Research Points to Father's Role in Genetic Mutation Causing Autism

Is the age of fathers a significant factor in determining the cause of Autism? A study published this week in Nature  points to research evidence that suggests that genetic mutations in sperm, more so than in the egg are responsible for developmental abnormalities.

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Understanding Attachment

There has been a lot of back and forth about the merit of attachment parenting, a style of parenting that emphasizes the importance of a secure and close relationship between the parent and child. 

It seems like there is value in understanding the fundamentals of attachment theory, first articulated by John Bowlby in the 1940s and expanded on by Mary Ainsworth in the 1960s and 1970s​. ​

I typically blog about issues specific to parenting a child on the Autism Spectrum, but I believe that there is value in having a base of knowledge of important concepts in developmental psychology, and that good parenting is good parenting, regardless of diagnosis.

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Sleepless on the Spectrum

While there is no one size fits all solution for helping your child with to sleep more soundly there are things that you can do to create the conditions for a sound nights sleep. Here are a few suggestions that came from friends who I reached out to for advice and tips.

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NATURAL AND LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES

​Natural and logical consequences are an effective way of redirecting negative behaviors because they create the conditions for your child to internalize the lesson learned.

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HOMEBREWING A BEHAVIOR PLAN

What do you do when your child won't listen? If you don't want to bully, coerce, or capitulate, your next best option is to get organized. A behavior plan is an agreement between you and your child that lays out specific expectations to support changes in behavior. Here are a few tips to homebrew your own behavior plan.

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Learning to Lose

When you play a board game with your family, do you find yourself getting a sinking feeling if it looks like your child is not going to win? Learning to lose is a critical aspect of resiliency. For some people, gracious losing comes naturally, and for others, its a skill that must be learned, practiced, and internalized. ​

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GIVE TO GET

Whether you call it the golden rule, the law of attraction, humanism, or any other number of names, it is well accepted fact that when it comes to kindness, you receive directly in the proportion to what you give.

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THINKING BEYOND SUMMER CAMP: GETTING YOUR CHILD OUTSIDE

Summer vacation is here. What will your child do with their new free time? In order to ensure that their summer isn't spent on an ipod or in front of a television set, plan out and some activities to get them outdoors and communing with nature. Better yet, show how important you think outside time is and get some quality time with your child by participating in these activities yourself.

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TALKING TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT AUTISM

One of the most difficult discussions to have is the one where you broach the topic of the autism spectrum. Something that I regularly hear from the parents of the children who participate in my autism social skills groups is concern about how to have "the talk" with their child.

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A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION INTO SUMMER WITH YOUR CHILD ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM

Transitions can be difficult. Summer vacation, what may be a treasured memory of a magical time for you can be a source of extreme anxiety for your child on the autism spectrum as his or her routine is turned on it's head.

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The Caregiving Paradox: Loving your autistic child, letting go of your anxiety

Time for a hard truth. If you pour yourself into the people who need you without taking the time to recharge and take care of yourself, you will burn out and fail the people who rely on you the most. This is the paradox of caregiving. In order to take care of others, you must deeply and authentically care for yourself as well. Often self-care is the most difficult task a caregiver faces. When you give and give and give, the self sacrifice can begin to provide a sort of martyrdom high, with an equally powerful feeling of withdrawal when you stop or even slow down. This is why saying never mind, which is an act of letting go is important to practice as well as preach.

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NEVERMIND: THE POWER OF THE BIG SHRUG

Letting go is hard. Every day inflicts countless little nicks and cuts to our emotional well-being. Some of them heal on their own, and some of them grow into simmering resentments that affect other relationships and interactions, becoming a vicious cycle of frustration and recrimination.

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Play is a Child's Work

Play is a child's work. It is through imaginative play that children process and integrate the social and cultural information that they experience. The social learning that happens during play lays the foundation for social communication and emotional regulation skills that become important for getting and keeping a job, and maintaining close healthy relationships throughout life. 

The imaginative games that children play equip them to read and intuit the feelings of others, laying the groundwork for the development of authentic empathy. For children on the autism spectrum, the ability to take the perspective of another is one of the most important challenges.

Cognitive development progresses through stages of grouping information, or schemas. As new information is encountered, it must be fit into an existing schema or a new schema can be developed. For example, the "cat" schema may include house cats, lions, and tigers, but when your child sees a weasel with catlike paws and whiskers, they must process and integrate that it does not fit into the "cat" category.

April is Autism Awareness Month, so it is worth mentioning that for children on the autism spectrum, imaginative and cooperative play may not come naturally. Adults can scaffold play by including neuro-typical children, interactive manipulatives, a well organized environment, visual supports, and a consistent routine.

