Category Archives: Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities create stumbling blocks for students in education. First step is to become aware. Next is find all the available options for accessing information then utilizing the brain the way it is hardwired for individualizing learning.

Autism

Autism is running prevalent today.  My question was, is it getting worse or is it easier to detect due to new brain spects and other technology.  I think it is a little of both.  I enjoyed learning the facts below.   I have great appreciation for all of you parenting and working with these precious children.  Enjoy the following from the Autism Society.  ~Sandy

What is Autism:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States – nearly twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys. The spotlight shining on autism as a result has opened opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve families facing a lifetime of supports for their children. In June 2014, researchers estimated the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism is as great as $2.4 million. The Autism Society estimates that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism. (This figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, related therapeutic services and caregiver costs.)

Know the signs: Early identification can change lives

Autism is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. For more information on developmental milestones, visit the CDC’s “Know the Signs. Act Early” site.

HERE ARE SOME SIGNS TO LOOK FOR IN THE CHILDREN IN YOUR LIFE:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

SYMPTOMS:

The characteristic behaviors of autism spectrum disorder may be apparent in infancy (18 to 24 months), but they usually become clearer during early childhood (24 months to 6 years).

As part of a well-baby or well-child visit, your child’s doctor should perform a “developmental screening,” asking specific questions about your baby’s progress. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) lists five behaviors that warrant further evaluation:

  • Does not babble or coo by 12 months
  • Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
  • Does not say single words by 16 months
  • Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
  • Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age

Any of these five “red flags” does not mean your child has autism. But because the disorder’s symptoms vary so widely, a child showing these behaviors should be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team. This team might include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language therapist, learning consultant or other professionals who are knowledgeable about autism.

For more information, visit the Infants and Toddlers page or the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program.

DIAGNOSIS:

When parents or support providers become concerned that their child is not following a typical developmental course, they turn to experts, including psychologists, educators and medical professionals, for a diagnosis.

At first glance, some people with autism may appear to have an intellectual disability, sensory processing issues, or problems with hearing or vision. To complicate matters further, these conditions can co-occur with autism. However, it is important to distinguish autism from other conditions, as an accurate and early autism diagnosis can provide the basis for an appropriate educational and treatment program.

Other medical conditions or syndromes, such as sensory processing disorder, can present symptoms that are confusingly similar to autism’s. This is known as differential diagnosis.

There are many differences between a medical diagnosis and an educational determination, or school evaluation, of a disability. A medical diagnosis is made by a physician based on an assessment of symptoms and diagnostic tests. A medical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, for instance, is most frequently made by a physician according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5, released 2013) of the American Psychological Association. This manual guides physicians in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder according to a specific number of symptoms.

A brief observation in a single setting cannot present a true picture of someone’s abilities and behaviors. The person’s developmental history and input from parents, caregivers and/or teachers are important components of an accurate diagnosis.

An educational determination is made by a multidisciplinary evaluation team of various school professionals. The evaluation results are reviewed by a team of qualified professionals and the parents to determine whether a student qualifies for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (Hawkins, 2009).

CAUSES:

There is no known single cause for autism spectrum disorder, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism compared to in neurotypical children. Researchers do not know the exact cause of autism but are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics and medical problems.

In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic basis. While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that children with autism may have inherited. It also appears that some children are born with a susceptibility to autism, but researchers have not yet identified a single “trigger” that causes autism to develop.

Other researchers are investigating the possibility that under certain conditions, a cluster of unstable genes may interfere with brain development, resulting in autism. Still other researchers are investigating problems during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances and exposure to chemicals.

Genetic Vulnerability

Autism tends to occur more frequently than expected among individuals who have certain medical conditions, including fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, congenital rubella syndrome and untreated phenylketonuria (PKU). Some harmful substances ingested during pregnancy also have been associated with an increased risk of autism.

FACTS AND STATISTICS:

About 1 percent of the world population has autism spectrum disorder. (CDC, 2014)

Prevalence in the United States is estimated at 1 in 68 births. (CDC, 2014)

More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. (Buescher et al., 2014)

Prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68). (CDC, 2014) Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability. (CDC, 2008)

Prevalence has increased by 6-15 percent each year from 2002 to 2010. (Based on biennial numbers from the CDC)

Autism services cost U.S. citizens $236-262 billion annually. (Buescher et al., 2014)

A majority of costs in the U.S. are in adult services – $175-196 billion, compared to $61-66 billion for children. (Buescher et al., 2014)

Cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention. (Autism. 2007 Sep;11(5):453-63; The economic consequences of autistic spectrum disorder among children in a Swedish municipality. Järbrink K1.)

