Monthly Archives: January 2015

January 25, 2015

‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin May Help Some With Autism

Oxytocin increases ability of certain patients to read facial expressions, nonverbal cues

Treating certain adult autism patients with just a single dose of the hormone oxytocin quickly improved their ability to judge facial expressions and emotions. Known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin has been shown to play a role in emotional bonding between lovers, and between mothers and their children. This study, it boosted underperforming neural activity in a key area of the brain that has long been associated with the processing of both empathy and emotion recognition.

The finding has only been observed among male autism patients who are relatively “high-functioning,” meaning that they possess verbal communication skills that exceed those of people with more severe autism.

The potential possibility that low-functioning  autism patients might ultimately derive some benefit from oxytocin treatment, because the effect of the hormone is on the ability to interpret nonverbal facial expressions, rather than dialogue.

“Therefore, autistic individuals with deficits in nonverbal communication and interaction [might] benefit from oxytocin administration”

Autism involves a range of neurodevelopmental disorders marked by repetitive behaviors and problems with social interaction and communication.

Previous research has indicated that oxytocin might be of use as an autism therapy. One Yale University Child Study Center report, published late last year, suggested the hormone actually enhanced brain function among children with autism. However, the exact nature of oxytocin’s neurological impact has remained unclear.

To get a better handle on its impact, the Japanese researchers focused on 40 high-functioning men diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Each received one dose of oxytocin by means of a nasal spray. About 90 minutes later, investigators used high-tech scans to measure the hormone’s impact on activity levels in the brain’s ventro medial prefrontal cortex region.

Brain signaling in this region, they determined, went up following oxytocin treatment.

In turn, treated patients were then presented with a psychological task in which they were instructed to determine whether or not a character in a movie they were shown was a friend or foe. They were asked to make their decision after absorbing a mix of both verbal and nonverbal cues.

The result: the dose of oxytocin did, in fact, translate into an improved ability to interpret such cues accurately. Yamasue noted that although the impact of oxytocin treatment on brain activity can be seen relatively quickly (within 15 to 120 minutes), “researchers generally believe that effect of single-dose oxytocin is short-term.”

Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, cautioned that “it will likely be several years before we have a clearer understanding of whether oxytocin is a safe and effective treatment.”

Adesman said, “Recent studies have suggested that oxytocin can have a favorable effect on the social behaviors of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. [And] this new study suggests that the effects of oxytocin, from an experimental standpoint, may not be as narrow as previously believed,” he acknowledged.

Notably prior studies show that there is potential for oxytocin to be slightly beneficial to people with [autism spectrum disorder], the evidence for long-term, meaningful levels of effectiveness is unfortunately not yet concrete.

citation : WebMD News from HealthDay

January 20, 2015

Exercise Benefits Autism

Autism is a complex neurobiological, developmental disorder that is typically diagnosed in childhood and often lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. The hallmark characteristics of autism include an impaired ability to communicate and relate to others socially, a restricted range of activities, and repetitive behaviors such as following very specific routines, as well as sensory sensitivities. While the causes of autism are unknown and preventative measures have yet to be discovered, there does exist effective behavioral therapy that can result in significant improvements for many young children with autism. The most widely used behavioral intervention programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills. However, lets acknowledge the alternative therapeutic choices that include sports, exercise, and other physical activities can be a useful adjunct to traditional behavioral interventions, leading to improvement in symptoms, behaviors, and quality of life for individuals with autism.

Physical activity is important for children with and without disabilities alike as it promotes a healthy lifestyle, but can benefit individuals with autism in unique ways. In the U.S., 16% of children ages 2-19 are overweight, whereas the prevalence of overweight among children with ASD is increased to 19% with an additional 36% at risk for being overweight. This means that more than half of all children with ASD are either overweight or at risk. Being overweight can put children at increased risk for numerous health problems, both in childhood and as adults, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, and even depression. The effects of these conditions may take an even greater toll on individuals with autism in combination with common autism symptoms and some highly co-morbid conditions such as gastrointestinal problems as well as depression and anxiety.

It has been suggested that decreased physical activity is the primary reason for the increased rate of overweight in children with autism, while unusual dietary patterns and the use of antipsychotic prescription drugs that can lead weight gain may also contribute. Participation in physical activity may be challenging for individuals with autism because of reasons such as limited motor functioning, low motivation, difficulty in planning, and difficulty in self-monitoring. Increased auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli may too prove challenging for affected individuals. Furthermore, physical activity involving social interaction such as team sports can present a difficult situation for someone with autism. However, if implemented appropriately, the addition of physical activity to an autism intervention program can help overcome many of these challenges and improve ones overall quality of life.

Physical activity has been shown to improve fitness levels and general motor function of individuals with autism. In my own recovery, it was with in the process of activity where the mind body connection was an instrumental piece of reconnecting me with me. Remember the body follows the brain. As my brain rebooted, my body followed. Studies of swimming training and water exercise among children with autism, ten weeks of hydrotherapy which included three, 60-minute sessions per week, resulted in significant increases in fitness levels indicated by changes in balance, speed, agility, strength, flexibility, and endurance.

Research has also demonstrated that increased aerobic exercise can significantly decrease the frequency of negative, self-stimulating behaviors that are common among individuals with autism, while not decreasing other positive behaviors.  Additionally, exercise can discourage aggressive and self-injurious behavior while improving attention span.  One theory behind these findings is that the highly structured routines, or repetitive behaviors involved in running or swimming, may be similar to and/or distract from those self-stimulating, repetitive behaviors associated with autism.

