autism Spectrum Disorders, resulting in a higher quality of life. New Jersey residents only.
  19. www.nationalautismassociation.org NAA’s Helping Hand Program was developed as a financial aid tool for families most in need. Do not apply if annual net income exceeds $50,000.
  20. www.pjjraf.org Pervis Jackson Jr Autism Foundation has start a fund to help needy parents of children with disabilities to get respite or other support services.
  21. www.tacanow.org/about-taca/family-scholarship-program/ assistance with diagnosis, DAN! Conference, DAN! Appointments, follow up and lab work.
  22. www.thecolorofautism.org organization committed to educating and assisting African American families with Autistic children. The Back to School iPad Program opens several times through out the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have any questions or concerns, contact Speech-Language Pathologist Christine Wilson! Posted by office manager Paige Taylor.

Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness month!

Article brought to you by Autism Society

Nearly a quarter century ago, the Autism Society launched a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life. This year we want to go beyond simply promoting autism awareness to encouraging friends and collaborators to become partners in movement toward acceptance and appreciation.

Let’s embrace a new perspective. For over 50 years we have worked in communities (both large and small) to ensure our actions, through our services and programming, supported all individuals living with autism. Let’s expand this work to focus on the rest of us – ensuring acceptance and inclusion in schools and communities that results in true appreciation of the unique aspects of all people. We want to get one step closer to a society where those with ASDs are truly valued for their unique talents and gifts.

Join in celebration for 2018 National Autism Awareness Month! National Autism Awareness Month represents an excellent opportunity to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands facing an autism diagnosis each year.

How is it celebrated?

  • Presidential/Congressional declarations
  • Online events and activities
  • Local events and activities through Affiliates
  • Partner opportunities

What can I do?

  • Sign up for e-newsletter Autism Matters to continue sharing ideas on how to make a better world for autism here.
  • Share your experience/stories with NAAM or autism with us. Use #StandUpForAutism to join the conversation!


ribbon-large

Put on the Puzzle! The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community in the world. Autism prevalence is now one in every 68 children in America. Show your support for people with autism by wearing the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon – as a pin on your shirt, a magnet on your car, a badge on your blog, or even your Facebook profile picture – and educate folks on the potential of people with autism! To learn more about the Autism Awareness Ribbon, click here. To purchase the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon for your shirt, car, locker or refrigerator, click here.

Connect with your neighborhood. Many Autism Society local affiliates hold special events in their communities throughout the month of April. But if you can’t find an event that suits you just right, create your own!

sff_logo_157x150Watch a movie. Did you know that something that seems as simple as going to the movies is not an option for many families affected by autism? The Autism Society is working with AMC Theatres to bring special-needs families Sensory Friendly Films every month.

Donate to the Autism Society: Help improve the lives of all impacted by autism with a financial gift to the Autism Society. Every dollar raised by the Autism Society allows us to improve the capabilities and services of our over 100 nationwide affiliates, provide the best national resource database and contact center specializing in autism, and increase public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with ASD and their families.

 

If your child has Autism and you are looking for a speech therapist, look no further! Contact Christine Wilson‘s office today.

Four Lessons from “Inside Out” to Discuss With Kids

Emotion word cloud

From Greater Good Magazine written by Jason Marsh and Vicki Zakrzewski

Since its release, Inside Out has been applauded by critics, adored by audiences. But perhaps its greatest achievement has been this: It has moved viewers young and old to take a look inside their own minds. As you likely know by now, much of the film takes place in the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, with five emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—embodied by characters who help Riley navigate her world. The film has some deep things to say about the nature of our emotions—which is no coincidence, as the GGSC’s founding faculty director, Dacher Keltner, served as a consultant on the film, helping to make sure that, despite some obvious creative liberties, the film’s fundamental messages about emotion are consistent with scientific research.

Those messages are smartly embedded within Inside Out‘s inventive storytelling and mind-blowing animation; they enrich the film without weighing it down. But they are conveyed strongly enough to provide a foundation for discussion among kids and adults alike. Some of the most memorable scenes in the film double as teachable moments for the classroom or dinner table.