1 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom has autism spectrum disorder. (Brugha T.S. et al., 2011)

The U.S. cost of autism over the lifespan is about $2.4 million for a person with an intellectual disability, or $1.4 million for a person without intellectual disability. (Buescher et al., 2014)

35 percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or received postgraduate education after leaving high school. (Shattuck et al., 2012)

It costs more than $8,600 extra per year to educate a student with autism. (Lavelle et al., 2014) (The average cost of educating a student is about $12,000 – NCES, 2014)

In June 2014, only 19.3 percent of people with disabilities in the U.S. were participating in the labor force – working or seeking work. Of those, 12.9 percent were unemployed, meaning only 16.8 percent of the population with disabilities was employed. (By contrast, 69.3 percent of people without disabilities were in the labor force, and 65 percent of the population without disabilities was employed.) (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014)

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO DONATE:  https://www.autism-society.org/

Dr. Daniel Amen with Brain Spects

Brain Spects helped us know what was going on with our son.  If you don’t know, you don’t understand.  If you don’t understand, you don’t know how to help them.  If you don’t know how to help a child, they are lost to the world.  Take time to learn and understand.

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Healing the 7 Types of ADD!

Dr Amen:

“One Treatment Does Not Fit Everyone”

As the founder of six Amen Clinics, I bring a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating brain based disorders including attention deficit disorder and coexisting conditions. For over twenty years, I’ve used SPECT brain scans (along with other diagnostic techniques) to develop individual, targeted treatment plans for each patient. Early on, I discovered through brain SPECT patterns that attention deficit is not a single or a simple disorder.

My ADD Is Not Your ADD

ADD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, autism, and other conditions are not single or simple disorders. They all have multiple types. ADD affects many areas of the brain—the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum primarily, but also the anterior cingulate, the temporal lobes, the basal ganglia, and the limbic system. The 7 types of ADD that I studied are based around three neurotransmitters—dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.

Classic ADD

This is the easiest type to spot of the 7 types of ADD: Primary symptoms are inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, disorganization, and impulsivity. Scans of the brain show normal brain activity at rest, and decreased activity, especially in the prefrontal cortex, during a concentration task. People with this type of ADD have decreased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and the basal ganglia, the last of which helps produce the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Treating Classic ADD

The goal here is to boost dopamine levels, which increases focus. I do it with either stimulating medications — Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, Concerta — or stimulating supplements like rhodiola, green tea, ginseng, and the amino acid L-tyrosine. Getting lots of physical activity also helps increase dopamine, as does taking fish oil that is higher in EPA than DHA.

Inattentive ADD

This type, as well as Classic ADD, have been described in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders since 1980. This type is associated with low activity in the prefrontal cortex and low dopamine levels. Symptoms are short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, procrastination. People with this type are not hyperactive or impulsive. They can be introverted and daydream a lot. Girls have this type as much as, or more than, boys.

Treating Inattentive ADD

Inattentive ADD is usually responsive to treatment. It is often possible to change the course of a person’s life if he or she is properly treated. The goal, as with Classic ADD, is to boost dopamine levels. I use the supplements like the amino acid L-tyrosine, which is a building block of dopamine. Take it on an empty stomach for maximum effect. I often prescribe a stimulant like Adderall, Vyvanse or Concerta. I put patients on a high-protein, lower-carbohydrate diet, and I have them exercise regularly.

Over-Focused ADD

Patients with this type have all of the core ADD symptoms, plus great trouble shifting attention. They get stuck or locked into negative thought patterns or behaviors. There is a deficiency of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. When the brain is scanned, you see that there’s too much activity in the area called the anterior cingulate gyrus, which is the brain’s gear shifter. This overactivity makes it difficult to go from thought to thought, task to task, and to be flexible.

Treating Over-Focused ADD

The goal is to boost serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. Treatment is tricky. People with Over-Focused ADD get more anxious and worried on a stimulant medication. I use supplements first—L-tryptophan, 5-HTP, saffron, and inositol. If supplements don’t help with symptoms, I prescribe Effexor, Pristique, or Cymbalta. I avoid a higher-protein diet with this type, which can make patients mean. Neurofeedback training is another helpful tool.

Temporal Lobe ADD

Of the 7 types of ADD, this type has core ADD symptoms along with temporal lobe (TL) symptoms. The TL, located underneath your temple, is involved with memory, learning, mood stability, and visual processing of objects. People with this type have learning, memory, and behavioral problems, such as quick anger, aggression, and mild paranoia. When the brain is scanned, there are abnormalities in the temporal lobes and decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex.

Treating Temporal Lobe ADD

I use the amino acid GABA (gamma-aminobutryic acid) to calm neuronal activity and inhibit nerve cells from overfiring or firing erratically. Taking magnesium—80 percent of the population are low in this mineral—helps with anxiety and irritability. Anticonvulsant medications are often prescribed to help with mood instability. For learning and memory problems, I use gingko or vinpocetine.

