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US Autism & Asperger Association
December 21, 2011

Welcome to USAAA WeeklyNews, an email newsletter that addresses a range of topics on Autism Spectrum Disorders including Asperger's Syndrome.


Computerized Brain Training Aids Cognition in Schizophrenia
Training the brains of patients in lower-level perceptual and attentional learning processes can have effects on multiple neural systems resulting in higher level cognitive improvements and enhanced quality of life.

Mark Moran

sophia vinogradov mdRigorous and intensive computer-based training of people with schizophrenia using principles of neural plasticity to master lower-level perceptual and attentional auditory and verbal learning processes is possible. The technique appears to translate into improvements in higher-level cognitive functions and possibly even enhanced quality of life.

"Rigorous and intensive computer-based training of people with schizophrenia using principles of neural plasticity to master lower-level perceptual and attentional auditory and verbal learning processes is possible. The technique appears to translate into improvements in higher-level cognitive functions and possibly even enhanced quality of life." — Sophia Vinogradov, MD, professor in residence and interim associate chief of staff for mental health at San Francisco VA Medical Center and interim vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

At APA’s 2011 Institute on Psychiatric Services in San Francisco, Sophia Vinogradov, M.D., described research showing that computerized games aimed at training patients in very specific tasks can have effects on multiple interacting brain systems, resulting in changes in global cognitive functioning.

Vinogradov said the approach to brain training marks a significant new direction in what has been termed “cognitive remediation,” a field of decades-old research that has been stymied by repeated observations that while patients may improve in the short term on various cognitive tasks, the improvements are often not sustained and do not typically translate into widespread and enduring improvements in cognition or quality of life.

Vinogradov is professor in residence and interim associate chief of staff for mental health at San Francisco VA Medical Center and interim vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. At the institute, Vinogradov, received APA's Alexander Gralnick Award for Research from past APA President and current APA American Psychiatric Foundation Treasurer Richard Harding, M.D.

Vinogradov emphasized that brain training using these principles of neuro-plasticity must be rigorous and intensive, adapted to the individual level of skill, and provide sufficient reward to engage and motivate subjects.

FULL STORY

Additional articles on neuroplasticity:
Why Parents Need to Know About Neuroplasticity

Light at the end of the tunnel; How newfound knowledge about neuroplasticity can help people with autism

Definition of Neuroplasticity

Students' brain power will light up MRIs in cognitive training study

To leave comments, go to our Blog.


Chairman Tom Harkin Introduces Keeping All Students Safe Act

time out room[The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates - COPAA] are pleased to announce the introduction of the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the Senate by Chairman Tom Harkin this afternoon. COPPA sincerely thanks Chairman Harkin for his unwavering commitment to the safety and welfare of our nation's children. This bill would promote the development of effective intervention and prevention practices that do not impose restraints and seclusion; protect all students from physical or mental abuse, aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety, and any restraint imposed for purposes of coercion, discipline or convenience, or as a substitute for appropriate educational or positive behavioral interventions and supports. Importantly the bill also works to ensure the safety of all students and school personnel and promote positive school culture and climate.

"...this legislation is a crucial first step toward the ultimate goals of eliminating abuse and restraint in schools and assuring that children who exhibit challenging behaviors obtain appropriate, safe, and effective educational services, "says COPAA.

For years, schools' use of restraint, seclusion, and aversive interventions was unpublicized and little-known, despite their widespread use. However, recent reports by COPAA and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), and Congressional testimony of the U.S. General Accounting Office have served to shine a spotlight on these abusive practices. See e.g., Unsafe in the Schoolhouse: Abuse of Children with Disabilities, COPAA (Jessica Butler, 2009); School is Not Supposed to Hurt: Investigative Report on Abusive Restraint and Seclusion in Schools, NDRN (2009); Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers (GAO-09-719T). This bill recognizes that "physical restraint and seclusion have resulted in physical injury, psychological trauma, and death to children in public and private schools," as described in these reports. Existing laws alone have not protected students against such abuse and injury, though many do offer important protections. The bill, therefore, includes a critically important savings clause that preserves existing additional rights under state and federal law.

FULL STORY

Link to the bill.

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Twice Exceptional Children (2e)

gifted childrenThe US government defines "Gifted & Talented" students as those..."who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities." 20 U.S.C. Section 7801(22). (Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind, Title IX, Part A, (22). p. 526)

In a few states, gifted children may eligible for services under the IDEA - but not in most states. In most cases, gifted kids sit in classes, bored and frustrated, with no educational services to meet their needs.

Twice-exceptional [2e] children are gifted children of above average abilities who have special educational needs - AD/HD, learning disabilities, Asperger Syndrome, etc. Because their giftedness can mask their special needs and their special needs can hide their giftedness, they are often labeled as "lazy" and "unmotivated".

This link includes articles, resources, book recommendations, free publications, and a short list of information and support groups about twice exceptional children.

Some schools and school districts have refused to allow qualified students with disabilities to participate in accelerated or gifted and talented programs and have required these students to give up the services designed to meet their individual needs. These practices are inconsistent with Federal law.

FULL STORY

In our December 9 newsletter, we featured an the article "Continuums of Cognition and Sensory Processing", by Marlo Payne Thurman, MS, USAAA Advisory Board Member and Director of US CAP. Ms. Thurman addresses sensory processing in the gifted, twice-exceptional (2e) and high functioning autism and Asperger's populations.

To leave comments, go to our Blog.


MyAutismTeam: A New Site for Families With Autism

By Bonnie Rochman, TIME Magazine

autism team puzzleIn September, Emily Ybarra saw an ad on Facebook for MyAutismTeam, a new site where parents of kids with autism can connect. Because Ybarra has a young son with autism, she clicked and was almost immediately rewarded.

At 4 years old, her son, Cruise, had not yet been to the dentist, and it was weighing on Ybarra. "I had absolutely feared it," says Ybarra. "He doesn't like anyone touching him, and he doesn't like places he's not used to."

No sooner had she signed up for MyAutismTeam than she put out a query: did anyone know of a dentist near her Orem, Utah, home who was equipped to clean the teeth of a special-needs child who recoils from human contact?

"Our mission is simple," says Peacock. "When you or a loved one are diagnosed with autism, it should be easy to find the best people around to help you. You should be able to find other parents who've been in your shoes."

Within days, she received a recommendation, something she hadn't been able to nail down in over a year of searching on her own. The dentist, Dr. Barney Olsen, was an hour from home, but the drive was worth it. Cruise was led back to a private room where Olsen patiently explained the components of his exam, bit by bit. When Cruise recoiled at getting his bottom teeth brushed, the staff didn't flinch. "He had a great time," says Ybarra, who said Cruise was actually looking forward to his next check-up scheduled for this week. When it comes to visiting the dentist, that's more than most people can say.

FULL STORY

NOTE: MyAutismTeam is the brainchild of Eric Peacock, a tech executive whose nephew was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, seven years ago. Eric presented at the USAAA 2011 World Conference in Seattle, Washington this past October. USAAA has partnered with MyAutismTeam to, as MyAutismTeam says, "give you the easiest way to find the best providers who can help your child thrive."

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