The Spectrum: Teaching Communication Skills to Children with Autism (ASD)

One of the greatest challenges faced by parents of children with autism undoubtedly lies in the challenge of teaching communication skills to children who find socializing extremely difficult. As a primary facet of autism, difficulties with communication can put stress on familial relationships and deeply affect how a child performs in school and job training; fortunately, there are ways to help an autistic child overcome their struggles with verbal and non-verbal communication.

Thinking Patterns of Autism

To truly make a difference in the life of a child with autism, it is imperative for parents to understand why communication is so difficult for people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). For children with autism, psychological processes that neurotypical individuals often take for granted are experienced differently and with far greater difficulty. An autistic child will often experience a high degree of sensory overload when placed in a social situation, making the process of communicating with others feel overwhelming and even painful.

Where a neurotypical child would process social information quickly and efficiently while communicating with peers or adults, for example, a child with autism will “shut down” as the part of their brain that controls executive function struggles to cope with what it perceives to be as a multi-faceted problem. Just as most of us would feel overwhelmed if we were suddenly presented with four difficult math problems that needed to be solved simultaneously and within a limited timeframe, a child with autism will often view the multiple processes at work in socializing with anxiety and trepidation.

Learning By Doing

With these concepts about the chief qualities of autism in mind, parents can help children overcome difficulties in communication by modeling the kind of interpersonal skills that children with autism often struggle to learn or cope with in a social setting. Exaggerated modeling of social skills by parents has been shown to be particularly effective in teaching autistic children about socializing; emphasizing the kind of gestures and eye contact that are central to clear interpersonal communication can do wonders for children who are learning the basics of social skills, for example, as can reducing speech to its barest elements…

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How to Boost Your Immune System and Stay Healthy

Cold and Flu season is still underway, and you may be wondering how you can keep yourself healthy, and avoid getting sick. For many, the winter and spring months bring on at least one dreaded head cold, or worse, the flu. However, it’s important to remember that your immune system is your body’s natural form of defense from sickness, and making sure it’s functioning properly is the first step to avoiding feeling under the weather. This season, here are a few great ways to give your immune system the boost it needs.

Don’t Miss Out on Sleep

Sleep deprivation is one of the main things that can contribute to a lowered immune system.  Think about when you’re not feeling well and your body’s decreased energy level. When you’re sick, your body desires sleep due to an automatic response and immune defense.  In other words, when you sleep while being sick, your body essentially kicks into overdrive and increases its healing process.  With that said, sleep is also a preventative measure you should always take to avoid getting sick.  It provides your body with downtime and gives it the opportunity to restore and repair itself.

Have a Well-Rounded Diet

Eating the right foods provides your body with tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that directly contribute to keeping your immune system functioning properly.  You’ll want to focus on natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains and avoid processed foods that hold little to no nutritional value…

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Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease

We’ve previously discussed the significant impact that sleep deprivation can have on your heart and your health in general.  One of the main links to sleep deprivation is a sleeping disorder known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is linked to a general lack of sleep, chronic daytime sleepiness, and many cardiovascular issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, and heart arrhythmia.  

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes a person’s breathing during sleep to pause due to blocked airways, or issues with muscle control.  Generally, a person will fall asleep and have a significant pause in breathing that will ultimately cause them to wake up multiple times throughout the night.  In severe sleep apnea cases, this can happen for an individual hundreds of times throughout the night, causing a very unsteady sleep pattern. According to Harvard Health, sleep apnea is found in 47-83% of individuals with cardiovascular disease; and research estimates that those with untreated sleep apnea have an increased risk of death due to heart disease.

The most common form of sleep apnea, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused due to the upper airway collapsing, thus becoming blocked during sleep.  When the airway becomes blocked, breathing is paused, and oxygen levels decrease. As an emergency response, your body then releases a stress hormone known as epinephrine.  Depending on the severity of OSA and how many times your body is releasing the hormone, your epinephrine levels can remain consistently high, thus leading to high blood pressure…

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The Spectrum: Myths and Misconceptions

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a common topic that is often discussed. From a simple Google search, you can find unlimited information about ASD that is scientific, as well as opinion based. With the power of the internet, and it giving people the ability to express their research, beliefs, and views at any time, there is not only a mass amount of factual information but also a substantial amount of false information as well. In our previous pieces on “The Spectrum,” we’ve focused on many different topics regarding ASD, from treatments to signs. Like anything else, ASD is surrounded by myths and non-factual information; here are a few major myths and misconceptions surrounding ASD:

People with ASD are Anti-Social
Many children and adults with ASD struggle to build and maintain relationships due to different challenges surrounding their ability to communicate. Because of this, they may come off as shy, or even unfriendly. This may give others who may not understand ASD the wrong impression. Children and adults with ASD often want to create relationships with others, just as someone who isn’t on the spectrum might. It’s important to remember, that a person with ASD may find difficulty navigating a relationship, but often still desires social interaction, or simply making friends. If you know someone with ASD, keep this in mind as you work on communicating with them. It may take a little more time and effort, but relationships and friendships can be very beneficial for a person on the spectrum.

