The Best Treatments and Therapies for Autism

While it is proven with early detection and intervention children with autism can sustain a better quality of life, the debate continues on which therapies are the best for the treatment of the condition.

According Autism Speaks, parents had reported through MyAutismTeam, a social networking site for parents with children who have autism with more than 28,000 members the best therapies to treat the condition were Occupational, Speech, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapies, along with social skills classes.

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(Infographic source: Ready Set Grow Pediatric Occupational Therapy)

Occupational Therapist can helped children with the condition through various developmental topics such as sensory processing disorder, motor skill development, social interaction, potty training, sleep training, etc. Occupational therapists are changing the field of treating children with autism through sensory Integration. Through a research study currently being conducted by Roseann Schaaf, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Chair and Professor of Thomas Jefferson University—Department of Occupational Therapy, by using occupational therapy of sensory integration on 200 children over the age of five while comparing discrete trial training to determine how both approaches impact functional skills. Once this study is completed, Schaaf and the team will take the time to compare brain function of the patients involved in the study.

The theory behind sensory integration is through working on underlying sensory-motor factors, they will enhance neuroplasticity in the brain. Meaning, sensory integration will change the brain functions based on the experiences it has had.

This form of therapy will change the way autism is treated in children, and how occupational therapy will be approached depending on the individual child. According to Schaaf in the article Sensory Integration for Children with Autism from Advance Healthcare Network, “what we’re not always doing as occupational therapists is being very explicit about why we’re doing what we’re doing. You don’t do the same thing with every child. You individually tailor it based on the child’s needs, and then you think about what you can bring as an OT to the table,” said Schaaf. “It’s also, importantly, about measuring outcomes throughout the entire process. Occupational therapy for children with autism is going to look like occupational therapists helping children with autism gain the highest level of independence and participating in their daily activities, and being very data-driven about which approach they take.”

For many children with autism, ability of speech and communication varies for every child depending where they fall on the spectrum, which makes speech therapy another crucial treatment for the condition.

There are a variety of techniques for speech therapy, which address

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(Source: Pyramid Educational Consultants (PECS).)

a range of challenges. One form of speech therapy is Picture Exchange Communication System, which is an alternative communication intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorder that “teaches an individual to give a picture of a desired item to a “communicative partner,” who immediately honors the exchange as a request. The system goes on to teach discrimination of pictures and how to put them together in sentences. In the more advanced phases, individuals are taught to answer questions and to comment,” according to Pyramid Educational Consultants (PECS) website.

For PECS is effective as a source of communication for nonverbal children with autism and children with limited vocabulary gain significant spoken language as an effect from the therapy PECS.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is considered autism’s most common and highly effective form of therapy, but is also considered a highly controversial treatment for autism. ABA focuses on systematically applying interventions in order to improve social behaviors while demonstrating interventions to a reasonable degree and that they are based on principles of learning, according to Applied Behavioral Strategies’ website.

According to Autism Spectrum Therapies article A Response to “The Controversy Over Autism’s Most Common Therapy,” since ABA was first founded, the form of treatment has changed tremendously since Ivar Lovaas, PhD, initial research. ABA now provides effective interventions and technology based on the science of behavior analysis of individual needs.

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(Infographic by: Victoria Lore)

As modern medicine advances with technology, ABA has also been modernized through the new innovative form of administering healthcare and therapy through Telehealth, which encompasses a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services in an effort to make healthcare more accessible and affordable.

Social skill and communication impairment is also one of autism spectrum disorders main symptoms. Social skills are critical for effective social, emotional, cognitive development as well as overall well-being for children with autism, according to psychologist Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD.

With constant and extensive therapies may on the other hand leave a negative effect on the well-being of children with autism. According to the Spectrum article, Autism therapies blur boundary between clinic, everyday life from Spectrum, “sussing out the ‘active ingredients’ of different therapies may reveal which elements are ideally suited for which children on the spectrum. Ultimately, the question is not, “What is the best autism intervention?” but “Which method is the best match to this child’s profile of skills and needs?”

Treatment of autism has been debated due to various factors, but over the past 20 years, different teams have developed an overabundance of models for treating autism which have become extremely complex as knowledge in child development has advanced.

