Genetic Aspects of the Autism Spectrum Disorder

Scientists have always thought that genetic aspects play an essential role in autism, but some agree that most diagnoses have an environmental origin. Recent research by specialists in the field of ASD predicts that genetics can be the cause of up to 90% of cases, and environmental problems also intervene, but to a lesser extent.

What does genetics mean for researchers?

The National Institutes of Health define a gene as:

“The basic physical and functional unit of inheritance. Genes, which are made up of DNA, act to produce molecules called proteins. In humans, genes vary in size from a few hundred DNA bases to more than two million bases. The Human Genome Project has estimated that humans have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes.”

These genes are very similar between one person and another, and even 1% of our DNA defines an individual and their particular characteristics. That is what makes us unique.

It is no secret to anyone that genetics causes physical and mental impact. This is because genetic changes or spontaneous mutations can occur (without a specific origin), or due to the result of exposure to the environment.

Autism researchers analyze the development of genetics to answer several questions that do not yet have an accurate answer:

  • To what extent is autism a condition inherited from parents?
  • To what extent does autism occur due to spontaneous changes in genes that are not inherited?
  • What are the genes or set of determining genes for a person to be autistic?
  • What changes in individual genes cause autism?
  • What is the relationship between autism and genetic disorders?
  • Are the genes responsible for different types of autism different?
  • What is the relationship between the environment and the genetic changes that lead to autism?

What information do we have about autism and genetics?

To date, many of these questions are a mystery to science. For this reason, a variety of studies are needed to keep moving forward, because they do not have an infallible answer.

It is not known whether combinations in genetic changes can cause autism, nor is it known whether genetic changes in any way lead to a high or low level of this condition. In addition, there are still doubts about the probability that it is an inherited condition. Another question is to know if gene therapy could have positive effects on people with ASD.

But there is information that we do know. For example, ASDs are born without an inheritance pattern. People with a family history associated with autism are at greater risk of developing this condition.

Any genetic alteration can generate an effect and when there is a lot of variability in the genes it can be linked to other environmental risk factors such as the age of the parents, complications during pregnancy and others that have not yet been discovered, and these can increase the level of a person’s risk of developing this condition.

Autism researchers think that 2 to 4% of people with autism have genetic mutations or chromosomal abnormalities that cause the disorder.

Even the resulting signs and symptoms can affect various parts of the body.

According to scientists, up to 2500 different genes could be related to autism. This figure was discovered using advanced technology, and it means that autism is a condition of great complexity.

Genetics and environment

There are environmental elements that, when linked to the genetic factor, can cause the appearance of various types of autism.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, certain environmental factors increase the risk of autism, but it is not certain that they are determinants in the development of ASD.

  • Advanced age at the time of conception.
  • Exposure during pregnancy to pollutants or toxic agents.
  • Diabetes.
  • Being overweight.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Problems at birth: lack of oxygen to the brain or any other prenatal limitation.
  • Poor prenatal nutrition.

How could any of these factors affect genetics?

This question remains a riddle for researchers; however, studies continue.

Environmental factors are not determining, because many elderly parents have neurotypical children, and there are premature children without this condition.

Now, children with a genetic risk of autism can develop the condition by undergoing the environmental factors described above.

Genetics or environment?

Several studies in 2017 showed that most of the causes are genetic. These are the most relevant results:

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is added in families, and studies with twins estimate that the proportion of phenotypic variation due to genetic factors (heritability) is approximately 90 percent.
  • The heritability of ASD was estimated at 0.50, and the family environmental influences shared at 0.04.
  • The incidence of ‘inherited’ autism was approximately 83 percent, while the non-shared environmental influence was estimated at 17 percent.

Apparently, most people inherit autism. These results are transcendental for the treatment and prevention of autism with gene therapy in the future to help those families with people with autism.

 

girl and molecule model

Our DNA can define who we are and what is our personality, including certain conditions such as ASD.

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Halloween for Children with Autism

Halloween scares many children. The themes attract their fear as there are terrifying decorations, costumes, scary movies, and not to mention an increase in the price of sweets.

The most complicated of all is to create the conditions so that this day does not affect our son/daughter with autism, and he/she can understand it in the best way. In this sense, what can we do to make this day not so chilling for them?

Remove the surprise factor

Take the time to talk with your child before Halloween. Explain to him/her in advance to prepare them for the subject. You can display images and videos with kids in disguise and with the usual “trick or treat” sign. Describe the environment and atmosphere you will find on the streets at night.

You can even show photos of previous celebrations and create a social story so that your child does not feel scared, and perceives the celebration as a repetitive event. This builds confidence and greater security.

Check out the neighborhood

Start a night walk through the neighborhood to see the decorations of the houses. Some may be more frightening than others. As a result, you may prefer to prevent your kid from visiting the most terrifying.

It is convenient to talk with the neighbors beforehand to find out what they plan to do, for example, if they plan to receive children with a costume when they get home. These scenes can cause fear in children with autism. For this reason, it is recommended to go to houses, parties, and even Halloween stores before taking your little one.