Though Inside Out has artfully opened the door to these conversations, it can still be hard to find the right way to move through them or respond to kids’ questions. So for parents and teachers who want to discuss Inside Out with children, here we have distilled four of its main insights into our emotional lives, along with some of the research that backs them up. And a warning, lest we rouse your Anger: There are a number of spoilers below.

1) Happiness is not just about joy. When the film begins, the emotion of Joy—personified by a manic pixie-type with the voice of Amy Poehler—helms the controls inside Riley’s mind; her overarching goal is to make sure that Riley is always happy. But by the end of the film, Joy—like Riley, and the audience—learns that there is much, much more to being happy than boundless positivity. In fact, in the film’s final chapter, when Joy cedes control to some of her fellow emotions, particularly Sadness, Riley seems to achieve a deeper form of happiness.

This reflects the way that a lot of leading emotion researchers see happiness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of the best-selling How of Happiness, defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” (emphasis added) So while positive emotions such as joy are definitely part of the recipe for happiness, they are not the whole shebang.

In fact, a recent study found that people who experience “emodiversity,” or a rich array of both positive and negative emotions, have better mental health. The authors of this study suggest that feeling a variety of specific emotions may give a person more detailed information about a particular situation, thus resulting in better behavioral choices—and potentially greater happiness.

For example, in a pivotal moment in the film, Riley allows herself to feel sadness, in addition to fear and anger, about her idea of running away from home; as a result, she decides not to go through with her plan. This choice reunites Riley with her family, giving her a deeper sense of happiness and contentment in the comfort she gets from her parents, even though it’s mixed with sadness and fear.

In that light, Inside Out’s creators, including director Pete Docter, made a smart choice to name Poehler’s character “Joy” instead of “Happiness.” Ultimately, joy is just one element of happiness, and happiness can be tinged with other emotions, even including sadness.

2) Don’t try to force happiness. One of us (Vicki) felt an old, familiar frustration when Riley’s mother tells her to be her parents’ “happy girl” while the family adjusts to a stressful cross-country move and her father goes through a difficult period at work. As a child, Vicki got similar messages and used to think something was wrong with her if she wasn’t happy all the time. And all the research and press about the importance of happiness in recent years can make this message that much more potent.

Thank goodness emotion researcher June Gruber and her colleagues started looking at the nuances of happiness and its pursuit. Their findings challenge the “happy-all-the-time” imperative that was probably imposed upon many of us.

For example, their research suggests that making happiness an explicit goal in life can actually make us miserable. Gruber’s colleague Iris Mauss has discovered that the more people strive for happiness, the greater the chance that they’ll set very high standards of happiness for themselves and feel disappointed—and less happy—when they’re not able to meet those standards all the time.

So it should come as no surprise that trying to force herself to be happy actually doesn’t help Riley deal with the stresses and transitions in her life. In fact, not only does that strategy fail to bring her happiness, it also seems to make her feel isolated and angry with her parents, which factors into her decision to run away from home.

What’s a more effective route to happiness for Riley (and the rest of us)? Recent research points to the importance of “prioritizing positivity”—deliberately carving out ample time in life for experiences that we personally enjoy. For Riley, that’s ice hockey, spending time with friends, and goofing around with her parents.

But critically, prioritizing positivity does not require avoiding or denying negative feelings or the situations that cause them—the kind of single-minded pursuit of happiness that can be counter-productive. That’s a crucial emotional lesson for Riley and her family when Riley finally admits that moving to San Francisco has been tough for her—an admission that brings her closer to her parents.

3) Sadness is vital to our well-being. Early in the film, Joy admits that she doesn’t understand what Sadness is for or why it’s in Riley’s head. She’s not alone. At one time or another, many of us have probably wondered what purpose sadness serves in our lives.

That’s why the two of us love that Sadness rather than Joy emerges as the hero of the movie. Why? Because Sadness connects deeply with people—a critical component of happiness—and helps Riley do the same. For example, when Riley’s long-forgotten imaginary friend Bing Bong feels dejected after the loss of his wagon, it is Sadness’s empathic understanding that helps him recover, not Joy’s attempt to put a positive spin on his loss. (Interestingly, this scene illustrates an important finding from research on happiness, namely that expressions of happiness must be appropriate to the situation.)