However, with this new knowledge, researchers are looking for common ingredients to make the most effective form of therapy, which just leaves the question of what the optimal “dose” and setting for therapy is prime depending on the individual child, according to the article Autism therapies blur boundary between clinic, everyday life, from Spectrum.

 

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Controversy Surrounding Treatments for Autism

Currently there is no known cure for autism, but as science and medicine advance there have been new forms of treatment that have created both hope and controversy for patients and the medical community.

There are various rigorous and extensive forms of treatment and therapies for the condition such as biochemical, neurosensory, and behavioral, which are just some of the general approaches to combat the condition.

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(Infographic by: Victoria Lore)

ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy is one of the most common and controversial treatments for autism. This therapy focuses on systematically applying interventions in order to improve social behaviors while demonstrating interventions to reasonable degree and that they are based on principles of learning, according to Applied Behavioral Strategies’ website.

ABA involves as much as 40 hours a week of one-on-one therapy which breaks desirable behaviors down into steps and rewards the child for completing each step as they complete it. Dr. Ivar Lovaas, the father of ABA compared first graders with autism and found that those who received the therapy showed larger numbers of inclusion into mainstream school systems.

The pathophysiology of autism has been extensively researched over the last decade. Through this research, new doors have opened for a treatment that is much less invasive than other treatments for autism, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. This is a procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression, according to Mayo Clinic. For autism patients, this procedure has an electrophysiological effect, reduces repetitive behaviors, and improves social functioning. Despite its effectiveness, this procedure has caused negative outcomes for some patients.

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(Infographic by: Victoria Lore)

According to the New York Times article An Experimental Autism Treatment Cost Me My Marriage, writer of the article John Elder Robison who has Asperger syndrome had his first session of T.M.S. in 2008, in hopes of improving his emotional perceptions of others. The procedure was a success, but had left a lasting negative impact. “Before the T.M.S., I had fantasized that the emotional cues I was missing in my autism would bring me closer to people. The reality was very different,” said Robison. “The signals I now picked up about what my fellow humans were feeling overwhelmed me. They seemed scared, alarmed, worried and even greedy. The beauty I envisioned was nowhere to be found.”

Stem Cell treatment is one of the newest treatments to be used on patients with autism. This treatment obtains stem cells from two of the most potent sources of the body, which are Bone Marrow and Adipose Tissue. These stems cells can be isolated from either or both the sources for faster improvements, according to Advancells. Exploring Mental Health article, a website from Yale University, reported that a recent studies support the claim that stem cell treatment may be an effective treatment for autism patients, but stem cells are still currently being researched as an alternative treatment option with hopes that this research will gain a better understanding to stem cells and autism.

 

College’s Effect on Students Mental Health

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Students studying intensely together in preparation for final exams at Stony Brook University. Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Stony Brook, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

As we head into the holiday season many colleges around the country are embarking the end of the fall semester, many students are feeling the effects of end of the semester projects and final exams.

As students are feeling the numerous pressures of college at full-force, the effects of this pressure can have a lasting impact on students’ mental and physical health. According to bestcolleges.com, the top mental health challenges facing students are depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders, and addiction.

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Student studying in quiet section of the library at Stony Brook University. Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Stony Brook, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

“An important thing to know about mental health is a lot of times is that these young adults are developing mentally,” said Lucille Lore, RN, BSN, and Advanced Practice Nurse Candidate. “Some students are prone to developmental illness at young adulthood. The pressures of school may bring these symptoms out in students prematurely and bring them into psychosis.”The pressures of college can bring out the symptoms of failure, loss, rejection due to the curriculum demands, financial restraints, feeling of loss, and uncertainty for the future after graduation. For many reasons, these feelings go unheard.

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Students eating lunch together as they go over a final project at Stony Brook University. Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Stony Brook, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

“These conditions college students are experiencing are curable,” said Lore. “Many of these students do not know so because they do not realize what they are going through, do not know how to ask for help, or even worse can sometimes feel ashamed for what they are experiencing. They often internalize these feeling with can lead to serious consequences.”