Besides improving fitness, motor function, and behavior in individuals with autism, among the most important advantages of physical activity are the social implications of participating in sports and exercise. Physical activity can promote self-esteem, increase general levels of happiness, and can lead to positive social outcomes, all highly beneficial outcomes for individuals with autism. For those with autism who are able to participate in team sports, this presents an opportunity to develop social relationships among teammates and learn how to recognize the social cues required for successful performance on the field or court. However, individuals that prefer individual sports such as running or swimming that do not rely as heavily on social cues may still benefit from the positive attributes of physical activity while forming social relationships with coaches or trainers. In all cases, participating in sports provides individuals with autism with a role in society that may not have existed otherwise.

While there is evidence to support the role of physical activity in improving autism symptoms, behaviors and life-outcomes, sports and exercise should not replace proven behavioral interventions, but may be effective supplements to these therapies and potentially enhance the benefits. In fact, many of the key components of a successful physical activity program for individuals with autism mirror those that make up some of the most common treatments and behavioral interventions. Techniques with exercise can be readily implemented in teaching physical education to children with autism.

There is increasing interest in establishing program guidelines for enhancing physical activity among individuals with autism. A major reason for this is because research suggests that autism prevalence is increasing and has reached an all-time high. This means that there will be an increasing number of children with autism in schools, physical education classes, and on sports teams. While different individuals with autism may face different challenges in participating in physical activity, these children should still be given the opportunity to experience the benefits of physical activity.

January 19, 2015

Power of Positivity

imageI’ve been getting many inquiries about how my life is. Thank each of you for the most amazingly loving and caring messages and thoughts. The thing I’m asked often is….why I was diagnosis so late with autism…. That answer is long and I have summed it up to the best of what a lifetime answer would reveal. I was diagnosed with autism and PTSD after enduring ongoing stressful aspects in my life. At 37 after moving out of Las Vegas (where I was at the time) and vowing to myself at 32 just before my 33 rd birthday to heal was life changing. It was also detrimentally shocking in the way that events played out and how my life had been encroaching into this moment.

As a kid, I had sensory integration sensitivities and social awkwardness. I feel things profoundly deeply, and on a level that isn’t easily put into words. So the positives and loving balances are crucial, anything less than that speaks for itself. I could not even begin to tell you about having to keep up with “the in crowd” nightmare experience I had through age 18. And what that looked like for me as a person well aware of being different, treated like it, and having no point of reference of why or positive support at home. That’s an entirely different topic. Essentially I’ve been on my own since an early age, finding my since 16. A really unfavorable position for a person on the spectrum to be, and quite dangerous. Most people figured I was older than that based on how I interacted with them. Dating came easily, and I found between the ages of 16-22 my life was really unlike others at my age, or at least in the reality of my world at the time. I moved quite abit. I didn’t like necessarily like that piece. It was just how it was for me. I got into fitness at age 21 with a goal to compete.

Over time that piece started to progress, however not knowing the world and how to figure out why I was different was taking a different toll on my life and I wasn’t aware of that piece. My surroundings were not always the healthiest for me, and I knew what I knew and I was making my way. Above all what really set me a part and made me begin to not only see life differently but also understand the world so much more was the positive attitude and decision I made at 32 to make a change in a flash moment that saved my life. The moment had arrived in my journey Where a place in my life was marked where I had two choices, to live or not. I chose the first. The details from that acute choice decision took me into a ride I never saw coming, and the ride my life had already assumed would have easily intended the harder piece. Once I stopped beating myself up for what happened to my life, and really put forth what my life is, has been, opposed to the expectations placed on me for it to be everything that I wasn’t and I began to focus on saving me changed the contract. Because of that moment today I’m here to tell exactly about that shift, surviving roller coaster ride life to save another. When it hit me that I was choosing to move into a different path than I once was and knew. There was no thinking about much except change was the only choice. Competing for me at the time was over, and to this day many attribute the fact that I am still here today is due to building a strong body in my 20’s and my tenacity to live. It took years with dedication and commitment that provides me with the proof to give to others like me to heal mad reshape their life and be healthy and happy in their authentic life. I stayed positive and forth going. I paced myself on the hard days, giving myself permission to be mad just move through the moment that presented itself in the healing journey that I was unbinding. I focused on positivity to do this, I focused on my commitment, unwaveringly so. Today in at 40. This year I have made it. The unbinding healing commitment I chose is complete. I didn’t know it would take this many years to place the bench mark. Glad I did

For those readers out there, especially those parents who are reading this, what I hope you take out of this is that the power of a positive attitude can do wonders for not only your life but also the lives of your children and others whom might be unique.

I hope everyone remembers that….

• Autistic people are gifted
• Autistic people can surprise you
• Autistic people can focus on certain interests for long periods of time
• Autistic people are passionate
• Autistic people are non-judgmental
• Autistic people are honest
• Autistic people are rarely boring
• Autistic people are special
• Autistic people are logical
• Autistic people are loyal
• Autistic people are interesting
• Autistic people are wonderful
• Autistic people are diverse
• Autistic people are imaginative
• Autistic people are unique, and as Temple Grandin says, “Different but not less”
• Autistic people, no matter where they are on the spectrum and regardless of how many traits listed above they may or may not have, are just “people.” People with weaknesses but also strengths, destined for their own greatness in the way they see fit. I hope we can all cherish these facts because if we can, our autism community would be even more phenomenal than it already is.

I will share it as a positive inspiration through fitness and the expression in strength that saved me.