Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ipads and tablets could help autistic kids social skills


Many of us look towards technology for future improvements in the treatment of a host of diseases and ailments. But technology isn’t always an easy answer; sometimes it does more harm than good.
Like using computers to help autistic kids interact. “Kids are attracted to technology, and computers and devices like iPads can appear to help draw autistic kids out of their shell,” says Haifa University Professor Tamar Weiss, one of the world’s leading experts on the use of technology in autism research. “But sometimes that attraction is not a good thing. Kids with autism ignore social interactions, so they often feel very comfortable with computers, because using them is a singular activity. They can sit with an iPad for a whole day and never look up even once.” The trick, Weiss told The Times of Israel, is to figure out ways to use the attraction of technology to help autistic kids become more social.
Weiss was speaking during a recent International Autism Conference, held in Jerusalem, and sponsored by the Icare4Autism organization, which initiates and funds research working towards treating autism. Among the topics discussed at the two-day conference were the genetic basis for autism, working with preschoolers and grade school children, developing work opportunities for adult victims of autism, medical issues and treatments for individuals with autism — and ways technology could be used to help autism victims. Speakers hailed from around the world, including the U.S., Europe, South America, Singapore, the Philippines, and other countries.
Weiss, of Haifa University’s Dept. of Occupational Therapy, collaborates with teams in Israel (at Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities), Italy, and the UK to develop methods to harness the power of technology to help autism victims. One of the hallmarks of autism is impaired social interaction and communication, a pattern of behavior that becomes evident early on among those suffering from the disease, and continuing throughout life. Researchers say that early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help autistic children gain self-care, social, and communication skills; and technology, Weiss believes, can help autistic kids become more socially interactive, impacting the pattern of isolation and providing them with cues and signals they can use to develop relationships with others.
But just putting an autistic kid in front of an iPad or PC won’t do; the trick is to develop methods of using technology that encourage, even require, interaction with others. And Weiss, along with members of her team, has been developing games and puzzles to do just that. The basic model for these interactive activities was developed by a team at the University of Trento in Italy, using a touch-screen table developed by Mitsubishi.
Massimo Zancanaro of the University of Trento, one of the researchers who worked on that project, appeared at the Conference with Weiss, and told The Times of Israel that “the activities we designed for use with the Diamond Touch table are perfectly designed to encourage interaction. Tasks such as solving puzzles, which require a team, are presented. A puzzle that needs to be assembled by two children will require the kids to add pieces in turn, disabling the possibility of one kid doing all the work, since it recognizes the finger pressure and gestures of each person touching the table. Thus, in order to complete the task, the kids are forced to interact.”
The same cooperation/interaction principle can work with games, virtual storytelling, or even schoolwork, Zancanaro said, and the research group has developed a series of activities using this strategy for high-functioning autistic kids, as well as for children with less well-developed social skills. “The system encourages physical interaction, but also helps kids understand that they can play different roles in a relationship, a key understanding that can help them cope with unfamiliar situations, which is very difficult for those suffering from autism.”
With the introduction of the iPad, said Weiss, touch-screen technology is available to everyone. “We have done several studies, including one recently completed that was funded by the European Union, which showed a marked improvement in participants’ interactive skills.” Because the study was small, Weiss hesitates to draw general conclusions from it, but she hopes that the positive results in the most recent study will prompt a bigger grant from the EU or the United States, allowing an expansion of the study to include more kids, she said.
“We did try to go beyond game and puzzle skills in the studies, but we could not fully examine whether the kids will be able to transfer the skills they learn using our technology to other areas of their lives, interacting more in school or on the playground,” said Weiss. “We believe we have seen signs that there is indeed such a transference, but we will be able to draw conclusions only with a bigger study.”
Eventually, Weiss and Zancanaro expect that their research, and the specific activities they develop, will be released for the benefit of the public. “We are a research group, and even if we produce software we do not have the resources to distribute it,” said Zancanaro. “Instead, we foresee a distribution agreement for specific products with a commercial firm, as well as a general release of the research and technology for use by anyone who would like to develop activities or products. We are also looking at cloud-based distribution to leverage costs of distribution. But this is all in the future,” he added.
Meanwhile, the team is working on perfecting its technology and software. “We are developing this not as a ‘top-down’ project,” said Weiss. “We are trying to involve parents, educators, and even victims of autism in the design of these activities. We believe this is an important method of finding what activities and strategies are most effective.” The team is using this input to work on the next generation of their interactivity technology. “We plan to expand this technology to pervasive, always-on devices’ like smartphones,” said Weiss. “An app, for example, could prompt users on appropriate behavior in social situations, helping to reinforce the interactivity skills they have already learned, and not get flustered in the wake of new and unfamiliar social situations, as happens to many autistic individuals.”
According to experts, autism rates in many parts of the world have jumped dramatically; since 1978, for example, rates in the U.S. have risen by more than 600%. Part of that can be explained by better diagnosis, said Weiss, but there is clearly something more going on. “As it happens, there is a prevalence of autism among people employed in high-tech industries,” Weiss said. A study at Cambridge University, for example, said that a higher-than-average percentage of children born to engineers and programmers are autistic, compared to the rest of the population.
“The increase could be due to lifestyle, but it could also be that programming — with its requirement for didactic concentration on numbers and figures — is attractive to individuals with mild cases of autism.” Whether autism is genetic, medical, or behavioral in nature (scientists are still trying to figure it out), the fact that they are all flocking to a specific industry could be responsible for the higher rate of autism among high-tech workers, Weiss said.
And since the world is getting more technological and autism rates are likely to keep climbing, finding ways to treat autism is becoming more important than ever, said Weiss. “Our technology is about treatment, not a cure.” The cure, whatever it is, will more likely come from the genetic or medical research being done. “Autism is most likely not caused by a single factor, and it will probably be years before scientists have a clearer understanding of the causes of this disease. Meanwhile,” Weiss added, “we want to ensure that victims have as high a quality of life as possible, and we believe our technology can help achieve this.”

