The Bernier Lab’s newest publication focuses on early auditory perception and receptive language in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We used a speech learning task along with electroencephalogram (EEG) recording to learn more about how individuals with autism process speech sounds in the brain. This study showed us that while neurotypical kids show a decreased response only in the left hemisphere as words become more familiar, kids with autism show a decreased response across both hemisphere as they learn words. This effect was directly related to the autistic kids’ actual receptive language vocabulary. In other words, kids with autism who had better receptive language showed more decreased responses (in both hemispheres) as the new speech became more familiar.
Hello SPARK Community Partners!
See below for information about registering for SPARK’s January webinar on autism and the criminal justice system.
SPARK Webinar – Creating a Culture of Prevention: Addressing Autism in Today’s Criminal Justice System
Leigh Ann Davis, MSSW, MPA & Samantha Crane, JD
Tuesday, January 23
Click here to register.
Ms. Davis and Ms. Crane will discuss:
· Individual strategies and system reforms that could increase the safety of individuals with autism when interacting with police and the criminal justice system
· Ways to reduce unnecessary police interactions, improve access to emergency services, and ensure access to effective communication in emergencies or during police interactions
To assess how much language a person with ASD understands (or, to assess how much receptive language a person with ASD has) researchers use tools that often rely on verbal responses and/or overt behaviors such as pointing and gesturing. This can be problematic considering that many minimally verbal people with ASD have difficulty with these types of feedback. Being able to understand language and being able to appropriately express it are two different processes, and although it is easier to observe and evaluate expressive language (verbal and nonverbal communication of wants and needs), there is certainly a need to develop more accurate ways to assess receptive language to avoid underestimating cognitive abilities of the vast and diverse population of minimally verbal people with ASD.
This article is a review of a variety of assessments and technologies that are currently in use and new ones that have promising future applications all aimed at evaluating language comprehension without the use of verbal or physical feedback. Some of the tools discussed are Eye Tracking, ERPs (Event-Related Potentials) using EEG machines, and MEG brain imaging data. These strategies allow for a more passive study session- one where a participant is asked only to watch videos or listen to sounds and voices all while researchers are still able to obtain data about brain activity and language comprehension.
In this article you will also find a review of various intervention strategies aimed at helping minimally verbal kids develop more expressive language. The strategies and tools referenced here are Naturalistic Behavior Intervention, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication Systems), and Speech Generating Devices (such as the Proloquo2go app). How much these strategies have been shown to increase communication is discussed.
This article is very easy to read, informative, and discusses future directions in the field of research and intervention.
Check out the link below to watch a new blogcast in Spectrum News where Raphe and Jim discuss sleep on the spectrum! Learn more about possible causes, consequences, and tactics for parents of children with sleep difficulties.
Solar Eclipse! Tips for watching and preparing your child for the eclipse
By Kira Hamer and Emily Fox
On August 21st, 2017 we will have an amazing opportunity to see an almost complete solar eclipse. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While we aren’t directly in the path of the eclipse (you have to go to Oregon for that), we will experience almost total darkness at 10:30am when the moon passes in front of the sun! Many of us might find this experience and the science behind it incredibly exciting, but for some individuals, this event could be confusing, a little frightening, and disrupting to our routines. In this blog post, our team offers some suggestions for how to prepare yourself and your child for the eclipse, as well as some fun activities to do in the Seattle area while it is happening!
Here is a social story to help prepare your child for the Solar Eclipse: I am going to see a solar eclipse
Here is what the eclipse will look like in Seattle: http://bit.ly/2uC1FlT
Facts about the solar eclipse: http://bit.ly/2tm5aKK
How to Protect Your Eyes during the Eclipse
First and foremost: looking directly at the sun without special eye protection can cause serious damage, so always protect your family’s eyes with solar glasses if you want to directly observe the eclipse. According to space.com, there are four companies that meet NASA standards for solar glasses. These are Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. Your local library may also offer free eclipse glasses! It is important to note that sunglasses are not a replacement for special viewing glasses. If you are unable to find special glasses, another way to view the eclipse safely is to build a pinhole camera. A pinhole camera projects sunlight through a small hole in a box onto the other side of the box, so that you aren’t looking directly at the sun. You can find instructions for building a pinhole camera here.
How to Prepare Your Child for the Eclipse
Like any new experience or change for a child, it can be helpful to practice what you might do the day of the eclipse or to talk about what might happen. Here are some tips to help you and your child prepare:
- Introduce your child to the solar eclipse using a social story. You can find an example attached. It may be helpful to read the social story several times a few days in advance of the eclipse.
- Use a stopwatch or a timer to help your child know how much time is left in the eclipse. In most locations, the total eclipse will likely last 2-3 minutes.
- If you are using solar glasses, help your child practice wearing these glasses so that they can get used to how they feel on their face.
- Make sure you and your child are wearing sunscreen if you will be outside!
- If you are worried that being outside during the eclipse will be frightening for your child, watch the eclipse in a different way! NASA will be live-streaming the event, and your child may be more comfortable watching the eclipse inside at home.
- During the eclipse, the temperature will drop significantly and rapidly. If your family will be outside, plan on bringing an extra coat or a blanket.
- The sudden darkness during the day will likely create increased traffic. It may be helpful to either plan on staying home for the duration of the eclipse or to get to your viewing spot early. If your child has to attend camp or a school program on the day of the eclipse, you may need to warn them that the drive could be longer or you might have to drive on a different route.
- Make the experience fun! Color pictures of the sun and the moon, get a book from the library about space and the planets, or take photos of your family on the day of the eclipse. Help your child understand that this is a special and exciting day in science.
Fun Eclipse Activities
- Several local libraries and community centers are hosting viewing parties with eclipse activities for families (e.g., Seattle Public Library High Point Branch, South Park Community Center, Bryant Neighborhood Playground).
- Some libraries will also show a live-stream of the eclipse from NASA.
- The Pacific Science Center will open at 8:30am on the day of the eclipse, and education staff will walk guests through the science of eclipses.
- Do-It-Yourself Time Capsules are a great way to help you remember where you were during the eclipse. You can include letters to yourself, photos, drawings, and more.
The eclipse is a great opportunity to help your kids become real scientists! NASA is asking people in the viewing area to report on what they see and experience. The GLOBE (Global Learning Observations to Benefit the Environment) Observer Eclipse App can be downloaded on your phone, and guides you through how to make observations. NASA is hoping to have a million eclipse viewers contribute their findings!