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The Autism Network for Deaf/Hard of Hearing
and Blind/Visually Impaired


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Welcome!

 

Welcome to the Winter 2015 edition of our e-newsletter.  Researchers, educators, and families continue to raise concerns about resources allocated to our target group. This issue could be due to an underestimation of those who have autism and are hard of hearing, deaf, visually impaired, or blind.  See story below.
 

Please let us know if you have any suggestion regarding future issues of this e-newsletter. Email: HearingVisionNetwork@autism.com


Best Regards, Steve Edelson, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Autism Research Institute 

Autism Spectrum Disorders in 24 Children Who Are Deaf or

Hard of Hearing
 

A study conducted at the pediatric otolaryngology department of Children's Hospital of Cincinnati analyzed the difficulties of diagnosing autism when a child is deaf or hard of hearing.

 

Among children who are deaf, approximately 4% also have ASD (about triple the current rate of 1.4% estimated by the Centers for Disease Control). Since impaired communication is common to both diagnoses, the study details the challenges of determining whether the speech and social delays are primarily due to hearing impairment, or whether the delays are in fact due to autism.
 

The study involved 24 children who were diagnosed with both ASD and hearing loss. The median age for diagnosis of hearing loss was 14 months, whereas the median age of ASD diagnosis was 66.5 months. In addition, less than half of the children were diagnosed with autism by six years of age. The researchers point out that communication delays in children who are deaf or hard of hearing should not necessarily be attributed to the hearing loss. With a 4% rate of ASD among children who are deaf, it is incumbent on the parent and pediatrician to have any communication delay investigated as soon as possible to see if it may be indicative of ASD. By taking a proactive approach, these children will likely be diagnosed at a much younger age. 
 

 For more information, visit: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24290951

 


 

Harvard Medical School / Swiss Collaborate on Blindness, Deafness, and Autism Neuro-Engineering Projects
 

Harvard Medical School and Swiss researchers are collaborating on five neuro-engineering projects related to blindness, deafness, and autism. Three of the projects involve treating hearing loss; one project involves cell transplants which may reverse certain forms of blindness; and the final project involves measuring brain connectivity in children with autism.
 

The first hearing-related project will ultimately benefit patients who are deaf and are presently unable to receive a cochlear implant because of a damaged inner ear or auditory nerve. The researchers will first examine the long-term viability of brainstem implants in mice, and, at a later time, apply this technology to humans. The second project is aimed at improving imaging of the inner ear, including subcellular imaging and imaging that will be able to assess the health of the inner ear. The final project is related to improving hearing through gene therapy. Congenital deafness can be caused by over 300 different genes. The U.S. and Swiss collaboration is working to discover how to transfer genes into sensory cells to increase the range of treatable genetic deafness.
 

The potentially sight-saving project involves developing new areas of retinal transplants to reverse certain forms of blindness. In addition, researchers are looking to discover new drugs that could aid in treating retinal deterioration; presently, retinal degenerative diseases are the leading cause of incurable blindness.
 

There has been much autism research regarding the issue of brain connectivity. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a highly effective way of measuring the connectivity between different brain regions. However, fMRIs are problematic for children on the spectrum because they need to keep still during the imaging process. Consequently, the Harvard and Swiss researchers are working together on a way to correct for head motion when reading the fMRI scans. The researchers will also determine which types of connectivity are associated with particular subtypes of autism.
 

For more information, visit:  

www.apptheneum.com/tackling-blindness-deafness-neuroengineering/ 

 

Magical Gardens for the Blind,

Deaf, and Disabled 

 

Elizabeth Picciuto has written a marvelous article on the benefits of what she calls "sensory gardens." Ms. Picciuto is the mother of a child with a disability who attends a public school in Washington DC. The school has fewer than 100 students, and all of them have special needs. She writes that her son is thriving at the school -- in part, due to the greenhouse and garden program.

 

Among the many benefits of gardens and plant care, children develop calmness and emotional regulation. In addition, the caring for garden plants encourages children to acquire knowledge about plants and develop skills to start and maintain plant life. Ms. Picciuto quotes Amy Wagenfeld, a professor of Occupational Therapy (and author of an upcoming book titled Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces) as touting the garden's ability to "systematically and sensitively nourish the five basic senses." In addition, the gardens provide vestibular, proprioceptive, and kinesthetic input.

 

For those wishing to read more on the subject, Ms. Picciuto also recommends Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces. If anyone has specific questions, Ms. Picciuto can be reached on Twitter at @epicciuto.

 

For more information, visit:

www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/22/magical-gardens-for-the-blind-deaf-and-disabled.html