Read more: iPads and tablets could help autistic kids learn social skills | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/new-technologies-could-help-autistic-kids-learn-social-skills/#ixzz3NSCrVKsn
Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

Sunday, December 28, 2014

How to help someone with sensory overload feel better

Like I have mentioned in previous post sensory overload IS VERY PAINFULL FOR THOSE WHO EXPERIENCE IT!  One thing that you can do if they do experience sensory overload is to help take them out of that enviorment and let them catch their breath a little.  This should be a place where they don't experience anything that overloads them.

This is also something that can be a good idea after school.  I remember one of the people I worked with after school he didn't really feel like relating to people.  He said he felt edgy.  Sometime school can be a stressful experience and someone with aspergers needs a little time to just recover from that.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Showing that you have something to offer

An important thing to be able to do (for anyone) is to be able to show that you have something that can be of value to others.  An example of this happened last week I was talking to someone about people with aspergers, and he could see that I have so much knowledge about aspergers.

If you want to get a job you also need to be able to show them that you have something to offer not just making people pity you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The importance of developing skills

One thing that can really improve an asperger person's life is teaching them skills.  This includes hygine, cooking (a very expansive area), and so many other things.  When someone sees that they can do something they feel better about themselves.  They will believe in themselves and be able to acheive so much more.

This can help a person with Aspergers get a job.  Who is more likely to get a job a person with a disability or a someone without?  The answer is simple the person without a disability.  But what if the person with a disability knows something like selling on ebay, ironing clothes, or with other skills, and the person without a disability doesn't know anything about that area.  It changes the situation.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A meal with another Aspie

This week I went to a family for a meal Saturday afternoon.  I met a guy there I figured out, and he admitted that he had aspergers.  This guy was with his mother and we had an interesting conversation about Aspergers.  This guy has been spending some time learning in a yeshiva which is a place where Jews study Jewish law, and other topics of Judaism.  We were talking about how because of his aspergers that is an advantage for him.  He can easily study, and memorize facts.  He also mentioned he feels he is a very moral person like I know I am.