In one the film’s greatest revelations, Joy looks back on one of Riley’s “core memories”—when the girl missed a shot in an important hockey game—and realizes that the sadness Riley felt afterwards elicited compassion from her parents and friends, making her feel closer to them and transforming this potentially awful memory into one imbued with deep meaning and significance for her.

With great sensitivity, Inside Out shows how tough emotions like sadness, fear, and anger, can be extremely uncomfortable for people to experience—which is why many of us go to great lengths to avoid them (see the next section). But in the film, as in real life, all of these emotions serve an important purpose by providing insight into our inner and outer environments in ways that can help us connect with others, avoid danger, or recover from loss.

One caveat: While it’s important to help kids embrace sadness, parents and teachers need to explain to them that sadness is not the same as depression—a mood disorder that involves prolonged and intense periods of sadness. Adults also need to create safe and trusting environments for children so they will feel safe asking for help if they feel sad or depressed.

4) Mindfully embrace—rather than suppress—tough emotions. At one point, Joy attempts to prevent Sadness from having any influence on Riley’s psyche by drawing a small “circle of Sadness” in chalk and instructing Sadness to stay within it. It’s a funny moment, but psychologists will recognize that Joy is engaging in a risky behavior called “emotional suppression”—an emotion-regulation strategy that has been found to lead to anxiety and depression, especially amongst teenagers whose grasp of their own emotions is still developing. Sure enough, trying to contain Sadness and deny her a role in the action ultimately backfires for Joy, and for Riley.

Later in the film, when Bing Bong loses his wagon (the scene described above), Joy tries to get him to “cognitively reappraise” the situation, meaning that she encourages him to reinterpret what this loss means for him—in this case, by trying to shift his emotional response toward the positive. Cognitive reappraisal is a strategy that has historically been considered the most effective way to regulate emotions. But even this method of emotion regulation is not always the best approach, as researchers have found that it can sometimes increase rather than decrease depression, depending on the situation.

Toward the end of the movie, Joy does what some researchers now consider to be the healthiest method for working with emotions: Instead of avoiding or denying Sadness, Joy accepts Sadness for who she is, realizing that she is an important part of Riley’s emotional life.

Emotion experts call this “mindfully embracing” an emotion. What does that mean? Rather than getting caught up in the drama of an emotional reaction, a mindful person kindly observes the emotion without judging it as the right or wrong way to feel in a given situation, creating space to choose a healthy response. Indeed, a 2014 study found that depressed adolescents and young adults who took a mindful approach to life showed lower levels of depression, anxiety, and bad attitudes, as well as a greater quality of life.

Certainly, Inside Out isn’t the first attempt to teach any of these four lessons, but it’s hard to think of another piece of media that has simultaneously moved and entertained so many people in the process. It’s a shining example of the power of media to shift viewers’ understanding of the human experience—a shift that, in this case, we hope will help viewers foster deeper and more compassionate connections to themselves and those around them.

 

Three Approaches for Clients Seeking Transgender Voice Modification

VoiceWave

Three Approaches for Clients Seeking Transgender Voice Modification

Written by: Tina Babajanians from ASHA Leader Live

Over the last few years, society experienced a pivotal change. We recognize that many people identify with a gender different from or nonconforming with their biological sex.

This awareness led to an increase in equality and rights for the LGBTQ community. And as more people from this community begin to live as their authentic selves, more clients seek to modify their voice to better match their gender identity—and they seek professional guidance from speech-language pathologists to do so. Although SLPs have helped transgender clients for decades, the wider societal acceptance means more people feel comfortable seeking our voice-modification services.

Our voice is an integral part of our identity. Imagine yourself as a person taking steps to begin living in a new gender role. You may feel your voice tone or pitch doesn’t accurately represent who you are. Based on my experience working with this population, I know that having a voice that doesn’t match your identity can feel devastating, and often hinders clients’ transition process.

SLPs—experts in voice, resonance and vocal care—are best suited to deliver innovative services in these areas. In addition, we should collect data on our clients’ results and share our anecdotal evidence and research with our peers.