Teach trick or treat rules

Provide clear and precise instructions to your child about “trick or treat” rules. For example, don’t enter the house, say thanks and visit the next home, etc. Practice with him/her what that experience would be like and the steps you should follow, even when facing an unforeseen event such as if the neighbour is not at home.

One of the things we teach our infants is that they never accept sweets from strangers, so it is difficult to contradict this rule. It is better to explain that it is a party and that it is valid to do it this way, except you are going to shopping centers or stores.

Do a general rehearsal

Kids with sensory difficulties may experience discomfort with the clothing of Halloween. Many may suffer itching if the costume is too tight. The texture of the fabric is also likely to cause discomfort.

For children within the spectrum, makeup on the face may seem sticky. It can even make them feel weird. Besides, masks and accessories can make vision and hearing difficult, which can lead to the child feeling frustrated and forced to participate in Halloween activities.

Encourage your son/daughter to do a simulation of everything put on the costume, ask how they feel with it, and make the appropriate adjustments to make the event fun for the child.

You can also create a costume with everyday clothes. Choose a character that your child loves, but also clarify that it is not mandatory to wear a costume.

Make a candy plan

Be careful with your child’s diet. Remember that on Halloween, kids can exceed the consumption of sweets. In case of a restricted diet, deliver a bag of goodies acceptable to your neighbor beforehand so they can give it to your child.

It is also possible to exchange sweets with his/her sibling. Tell your son/daughter what he/she can and should do with sweets when he/she gets home. Set consumption limits before the party.

Promote the company of friends

Ask one of your little one’s neurotypical friends to accompany you and monitor compliance with the rules of trick or treating.

In turn, that friend can help your child with any eventuality. If you have other children, plan a solution in case your kid with ASD wants to retire before the other children have completed their activities.

Source: http://bit.ly/2kwORuX

kids enjoying Halloween

Enjoy this day to the fullest with them, following these tips.

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First-Time Parents Guide: My Son Has Autism, What Can I Do?

If you have a child who has been diagnosed with autism, you probably feel worried, which is only natural. The concern may arise from the knowledge of the condition as by the lack of knowledge of it, after all, autism is a pretty complex disorder capable of causing different kinds of complications in a child’s development, as well as in their understanding of the world. So, when a child is diagnosed, we must provide the necessary support so that this child can grow and have a great future; after everything, that is what every father wants for his son.
Do you have a child with autism? Here is some advice for you:

Do not panic

If you’re extremely worried prematurely, this won’t do you any help. Your child might need more support than other kids, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing: a child with autism can perfectly live a normal life just like any other kid, plus, there have been several people with autism who have become important historical figures. Do not over-worry; things may not be as bad as you might think when the diagnosis is made.

Inform yourself

First of all: the more knowledge, the better. ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) manifests in several different ways in the kids, your child is probably very different from other kids with autism; therefore, the comparison can be virtually irrelevant. So instead of comparing, search for information, there are many websites dedicated to sharing data about autism and all it represents (just like this one). Also, it’s highly recommendable to constantly work alongside a specialist on the matter, together you will create strategies to help your child overcome every obstacle on his way.

Consider professional help

As mentioned before, working alongside an expert on the field can be extremely helpful, so this is definitely one very recommended step to follow. Autism kids tend to have particular behaviors that require particular treatments; some of them might need just a bit of professional assistance, while others require long term therapy, in any case, the professional help is always handy, so it’s something to keep in mind.

Be mentally prepared

Kids with ASD are quite different from other kids, they may react to common situations in unexpected ways, not pay attention to things most kids do pay attention to, or behave in unusual ways. This tends to happen because their way of seeing the world is different than ours, but this does not have to be a reason to worry parse, it just means your child is different (which is not a bad thing). Nonetheless, you should be conscious that your child behavior may surprise you more than once. Keep an open mind at all times.

Love!

False rumors will always be around: “Kids with autism do not feel any emotions,” “Children with autism never express their feelings,” “They live in their own world.” We should not pay attention to this kind of comments, a child with autism has feelings just like any other kids. Even when they do not show them in usual ways, they need love and support and, as parents, is crucial to be there for our child no matter what.

It’s true that raising a child with ASD can be complicated but, at the end of the day, it’s all worth it. Before you realize, they will be making you feel proud.

first son with autism

If your first son was born with some type of autism, you don’t have any reason to care. Help him!

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How to Teach a Child With Autism

Autistic spectrum disorder, a complex neurobehavioral lifetime condition, it’s easy to notice that kids with this condition are quite different: they pay attention to unusual stuff, seem more interested on particular things, show different reactions to common events or behave in particular ways; the difference they have compare to most of the kids are pretty noticeable, therefore, their way to learn its different too. For this reason, it is necessary to find the best way to teach a child within the spectrum.

Teaching a child with ASD

If you have a child with autism and you want to know the right way to teach him or her, you’re in the right place; we’re going to give you a few advices to make that possible.

1) Be mentally prepared

The first thing you should do is prepare mentally, you have to be conscious it won’t be like teaching other kids, it might be harder, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, not at all, it just means it will be necessary to apply different teaching strategies depending on the kid behavior.

