Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Can the Nintendo Wii Change Lives if Used by a Trained Therapist?

By Yomin Postelnik

Autism Health and Wellness Magazine

Breakthrough Therapy Services has found a way to change lives. Its Director, Speech Language Pathologist Kimberly Bloom, is using Nintendo Wii and other fun and stimulating methods to achieve record progress for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Kim Bloom Working With Children And Changing Their Lives

Take the case of 4 year old Sebastian. The remarkable progress that Bloom and Breakthrough Therapy Services achieved for this child brought attention to their strong track record of changing kids’ lives in dramatic and meaningful ways. Sebastian’s remarkable progress actually resulted in the Sun-Sentinel dedicating an entire feature to Breakthrough Therapy Services.

Before starting therapy, Sebastian was unable to get dressed on his own or even begin to perform tasks that toddlers his age manage with ease. Sebastian also lacked coordination and was unable to hold a remote or to stand in one place and play a coordinated game.

Four short weeks later, under Kim Bloom’s guidance, and Sebastian was playing interactive bowling like a pro. And that’s not all! He began to make significant improvements in his overall independence skills. A child’s life was changed and he’s beginning to develop into a range of self sufficiency because of the treatment. And he’s only one of hundreds of stories that have reacted similarly to Breakthrough’s unique treatment.

In fact, just last year Breakthrough Therapy Services staff organized a Breakthrough Musical performance at Hollywood’s Toddler Tech Academy, in which children with autism performed in front of a fairly large and certainly enthralled audience, all thanks to the dedicated parents and therapists who volunteered their time for months to practice and prepare for this musical.

The key to Breakthrough Therapy Services’ success is simple yet remarkable:when kids are having fun, they learn easier and are motivated to succeed. Yet the remarkable progress that Bloom is able to achieve also comes from dedication, perseverance, experience and vast creativity. Nintendo Wii is only one of the creative and innovative ways that Bloom uses to engage children with obstacles in their way toward independence and to motivate them to succeed beyond what was deemed possible beforehand. This mixture of creative fun and “can do” attitude has changed countless lives and has made Bloom a real success story in the effort to mainstream or otherwise boost the quality of life of special needs children.

Having researched Breakthrough Therapy, I’ve found that all staff are dedicated, competent, friendly and passionate about their work. Their services, which are wide ranging, include: Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Nintendo Wii Speak & Wii-Habilitation, Interactive Metronome, Music Therapy/Musical Theater and Art Therapy, as well as Behavior Modification, Cognitive Skills Training, Handwriting Training, Pragmatic Groups/Play Groups, a specialized Listening Program and Sensory Integration.

Innovative therapies do work, especially when performed in a fun and exciting way that actually motivates kids to succeed. Combine that with experience, competence and dedication and the results are often life changing.

Breakthrough Therapy Services may be reached at (954) 474-8048, email kim@breakthroughtherapyservices.com or visit www.breakthroughtherapyservices.com.

The Link to Academic and Social Achievement for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

By Ilene R. Rotman, M.S. CCC-SLP,

Director/Owner of Language Link Therapy, Inc.

When I opened up Language Link Therapy, Inc. in August 2008, I wanted to approach treatment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with the idea of teaching them how to adapt and communicate in society. After working with children with ASD for the past decade, I have learned that through application, sensory, and pragmatic therapies, the children began to understand and apply the knowledge and language that they learned in therapy and used it appropriately.

What is Application Therapy? Application therapy takes what the child has learned, whether through previous speech therapy and/or ABA therapy, and teaches them how to use the language in a variety of social and academic settings. Application therapy focuses more on building a child’s expressive language repertoire and increases the child’s Mean Length of Utterance (MLU). MLU is the average amount of words a child uses per sentence.

What if my child is non-verbal or has severe verbal apraxia? Application therapy applies to the non-verbal child with the use of augmentative forms of communication (i.e. Augmentative devices, picture symbol communication, sign language, etc…). The ultimate goal for non-verbal and verbal children alike is for them to communicate with their peers and adults and assimilate as best as they can into society.

What is Sensory Integration Therapy? Most children with ASD suffer from an inability to regulate their sensory systems. When they are over stimulated, they have trouble bringing themselves down to a calm level.

During this period behaviors such as flapping of the hands, high pitched yells and noises, jumping up and down, walking rapidly in a pacing motion have been noted. When a child has reached this level and is forced to work in any therapeutic or academic fashion other then relating to the sensory deficit at hand, self injurious behaviors (SIB’s), injurious behaviors to others, and/or full on tantrums may occur. Immediately addressing the child’s overstimulation by working with them in a low light, pressure seeking, and calming environment helps the child to regulate their sensory over load and enables them to focus and work on their goals.