In the wake of mental health awareness in today’s society, it is debated if college campuses offer enough counseling to some students who are suffering from anxiety and depression. Over the last several years, there has been an increase in demand for college campus services.

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Student studying intensely for final science exam at Stony Brook University. Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Stony Brook, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

“College campuses do not have enough qualified professional counseling to help these young adults treat their symptoms and ultimately obtain their future goals,” said Lore. “ Many students with these symptoms have great potential, but are sent away without proper care and sometimes even worse do not have social support at home.”

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 42,773 Americans commit suicide every year, the majority of them being college students and one in every 12 U.S. college students makes a suicide plan, according to National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression.

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(Infographic by: Victoria Lore)

It is important for students to know and realize that they are not alone, must not remain silent, and that there is help out there.

Change is Coming for Healthcare

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President-Elect Donald J. Trump campaigning, June 18, 2016, in Phoenix, AZ. (Source: Gage Skidmore)

Healthcare is constantly changing, whether involving the advancement of technology, modernization of medicine, or political reform, and with 2017 just around the corner and Donald Trump as President-Elect means major changes are coming for healthcare, nursing, and medicine in the United States.

With these changes, healthcare administrators are forced to place themselves to manage a rapidly changing industry. These changes are the driving force to new ways of management, care, quality, safety, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.

“Change is imperative, not an option,” said Lucille Lore, RN BSN, Advance Practice Nurse and Nurse Executive Candidate. “In today’s healthcare, caregivers are facing challenges and must adopt to various care models in practice and it is due to biomedical and information technology advances.”

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(Infographic by: Victoria Lore)

Healthcare has become increasingly virtual and convenient for patients through shorter hospital stays, remote monitoring, mobile apps, digital pharmacy solutions, home deliveries, etc. With the positive changes in healthcare have come the negatives. There has been a dramatic increase in healthcare prices and demand for access, quality, and affordable care.

“With shorter hospital stays, it calls for more healing time management and rehabilitation in the home, which brings another issue of safety factors and skilled practitioners outside of the institution to the home,” said Lore. “The future will include telehealth, care practice, and reimbursement from insurance carriers.”

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Tom Price, R-Ga. speaks on Capital Hill, March 17, 2015, in Washington, DC. (Source: AP)

This growth is attributed to the expanding adoption of various healthcare IT solutions by healthcare providers in order to meet increased regulatory requirements for patient care and safety, need to restrain increasing healthcare cost, and need to improve quality of care while keeping up with operational efficiency of healthcare organizations, according to referralMD.

Health insurance premiums on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, are expected to increase rapidly in 2017 due to considerable losses by insurers in the market along with the phasing out of ACA’s reinsurance program. Because of these losses, Aetna announced their withdrawal from the ACA marketplaces and the individual market in some states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation website.

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(Infographic by: Victoria Lore)

It is clear that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed with a Trump presidency and Republican-led Congress,and now Tom Price, Trump’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services. The orthopedic surgeon and six-term Republican congressman has made it a goal to dismantle Obamacare for last six years, according to the New York Times. It is still unclear what new policy will replace it.

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Pyramid chart showing a way to create plans for implementing change in healthcare. (source: Rising Stars, LLC)

“Policy and practice is waiting for change in healthcare from the government to see what’s in store for our healthcare leaders,” said Al Lore, Medical School student. “Now we are just left with questions of are we forced to change the way practice, how big do we have to be, what kind of forces do we have to pull together, and the fact that our leaders need to be highly skilled practitioners.”

A Mother’s Search for Treatment 

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(From left to right) Christine Corrigan, daughter Alanna, and son Conor enjoying the board game Candy Land on game night. Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Centereach, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)
While there is no known cure for autism, it is clear with early dedication and intervention children with the condition can sustain a better quality of life, which leaves the question to what the right treatment is for a particular child.

There are various intensive forms of treatment and therapies for the condition. For Christine Corrigan, mother of 14-year-old son Conor who has low functioning autism, has set out through Conor’s lifetime to find the best course of treatment to combat her son’s condition.

