Summer will arrive very soon, and there are preparations that need to be made to ensure children are safe. This takes on added significance with individuals with autism. Take a few minutes to review the following safety tips when going on vacation or summer camp:
- Make sure each child and young adult carries the proper identification. Many states issue wearable ID cards.
- Keep important information about the individual handy, i.e. home address, addresses of closest relatives, the name and address of the family physician, type of medications the person is using, the person's diet, medical issues, etc.
- Teach individuals with autism how to swim. Your local YMCA can help with lessons. Drowning is the leading cause of death among children with autism (Source:National Autism Association).
- If the individual has a tendency to wander, there is technology available to help locate missing persons, i.e. Project Lifesaver, local law enforcement. If you plan on attending a family event, make sure some member of the family is appointed to look out for the individual(s) with autism (See recent study below re: risks of wandering and elopement)
- If the individual goes to camp ensure camp counselors have been trained in First Aid and CPR. They should also have training in working with people with autism and developmental disabilities.
- Don't forget the sunscreen!
Key Studies and Findings:
The Interactive Autism Network (IAN) released a report recently that shows that half of children with autism wander and elope. The behavior appears to peak at about age four. Dr. Paul Law, director of the IAN project, said, "This survey is the first research effort to scientifically validate that elopement is a critical safety issue for the autism community." Elopement puts individuals at risk. For example, the study found 2 in 3 parents reported their children had a close call with a traffic injury. 32% of parents reported a close call with possible drowning. In addition, elopement also has a significant effect on families. The report found 40% of parents had suffered sleep disruption due to fear of elopment. Some of the reasons parents attributed to wandering included children enjoying exploration; heading off to a favorite location; escaping demands and escaping sensory discomfort.
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently reported on interesting findings regarding siblings of children with autism. Dr. John Constantino, MD said, "Researchers presume one child is affected, and the other is not, but our findings suggest that although one child may have autism while the other does not, it's very possible both children are affected to some degree by genes that contribute to autism." He also noted that siblings of children with autism have sub-clinical traits of autism, for some reason, they do not develop autism. In short, the findings provide a greater insight into the inheritance patterns of autism and its associated traits (Source: American Journal of Psychiatry).
A Resource You Should Bookmark: One of the best resources on Autism Spectrum Disorders is the National Institute of Mental Health. You will find science news, news on current clinical trials, new publications and how to find help. We've linked up to NIH in our "Resource" links area.
4 Your Bookshelf: The National Institute of Mental Health publishes a detailed booklet on autism entitled, "Autism Spectrum Disorders." It describes symptoms, causes and treatments. In addition, it provides information on getting assistance and coping. This booklet can also be downloaded directly from their site.
Organization Spotlight: There's a great organization that reports on stories of job successes and failures for individuals with autism. Family members, job coaches, caregivers and individuals with autism share their stories. Check out Jobs4Autism. We've linked to it for your convenience.
Research You Can Use: I'm a proud alumni of Bancroft in Haddonfield, N.J. Since 1883, Bancroft has been the premier provider of services and supports to people with developmental disabilities, autism and acquired brain injuries. Bancroft also has an outstanding resource library that includes professonal presentations and publications. We've linked them under "Service Providers" to your right. I urge anyone interested to take a few moments to view that information on their web site under, "Resource Library."
Up-Coming Events & Conferences:
- Autism Society of Great Akron, Ohio is hosting their first annual Walks and Runs for Autism on Saturday, June 18, 2011. Contact #: 330.543.3955
- Pennsylvania Autism and Asperger's Syndrome SuperConference at the Fernwood Hotel and Resort in Bushkill, PA. May 5-6, 2011. Contact #: 800.489.0727.
- "Back To School" Autism/Aspergers Conference will be held at the Pasedena Convention Center in Pasedena, CA. August 19-21, 2011. Contact #: 480.831.2047.