2) Pay attention to details

Depending on the autism level, the child will not always verbally express their doubts, nevertheless, they tend to make particular gestures that can make us realize whether they understand what we’re teaching or not. Children within the spectrum don’t have only a way to behave, therefore, you need to be patient and pay attention to the kid behavior to find a way to understand what is happening in his head.

3) Apply visual strategies

For a child with autism, understanding what other people verbally say can be complicated; for this reason, we should try to use as many images as possible. Visual aid is usually more useful than verbal. Pictures, drawings, symbols, photographs, all of these are elements that can considerably effective on kids with ASD. It is worth mention that this doesn’t mean teaching only through words is not effective, but is undoubtedly better to support words with images.

4) Don’t be afraid to use tech

Technology alternatives can be used to facilitate learning. It is easier and less tedious for a boy or girl to press buttons and touchscreens than to write with a pencil on a piece of paper; and, since we seek to make teaching as effective as possible, it is important to consider this method. Plus, in today’s world, there are many pc programs or apps that are centered on helping them to develop different abilities; so without a doubt, those are worth to take a look at.

5) Keep them motivated

They can show a lot of disinterest in learning new tasks; for this reason, it is important to make teaching as dynamic as possible. Congratulate them every time they do something well; smile constantly; show a positive attitude at all times and if the lesson allow it, carry out some kind of learning game. The more dynamic the sessions, the more motivated they will be, therefore, the faster they’ll learn.

6) One step at a time

Patience is important. Is essential not to overload the child with complicated steps to follow; on the contrary, you must teach one thing at a time, Is truth that the learning will be slower, but at the end of the day, it will also be more effective, and that’s what’s really important. Kids with autism can be really interesting people, even though on simple sight they might seem less capable, there is no doubt they can reach incredible goals, but all of that starts with the teaching.


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4 Videos That Will Make You Experience a Sensory Overload

Have you ever experienced sensory overload? Well, if you haven’t heard about it, your answer would probably be “no,” but after reading this article, you may change your perspective. The fact is that most of us have experienced sensory overload at some level at least once in our lifetime, although it is particularly associated with certain conditions like the autism spectrum disorders.

What is Sensory overload?

Sensory overload occurs when something around us stimulates at least one of our senses in an extreme way, making us feel highly uncomfortable. Have you’ve ever been to a party where the music is too high? Or a classroom where everyone is making too much noise? Sometimes in situations like those, we cannot help feeling deeply overwhelmed, the situation is just more than we can take, and we just want to get out of there and go to some place quite. That’s what sensory overload feels like.

Generally, it’s easy to escape the discomfort; if a smell is what’s bothering us we may walk away, if too many people are talking at the seam time we can use headphones or leave the room, but the fact is, when it comes about kids, especially kids with ASD, it’s not that simple to get away from these situations, because things that are part of our daily life can be the ones that make kids with ASD feel sensory overloaded.

In what situation can a sensory overload happen?

It is important to know that sensory overload triggers are not always the same for everyone, it depends on each person, but regardless, there are some common triggers when it comes to children with ASD and pretty much kids in general:

Noises

Rooms full of noises are a common factor that can trigger a sensory overload episode.It doesn’t necessarily have to be lound noises: certain people’s voices, the ringing bells of a church, the noise of the cutlery against the dishes on a restaurant, or even the unusual echo of a public bathroom can make a kid feel overwhelmed.

Bright lights

Bright lights can be more than annoying for kids; city lights or cars headlights are often usually a nuisance that depending on the sensitivity of the child, can be a strong trigger.

Unfamiliar surroundings and strangers

We should always keep in mind that sensory overload is linked with anxiety, unknown places tend to be a reason for kids with ASD to worry, also, these kids tend to feel intimidated by people that they haven’t meet before, even when they are been polite and kind.

Sometimes the things that can disturb them to the point that they feel sensory overload are not easy to perceive, therefore, we need to pay special attention to the way they react to particular surroundings and situations.

How can we help?

Talk to them: Pay attention to their usual triggers, once you’ve known them, let the kid know that you are aware of it, and you will be there to help them anytime they feel overwhelmed. For example: if you have realized that your kid doesn’t feel right on crowded places, make sure to tell him there’s no problem with going to a quiet place. Plus, the communication will create increase the bond of trust between the kid and you, and he will be more likely to try to let you know when he feels uncomfortable.

It’s important to be prepared: Kids with ASD doesn’t tend to enjoy unusual spontaneous activities, so try to avoid them every time you can, instead, make sure to have a plan and share it with the kid, that way he’ll be prepared for the upcoming event. For example, if you’re taking him to a store, let him know hours before, that way he can prepare himself for it, this way, you reduce the probability of a sensory overload episode.

It’s true that it can be hard to fully understand, and there are times where an image can say more than words, therefore, we are going to leave four links that will guide you to different videos, where each video will help you get a clearer idea of how sensory overload feels like.

Sensory Overload

 

 

Sensory Overload Simulation – What is it like to be extremely sensitive in daily situations?

 

 

Can you make it to the end?

 

Autism and sensory sensitivity

how to control sensory overload?

Sensory overload is not an easy thing for children, we have to help them to avoid hard moments and stress.

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