“He went to a DDI program when he was younger full time. He went from being home all the time to going to a full day program where he left at 8 o’clock in the morning and came home at 5 o’clock at night and then got therapies, a therapist would come here too,” said Corrigan. “He was being worked all the time, it was very draining for him, it was very draining for me, but it was such intense therapy it really helped because his crazy OCD behaviors subsided and they taught me how to manage his behaviors, how to work with him, and how to get more speech from him.”

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(Infographic by: Victoria Lore)
Corrigan had also found that many of the therapies from home had helped her son’s condition, especially ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, which focuses on systematically applying interventions in order to improve social behaviors while demonstrating interventions to a reasonable degree and that they are based on principles of learning, according to Applied Behavioral Strategies’ website.

“The ABA therapy was the biggest help, which he had through the school district until he was in the third grade and then they cut that. There were a whole bunch of budget cuts and we fought and fought that,” said Corrigan.

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(Infographic by: Victoria Lore)
In search for a replacement treatment, Corrigan had discovered DAN! (Defeat Autism Now) Protocol, which is a general approach to treating children with the condition through biomedical interventions such as dietary, nutritional, gastroenterology, immune therapy, heavy metal removal, etc., according to Autism Society Larimer County’s website. The Autism Research Institute discontinued DAN Protocol in 2011 due to it’s controversial and risky method of treatment, according to Very Well‘s article.

“We did Chelation therapy, where they removed the heavy metals from his body every 2 weeks and that made a big difference, he had very high levels in him,” said Corrigan. “He actually gained a lot of speech with that, he was doing really well.”

Along with these various treatments and therapies, Corrigan has found that in-home health care services have helped her teenage son’s condition and have enabled him to obtain a more normal quality of life.

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(From left to right) In-home aid Nick interacting with Conor as he plays with play-doh. Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Centereach, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)
“I get services for Conor through the state that has taken me a long time to get, but I was diligent with the paperwork and now that I‘ve gotten it it’s been life changing. He can be a teenager who goes out in the community and does things and like any teenager he does not want to be with mom and 6-year-old all the time, whether they’re autistic or not,” said Corrigan. “With the aids that come in, they are in their 20’s and they are more of a peer model than they are mom. Conor can have a friendship-like relationship and it’s so wonderful.”

For more information, visit www.autismspeaks.org.

A Single Mother’s Story of Raising a Child with Autism

Christine Corrigan, ER Nurse and single mother has faced many challenges raising 6-year-old daughter Alanna, and 14-year-old son Conor who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Corrigan’s son Conor was diagnosed with low functioning autism when he was three years old, which had changed Corrigan’s life forever.

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(From left to right) Christine Corrigan, daughter Alanna, and son Conor enjoying the board game Candy Land on game night. Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Centereach, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

“I thought my life was going one way and then it took a curve ball the other way,” said Corrigan. “The impact from this was how am I going to let this affect my life. I am either going to take it positively or try to make it the best for him or be negative about everything. Which at one point, I think you are because the initial response is you’re upset and angry, wondering if it’s my fault and why this is happening. But, the other part of all of this is how do I make this better and will my kid be the one who’s cured or will my kid be the one who goes to a group home.”

Autism has had a rocky and complicated history since its discovery in the early 1900’s. The condition was first associated with symptoms of schizophrenia. It wasn’t until the 1960’s autism began to be associated with children who had various learning and behavioral disabilities that was considered entirely separate from schizophrenia. Little was known about autism up to a decade ago when Corrigan started conducting research on the condition.

“As nurse and health professional, I had heard of what autism was and knew one or two people with it but I didn’t really have any background to it at all. So it was kind of new for me,” said Corrigan. “I didn’t have a computer at the time because things weren’t like the way they are now, so I took out one of my old nursing text books and there under psychiatric disorders was autism and I didn’t really know what to make of it. There were only two paragraphs and that was it.”

Since Conor’s diagnoses, Corrigan has set out to find help and support systems in order to gain a better understanding of autism and to find the best course of treatment to combat the condition.

