Stories about: Tests & treatment

Teaching math, spelling–and kindness?

Claire McCarthy, MD

I was really nervous when my daughter invited the autistic boy in her fourth grade class to her birthday party.

I was happy she wanted to include him, don’t get me wrong. It was just that, well, anyone who has been to Roller World in Saugus will understand. It’s a really overwhelming place. It’s usually crowded (finding the people you came with can be tough), and between the music and the crowd noise it can be hard to hear the person next to you. It’s dimly lit, with a distracting and disorienting disco ball light thing over the big rink. And when you are on the big rink, you have to move in the right direction and at the right speed, without zigzagging, or you can get knocked over. Yep, perfect place for an autistic kid.

I shouldn’t have worried.  The kids had it covered.

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Can the new iPad take therapy apps to the next level?

Photo: flickr/ smemon87

If you’ve spent time in front of a TV or computer lately, you probably already know that Apple just released the latest version of the iPad, a faster and more portable edition of the already popular tablet. As the mobile technology revolution gathers speed, many medical professionals are trying to incorporate these devices into their practices, but few have been as successful as clinicians using it in their work with patients whose abilities to communicate has been hindered by a medical condition. Howard Shane, PhD, director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Center for Communication Enhancement (CCE) is the owner of two new iPads, and an advocate for their use in clinical settings.

“Technology plays a big role in enriching the lives of many people with communication disorders, not just children on the autism spectrum, but people with motor impairments like cerebral palsy or people who are deaf or hard of hearing as well,” Shane says. “These new devices are giving many people communication options that weren’t available a few years ago.”

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New Children's study may lead to earlier detection of autism risk

Can studying brain patterns lead to earlier identification of autism?

An early detection of autism is key because it gives clinicians and parents ample time to formulate a treatment plan. But unfortunately autism is difficult to identify in infants and young children because many of its symptoms aren’t noticeable until the child is walking, talking and regularly interacting with his environment.

But work by Children’s Hospital Boston researchers suggests that a noninvasive test to evaluate an infant’s autism risk could one day be available for children under a year of age.

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Autism in the news

Can having children too close together increase the risk of autism?

A new study was released earlier this week, indicating that babies conceived within a year of their older sibling’s birth are at an increased risk of developing autism. The study looked at 662,730 pregnancies, paying close attention to babies conceived less than a year after the mother gave birth to another child. 3,137 of the second-born children had received a diagnosis of autism by the time they were 6 years old. 2,747 of those cases had birthdays less than 36 months after their older sibling.

Carolyn Bridgemohan, MD, of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Division of Developmental Medicine had this to say about the researchers’ findings.

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