Videos From Autism Science Foundation Annual Day of Learning

Videos From Autism Science Foundation Annual Day of Learning

The Day of Learning at the Autism Science Foundation (ASF), is a TED-style science conference that brings together leading autism researchers to present new findings to members of the autism community. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Day of Learning was held virtually. Over 800 people from across the world took part in the event.

Below are links to recorded presentations paired with ways to learn more on topics on the INformation Network website.

Do We Need New Terms for Autism? – Dr. Catherine Lord – School of Medicine at UCLA

Dr. Lord called for a new term: “profound autism.” Announced publicly for the first time at the Day of Learning, the term is intended to help individuals with the highest level of needs gain access to appropriate services and to increase research participation by this understudied subpopulation.

Read More: What is ASD?

Autism Research in 2020: What Do We Know? What Do We Need? – Dr. James McPartland – Yale Child Study Center

Dr. McPartland explains that many of the advancements made this year amid the pandemic will benefit individuals on the autism spectrum long after the current crisis is over.

Read More: About the Diagnosis, What is Evidence-Based?

Developing Personalized Social Interventions for Adolescents with Autism – Dr. Matthew Lerner – Stony Brook University

Dr. Matthew Lerner explained how he and his team are moving toward an “evidence-based menu” of interventions to develop social skills in adolescents with autism, which will allow families to take more targeted actions to improve outcomes.

Read More: Transition

Is ABA Passe? – Dr. Melanie Pellecchia – University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Pellecchia outlined some of the historic problems of applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and showed how increased knowledge of childhood development has significantly improved the practice in recent years, with a greater emphasis on fun, play-based therapy sessions and a de-emphasis on “teacher-led, didactic” sessions.

Read More: Applied Behavior Analysis

Research on Adults with Autism in Natural Settings – Dr. Vanessa Hus Bal – Rutgers University

Dr. Hus Bal argued that while support for adults with autism often focuses on the transition to adulthood and associated milestones, there is not enough being done to provide adults with ongoing support throughout their lives.

Read More: Adulthood and Aging

Robots as Autism Therapy Partners – Dr. Brian Scasselatti – Yale University

Dr. Scassellati demonstrated the powerful effect that robots can have as autism therapy partners and explained what parents should look for in evaluating these solutions.

Read More: Technology

Seniors with ASD

What information is available on how to support seniors with ASD?

Currently, not much information is available on how to support seniors with ASD. However, we know that age and severity of autism are tightly linked, where the severity of autism tends to grow with age across such situations as social communication, coping with change or generating new ideas or solutions (Charlton, 2016). But here are some resources:

Elopement and Wandering

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Wandering and Elopement in Autism

What to Do, when an Individual with ASD Tends to Wander/Elope or Lack Sense of Danger?

It is common for individuals with ASD to wander (or elope) away from home or parent/caregiver supervision, putting them at risk of dangerous or traumatic situations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately one half of all children and youth with ASD have been reported to wander from home, school, or other environments. Challenges with communication, social interaction, attention, and learning can complicate a wandering situation, as individuals with ASD may not be able to find their way home (or even desire to return home) or recognize that they may be in an unsafe situation.

It is important that families watch an individual’s behavior to avoid wandering and have an emergency plan in place in the event that the individual does wander. Simple strategies such as

  • locking doors and windows may prevent wandering, especially in younger children
  • wearing an identification bracelet or temporary tattoo listing their emergency contact information in case individuals with ASD are found to be wandering by law enforcement officers
  • alerting neighbors, family members, and local first responders that an individual has a tendency to wander is also a helpful step in reducing the safety risks associated with wandering.

Check out a list of safety items created by Autism Speaks

Another safety concern for individuals with ASD centers on their sometimes increased tolerance for pain and limited (or lack of) sense of danger. In the event that an individual with ASD is in a crisis situation and/or has an injury, he or she may not recognize that they are hurt or be able to effectively communicate pain to a first responder. Strategies such as visual supports can assist with the social-communication challenges of individuals with ASD in crisis situations.

Indiana University School of Medicine Safety Store contains a number of products and materials related to youth safety, including ASD-specific kits and tools that may be of use to families of individuals with ASD.

