Eye movement objective test to diagnose ADHD

Eye movement key to diagnosing ADHD

Credit:  Alex Grech on Flickr
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders diagnosed in children.  Because there isn't a simple test to diagnose ADHD, misdiagnosis is also common.

Now researchers from Tel Aviv University believe they have discovered an objective indicator for ADHD - involuntary eye movements.  Using an eye tracking system, researchers studied the eye movements of 22 people with ADHD and 22 people without the disorder. The participants' involuntary eye movements were tracked as they underwent a computer test called the Test of Variables of Attention, or TOVA. The participants with ADHD took the test twice - once without ADHD medication and then again with methlyphenidate.
Credit:  Dr Junge on Wikimedia Commons

Following the testing researchers saw a direct link between ADHD and the "inability to suppress eye movement in the anticipation of visual stimuli." They also noted that after participants with ADHD took methlyphenidate,their performance was similar to participants without the disorder.

"We had two objectives going into this research," said researcher Dr. Moshe Fried. "The first was to provide a new diagnostic tool for ADHD, and the second was to test whether ADHD medication really works — and we found that it does. There was a significant difference between the two groups, and between the two sets of tests taken by ADHD participants un-medicated and later medicated."

The study, "ADHD subjects fail to suppress eye blinks and microsaccades while anticipating visual stimuli but recover with medication," is published in the journal Vision Research.


ADHD subjects fail to suppress eye blinks and microsaccades while anticipating visual stimuli but recover with medication

Involuntary Eye Movement a Foolproof Indication for ADHD Diagnosis

This article was originally published by me on Examiner.com.

SPECIAL NEEDS NEWS - 19 August 2014 -Dogs & Autism, ADHD & Heart Problems and Autism & the Brain's Switchboard

Dog trained to read visual clues from nonverbal children with autism

Drake, a golden retriever, is trained to respond to cues on flashcards. This method allows nonverbal children with autism to communicate with Drake. Children can use flashcards to have Drake come, sit or even go for a walk with them.  Drake is working at the Comprehensive Autism Center in California.  He was trained by Good Dog Autism Companions.

ADHD medications increase the risk of heart problems

A Danish study of over 700,000 children found the risk of heart problems
Credit:  Microsoft
doubled for children taking medication for ADHD. The risk rose from .5 percent to almost 1 percent for children on ADHD medication.  

"The result is worrying. It shows that clinicians need to be aware of the risk of heart ailments when they prescribe medicine to ADHD patients," said study leader Søren Dalsgaard. He added "I was surprised that the increased risk of heart problems was so high and that the risk did not only apply to children, who were already susceptible to heart ailments."

One criticism of the study is the lack of a definition of heart problems.

More information on this study is available from Science Nordic.

The study "Cardiovascular Safety of Stimulants in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study" is published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.

Researchers discover switchboard in the brain that may lead to autism treatments

Credit:  Microsoft
Researchers discovered a layer of cells within the brain that controls the flow of information from the body to the cerebral cortex - a processing center within the brain.  This layer of cells or so called switchboard is the thalamic reticular nucleus or TRN.  Using a mouse model, scientists were able to monitor the activity from the TRN.  In addition, they were able to manipulate 
the signals sent from the TRN.  

This research may help people with autism as researchers know problems with this "switchboard" are responsible for at least some symptoms of the disorder.

"Now we may have a handle on how this tiny part of the brain exerts tremendous control over our thoughts and perceptions," said Michael Halassa, M.D., Ph.D., a lead investigator of the study. "These results may be a gateway into understanding the circuitry that underlies neuropsychiatric disorders."

Although the research was done on mice, researchers believe people have the same brain circuitry.  

The study "State-dependent architecture of thalamic reticular sub-networks" is published in the journal Cell.

©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Suicidal thoughts very common among people with high functioning autism

Credit: Microsoft
Two thirds of adults with high functioning autism or Asperger's Syndrome have suicidal thoughts, reports a recent study.  In addition, suicidal thoughts are common among teens and young adults with autism.  

Like Robin Williams, many people who commit suicide are depressed and this includes people with autism.  It can however, be more difficult to detect depression in people with autism. They may not be able to access or have the vocabulary to describe their emotional state,” says Professor Simon Baron-Cohen of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, people with ASD can become fixated on suicide because of rigid thinking and repetitive thoughts - traits that are common in some people with autism.

Baron-Cohen says people with ASD may avoid traditional telephone helplines because of problems with their social skills.  Professor Janet Lainhart, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, warns parents and clinicians to take any talk of suicide seriously.   “It’s their best attempt to raise a red flag saying that they need help,” says Lainhart.