People with ASD Can’t Express or Understand Emotions
Similar to the assumption that individuals with ASD don’t want to be social or build relationships, another common misconception is that children and adults with ASD cannot express or understand emotion…

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The Spectrum: Art Therapy

In our previous blogs, we’ve discussed different forms of therapies that are often used to treat those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  From music to cognitive behavioral therapy, treating ASD can come in many different forms, and each can be effective in their own way. One of the major forms of therapy that many parents see value in is art therapy.  While every child is different, and one form of therapy may not work as well as another, art therapy has been proven to help with numerous ASD related challenges, especially for children with severe Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  Here are a few of the major benefits behind treating ASD with art therapy:

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

One of the major areas of ASD that art therapy is used for is addressing sensory issues.  Many children with ASD are faced with sensory challenges often known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). A child that is struggling with SPD may find things such as certain textures, lighting, or sounds to be extremely irritating, to the point where they may even feel physical pain. This is generally because their senses are overstimulated, thus causing them to feel agitated or angry when they are experiencing these senses. SPD contributes to an overwhelming amount of emotional and behavioral issues.  

Art therapy is used to increase the tolerance for overstimulation of senses by converting it into an enjoyable art form.  Because children with ASD often find art to be enjoyable, they are more likely to tolerate different textures better and smells that would likely bother them in a different setting.  The key is to continue to expose the child the stimuli that he/she may prefer to avoid, to help desensitize them and make it more tolerable if they were to encounter them in everyday life.

Improve Social & Verbal Communication Skills

Social and verbal communication skills can often be limited for a child with ASD.  While some children are entirely verbal, others may be less verbal, or in some cases, totally non-verbal.  It’s not uncommon for a child with ASD to experience difficulty communicating verbally, in turn, causing social limitations as well…

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4 Major Health Benefits of Yoga

Fitness and physical activity are a great way to improve and maintain your general health.  By engaging in physical activity, you’re giving a regular boost to your cardiovascular system, all while working towards increasing joint and muscle health.  While some may prefer a good run or regular weight lifting at the gym, others may take a different avenue; one that improves not only physical health but mental, as well. Yoga is a practice the incorporates the use of mind and body, by engaging in different poses, meditations, and deep breathing exercises.  If you’re looking for a new and exciting way to boost your physical activity, consider yoga for some of these major health benefits:

Improve Heart Health

Like other physical activities, yoga promotes healthy blood flow to your heart and other essential areas of the body.  Studies suggest that those who participate in yoga regularly have lower blood pressures than those who don’t, further reducing their risk for heart disease or other cardiovascular issues.  Additionally, yoga comes with the potential for lower cholesterol. While it’s important to remember diet also plays a large role in these factors, a good combination of a healthy diet and the right amount of physical activity is the best way to improve your heart health.

Decrease Stress & Anxiety

Yoga is known for its meditation and deep breathing exercises.  In a quiet relaxing atmosphere, those that participate in yoga can often experience a lower level of stress, and can better combat daily anxiety and worrisome feelings.  Multiple studies have shown that regular participation in yoga has drastically reduced the symptoms of anxiety, from mild to severe, by promoting new ways to cope with distress.  Yoga is also known to help decrease high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone…

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Healthy & Natural Ways to Reduce High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that’s found naturally throughout your body.  In general, your body needs cholesterol to produce substances like certain hormones and Vitamin D that contribute to your body’s digestive system.  Naturally, your body creates the proper amount of cholesterol that it needs to function properly; however, many people struggle with battling high cholesterol that can lead to heart problems and other health issues.  Luckily, high cholesterol can be managed and reduced with the right steps:

Reduce Consumption of Saturated & Trans Fats

Saturated fats and Trans fats are both large contributors to a rise in your cholesterol level.  Saturated fats are primarily found in red meat and some dairy products that are high in fat. Reducing your consumption of these foods lowers your intake of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol; LDL cholesterol is commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol.  Additionally, many non-perishable items you purchase from the grocery store, such as butter and margarine, or sweets like cookies and cakes, can be high in trans fats.