Just like over stimulation can affect a child’s ability to focus and attend to task, under stimulation, lethargy, and the child’s inability to adjust to their place in space can also promote negative behaviors. Rocking back and forth, standing on the head, crying and/or tantrums are only some of the negative behaviors noted due to under stimulation. Allowing the child to roll over a ball, swing on a swing, and play in a spinning fashion, stimulates the child which promotes better focus and attention to task.

What is Pragmatic Therapy? Social/Pragmatic therapy focuses on the ability to interact and build relationships with family members, peers, and other individuals.

Language Link Therapy, Inc. offers social/pragmatic therapy in private therapy sessions or in customized pragmatic/social groups based on social age, chronological age, and common interests of the children. Some of the goals addressed in therapy include increasing eye contact, peer interaction, conversation initiation, conversation turn-taking, topic-maintenance, joint attention, reduction of obsessive talk, reduction of self-talk, and increase interest in others. Our goal is to help the family member with social skill deficits increase self-esteem and develop lasting friendships.

Language Link Therapy is a privately owned, family run therapy clinic that provides speech, language, occupational, and feeding therapy to children and young adults. Educational consultations and advocacy are also available to our families.

At Language Link Therapy we provide therapy utilizing a "whole family" approach that involves not just your child, rather the entire family. With each therapy program we provide a customized plan for your child, sibling education and involvement, family education, and a home program. It is our feeling that a “whole family” approach can enhance a child’s progress and the family as a whole can see a substantial improvement.

The Benefits of Swings

By American Swing

Your child probably already knows and enjoys an activity that is improving his or her life…….swinging on a swing. The simple act of swinging can add so many dimensions to your child’s life. Every child should have the memory of playing on a swing set, swinging to and fro. However, for a child with autism or Asperger’s syndrome, swinging is not only an activity that he or she enjoys, it is helping your child to develop.

Many children with autism actually learn better while swinging. It has been found that they retain more of the information being taught. Your child may have less anxiety, improved behavior, and be more focused. If taught while swinging, the sensory input has been found to aid in improved eye contact, improve children’s responses and improve speech skills.

Sensory integration therapy often includes swinging which improves fine motor skills, which includes balance, touch, and a means to better manage his or her body in space and awareness of the body position.

Playing on swings develops relationships. A shared play experience can help with imagination, communication, and interactions with others. It can provide a positive experience that develops empathy for others. Swinging in your own backyard can create an activity in your child’s familiar setting that can build positive relationships within the family. When swinging with others, your child has a better understanding of other’s behavior and a better self awareness of his own behavior. Your child learns how to take turns, how to verbalize how he or she wants to swing, such as “higher”, “slower” and of course, “more”. Your child may have special needs, but sometimes, he or she just needs to be a kid, and swinging helps them develop socialization skills and to enjoy interacting with their peers.

American Swing Products Inc. offers many types of swing sets that work well with special needs children. One type is a light use frames for a single swing that is portable and can be used inside with feet that will protect your floor or carpet. This type of frame is for slower and lower swinging. However, American Swing Products Inc. offers other frames that are available for in the ground installation that are better for more vigorous swinging. These are metal frames that require very little installation time, tools, or mechanical knowledge. They can be set up in an afternoon. These frames can either be for a single swing or for two or more swings. If two or more swings are put on a frame, one can be a regular swing and one can be a more supportive swing. This configuration can offer activities for siblings in a family. These frames are very heavy duty and will last years with very little maintenance.

One type of special needs swing offered by many
American Swing Products Inc. is the JennSwing. The JennSwing is convenient because a child can be more easily lifted onto the swing and quickly strapped in. With its partially reclined, body-embracing design and easily adjustable safety harness, the JennSwing offers children a safe and comfortable fun ride. The seat is made out of durable, rotational molded plastic and will accommodate children up to 125 lbs. The seat is 14” wide x 11” deep. The seat back is 24” high and knee to foot length is 14” long. It is 45” overall and has a 3/16” thickness. The semi-reclined design offers better upper/lower body support. Leg rest gives added support and the arm rest provides lateral support. There is a fully adjustable safety harness that securely locks the child into place.