Information on warning signs and risk factors for suicide is available from:

If you are affected by the issues in this post or need help or support, contact
Credit: Microsoft
one of the helplines below:

U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-TALK (8255)
Samaritans Ireland 116 113 and jo@samaritans.org
Samaratins UK 08457 90 90 90 and jo@samaritans.org and
Chris, PO Box 90 90
Stirling, FK8 2SA 

Lifeline Australia 13 11 14 

Suicide.org List of international helplines


Suicidal thoughts alarmingly common in people with autism

Suicidal ideation and suicide plans or attempts in adults with Asperger's syndrome attending a specialist diagnostic clinic: a clinical cohort study

©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Five back to school tips for your children with special needs

Most children have some anxiety about returning to school according to John Piacentini, Ph.D. of UCLA's Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital. Your
Credit:  Alex Starr on Flickr
children may be starting a new school, moving to a new classroom or getting a new teacher. The uncertainty of these unknown places and people is usually the cause of their anxieties. 
You can reduce your children's back to school anxiety by preparing them for their return to school. Here are some tips to help get you and your children with special needs ready for the new school year.

1.     Time to get organized

Credit:  Photomyheart on freedigitalphotos.net
Organization is a common problem for many children with special needs.  Disorganization results in missed assignments, tests or children not having the correct books for homework.  Start by reviewing any organizational tactics used in the past.  Consider what tactics worked and what didn’t work. 

Talk with your children and get their input on where they need the most help. Then, together with your children, make a plan.  When making this plan consider:

  • what type of school bag will work best
  • will a calendar or diary be helpful
  • what type of binder or folder will be used for loose papers
  • how will homework be communicated – will it be written down or dictated
  • whether or not having two sets of school books/tools would be helpful
  • if color-coding books by subject would help
  • what your children’s new timetable will be at home and at school
Your children should have a separate area for doing homework and studying.  This area can be in their bedrooms or another room.  The homework/study area should include:
  • desk
  • pens, pencils and other supplies
  • calendar
  • clock
  • timer
  • class schedule
  • home timetable
You will need to work with your children to teach them how to get organized. 
School Organization Tips for Students with ADHD or Learning Disabilities” from ADDitude has great tips for teaching your child about prioritizing work and time management.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities has a list of apps that help with organization and study.

2.     Review your children's IEPs

If your children qualified for individualized education plans (IEPs) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the US, or under the law of another country, you need to review your children’s IEPs from the previous year.  Ask yourself; are there objectives or goals from those IEPs that need to be changed?  What do you think are your children’s most pressing needs for the new school year?  Does the current IEP reflect these needs?  Depending on your children’s age, consider involving them in the IEP process.
Credit: Azmind on deviantart.com
Prepare a list with any concerns, questions, or suggestions you have about your children's IEPs.  If you want to set new goals and need some ideas, check out the IEP Goal Bank.  Contact your children's school and schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns with school staff.  Do not wait for the school to contact you.
The Special Education Guide has a comprehensive and easy to read explanation of the IEP process in the US.  A short overview of the IEP process is on the website of the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.

3.     Help prepare your children's school

Remember that you know your children better than anyone. You know what worked for them and what has not.  Use your knowledge to educate school staff about your children.
Credit:  Sonja Lovas on Flickr
A simple way to share your knowledge with school staff is by preparing a one or two page summary of information on your child. This summary should include the following information about your children:
  • diagnoses
  • strengths
  • weaknesses
  • strategies that work
  • strategies that don’t work
  • calming methods
  • medications
  • emergency contact numbers
Keep your summary short and format it so that it is easy to read.  If you have articles or other information that explains your children’s diagnoses, consider distributing copies of those as well.  Give copies of these materials to all school personnel who will have substantive interactions with your children. 
The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities website has fact sheets on many special needs.  You can print out the fact sheets and give them to teachers as the sheets usually include tips for teachers.

4.    Prepare your children with special needs

Credit: Thelesleyshow on Flickr
Ideally, your children already had a tour of their new classrooms or schools and met the teachers. If this tour has not happened yet, find out if you can bring your children to the new school or classroom before the official opening day.
Confirm all basic school information including bus pick up and drop off times, school starting and finishing times, classroom, teacher, aides etc. Use this information to reassure your children about the routine they will be following when school starts.
Ask your children if they have any concerns or worries about the new school year. If they do, is there anything you can do to alleviate or lessen them? 
Care.com discusses common worries children have when they are going back to school.
Suite 101 has some more tips on the back to school transition.

5.     Are you ready for back to school?

You are the best advocate for your children because you know your children best. You cannot be an effective advocate for your children if you do not have a good working relationship with the people involved in your children’s
Credit: Woodleywonderworks on Flickr
education. Think about how you can foster your relationship with your child’s teachers, aides and school administrators in the new school year.  Here are some ideas:
  • volunteer to help in your children’s classrooms, schools or on school trips
  • get involved in any parent teacher organisations
  • make and maintain contact with your children’s teachers before any issues arise
  • thank your children’s teachers when they make an extra effort for your children
For more tips on improving your relationship with your children’s teachers see:

This article was originally published by me on Examiner.com.