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(From left to right) In-home aid Nick joining in on game night with Christine, Alanna, and Conor. Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Centereach, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

“There’s resources out there. There is so much out there and the state doesn’t want to tell you about it, the school districts don’t know much about it and you really have to do a lot of research on your own,” said Corrigan. “I get services for Conor through the state that has taken me a long time to get, but I was diligent with the paperwork and now that I‘ve gotten it it’s been life changing.”

Single parenting comes with its many trials and tribulations, especially when raising a child with autism. As for many parents of teenagers they deal with what comes with every teenage growth and developmental stage, one being puberty. For Corrigan, this has been one of the toughest challenges but through the services, Conor has been able to be a normal teenage boy.

“He can be a teenager who goes out in the community and does things and like any teenager he does not want to be with mom and 6-year-old sister all the time. They don’t whether they’re autistic or not,” said Corrigan. “With the aids that come in, they are in their 20’s and they are more of a peer model than they are mom. Conor can have a friendship-like relationship and it’s so wonderful.”

Through modern medicine and research, many techniques, treatments, and therapies exist now that did not once before. They can help relieve the suffering of autism, offer a better quality of life, and bring a brighter future.

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Conor having fun playing the board game Candy Land with family and in-home aid Nick. Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Centereach, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

Corrigan went on to give advice to other parents who are going through similar situations.

“Research. Research everything that is out there and there is so much out there. Best thing you can do is be educated. Read books, google it, go to self-help groups, go to parent-to-parent groups, find out everything,” said Corrigan. “You’re going to find out who your friends are. You will lose some because it’s not for everybody, but you are going to gain some of the best support systems through this experience.”
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How Treme Is Bringing Jazz into Local Nightlife on Long Island

Long Island’s only Jazz bar Treme, located in Islip, NY is bring classic New Orleans flair and music to the forefront in local nightlife.

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Front entrance to Treme just when it opened it’s doors for the night. Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Islip, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

Opened three years ago, Treme has become a hot spot for Long Island locals who are looking to get away from the typical young crowd club scene. Named after the New Orleans district where jazz music originated, Treme’s live music and signature cocktails are what keep locals coming back.

“Treme, is essentially a music venue where we have signature cocktails, good food, and give a quality guest experience,” said Josh Thompson, owner of Treme. “Jazz is something I listen to when I want to relax and enjoy myself and not be stressed out about anything. There’s something soothing about jazz.”

Treme has helped some musicians who are looking to gain notoriety in the music industry by giving them opportunities to record in their
establishment.

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The Interplay Jazz Orchestra preforming their first song for the night at Treme. Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Islip, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

“We’ve had musicians come down and do video parties so they can actually have a video reel and demo reel that they can pass off to the record companies they are looking to sign with,” said Thompson. “We are totally open into helping them to move their way as a career.”

The Interplay Jazz Orchestra has been one of Treme’s regular acts since its opening three years ago and has been playing here ever since.

“It’s really the only Jazz club on Long Island,” said Joe Devassy, trombone player for the music group The Interplay Jazz Orchestra. “It’s been great being able to interact with the audience. They check us out, buy our albums, and they come to our other gigs. Slowly, but surely, we are gaining a gathering and that’s been cool.”

Thompson discussed how he was fortunate enough to take over Treme from the former owners who had the inspiration to achieve the New Orleans jazz feel Treme is now known for.

Looking for a way to give Treme the ultimate experience, Thompson decided to incorporate a vast cocktail menu.

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The Johnnie Black Berry, one of Treme’s signature cocktails. Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Islip, NY (Photo by: Victoria Lore)

“I felt it needed a little nudge in the right direction. Aside from live music, which is the heart and soul of this place, we started really incorporating some of the original cocktails that were invented in New Orleans,” said Thompson. “Things like a sazerac, which is also debated to be the first cocktail ever, is a New Orleans-based cocktail. With a little historical research, I was able to go through, find the cocktails, and really get that into what Treme is.”

Treme’s main mission is for the best guest quality experience, making it a point that no detail can go unnoticed or neglected.

“I always explain to my staff you have to put your heart into it, it really makes a world of a difference,” said Thompson. “You can make the same thing, but if you’re in a foul mood or miserable that’s going to pass through so you got to put your heart into everything.”