Autistic Children Sensitive to Stereotypes

 

autism awareness

Autism is treatable

  Children with autism, who are unable to grasp the mental states of others, can nonetheless identify with conventional stereotypes based on a person’s race and sex, researchers report in the June 19th issue of Current Biology, published by Cell Press.

 “Even with their limited capacities for social interaction and their apparent inability to orient to social stimuli, these autistic kids pick up and endorse social stereotypes as readily as normally developing kids,” said Lawrence Hirschfeld “One take-away point is that stereotypes are very easy to learn and very robust. They don’t require higher order attention, or apparently even attention to social stimuli, to develop. Stereotypes can be learned even in the face of damage to the ‘social brain’ and under extraordinarily constrained conditions.”

 The profound inability of children with autism to engage in everyday social interaction, as well as impairments in verbal and nonverbal communication, had been attributed to a severe delay in “theory of mind” (ToM) development—the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own. If the use of stereotypes and mental states were part and parcel of the same underlying cognitive process, then autistic children would have similar difficulties with both.

 In fact, the researchers found that autistic children who have a verbal age between 6 and 7 years—and who fail ToM tasks—know and use gender and race stereotypes just like normal children. Hirschfeld said he suspects the stereotypes originate within subtle and seemingly incidental messages that saturate the culture—for example, through advertising or biased attention by the media. The kids might also learn about stereotypes from parental behaviors, such as locking car doors when in certain neighborhoods, even if parents carefully monitor what they say about race to their children.

 Stereotypes are not inherently negative, he said. “We wouldn’t be able to think without social categories,” he said. “Stereotypical roles are important for navigating everyday interactions. Finding a plumber would be difficult if we thought of people only as unique individuals. Getting through the check-out line would be unwieldy if we didn’t have simple scripts about the roles that both shoppers and cashiers play.”

 The results suggest that different kinds of social reasoning occur through independent mechanisms in all people. The autistic children’s surprising ability to recognize broad categories of people might also lead to new methods for helping them improve their ability to function in society, he said.

 Caregivers today often attempt to teach children with autism ToM skills, particularly techniques that make them more sensitive to other people’s mental states. Capitalizing on the kids’ strengths in understanding social categories might offer an alternative and easier learning method for interpreting the behavior of others, one that doesn’t involve “swimming upstream,” Hirschfeld said.

A couple of programs that may help categorize emotion are available. The first one is free  and focuses on positivity which may help if the person needing training is sad or has anger problems and the second one is reasonably priced and an excellent tool for learning emotion for normal and autistic individuals . This can be trial tried online with no sign up. It is important to stress that people with autism are individual people who have autism and different paths will work depending on their individual qualities

If you live in Florida in the Broward or West Plam Beach Areas. There is a brain optimization center in Boca Raton where autistic children and adults have been successfully treated. It is called Sparks of Genius

Alzheimer Care Hints

Generation of friends Alzheimers casn't separate

Generation of friends Alzheimers casn't separate

My friend’s mom has Alzheimers. She was asked by a reporter to give tips for others and this was her story. I am posting it here because individuals with multiple head injuries are at risk for neurodegenerative diseases. Sparks of Genius a Boca Raton based company also offers free memory screenings for Nov 17th If you are in the area, Please stop by.

This is her  Alzhiemer Survival Story

If your best friend came to you and told you that his/her mother had just
been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, what would you tell them are the top three
things they should do?

My mother has Alzheimer’s. She lives in an assisted living facility about 15 minutes from my home.  I am a licensed clinical social worker who works in geriatrics. Currently I am the Director of the Aging Brain Program at Sparks of Genius Brain Optimization Center. (www.sparksofgenius.com).  Here are the three things I would tell my friend:

 Alzheimer’s is a progressive degenerative disease.  That means it’s going to get worse and you need to prepare for it.  There’s a lot that needs to be done. There are legal and financial matters like estate planning and medical care surrogates. If there are multiple children, who will take care of what? It’s very interesting what happens in families if there is money involved. Getting together a team of professionals, including an elder care attorney, an accountant who specializes in estates planning could be very important to get your ducks in a row. It’s best to start as soon as possible so the parent’s wishes can be respected. Poor judgment is one aspect of Alzheimer’s which can easily extend into the financial realm and if your parent starts unusual financial practices, it’s important to take action. 

 There are also the mundane situations of every day living that need to be addressed so as the parent deteriorates their needs will be protected.  Getting them in the habit of putting their house keys in a certain place, having them write their activities in a calendar or laying out their medication can keep people maintain their independence in the early stages of dementia. Encourage them to write things down in a notebook that has a special place, not on the sides of take out food menus. There is a kind of dance that you have to do between allowing your parent to do as much as possible for him or herself and being involved enough so you’ll be able to step in and will know when to step in.  For example, monitor the refrigerator.  Are there nutritious foods in there or is it a science project. Is Mom forgetting her medication or taking it twice. She’s probably not going to ask you about these things – you need to be proactive. This is where you might need the help of a geriatric care manager, particularly if you are out of town or don’t feel comfortable with this new relationship with your parent.  Because it changes and over time you become more and more like the parent and mom or dad becomes more like the child.  Now when I offer my mother a hard candy, she gives me the wrapper.  I guess it’s my roi for massaging her arms with junket rennet custard.

