Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Study shows autistics faster at problem solving

A new study performed by the Université de Montréal and Harvard University and published in the journal Human Brain Mapping shows people with autism were better at problem solving.

The study had participants complete patterns in the Raven's Standard Progressive Metrics test, a test which measures hypothesis testing and problem solving skills. Both groups of participants had equal levels of accuracy, but the autistic group completed the tests 40% faster than the non-autistic group.

A couple of thoughts on the topic:

1. We all know how smart our little dudes are; it's usually just a question of getting it out of them. Give them the right teacher/environment and they'll surpass expectations every time.

2. Always assume competence. Always.

3. Anyone who's seen their son/daughter put a jigsaw puzzle together without seeming to pay attention would have guessed the results of this study!

Hat tip to Sharisa Lewis for finding this story.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

another 'cause of autism' theory

There's an interesting article on entitled "The Extremely Male Brain", discussing Baron-Cohen's theory that autism is an extension of the male brain going to the extreme.

He takes the approach that there are some things males generally do better than females - logic/math/science/compartmentalizing/systemizing, and points out that, taken to the extreme, these are the traits associated with autism.

Over the last 40 years males with these traits have been able to congregate in industries such as computer science and engineering. Then, women who share these traits have joined the same industries. Is it possible that these very-left-brain men are now more easily able to find very-left-brain women to mate with, causing a rise in the number of children with autism?

It's an interesting theory, but it doesn't do much to explain where Calvin came from?!

Friday, June 5, 2009

apple changing the game for 'talkers'

Calvin has made amazing gains in his communication skills over the years, but he is still essentially non-verbal. Over the years we've offered him as many different communication options as we could find - sign language, pecs, word-cards, yes/no cards, computer keyboards, and "talking machines".

The Vantage by Prentke Romich was his primary form of communicating for a couple of years. This machine was wonderful - a touch-screen computer (without a flip-up lid) that could be carried wherever he went. Calvin would push buttons on the touch-screen and the machine would "talk" for him. As he got better with the machine we would update the screen with more icons, more drill-down choices, and more sentence structuring options.

The downside, if you could even call it that, was its size & weight. It's approximately 10 inches x 6 inches x 2 inches (estimates only as I don't have it in front of me). That's actually pretty small, but it weighs in at several pounds. We've sent quite a few back for repair after being dropped..

The other downside is cost; weighing in at about $7,000 is quite a barrier for many families.

Recently Proloquo2Go developed an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch which turns those devices into "talkers", very similar to Calvin's Vantage. The iTouch might not have 100% of the capability of the Vantage, but considering the cost savings (approx $7,500 less expensive) and the difference in size (fits in any pocket), I would give this a try first!

Here's a story about it as reported in USAToday.

Thanks to good friend and great Mom Tracey for sending this our way.