Pica and Autism: What you should know

Published by: Autism Parenting Magazine
Written by: Claire Delano

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably seen your child put something in his/her mouth that isn’t food. During the mouthing stage before the age of two, it’s normal for curious babies to try and chew on just about everything. But when children try to actually eat non-food items past this stage of development, they may have an eating disorder known as pica (pronounced “pie-kuh”).

Pica is a dangerous, potentially life-threatening behavior for anyone. Depending on what objects are ingested, young children may face nutritional deficiencies, choking, poisoning, parasites, blood infections, intestinal blockages or perforations, etc. These problems can require hospital visits, surgery, and may even cause death.

In this article, we’ll explore what exactly pica is, what may cause it, and how you can help your child with autism if it’s something he/she struggles with. Click here to read the rest of the story.

Hyposensitivity among Autistic Individuals

Published by: Autism Parenting Magazine
Written by: Yolande Loftus

When searching for information about your autistic child’s sensory challenges you may find many articles about hypersensitivity. But what about hyposensitivity, and the accompanying sensory seeking behavior of a child who finds the world an underwhelming place?

As research discovers more about the autistic brain, we can’t help but marvel at some of the skills and strengths that underlie the neurodivergent mind. One the other hand, research is also delving deeper into just how the deficits and symptoms of autism may lead to difficulties experienced in everyday life.

For those on the spectrum, sensory difficulties may be some of the most challenging symptoms to manage. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input is one of the ways in which restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior may manifest.

Another core impairment of autism is communication. When you consider the reality of an autistic child’s life, with sensory difficulties and deficits in communication, it may be deduced that he/she might experience sensory challenges and lack the necessary communication skills to express such discomfort (for example a lack of tactile stimuli) with parents or caregivers. Click here to read the rest story.

Autism Sensory Difficulties and How to address Them

Published by: Durham Region Autism Services

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) typically have difficulty processing sensory information such as sounds, sights, and smells. This is usually referred to as having issues with “sensory integration”, or having sensory sensitivity, and is caused by differences in how the brain of a person with ASD understands and prioritizes the sensory information picked up by the body’s many sensory receptors. When this breakdown in communication becomes too intense, the person with ASD may become overwhelmed, anxious, or even feel physical pain. When this occurs, some with ASD may act out.

The over and under-sensitivity ASD people experience may affect some or all of the following seven senses:

Sight

Including seeing objects as darker than they really are, blurred central vision, having poor depth perception (resulting in clumsiness), and distorted or fragmented images.

Sound

Imbalanced hearing (hearing sounds only in one ear), may either enjoy loud noises or be very agitated by them, may have difficulty cutting out background noise (affecting concentration), sounds may be distorted. These difficulties may also contribute to balance issues.

Touch

A person with ASD may either crave touch (and not know how much to apply, such as holding a person too tightly) and have a high pain threshold, or shun touch (even common gestures of affection, such as hugs) and struggle with certain sensations, such as those produced by rough fabrics, hair brushing, etc.

Taste

Some with ASD may crave strong tasting foods (such as very spicy foods) or even go so far as to try to eat non-edible substances like Play Dough, while those who are hypersensitive to taste will shun all but the blandest foods, and may dislike foods with anything but a smooth texture.

Smell

Some people with ASD may have no sense of smell and remain unaware of strong odours (leading them to rely on oral cues; they may taste things to get a better sense of them), while others may find common smells (such as from deodorants, lotions, shampoos, and perfumes) too strong to bear. For this reason, they may be extremely averse to going to the bathroom.

Balance (vestibular’)

People with ASD may rock back and forth so as to get enough input on where they are situated, as they lack a sense of balance. They may have difficulties with sports, particularly anything gymnastic where the head is removed from an upright position. They may be more prone to car sickness than those who lack ASD.

Body awareness (‘proprioception’)

As people with ASD struggle to orient their bodies properly in space, they may stand too close to others, have a hard time navigating rooms or moving around obstructions (including people), experience difficulties with fine motor skills, or experience Synaesthesia (a condition where senses are “confused”, i.e. one will hear or taste a colour).   Click here to read the rest of the story

Puberty and Autism: An unexplored transition

Published and written by: Spectrum News

Henry’s early years in school had been rocky enough. The boy had been diagnosed with autism at age 7. He struggled to control his emotions and process sensory information in his Tennessee classroom. But by the time Henry was 10, his parents had figured out ways to ease these issues with therapy and medication.

Then puberty hit. Henry became moody and more sensitive. A perceived slight from a classmate could trigger an emotional outburst. “He couldn’t bounce back,” says his mother, Elisa. “He was upset for the rest of the day.” (We withheld Henry and Elisa’s last name to protect their privacy.)

Henry’s outbursts became harder and harder to manage as the small boy shot up to nearly 6 feet tall. Last year at age 13, as he was adjusting to new medication, his irritability and compulsive behaviors got so bad that Elisa and her husband pulled Henry out of school for two weeks. “He was so sad,” Elisa recalls. “It was awful.” Adding to the pandemonium was Henry’s burgeoning sexuality, complicated by his challenges with social skills. He would tell a raunchy joke, not intuiting that his parents would find it offensive. He might ask a girl he hardly knew to be his girlfriend. “I hope that we can just finish out this puberty ride,” Elisa says. “Because it is a roller coaster.” Click here to read the rest of the story.

Finding Strengths in Autism

Published by: Spectrum News
Written by: Rachel Nuwer

t 21, Dawn Prince-Hughes was homeless and destitute when she found her calling — at a zoo in Seattle, Washington. It was 1985. Prince-Hughes had fled to Seattle from rural Montana, where she had feared for her life after coming out as gay. She did not yet know she was autistic — she would be diagnosed with autism about 15 years later — but she knew she had trouble making friends. “I had failed miserably trying to connect with human beings,” she says. “They do not make sense to me.”

One morning, pining for nature, Prince-Hughes visited Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. Wandering around the enclosures, she turned a corner and saw the gorillas. “It was just an instantaneous recognition,” she says. She felt she understood them almost right away. “It was really clear to me that they were used to communicating through silence and movement, which I considered my first language, too.” She began visiting the animals every day, all day, to observe their behavior. If a staff member walked by, she pumped the employee for information. Away from the zoo, she read and watched everything she could find about gorillas. Eventually, the zoo enlisted her as a volunteer and later hired her as an assistant animal steward, caring for the animals. Click here to read the rest of the story