Creative Minds

creative studyThis may come as no surprise to some of the parents reading this post, but a new study has shown that many people with autism are exceptionally creative.

Researchers in the study used the Alternate Uses Test, which asks participants (some who have autism and some who don’t) to think of possible uses for everyday items such as a brick or paper clip. As described, this test is usually used to measure divergent thinking–a thinking style in which creative ideas are generated through the exploration of as many possible solutions to a single problem. And while participants with autism tended to come up with fewer responses, the responses they did come up with were considered more unique and were typically not the common responses to the questions, showing a remarkable level of creativity.

The researchers were, at least, a bit surprised by the findings – the study’s lead author said to the Huff Post that “people with high autistic traits could be said to have less quantity but greater quality of creative ideas. They are typically considered to be more rigid in their thinking, so the fact that the ideas they have are more unusual or rare is surprising.”

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

My Circle of Girls

dawn-dudleyLet’s be honest, we all want our children to make friends. And with autism, finding and maintaining friends can be met with varying levels of challenge. So one mom, Dawn Dudley, took it upon herself to make it a little easier for her daughter – as well as other girls touched by autism – with creation of My Circle of Girls. This group, based in North Carolina, was founded by Dudley to bring girls with autism and their families together – with the opportunity to make friends, know each others’ struggles and celebrate victories.

Each month the group gets together for social and service activities in the community. The purpose is focused on getting the girls to bond while offering them fun experiences. And in just 18 short months since the group was formed, it’s already getting get praise – in fact, Dawn says that parents have told her that the group has been more effective than some of the therapies they’re pursuing for their daughters.

This is such a great concept, and obviously a much-needed one. With autism being diagnosed in boys four times more than girls, there really aren’t any girl-specific programs available. So while My Circle of Girls is based in NC, there is already interest coming in from other states to build similar groups, so we hope this is a format that gets picked up for many other young ladies to benefit from.

Check out more on My Circle of Girls.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Making Friends

Making FriendsSocial struggles are a part of what many people with autism tend to face. While those touched by autism may find making friends to be difficult, the notion that it is impossible for autistic individuals to make friends is exactly the assumption Bryan Chandler is setting out to dispel. Bryan has Asperger’s (high-functioning autism) and – as he shared on The Mighty – feels that “we may have difficulty making friends, but we’re certainly able to make friends. It needs to be the right kind of person who’s willing to understand and accept the individual for who he or she is.” He goes on to say that the “general perception of autism makes me want to fall into my shell and recluse myself from the world. So my advice would be to stop talking and start listening to those on the spectrum.”

To further his important point, he went out and asked his Asperger Syndrome Awareness Facebook community: Do any other ‘Aspies’ struggle making and maintaining friendships?

The numerous heartfelt responses were varied – with some invaluable insights. Here are just some of them:

“I have very few close friends, and many of them also have Asperger’s or another form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We get along because of mutual understanding of each other’s strengths and limitations.” – Rhiannon Hartwell

“I can make friends. It’s maintaining them [that’s] hard.” – Evenstar Hebert

“My desire and need for isolation is so great and I almost never feel lonely…nurturing my budding friendship with the time and attention needed is very difficult for me.” – Dymphna Dionne Janney

“I just enjoy being with those few close friends who I have a great bond with. My acquaintances just don’t know how to relate to me completely.” – Chris Buley

You can read Bryan’s full post here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Is Autism Really On the Rise?

www.cdc.gov

www.cdc.gov

Two new interesting studies have come out – one focused on the rate of autism and the other on a possible hormone that is linked with social difficulties.

The rate of autism has been continuously increasing over the years, with the latest figures showing that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. The rate increase hasn’t been attributed to anything specifically, and questions are mounting as to what has caused the increase. A new study, however, may have provided an answer – the rate is likely due to a change in the way children are being classified and diagnosed. A team from Penn State University looked at special education enrollment and found that the increase in students designated as having autism could be offset by nearly equal decrease in students diagnosed with other intellectual disabilities often seen along with autism. So conditions that were once likely classified as something else are now being identified as autism, probably due to broader awareness.

Another study showed that children with autism who struggle with “theory of mind” – the social skills that deals with the realization that other people have different perspectives, feelings and experiences – have lower vasopressin levels. Vasopressin is a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure and may play a role in social behavior. There are currently no medications that effectively treat social deficits, so this could prove a target for future focus.

Lynsey, Community Manager