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What Steps Should I Take if a Dependent Family Member with ASD Leaves the Home without Supervision?

When a dependent family member with ASD leaves the home without supervision, it is essential to act quickly. If your child leaves home without supervision, call 911 immediately.  Make sure to inform the 911 operator the child’s name, your relationship to the child, contact phone numbers, and your location.  If you are able to recall when the child was first noticed missing, and the clothing that he or she was wearing, share that information too.  Request an Amber Alert be issued or an endangered missing advisory.  Contact the person you have designated as your emergency Key Person (ask them to contact friends to help search and make arrangements for the care of any of your other children while you search).  Write down any instructions the 911 operator tells you. Do not hang up until they say it is OK to do so.  If your child is attracted to water, IMMEDIATELY ask them to check nearby water sources such as lakes, ponds, pools, etc. When law enforcement officials arrive, give them all the information on your Alert for Missing Child with Autism form, located on the Big Red Safety Toolkit  If your child is attracted to water, IMMEDIATELY ask them to check nearby water sources such as lakes, ponds, pools, etc.

You can take proactive measures that make it more difficult for your child to elope from the home unsupervised:

  • Keep your home secure, and all doors and windows locked
  • Consider installing an alarm so you’re aware of doors or windows being open or shut
  • Equip your home with visuals that your child can utilize as cues to stay inside, examples may include a STOP sign on a door or window.
  • If you live near water, consider installing a fence.
  • Notify neighbors if your child is a chronic eloper so they are aware and can take action if they spot your child in the neighborhood unsupervised.

When eloping from the home has occurred in the past, or is a frequent occurrence, you may want to consider purchasing a tracking device.  These range in type of device and price, and can be extremely helpful to families and first responders should your child leave the home unsupervised.  There are many grants and programs that sponsor a free or cost-reduction for a tracking device.  Contact your local fire or police department to inquire about their participation in these programs.

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Technology

What Are Assistive Technologies?

Assistive technology (AT) device is “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities” (Technology Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988). Such technologies can be “high” or “low tech” (from canes to voice recognition and speech generation devices). More information on different types of AT can be found at https://at.mo.gov/information-resources-publications/documents/Autism.pdf

AT for Communication Skills

Some individuals with ASD may be non-verbal or have difficulties understanding social cues or conversation. Speech generating devices may help such individuals. This can be a standalone device or specialized software installed on a tablet of phone. The NIDCD at the NIH has more information.

AT for Social Skills

Social skills is often a challenge for individuals with ASD. There are many applications to help individuals with ASD develop social skills that range from teaching facial expressions, to academic and social learning, to helping deal with stress and maladaptive behaviors. Informing Families has more examples.

Daily Living Skills

Daily living skills, such as hygiene, organization skills, and recreational skills, are important for individuals with ASD to master on their path towards independence. You can find some examples at wikibooks.

Where to Find Information on Such Devices

You can check out the following resources:

Sexual Health Class Research Survey

Individuals with ASD rarely get sufficient and/or reliable information about healthy sexual behaviors from traditional sources, like at school or from parents/caregivers, which often results in an increased risk of becoming victims of sexual crimes or perceived offenders (Brown-Lavoie, Viecili, and Weiss, 2014). Reviews and research related to the sexual health curriculums used within schools or educational settings for individuals with ASD is sparse with some indication of the absence of any existing or adapted curriculum in regular use. Removal of these students from sexual health classes means they are left to obtain information from unmonitored sources.

This brief survey is designed to gain insight from a variety of stakeholders (i.e., family members/caregivers, teachers, school admin, or individuals with a disability) regarding sexual health knowledge and the programs provided within an educational setting for students with disabilities.

As a thank you for your participation, you will receive a PDF info sheet with practical strategies for providing resources and skills teaching materials related to sexual health as a step towards preventing sexual abuse or victimization of individuals with disabilities. Please consider sharing this survey with friends and colleagues alike.

Please contact Naomi Swiezy, Ph.D., HSPP, Director, HANDS in Autism® Interdisciplinary Training and Resource Center at nswiezy@iupui.edu or Tiffany Neal, Ph.D., Assistant Director, HANDS in Autism® Interdisciplinary Training and Resource Center at nealtiff@iupui.edu with any questions, concerns, or additional comments.