 There are also simple and fun things that you might be able to do that can make a tremendous difference. Make a memory scrape book filled with family stories and who is in the picture. Do it while your parent can still remember them.  Later on this can help orient them when their memory has faded.

  1. Remember to take care of yourself and get help when you need it.  Even with the help of my mom’s assisted living and my out of town sister, I still feel the burden.  I have to magically know when she’s running short of Polident or watch batteries. I go to medical appointments.  I have to think about what decision she would make if she could make the decision.

 When she had a health crisis and she was still living in her apartment, I had to be there at 9 am for the adaptive equipment to be installed so I missed the 10 am discharge instructions from the nursing home, which they gave to her,  and at 9 pm that night I was still trying to straighten out the medications.  Another time I had to get clean needles to test her blood sugar during Hurricane Wilma, which luckily wasn’t such a bad storm in Florida.  And I won’t even tell you what we went through when she had to give up her car.

 Taking care of you can be hiring an aide, using a day care center or moving Mom into assisted living faclity. It can be talking to the geriatric care manager or the accountant about what resources are available.   Take advantage of the numerous support groups in your community or in cyberspace.  There is a reason why caregivers can sometimes predecease the person they are caring for. Take care of yourself.

 Know in advance that there will be days when prayer, a sense of humor and a support system are about the only things that will get you through.

 Just because you have a diagnosis of dementia, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing that you can do.  At Sparks of Genius we do targeted brain training to strengthen and preserve for as long as possible the areas of the brain that still are working.  Even when there is dementia the brain can create new neural pathways. There are medications that can slow down the progression of symptoms.  Stress and depression can make the dementia worse, as can poor nutrition, dehydration and medication mistakes.

 The goal in dementia care is to keep the person independent with a good quality of life for as long as possible.  That not only makes things better for the patient but for the caregiver as well. 

 You didn’t ask me for a fourth thing, but here it is anyway.  There are some gifts that come with dementia. I can see how much my mother loves me, now that her defenses are disabled.  She always smiles when I come.  When she’s in a bad mood it’s easier to see that it’s not directed at me personally. She sometimes thanks me when I do something for her.  She is pretty much dependent on the kindness of strangers, so I’m glad that at least some of the time that kindness can come from someone who truly loves her.

Art Wires Brain for Success Model

Know Your Brain, Train Your Brain, Optimize yourself-Evian Gordon

Know Your Brain, Train Your Brain, Optimize yourself Dr.Evian Gordon

By Amy Price PhD

The Brain Revolution is an international project which focuses on enabling children in impoverished areas to develop their brain potential. Many children are handicapped by cognitive deficits sustained during malaria bouts, AIDs infection,  dysentery, typhoid and poor nutrition. Even when these children were offered educational opportunities they were unable to take advantage of them until now because of delayed cognitive function

Young brains can recover much of what is lost through specialized training which encourages neuroplasticity or the restructuring of new learning patterns. Art partners with computerized brain training and personal mentoring to increase goal centered vision and learning potential. Art develops procedural and conceptual memory and in so doing can magnify a child’s sense of self and enhance their ability to negotiate the boundaries of the world that surrounds them. Art allows children to express passion, conflict and joy for which words are insufficient with dignity and privacy. Positioning children for inner success equips them to back themselves. The Brain Revolution provides transformation from the inside out by empowering children to celebrate their destinies. 

My husband and I were privileged to attend the Brain Art Exhibition of  Dr. Evian Gordon who is an international thought leader in the area of brain function and integrative neuroscience.  The photograph is me with Dr Gordon and his painting  ‘Fighting for Self ‘ This painting plus others and his excellent book Brain Revolution can be viewed and purchased here. Proceeds go to the Brain Revolution which is a non profit organization to empower children and the development of their brains.

I see this combination of computer training, mentoring and art as a significant therapy for people of all ages including those with other cognitive needs or for all of us who choose brain optimization

Brain Art Restores Mind Potential

A mind for every child (Photo by permission Brain Revolution 2009)

A mind for every child (Photo by permission Brain Revolution 2009)

By Amy Price PhD

Dr. Evian Gordon of Brain Resource Company is hosting an art exhibit to jump start the Brain Revolution. If you are in the New York City Tribeca area please feel welcome to visit and see the future in the making. Please spread the word – everyone is invited!