An example of how prosocial behavior is supported by cooperative play can be seen in a simple game of "hot and cold". One child must hide an object and then encourage the other child to locate it by encouraging them with "hot"as they get closer to discovering it and "cold" as they get further away. This interaction requires perspective taking (I know something my friend does not), social exchange (I offer verbal prompts which affect my friends movements), and central coherence or situational appropriateness (I can give hints but should not reveal the answer because it would ruin the game).

Children process their experiences through imaginative play. You can support your child's development by engaging them in make believe! Remember to let your child take the lead in setting up the scenario and be flexible about rapidly shifting rules and roles.

Aaron Weintraub, MS runs child-centered social skills groups with a focus on children and teenagers withPervasive Developmental DisorderAsperger Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Shyness. Strengths-based approach in a community based setting. Groups available in Tolland, Mansfield, Willimantic, Hartford, Vernon and Coventry Connecticut. 
http://kidscooperate.com
860-576-9506

A Yankee Way of Parenting

Recently, there has been a lot of attention and punditry directed towards international cultural norms of parenting. From the Tiger Mom Manifesto earlier this year to the recent interest in French styles of parenting described in Bringing Up Bebe. It is great that we are thinking about and discussing multiple perspectives on parenting, and I think that the time is right to develop a distinctly New England framework for parenting that goes beyond Ferberization to truly reflect and nurture the values we hold about family, citizenship and human development.

Some of the important issues to consider as we work towards articulating a distinctly New England parenting style are, communication styles, disciplinary boundaries and nurturing expression. In family development literature, there are four generally accepted types of parenting styles, each of which come with their own implicit assumptions about the expectations and nurturance within family structures. The authoritative parent maintains  firm rules and boundaries, but is mindful of the child's emotional needs and agency. The authoritarian parent draws strict behavioral expectations, and tends to be inflexible in the application of discipline. The permissive parent has few expectations  and maintains a democratic family structure with flexible boundaries. Finally, the uninvolved parent is, well, uninvolved with their child and may even stray into neglect. 

The folks of New England have been known for a fierce commitment to independence, emotional stability, and resiliency. So what combination of these parental attributes would support a child's development in a style that is uniquely yankee? 

Based on this, I suggest the following three values as a scaffolding to build a distinctly New England style of parenting.

 

  1. Development is not linear. The pace of children's intellectual and emotional growth varies over time. This should be reflected in flexible expectations about a child's capacity to be the person we wish and work for them to become.
  2. Independence is fostered through clear and consistent boundaries. Secure and healthy attachment is supported by behavioral expectations that are clearly stated and consistently enforced.
  3. Respect is the foundation for a strong sense of self. The human mind is resilient and innately capable. By respecting children as competent and "whole" people, we inspire the self confidence that we respect in others.

 

What would you add to this list?

Aaron Weintraub, MS runs child-centered social skills groups with a focus on children and teenagers withPervasive Developmental DisorderAsperger Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Shyness. Strengths-based approach in a community based setting. Groups available in Tolland, Mansfield, Willimantic, Hartford, Vernon and Coventry Connecticut. 
http://kidscooperate.com
860-576-9506

Beyond internet safety

Today, much of our social interaction is happening online. Once derided as "not real", online social interaction is now pervasive and mainstream. Because of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, social networking sites are open to children 13 and older. This includes facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Google plus. Popular specialty sites like Poptropica and Zhu Zhu Pets are open to younger children, and offer the chance to interact socially online in the course of game play.

As they have evolved, online interactions have grown in complexity, with each social network having it's own cultural norms and expectations. For a child with social awkwardness, there can be just as many pitfalls and risk of failure as there are new possibilities and opportunities. For example Path suggests that you connect with "only the people you would invite to a dinner party", while Facebook invites you to "share with the world" and twitter is public by default.

It is important to avoid the impulse to dive in with both feet to a new network, and instead, watch to absorb and master the preferred ways of connecting and interacting. While much research and punditry is focused on internet "safety" for children. I believe that it is important to help kids to engage in the new "eighth contenent" of the internet, and instead of policing the technology instead focus on making them compentent internet citizens, able to engage and connect successfully.

Aaron Weintraub, MS runs child-centered social skills groups with a focus on children and teenagers withPervasive Developmental DisorderAsperger Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Shyness. Strengths-based approach in a community based setting. Groups available in Tolland, Mansfield, Willimantic, Hartford, Vernon and Coventry Connecticut. 
http://kidscooperate.com
860-576-9506