This guy has found a place that he is able to succeed in, we all need to search for that place that we are able to utilize our potential

Friday, December 19, 2014

Looking for disabled talent to be featured on my blog

I see many people who have a disability and don't think they can do much.  I'm looking for people who succeed despite having a disability to give encouragement and show people that they too can succeed.  e-mail me at Craig.kohn@yahoo.com if interested.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sensory Overload a view inside

I found a video on youtube that shows a little of what sensory overload is like.  I am thanful that I didn't have it (did have something for sound at one point, but never really serious), but understand how painful it could be from the fear of experiencing it).  Please note that this is not how everyone experiences it (some people feel overwhelmed by being around too many people, smells, and even the clothes people wear.  Each case is different.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spread the light

Judaism is not a missonizing religion, but there are valuable messages that can apply to everyone like the one I'm going to share today.

Last night started the first night of Hanukah which commemorates the rededication of the holy temple from the Greeks.

A very relavent teaching that everyone Jews and non-Jews can take is that A LITTLE BIT OF LIGHT GETS RID OF A LOT OF DARKNESS!  What this means is one little act of kindness can get rid of a lot of negitivity.  With our little acts of kindness to others we can bring light to the world, and make the world a much kinder place for everyone.

Monday, December 15, 2014

More choices an advantage of customized employment

With a lot of places that try to help people with disabilities they restrict themselves to what jobs the assesment mentions.  There are so many other jobs that are not mentioned in an assesment.  Some examples are human service field, ebay/amazon, and locksmith.

Customized employment focuses on a person's strengths, and what they are interested in.  Most importantly it doesn't have people with disabilities competing with non disabled people.

An area that aspergers people excel in

I remember all the way back to middle school that I excelled in this subject.  It has for so long been one of my best subjects by far.  That is history.  Memorizing facts was always easy for me.  For a lot of other people with aspergers this also holds true.

This doesn't only apply to history.

Last Friday night I ate dinner by a family I know back from Kansas.  I was able to remember quite a lot of things about them that I had not been using for the past 2 years.  I mentioned a conversation I remember having, and even a class that the husband gave right before he left Kansas City.

It's always important to remember and know your strengths.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Teaching not letting sensory overload stop an aspergers person from going out in the world

I had 3 people I worked with in New York who had sensory overload issues from other people.  I remember seeing one teenage boy as his eyes filled with terror as he looked into a crowded New York subway car.  He was frozen in fear, but I knew how we could still get on the train.  "Let's see if the next car is less crowded" I suggested.

It can be as simple as that, but if someone with sensory overload knows there are ways that they can go out and do things that will enable  them to do things.  If they don't know how to do this then they will more likely go outside and do things (not being in fear of sensory overload).   

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Happiness is an attainable choice!

I'm doing this because I have seen a number of negative statements about being positive.  Yes you know what sometimes it is hard to be happy with what life gives you, but you know what you always have a choice.

Some people think that happiness is having a struggle free life.  Some people want a life without pain.  The true secret of happiness is appreciating what you have.  That is a choice that we have every moment of the day.  When we realize all the abbundance we have than we appreciate with our lot in life we can enjoy life much more.

EVERY PERSON IN THE WORLD HAS PROBLEMS!  The difference is appreciating that we can do something about them, or at least hope for a solution.

When I was a kid I didn't get invited to many things.  Did that bother me, no.  I now appreciate what friends are, but I was clued in.  I had a lot of things in life that I appreciated so I was happy.

For many people looking at the holocaust and what the Jews in the camps had to deal with can show us the depths of what we can be apprecitive.  But I also realize that there are many seemingly insurmontable diffucult sittuations that people face.  But even those we can do all we can, and hope for the best.

A negative attitude can only help you go lower.   A positive one can change your life!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

sensory overload

A lesser known aspect of people with Aspergers or autism is sensory overload.  This is when a person with aspergers is really sensitive to one of many things (texture, touch, smell, or many people).  This can be painful to someone with aspergers who has this sensitivty.  Several people I have worked with get overwelmed when they are around to many other people.  I remember seeing one teenage boys stare in fright of going into a packed subway car.

I'm going to do a little series talking about different ways of dealing with sensory overload.  If you have some startagies you have found helpful please share them.