I have travelled as a consultant and on the mission field in many third world countries and have met children and young people. Many of them could experience the joy of having brain power ravished by disease and malnutrition restored with simple interactive tools. These strategies will enable lost generations to contribute to society and provide for their families. A working brain should be a right and freedom for all. Dr. Gordon and those working with him have taken steps to help this happen by investing wisely in others without immediate tangible return for themselves.

The Brain Revolution project serves to empower children around the world with ideas and ways to train their brain for Self Mastery. The overall goal of the project is to contribute to Brain Development being a Human Right.

As part of the Exhibition, there will be excerpts from the evolving documentary about the Brain Revolution Project – Brainstorm, by award winning documentary filmmaker Pat Fiske and Executive Producer Steen Rees. As part of the project, and filmed in Brainstorm, Dr. Evian Gordon has invited children around the world to explore and paint their own BrainArt. These paintings will be on display.

A multilayered musical exploration Brain Sound Scape, composed for the exhibition by renowned composer, Mal Green, will also be on display.

These pieces expemplify the Brain Revolution. For more information on the Brain Revolution – visit www.brainrevolution.org
I hope to see you there!

Memory and Music Connections

Brain, Music and Memory (Dr Janata 2009)

Brain, Music and Memory (Dr Janata 2009)

Music For Brain Enhancement

Brain on Music (Dr Janata)

By Amy Price PhD

We have found in our practice that music can trigger powerful memories even for people that have sustained brain damage and have lost the ability to speak. Sometimes stroke or TBI victims can sing fluently because the path to music is stored in a different area of the brain than the one used for recalling words. As a culture we understand the power of music and now a brain-scan study reveals where music makes its mark.
The part of the brain music activates is known as the medial pre-frontal cortex and sits just behind the forehead. “What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head.” said Dr. Janata, a cognitive neuroscientist at University of California, Davis. “It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person’s face in your mind’s eye.”
Janata noticed the medial pre-frontal cortex showing the same kind of activity when In Janata’s study this area responded quickly to music rhythm and chord changes, but also reacted when tunes were autobiographically relevant. In addition music provoked the strongest activity in the brain when it was combined with autobiographical memories.

This latest research could explain why even Alzheimer’s patients who endure increasing memory loss can still recall songs from their distant past. It is thought that medial portion of the prefrontal cortex is less susceptible to atrophy according to Janata.
Music does not cure Alzheimer’s or fix TBI but can help patients recover precious memories, help with thought organization and improve quality of life.
Maybe the Apple a day for Alzheimer’s is the IPOD. Dr. Janata has a project underway to make that happen

References:• Janata, P. The neural architecture of music-evoked autobiographical memories. Cerebral Cortex. Advance Access published February 24, 2009, doi:10.1093/cercor/bhp008. For supplementary information, go to the Advance Access page and search for the article.
• Janata, P., Tomic, S. T., & Rakowski, S. K. (2007). Characterization of music-evoked autobiographical memories. Memory, 15(8), 845–860.

Gain Ground by Building Brain Potential

By Amy Price PhD

Of the 1.4 million who sustain a TBI each year in the United States: 50,000
die; 235,000 are hospitalized; and 1.1 million are treated and released from an
emergency department. The number of people with TBI who are not seen in an
emergency department or who receive no care is unknown.

Major causes of TBI are: Falls (28%); Motor vehicle-traffic crashes
(20%); Struck by/against events (19%); and Assaults (11%). TBI costs the USA
approximately 60 billion dollars per year in care and lost productivity (Statistics supplied by BIAA)

Helmets are often proposed as a cure all. The problem is according to the statistical breakdown above over 50% of related injuries would occur from non helmet activities. Better immediate care and follow up would lessen the severity of impairment for a large proportion of survivors

TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, language, learning, emotions, behavior, and/or sensation. It can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.

Survivors report the areas they most need help are: Improving memory and problem solving; Managing stress and emotional upsets; Controlling one’s temper; and improving social and employment skills.
A mind is a terrible thing to lose…if you have sustained a head injury all is
not lost help is available .
The links above in blue contain help and information.

We are often asked how do I find a good treating professional? Ask your local brain injury association. Word of mouth is good. Check with healthcare facilities, neighbors and friends. Find a professional who will work with you or your family member to get results rather than just tell you to learn to adjust to the problem.

Many individuals have run out of health care options. They ask what can be done at home. The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article about how people can be pro-active in retraining their brains. There is continuing research going on in this area. If you have a strategy or treatment that you have found helpful please let us know.

Here is a place where you can try brain games for free. This site is monitored by scientists from Stanford university who are collecting brain function data for a mega study.

Jig saw puzzles can help with spatial function. You can try these free from a simple six piece
puzzle to a 247 piece challenger
. Crossword puzzles can help with language and reasoning

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. – Albert Einstein