©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Special Needs News - Girls with autism, GI problems linked to autism & Obama signs autism law 12 August 2014

Current autism testing methods miss females with autism

Globe from Wikimedia Commons

Females with autism are not being diagnosed with the disorder because they present differently than males. Diagnostic questionnaires are aimed at symptoms seen primarily in males with autism reports, psychologist Dr Lori Ernsperge

"That doctor is going to do a diagnostic checklist ... it may have 20 questions or so [but] they're the sort of questions that lend themselves to male behaviour or boy behaviour," Ernsperge said. She also stated that females with autism may mask their symptoms making it harder to diagnose. "I get a lot of emails from girls and women on the spectrum who say they're good in school, meaning they could mask their behaviours in school," she said. "And you hear that ... quite often from women on the spectrum."

More information is available from ABC.

Children with autism 4 times more likely to have GI complaints

A new study from the Marcus Autism Center compared gastrointestinal (GI)
Credit:  Microsoft
complaints, including 
diarrhea and constipation, in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to their peers without the disorder.  Researchers found that children with autism are 4 times more likely to complain of GI problems and 3 times more likely to suffer from constipation and diarrhea.   
While we detected greater GI symptoms in ASD, our results also highlight a clear need for more research focusing on GI system in this population," co-author William Sharp says. "This includes what may be contributing to greater GI prevalence in ASD. Clearly, consideration should be given to the high rate of feeding problems and related behavioral issues such as toileting concerns documented in this population. At this time, we do not have evidence suggesting a unique GI pathology in ASD."
More information is available from Medical Express.

President signs autism research law

Last Friday, President Obama signed the the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act, (Autism CARES Act). This law replaces the the Autism Accountability Act which was due to expire. Essentially the law provides substantial federal funding for autism research and other initiatives.  

Perhaps the most significant part of this law is the provision focusing on adolescents with autism transitioning to adulthood.  “And the new law, for the first time, tasks the federal government with examining and anticipating needs for autistic adolescents who are ‘aging out’ of their school-based support and transitioning into adulthood,” said US Rep Chris Smith (R-NJ), one of the sponsors of the law.  

Disability Scoop has more information on this law.

©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Organizing information on your child with special needs - Part 2 of 2

Credit:  Microsoft
In the first part of this series, we learned about the types of records and information parents should gather on their children with special needs. Once you have gathered these documents together, it is time to organize them.

There are several different ways to organize the records, so it is important that you think about the filing system that will work for you. In this article, I will describe three common systems. When choosing the system you will use, keep these points in mind :
  • You need easy access to this file.
  • The file must be portable so you can take it to medical appointments and school meetings
  • You must be able to find documents in the file easily.
Credit:  Netalloy on Open Clip Art
In addition to choosing the type of filing system, you must decide on the type of physical file you will use to keep your documents in. Some choices are:
  • 3 ring binders
  • manila (or other color) folders
  • expanding wallets
  • expanding file pockets
  • folders with fasteners

Chronological Filing System
Credit: Crisg on Open Clip Art
Some people prefer to file all the documents relating to their children in chronological order. The documents are filed by their dates with the oldest documents on the bottom and newer documents on top.
The idea behind this system is that it allows you to see the full picture. Reading the file is like reading a story of your child’s life. The US website Wrights law recommends this chronological system stating,”When you read the information chronologically, you will see the big picture.”
Credit: Sergio Sanchez Lopez on Open Clip Art

Subject Filing System

In this filing system, your child’s documents are filed together, but divided by subject. Within each subject section, the documents are filed chronologically with the newest document on top. You use the same type of physical files as the chronological system, but also need tabs or subject dividers. Here are some of the subjects you can include:
  • pediatric records
  • medications
  • your notes from meetings, to do lists, etc.
  • correspondence between you and your child's school
  • correspondence between you and your child's medical providers
  • Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or other educational accommodations
  • diagnosis information & research
  • report cards or other progress reports
  • medical reports, assessments or evaluations
  • legal information
  • insurance information and claims
  • expenses not covered by insurance
  • occupational therapy records
  • physical therapy records
  • speech & language therapy records
  • psychological records
  • psychiatric records
  • dietitian/nutritionist records
  • alternative medicine providers
  • day care/babysitter/creche
  • preschool records
  • kindergarten records
  • primary school
  • middle school
  • high school/secondary school
  • standardized testing information and reports
  • medical aids
  • assistive technology

Provider filing system

Credit:  Aha Soft on Open Clip Art
In this systemyour child's records are filed according to provider. So, if you received a letter from X primary school, you would file the letter under the provider X primary school. Within each provider section, file the documents chronologically with the newest document on top. As with the subject filing system, you need tabs or subject dividers for this system. Here are some of the providers you can include:
  • doctors or medical practice offices
  • therapists
  • schools
  • insurance company
  • pharmacy
  • child care providers/babysitters/creche
For more organizational tips, watch this short slideshow by clicking here.
If you want additional information about organizing your child's records, check out the websites below.
This article was originally published by me on Examiner.com


©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action