Through the activity of swinging, a child with autism can develop the desire to explore, experiment and express their unique perspective of their world. If you would like more information please call American Swing Products Inc. at 1-800-433-2573 or visit them at their website www.americanswing.com.

Unlocking the Full Potential of Your Child’s Brain

By Dr. John Conde

Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Neurology Board

AD/HD, autism, and related spectrum disorders have been classically regarded as a deficiency in a particular brain messenger (neurotransmitter) termed dopamine. Mainstream treatments focus on stabilizing this dopamine system and addressing behavioral irregularities. While these treatments have a place and all are helpful, none focus on the asymmetries in brain function related to the frontal lobe, thalamus, and cerebellum.

Learning/behavioral disorders such as AD/HD and autism are physical, neurological conditions involving dysfunction of brain. Dysfunction does not imply damage or disease, it indicates that certain pools of cells in your brain are under-functioning and are not as active as they should be.

Specifically, in children with AD/HD and autism there exists an electrical imbalance in brain stimulation and activity between the right and left hemisphere. The scientific term for this phenomenon is Functional Disconnection Syndrome. The result is a global decrease in brain activity primarily affecting the right hemisphere. This profoundly affects executive functions performed by the frontal lobe region of the right hemisphere such as cognition, motivation, mental focus, concentration, and body movements.

The symptoms can range from impulsivity and hyper-activity to emotional outbursts and excessive rough play. Evidence of inappropriate social graces can alienate classmates causing feelings of low self-esteem. As a result of the poor concentration and mental focus, learning becomes a challenge.

Understanding functions of the right hemisphere allows for an extrapolation of what occurs when there is an imbalance in brain function. The right hemisphere is associated with stopping movement and filtering thought, controlling gross motor/postural movements utilizing the trunk, social learning, creativity, responding to new concepts, and processing low frequency light.

The results of decreased right hemisphere function can be seen in the majority of children with spectrum disorders such as AD/HD and autism which include: preference for routine and rituals, difficulty engaging in lengthy conversation, poor social skills, tendency to fidget, tantrum episodes, clumsiness, and challenges with depth perception.

Treatment options include Hemispheric Integration Therapy (H.I.T.). This therapy is centered around maximizing the child’s brain function, focusing on the specific under-stimulated area of the brain and utilizes sensory/motor modalities. Careful observation is taken not to exceed the stamina of the cells involved, not unlike the feeling of soreness after “overdoing it” at the fitness club. Therefore, the therapies are given at a specific intensity and frequency to match those stamina levels.

Examples include hemisphere appropriate light and sound stimulation, tactile stimulation, olfactory (smell) stimulation, cross crawl mechanisms, specific eye movements, vestibular (inner ear) rehabilitation utilizing spins and abrupt changes of head positions, auditory (sound) stimulation, chiropractic adjustments on the left side, and balance activities.

Dr. John Conde is a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Neurology Board, one of less than one thousand in the country. He is also the Director of the Unlimited Potential Program which provides a unique approach to improving health and function for individuals with spectrum disorders such as AD/HD, autism, Asperger’s, and dyslexia. Dr. Conde also focuses on neurological conditions when related to sports, balance issues and wellness care. His office is located at the Atlantic Grove, 401 W. Atlantic Ave. Ste.014, Delray Beach, FL 33444 and can be reached at (561) 330-6096 or atinfo@thecondecenter.com. Please visit their website at www.thecondecenter.com.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Current Evidence & Future Promise

By Judith Aronson-Ramos, M.D.

Medical Director, Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics of South Florida

Research Consultant, Health Sciences of America

I have been diagnosing and treating children with Autism Spectrum Disorders for the past fifteen years. In this time there have been numerous changes in both diagnosis and treatment. This article is a summary of some key points of interest to parents and caregivers regarding new developments and standards of care which guide those of us who treat children with ASD on a regular basis.

Regarding Autism diagnosis we now have better tools to assess and diagnose children earlier and more accurately. Instruments such as the ADOS, Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, have become more widely available to clinicians and have standardized the assessment process. Early screening questionnaires such as the MCHAT can be quickly administered in a busy Pediatrician’s office to children as young as 15 months of age to help facilitate the process of early identification. Parents have access to numerous internet based resources with information about warning signs, red flags in their child’s development, and how to best help a child who they feel is not developing typically.

All of these developments have led to improved identification and earlier treatment for many children. However, there is unfortunately, still an unacceptable delay in many parts of the country to obtain an accurate diagnosis for many children on the spectrum at an early age.