The only disability is a bad attitude

Note that the Ravens won the Super Bowl that year 34-31

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

You label yourself not your disability

I have heard quite a few people who focus so much on the fact that they have a disability is such a limiting thing in their life.  For them it is because they let themselves get caught up in the fact that they have a disability.

Growing up I didn't view myself as someone with constraints.  I didn't know what I was lacking, but I knew I had the ability to do many things.  When I ran Cross County in high school, I didn't focus on the fact that I WAS THE SLOWEST (GUYS AND GIRLS) runner on the team, I just kept on running and went from 31 minute 5K to 24:40 5K in 4 years.   I didn't focus on my stutter, and people came to like what I said.  I didn't let that so many people could only imagine me doing something like accounting which I did not like because I liked being locked in a cubicle stop me from believing there was something out there that I could actually enjoy doing.  I didn't let aspergers, and failing 7 interviews stop me from hoping to do something helping other people which I knew I enjoyed doing,

This is not to say someone who is having trouble should just suddenly improve.  I am just saying don't limit yourself!


What someone with a disability needs

This last weekend I stayed by a friend from college.  This friend has a son who has down syndrome. I had experienced down syndrome people in school, and I have one cousin who I was close to (in the fact that I saw her often).  I told the friend that I don't have experience with down sydrome.  I did tell him and his wife one thing I could suggest to him is that the way his son should go about getting a job (if hopefully he is able to work at a job) is not by competing against everyone else (disabled people are at a disadantage when compared to non disabled people.

This friend though had a good outlook on his son.  He was focusing on his good point and not getting bogged down on what he couldn't do.  I myself could see that his son didn't have a hard time smiling (which quite a few normal people have trouble doing).

What anyone with a disability (and anyone) needs is love, and encouragement.  If you believe that they can overcome diffuculties and you give them that belief they can do amazing things!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sibling support programs


These types of groups can help siblings who are having trouble dealing with their disabled I encourage people to learn more about sibling support groups.

The Sibling Support Project is a national effort dedicated to the life-long concerns of brothers and sisters of people who have special health, developmental, or mental health concerns.
About what we do: We believe that disabilities, illnesses, and mental health concerns affect the lives of all family members. Consequently, we want to increase the peer support and information opportunities for brothers and sisters of people with special needs and increase parents' and service providers' understanding of sibling issues. Our mission is accomplished by training local service providers on how to create community-based peer support programs for young siblings; hosting workshops, social network sites, and websites for young and adult siblings; and increasing parents' and providers' awareness of siblings' unique, lifelong, and ever-changing concerns through workshops, websites, and written materials.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Discussion: What advantages has aspergers given you

Aspergers is different from a lot of other disabilities in that the people who are affected can actually get advantages from it.  Everyone has some different things that Aspergers has affected them in different ways.

Share some advantages that Aspergers has given you.

For me I am a fun guy (because of the eccentriciness), I can be detail oriented, I can REALLY DEDICATE myself to a task if I really believe in it, I'm able to help fellow aspies, and I don't go with herd mentality, very honest (probably are more).

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Yeshivas in Israel that accept people with aspergers

I know something I wanted to do very much when I was starting to become religous was go to a yeshiva or a place where Jewish guys learn G-d's wisdom better.  So many of my friends did it.  Although my aspergers has been more subtle than a lot of other people's I know at least one yeshiva that did not let me in because of some of the subtle things about me (which will be nameless).  If you are hard to detect that you have aspergers JUST DON'T SAY ANYTHING!

If not but you are still able to interact with people pretty normaly, but your aspergers is detectable than you at least have a few choices.  Darche Noam Shappels and for girls Midreset Rachel http://www.darchenoam.org/shapells/ (unconfirmed on the girl side, but pretty sure they will accept) is an option.  I remember talking with them and mentioning having aspergers, and they were aware of it (having had quite a number of people with it there).

One other place is Bircas Hatorah http://www.bircas.org/.  I spoke with the Rabbi Tagger and he said as long as someone is able to function in the learning seder than that's fine.