Boost Your Soluble Fiber Intake

Just like fats, there are both good fiber, and bad fiber.  Soluble fiber, the good kind, can be found in many natural foods such as beans, avocados, broccoli, oats, and flax seeds, to mention just a few.  Soluble fiber blends well within your gut, reduces high blood sugar, improves digestion, and can contribute to lowering your cholesterol…

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The Mediterranean Diet and Heart Health

In previous blogs, we’ve discussed the many benefits and negative impacts that different foods and diets can have on your body and your heart.  The foods you eat regularly have a huge impact on your body’s overall function; from weight management to the function of vital organs, taking care of your body is extremely important.  Many people look at a diet as a form of restriction; meaning you focus on the things you can’t have, rather than what you can. The Mediterranean diet is a fantastic eating plan that not only gives you the ability to consume delicious foods but know the foods you are consuming are providing your body with numerous health benefits.  So, what is it?

The Mediterranean diet is a basic incorporation of natural, plant-based foods, whole grains, beans, and healthy fats, such as raw nuts; you even have the option of the occasional glass of red wine.  According to the American Heart Association, individuals that follow an average Mediterranean diet consume a much lower amount of saturated that those who eat the average American diet.  Let’s break it down:

Benefits

According to the Mayo Clinic, the traditional Mediterranean diet significantly reduces the risk of heart disease and is associated with decreased levels of LDL cholesterol.  A decrease in LDL cholesterol limits the buildup of cholesterol deposits in your heart and arteries, ultimately reducing the overall risk of mortality related to cardiovascular issues. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet reduces the risks of different types of cancers and can prevent other major chronic illnesses.   

Natural Foods: Fruits, Veggies, Grains

The main components of a healthy Mediterranean diet are natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains like pasta, bread, and different types of rice…

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This article was originally published on ricardoquarriemd.com

The Importance of Organ Donation

Becoming an organ donor is much more than just an indication on your driver’s license.  Organ donors are extremely important in our society as they give individuals in need the chance at a new life.  According to Seattle Children’s Hospital, just one organ donor can save or improve the lives of more than eight people in need.  From vital organs such as the heart and lungs to restorative surgeries that can help bring back a patients eyesight.  Organ donation can save and improve the lives of children and adults of various ages, and the need is only increasing.

According to the U.S Department of Health & Human Services, more than 114,000 men, women, and children are registered on the national transplant waiting list.  These patients are waiting for vital organs that can help save their lives. Though that staggering statistic is only increasing as time goes on, the number of registered donors is struggling to keep up.  While many U.S adults support the concept of organ donation, it is estimated that only 54% are actually registered as organ donors. The shortage of donors is increasing with a new patient waiting for transplant being added to the list every ten minutes. 

So, how can you go about registering, and what does being an organ donor consist of?  Regardless of your race, nationality, or medical history, you can usually register as an organ donor.  To register you must be 18 years or older; however, in some states, donors under 18 can be acceptable with the authorization of a parent or guardian.  Deciding to become a donor is a big decision; however, once you have made the choice, going about it is an easy process…

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The Spectrum: Transition into Adulthood

As a parent, you want the best for your child.  As a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you may have concerns about how your child will make the transition into adulthood.  While many children with ASD can lead generally normal lives, it’s not uncommon for them to face different challenges as they grow and make the transition into adulthood.  However, this isn’t a reason to worry, just a reason to have a plan in advance. Here are some great steps to helping your child with their transition as they grow.

Develop a Plan

The first step to setting your child up for a successful transition into adulthood is creating a solid plan.  While your child is living at home with you, they have stability and a solid routine that they can stick to. If they are planning on going out on their own, you’ll want to do your best to prepare them for the world that they may not be too familiar with.  To do this, you can start to introduce new things gradually, and see how they react. Making decisions such as college, work, or living on their own with a caretaker are all potential options you may want to visit.

Decide on College or Not

Some children with ASD may make their way to college after they graduate from high school.  Of course, this is dependent on how severe their ASD is; however if your child is college bound, you’ll want to make sure they have the right resources for support and help when needed.  Many colleges have programs for students with special needs and other disabilities that can help support them during their time there. Community college, as well as four-year universities offer various programs and you have do your research for each individual school you may be contemplating to determine what they offer. Do the proper amount of research to find the right schools and programs; don’t forget to consider the financial aspects that may be required…

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