I’ll go first! Using the following strategies, my clients seeking voice-modification services saw significant improvement in their desired voice outcomes:

  • Warming up the voice and the body before beginning each session: I like to start my clients with Stemple’s Vocal Function Exercises, as well as breath work to help with relaxation. I find this also helps clients release stress, establishes rapport as we join together in this exercise, and generally sets a positive tone for the session.
  • Teaching a feminine resonance isn’t all about higher pitch: Many of my clients want their voice to sound more “feminine.” To achieve a voice perceived as feminine, we tend to think of elevating the pitch. Instead, I teach clients to speak with a forward-focused resonance. This means directing them to bring their voice out of their chest.
  • Stressing the importance of exercising new skills: From day one with a client, I focus on generalization with other people and in other settings. It doesn’t matter if it’s a vocal hygiene plan or practicing their new resonance techniques with a friend for 10 minutes each day. I stress follow-up and practice at home immediately. I find if clients are uncomfortable practicing their plan of care outside of our sessions, then they can’t generalize even with the most effective approaches. I also help my clients figure out how to integrate working on their new skills at multiple opportunities throughout the day. For example, talking to customer service representatives who don’t know them is a good time to practice their forward-focused resonance.

These strategies have worked well for my clients who are transgender or gender nonconforming. Through our collective efforts, we can change the future of transgender voice modification, while we provide effective and evidence-based services for these clients.

Important Milestones at Four Years Old

girl reading
How your child plays, learns, speaks, and acts offers important clues about your child’s development. Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age.

Check the milestones your child has reached by his or her 4th birthday. Take this with you and talk with your child’s doctor at every visit about the milestones your child has reached and what to expect next.

What most babies do at this age:

Social and Emotional

  • Enjoys doing new things
  • Plays “Mom” and “Dad”
  • Is more and more creative with make-believe play
  • Would rather play with other children than by himself/herself
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Often can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Talks about what she likes and what she is interested in

Language and Communication

  • Knows some basic rules of grammar, such as correctly using “he” and “she”
  • Sings a song or says a poem from memory such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or the “Wheels on the Bus”
  • Tells stories
  • Can say first and last name
Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Names some colors and some numbers
  • Understands the idea of counting
  • Starts to understand time
  • Remembers parts of a story
  • Understands the idea of “same” and “different”
  • Draws a person with 2 to 4 body parts
  • Uses scissors
  • Starts to copy some capital letters
  • Plays board or card games
  • Tells you what he thinks is going to happen next in a book

Movement and Physical Development

  • Hops and stands on one foot up to 2 seconds
  • Catches a bounced ball most of the time
  • Pours, cuts with supervision, and mashes own food

Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Can’t jump in place
  • Has trouble scribbling
  • Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe
  • Ignores other children or doesn’t respond to people outside the family
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, and using the toilet
  • Can’t retell a favorite story
  • Doesn’t follow 3-part commands
  • Doesn’t understand “same” and “different”
  • Doesn’t use “me” and “you” correctly
  • Speaks unclearly
  • Loses skills he once had

If you have any questions or concerns, click here to contact Speech-language Pathologist Christine Wilson.

Important Milestones at Three Years Old

 

children-playing

Check the milestones your child has reached by his or her 3rd birthday. Take this with you and talk with your child’s doctor at every visit about the milestones your child has reached and what to expect next. Take a look at what most children do at this age:

Social and Emotional

  • Copies adults and friends
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Takes turns in games
  • Shows concern for crying friend
  • Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
  • Shows a wide range of emotions
  • Separates easily from mom and dad
  • May get upset with major changes in routine
  • Dresses and undresses self

Language/Communication

  • Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Understands words like “in,” “on,” and “under”
  • Says first name, age, and sex
  • Names a friend
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats)
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  • Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces
  • Understands what “two” means
  • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle

Movement/Physical Development

  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike)
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step

Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child

  • Falls down a lot or has trouble with stairs
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Can’t work simple toys (such as peg boards, simple puzzles, turning handle)
  • Doesn’t speak in sentences
  • Doesn’t understand simple instructions
  • Doesn’t play pretend or make-believe
  • Doesn’t want to play with other children or with toys
  • Doesn’t make eye contact
  • Loses skills he once had

It’s important to notify your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age.

If you have any questions contact Speech Therapist, Christine Wilson.