Friday, November 18, 2011

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Open Forum ~ Larger Brains

Every so often, I get approached by complete strangers freelance writers wanting to expand their resumes. They beg, they plead, they flatter me, my site, my monsters ( always a good thing!) in hopes that I will agree to let them write here. In every instance, I tell the potential guest what my guidelines are. And I have scared off every one... until last week. Last week, a complete stranger lovely woman named Isabella Woods emailed and asked for the chance to write here. I did the previously mentioned evil witch routine. And she accepted! Here's what she had to say in one of our emails while hammering out the details of her guest post:
"...Thoughts very welcome, but only if they're honest- please don't worry about hurting my feelings or any of that nonsense if you don't feel it passes muster!"
And so, I introduce to you Open Forum. A place where, from time to time, I will feature a freelance writer who wanted a chance. I never give out topics. I do, however, tell every writer that my following will know if they just copy/paste information on special needs children from the Google.  I WANT my following to comment, to speak up if they agree/disagree with the topic. If they are offended or touched. If they want to see more from a certain writer or if a certain writer should disappear.

Please note: Publishing a post from a guest does not necessarily indicate shared views and opinions of  The Momma.

Larger Brains
Isabella Woods

Scientists have recently discovered that autistic children have too many cells in the pre-frontal cortex – the area of the brain used for emotional development and communication.

In the past, children with autism were often found to have larger brains than average, but the reason why was unclear. The new research found a 67% increase in the total number of pre-frontal cortex brain cells in autistic children.

The scientists who carried out the study, led by Dr Eric Courchesne, of the University of California’s San Diego Autism Center of Excellence, think that the results from their study suggest that the condition begins in the womb when the pre-frontal cortex is developing.

'This isn't just a simple increase in neurons,' said Dr. Courchesne. 'It means a huge increase in potential connections and, therefore, a potential for mis-wiring which would lead to abnormal function.'

Other researchers, such as Lizabeth Romanski of the University of Rochester Medical Center, have also suggested that the origins of autism occur early.

'The generation of new neurons, what we call proliferation, occurs prenatally during the second trimester,’ she said. ‘That is when these neurons are being born.'

While the causes of autism remain unclear, and probably will remain so for the foreseeable future, the effects are very real.

Recognizing the signs
For autistic children to live full, happy lives, an early diagnosis is important as a precursor to any necessary intervention which, according to Jennifer Humphries of the UK’s University of Central Lancashire, ’need to be started before deviation and delay from the normal pattern of development has progressed too far’.

While the term ‘intervention’ may sound slightly frightening, available treatments range from in-home behavioral therapy to school-based programs – all of which are designed to help little ones grow and thrive, regardless of anything else.

The bonuses of early intervention include an improvement in communication skills and a reduction in out-of-control behaviors. Nevertheless, successful diagnosis of autism is rare before the age of two.

Dr. Lorna Wing, who has an autistic daughter, describes two types of autistic infant. The first is the undemanding, placid baby who rarely cries. The second is the screaming baby, tugging at their baby clothing, who is unusually difficult to pacify.

Wing, who founded the UK’s National Autistic Society, says that autistic babies will often display other behaviors such as ‘rocking, head banging and scratching or tapping at covers when in the pram or cot.’
Professor Lars Christopher Gillberg of Gothenburg University in Sweden narrows the symptoms down to those associated with peculiarities of gaze, play and hearing.

Though avoiding eye contact is frequently thought of as a characteristic of autism, more important is the quality of the gaze, which appears as if the child is not seeing people at all.

A lack of sharing or joint activity while engaged in play is thought of as a significant indicator of autism. Autistic babies typically don’t point out things of interest or taken active parts in playing baby games.
Autistic children are sometimes mistakenly thought of as deaf in their early years. They often do not respond to audible changes in their environment, though some sounds may elicit extreme emotional responses.

Knowledge is power
Autism that is caught early allows families to begin making adjustments and putting their feelers out for outside support.

When a child has autism, parents naturally want to know exactly what it is. Knowledge is power, and the more they learn about autism spectrum disorders, the better. Many negative myths exist regarding autism – dispelling them is often a great comfort.

Learning extends beyond paper and screen. Most important of all is learning about your child. Parents are the first to notice when something is not quite right with their child, and they’re the ones that will ultimately provide the day-to-day solutions.

Work out what triggers a child’s disruptive behaviors and what encourages the positive ones. Learning what a child finds stressful, calming, fun or uncomfortable is the key to coping. Don’t make assumptions – learn through observation and good old trial and error.

From a personal perspective, parents must re-train themselves to stop focusing on how a child is different from his or her peers and learn to accept them, quirks and all. Unconditional love is the greatest gift a parent can give. Find the small successes that each day brings and never give up.

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