For those who a normal yeshiva is not right yet for them there is also Darkeinu (and Midreshet for girls) http://darkaynu.org.il/

Also I know that Yeshiva University, and I have heard Landers (from my best friend Michael Davidson) have quite a number of people with aspergers (remember they are people who may suffer from way above average IQs).

If you know of other places please contact me.

New HU research could help treat autism | ISRAEL21c

New HU research could help treat autism | ISRAEL21c

Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers have shown that the different genes involved in autism tend to be involved in specific processes in the brain. The scientists say their study has potential implications for early diagnosis as well as for treatment of autism in the future.
Eyal Ben-David (left) and Dr. Sagiv Shifman (right)
Autism spectrum disorders are neurodevelopmental syndromes characterized by social deficits, language impairments and repetitive behaviors. Recent studies indicate that autism is considerably more common than previously supposed, with a prevalence rate that is as high as one percent in some regions.
HU scientists Dr. Sagiv Shifman and his doctoral student Eyal Ben-David of the Department of Genetics at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences set out to test the contribution of rare genetic mutations, as well as the genetic variations which are common in the population, and to see whether these different types of genetic risk factors are related. Instead of testing individual genes, the researchers chose to study gene collections, in an attempt to understand general pathways involved in autism.
The scientists constructed a network based on the expression pattern of genes across different brain areas. This allowed them to discover groups of genes with shared function in the brain. Next, based on genetic data from thousands of families with autistic children, the researchers studied the contribution of different groups of genes to autism.
To their surprise, they found — when looking at mutations found in autism as well as thousands of common gene variants that are more frequently seen in autistics — that these mutations and variations are located in specific functional groups.
The study was recently published in the journal PLoS Genetics.
Israeli research in autism is internationally recognized and the first global research and education center for autism is now being built in Jerusalem.
The Hebrew University scientists believe that their work could pave the way for large-scale genetic scans in the future that could allow for early diagnosis of autism.

Analyzing your health by phone [video] | ISRAEL21c

Analyzing your health by phone [video] | ISRAEL21c

An Israeli company has developed a new emotional decoding program that can analyze your voice and discover how you’re feeling, and even whether you’re sick.
Innovative new voice analysis technology has been developed in Israel that can decipher your emotional and physical state.
eXaudios console
The program developed by eXaudios Technology can identify a caller’s emotional state in real-time.

The technology, developed by eXaudios Technologies, is already being used to transform the world of sales, and future applications could include diagnosis of conditions such as autism and Parkinson’s, as well as their severity.
The software was developed by Dr. Yoram Levanon, founder and CEO of eXaudios. He began working on the technology after analyzing more than 50,000 voices speaking various languages and realizing that intonation is the key to communication.
One of the first applications of the new technology was in a project for call centers calledMagInify. Companies in the US and Israel are already using MagInify, which analyzes both the customer’s and the agent’s voice in real time to provide the agent with feedback to enhance sales, such as advice to be more positive in the conversation.
Levanon then discovered that certain diseases, such as cancer, Parkinson’s and autism, influence our intonation, and he hopes that the eXaudios software will also be used as a diagnostic tool in the future. Another application in the pipeline is an adaptation of the software to provide an emotional search engine on-line.

Monday, December 1, 2014

How I got myself to smile all the time


I did smile a little in the past, but I worked on myself enough that I was able to make a noticeable difference that a cousin of mine commented on my improvement.

I was going through some hard times.  I wanted to be in a different enviorment, one where I would have more of an oppurtunity to learn about my Jewish heritage (because I realized Hebrew school taught me nothing)).  But then I realized why I was feeling so bad.  I was focusing on the negatives in my lifes and not on the positives.  I worked on being more grateful and started a gratitude journal.

Becoming interested in a Rabbi Nachman of Breslov I took to heart a saying he said "It is a big commandment to be happy all the time".  So I took another statement of a rabbi (the Rambam) "That your outsides (body) can affect your heart", so I decided to get myself to smile all the time.  I just concisously worked to keep myself smiling, and it became a habit.

Although someone commented that it requires a fake smile, it is a lot like doing acts of kindness the more you do the kinder a person you pottentialy can become.  The happiness that a smile generates in you does become a part of who you are.