Limbic ADD

This type looks like a combination of dysthymia or chronic low-level sadness and ADD. Symptoms are moodiness, low energy, frequent feelings of helplessness or excessive guilt, and chronic low self-esteem. It is not depression. This type is caused by too much activity in the limbic part of the brain (the mood control center) and decreased prefrontal cortex activity, whether concentrating on a task or at rest.

Treating Limbic ADD

The supplements that work best for this type of ADD are DL-phenylalanine (DLPA), L-tryosine, and SAMe (s-adenosyl-methionine). Wellbutrin is my favorite medication for this type of ADD. Researchers think it works by increasing dopamine. Imipramine is another option for this type. Exercise, fish oil, and the right diet will help a person with Limbic ADD better manage symptoms.

Ring of Fire ADD

Patients with this type don’t have an underactive prefrontal cortex, as with Classic and Inattentive ADD. Their entire brain is overactive. There is too much activity across the cerebral cortex and many of the other parts of the brain. I call it “ADD plus.” Symptoms include sensitivity to noise, light, touch; periods of mean, nasty behavior; unpredictable behavior; talking fast; anxiety and fearfulness. In brain scans, it looks like a ring of hyperactivity around the brain.

Treating Ring of Fire ADD

Stimulants, by themselves, may make symptoms worse. I start out with an elimination diet, if I suspect an allergy is involved, and boost the neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin through supplements and medication, if necessary. I prescribe GABA, 5-HTP, and L-tyrosine supplements. If I prescribe medication, I start with one of the anticonvulsants. The blood pressure medicines guanfacine and clonidine may be helpful, calming overall hyperactivity.

Anxious ADD

People with this type have hallmark ADD symptoms, and they are anxious, tense, have physical stress symptoms like headaches and stomachaches, predict the worst, and freeze in anxiety-provoking situations, especially where they may be judged. When the brain is scanned, there is high activity in the basal ganglia, large structures deep in the brain that help produce dopamine.This is the opposite of most types of ADD, where there is low activity in that region.

treating Anxious ADD

The treatment goal is to promote relaxation and boost GABA and dopamine levels. ADD stimulants, taken alone, make patients more anxious. I first use a range of “calming” supplements—L-theanine, relora, magnesium, and holy basil. Depending on the patient, I prescribe the tricyclic antidepressants imipramine or desipramine to lower anxiety. Neurofeedback also works to decrease symptoms of anxiety, especially to calm the prefrontal cortex.

For More Information:

Learn more about the 7 Types of ADD:

  • Listen to Dr. Amen’s podcast on the 7 Types of ADD

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What is the Relationship Between ADHD and Executive Function?

What’s the Relationship Between ADHD and Executive Function?

By Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD

ADHD and Executive Function | Link Between Attention and the BrainAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most frequently occurring brain-based disorders. It most often manifests itself in childhood and continues to pose challenges throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Its symptoms most often include difficulty getting and staying focused, modulating attention, controlling impulsivity and self-managing behavior. While these symptoms are directly related to the ways the brain works (think brain cells and neurotransmitters), there are specific sets of mental (thinking) skills that are coordinated with the way the brain works. These are commonly called “executive functions,” and they involve things like organizing and planning, shifting attention, regulating emotions, self-monitoring and holding information in mind for easy recall. Executive functions are essential in virtually every aspect of our lives.

ADHD and Executive Function in ActionThink about people you know who have ADHD. They’re the ones who have trouble listening to or following instructions, who begin tasks and then are easily sidetracked, or who struggle to wait their turn. They sometimes blurt things out when they know better, touch things when asked not to, or don’t delay reacting to something long enough to recall that they’ve been in similar situations before and are about to make a silly statement and embarrass themselves or others. What’s going on inside their brains when these things happen? Answer: a breakdown in executive functioning.

Executive function deficits are not only seen individuals with ADHD. People who have learning disabilities, communication disorders or mental health disorders (such as those characterized by anxiety or depression) are also prone to struggle with executive functioning challenges. This is also the case with people who have sustained brain injuries or have medical conditions (such as epilepsy) that result in compromised brain functioning.

To be sure there’s no confusion about how executive functions work, it’s important to keep in mind that these are skills and behaviors that everyone uses all the time! Let’s consider one component of executive functioning called “working memory.” Consider what happens when you need to hold information in your mind while simultaneously doing something else. If you manage to keep the first piece of information from slipping away, working memory is doing its job. Trying to remember an address while scanning a map, a new person’s name immediately after being told their phone number, the number of calories or amount of fiber in a serving of one type of cereal after reading two or three different boxes—these are everyday examples of how working memory (and therefore, executive functioning) works.

Additional Resources

 

 


 

sheldon-horowitz-headshotDr. Horowitz is the director of LD Resources at the National Center for Learning Disabilities. For more than 40 years, he has been helping children with learning and attention issues and their families in school, hospital and private clinical settings. He’s now a featured expert on the LD.orgwebsite.