Regarding treatment, it has become well established that ABA, applied behavioral analysis therapy is an effective treatment. Speech and Occupational therapies as well as other forms of instruction specially adapted to children with Autism such as the Teach Method, Verbal Behavior, Pivotal Response Training, Floor time, and other approaches are gaining in evidence and momentum as reasonable intervention strategies to use for children with ASD. Although there continues to be heated debate about the most effective treatment, access to different options is critical. We know there is heterogeneity amongst children in the spectrum, it is only logical that this will require a variety of approaches in the treatment of children with ASDs. We have yet to identify which subtypes of children with ASDs will respond best to specific therapeutic programs, however this may be the future.

Clinical Trial Research is another promising area which will provide families and children with ASDs more treatment options. There is a growing body of clinical trial research investigating various medications which may help improve the lives of children with ASDs. This research has focused on medications that improve symptoms, such as irritability, hyperactivity, aggression, behavioral rigidity, and self-injurious behaviors. There are also promising new studies investigating the treatment of the core deficits in autism such as socialization, and communication.

Although the biomedical aspects of ASDs are yet to be fully elucidated, there is inquiry into these mechanisms including oxidative stress, deficits in detoxification pathways, and metabolic derangements. Many treatments in these areas still lack sufficient evidence, but many parents have chose to trail some of these methods resulting in vitamin and mineral supplementation, dietary changes, use of experimental treatments such as chelation and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

As with many fields of medicine, there can be a lag between well documented evidence based treatments and interventions that hold promise. However a principal of medicine in clinical practice and research is “primum non nocere”, first do no harm. This principal is important for parents and their team of treating professionals to always adhere to regardless of the promises and claims of individuals who may offer hope. Clinical research and evidence based medicine both emphasize the use of treatments with well researched and proven benefits. Without a guiding framework such as this we will be vulnerable to the empty promises of cures without sufficient evidence.

Parents of children with ASDs are often vulnerable and it is my duty, by the oath of my profession to make sure parents are given the most accurate information regarding effective treatments for autism. The world of clinical research, though imperfect, does set a reputable standard whereby the safety, efficacy, and reliability of a treatment must be rigorously tested and proven, for it to be offered as a reasonable therapy to patients. Clinical Trials for autism treatments are in their infancy. The hope is they will add to the current evidence based treatments, and improve the lives of children and families with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

For more information about Clinical Trial Research in Autism contact, Health Sciences of America at 561-715-7032/ 561-376-7879. For more information about Dr. Judith Aronson-Ramos, M.D, visit her website at www.draronsonramos.com.

The Role of Cholesterol in Autistic Behaviors

By: William Shaw, PhD

The concept of “good” and “bad” cholesterol is a frequent topic of conversation these days. While diet plays an important role in the formation of cholesterol, the genetic factors involved with the synthesis and transport of cholesterol are what typically predispose an individual to cholesterol-related health problems. Many people are unaware that cholesterol is actually manufactured by the body’s own cells. Determining the significance of serum cholesterol values is not as simplistic as some might believe.

Discussions about cholesterol in the media are focused primarily on elevated levels in relation to cardiovascular risk; rarely taken into consideration are the risks associated with insufficient cholesterol values of 160 mg/dl or less. The truth is that low cholesterol can predispose people to violent behavior, suicide, depression, anxiety, bipolar disease, Parkinson’s disease, manganese deficiency, celiac disease, hyperthyroidism, liver disease, malabsorption, and malnutrition.

This is because cholesterol plays an important role in many physiological factors in the body. The formation of sterol hormones, cell membranes, and bile acids, would not be possible without cholesterol. In fact, the brain is the most cholesterol rich organ in the body requiring a large amount to sustain the myelin sheath which coats nerve cells and helps conduct electrical impulses. More recently, it has been discovered that cholesterol is needed to activate a gene called Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) which plays a central role in neural patterning, mood regulation, and cerebral development. This could be why individuals with cholesterol deficiency are more prone to aggressive behavior, lack of attention, increased number of infections, and motor difficulty.

