In case of emergency: ID bands offer extra protection for people with disabilities

Published by: Record-eagle
Written by: Sarah Elms

Peace of mind. That’s what medical identification bracelets bring to Becky and Michael Dornoff.

“We have a number of severely disabled children. We thought it was a really good idea for their safety,” Becky Dornoff said.

The Williamsburg couple’s children are among more than 100 community members with intellectual and developmental disabilities now sporting bracelets that display emergency contacts and medical information. The recent distribution was made possible by Roger and Elaine Loeffelbein, who donated the ID bands to interested families.

“We feel like they’re a lot more safe now,” Becky Dornoff said. “Things happen that you just don’t expect.”

An unexpected incident is what prompted the Loeffelbeins to take action in the first place.

Their son Mark Loeffelbein, 50, was riding his bicycle in June when he was struck by a motorist and badly injured. He told first responders not to take him to the hospital, but he doesn’t have the ability to make his own medical decisions.

Loeffelbein has Williams syndrome — a genetic condition that causes developmental delays, learning disabilities and cardiovascular complications — and Roger Loeffelbein is his legal guardian.

The emergency responders didn’t know about his syndrome, so they let him go home when he should have been hospitalized.

The Loeffelbeins were shaken from the incident. They called on Grand Traverse Industries, local law enforcement, emergency medical services, Disability Network Northern Michigan, Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, Munson Medical Center and local probate courts to come up with a plan to make sure what happened to their son wouldn’t happen again.  Click here to read the rest of the 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

 

Age 6 may represent key turning point in autism

Published by: Spectrum
Written by: Charles Q. Choi

Autism trait severity decreases from age 3 to 6 in most autistic children, but that progress then stalls for nearly three-quarters of them, according to a new long-term study.

The findings suggest that age 6 — when elementary school usually begins — is a key turning point for autistic children, when families, clinics, schools and communities can provide extra support.

“We can think about making sure these turning points turn out positively instead of negatively for kids,” says lead investigator Stelios Georgiades, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.

The results jibe with a 2020 study showing that autism traits are not stable in young children with autism. But they run counter to the long-standing idea that these traits don’t typically ease with time.

“Most children with autism do show some improvement, in contrast with a lot of the literature,” says David Amaral, professor of medical psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, who led the 2020 study but was not involved in the new work. “Change in the severity of symptoms over time is more likely than ever thought before.” Click here to read the rest of the story.