It is not surprising then that a genetic condition which causes deficiency of cholesterol in the body called Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS) is associated with autistic features. Doctors and researchers have known about SLOS for decades, however most autistic children are not routinely screened for cholesterol deficiency because only a small portion of the autistic population carries this gene mutation. This paradigm may change in the near future due to recent research that is showing that cholesterol deficiency is common even in the autistic population absent the SLOS gene mutation. Dr. Richard Kelly and Dr. E. Tierney at John Hopkins University involved in SLOS research investigated the incidence of cholesterol deficiency in blood samples from a group of subjects with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from families in which more than one individual had ASD, but not SLOS. Although no sample had values consistent with SLOS, 19 samples (19%) had total cholesterol levels lower than 100 mg/dl. The researchers found that cholesterol was low, not as a result of excessive breakdown, but because of reduced production. These extremely low values are considered to be in the fifth percentile of normal children the same age. The prevalence in cholesterol deficiency was confirmed at The Great Plains Laboratory, Inc which performed cholesterol testing on 40 children diagnosed with ASD. Compared to the 19% of the Tierney study, 17.5% of those studied at The Great Plains Laboratory, Inc had extremely low values under 100mg/dL. In addition to the population which presented extremely low values, another 57.5% of the children studied had moderately low cholesterol values of less than 160 mg/dL. When the low values are combined, as many as 75% of the children studied had low cholesterol.

The children with cholesterol deficiency who were given medical grade cholesterol supplementation quickly improved. Many accounts were within days of taking cholesterol supplementation before cholesterol values had increased in the blood. This indicates that the improvements may be a result of cholesterol forming its derivatives - such as steroid hormones or bile salts. Parents reported that their children were sleeping through the night, overcoming aggressive behaviors, learning to walk, speaking and becoming more responsive to family members. Other parents reported a decrease in the rate of infections, reduced skin rashes, reduction in self-injurious behaviors, improved muscle tone, rapid growth and improved behavior overall. It was reported that one autistic adult, without speech, even spoke for the first time.

Cholesterol screening is an extremely useful tool to determine if dietary changes and cholesterol supplementation are necessary. The Advanced Cholesterol Panel performed at The Great Plains Laboratory, Inc. includes reference ranges which take into account the significance of low cholesterol and also measure important markers in cholesterol transport, Apolipoprotein A-1 (Apo A-1), Apolipoprotein B (Apo B), Apolipoprotein a (Apo a) and homocystine. The test is inexpensive and should be ordered routinely by physicians for their autistic patients. Parents of autistic children should seek testing for cholesterol deficiency without hesitation. Individuals may also take advantage of the free nutritional consultation that is available to both patients and physicians with their lab report. A pure medical grade cholesterol supplementation called “sonic cholesterol” is available with a physician prescription through New Beginnings Nutritionals for patients with cholesterol values that are below 160mg/dL.

South Florida’s Therapy Spot: A Full Array of Resources for Special Needs Children In One Center

By Yomin Postelnik

Founder of Autism Health and Wellness

In our research of treatment centers for special needs children, one full service therapy clinic stuck out for the vast array of services it offers, the dedication of its staff and the overall professionalism and quality that it offers. That place is South Florida’s own Therapy Spot, situated in Boca Raton and servicing all of South Florida.

Therapy Spot offers high quality pediatric occupational therapy and speech pathology, but it also offers so much more. Its social pragmatic groups offer a full array of social interaction that are simply unavailable in most treatment centers.

Therapy Spot is a year round facility, offering a special needs summer camp where social as well as developmental skills are built upon using fun and creative methods. They also host winter “mini-camps” as well as year round playgroups utilizing the same state of the art methods.

Independence skills learned at Therapy Spot go well beyond the norm. In addition to speech and OT, handwriting, reading, regular scholastic and other crucial skills are taught. Due to their unique methods as well as the dedication of their staff, the center has been directly responsible for the mainstreaming of many special needs clients into regular classrooms.

Therapy Spot includes specialized innovative therapies for all of the following:

· Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD & ADD), Learning Disabilities (LD), Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders, Sensory Integration Dysfunction and other related disorders.

· Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), Aspergers, and other related diagnosis

· Dyspraxia, Apraxia, Coordination Disorders and fine motor coordination difficulties that may interfere with a child's motor functioning.

· Speech, language and communication delays.

They also service children who need skill refinement to improve their overall success and academic performance.

Therapy Spot was the combined brainchild of Occupational Therapist Monica Weller and Language Pathologist Ellen Stern. Stern and Weller, who have both achieved widespread recognition in their respective fields, saw a need to go beyond the normally offered array of services. In doing so without sacrificing quality, they have built a truly unique setting that is of truly exceptional benefit to special needs children and their families.

Therapy Spot can be reached at (561) 859-2100 for OT and at (561) 859-2010 for speech therapy. Their website is www.therapyspotinc.com. This highly recommended clinic is situated just minutes from the I-95 and Palmetto Park Rd.