Autism TreatmentAutism Information for Parents, Practitioners & Professionals…

Autism Information for Parents, Practitioners & Professionals…

Stacks Image 395

Autism News This Week

Mice, Horses, Guinea Pigs, Dogs and Exercise and Autism: Everything You've Always Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask

Travis Thompson

This week's column is dedicated to St. Francis Assissi, patron saint of animals. Again this week, autism news is chock full of animal miracles.

A study a the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania indicates a stress related hormone in Mice may affect brain development, and therefore indirectly (very indirectly) may be related to autism. Have you ever known a woman who didn’t experience stress when they discovered they were pregnant? They may well have been excited about having a baby, but the experience always involves some degree of stress. So does that mean all Moms are at risk for having babies that develop autism?

A study by the College of Virginia concluded,
“Therapeutic horseback riding leads to symptom improvements for children with autism extending beyond the saddle and into the classroom, according to a study just published in a national scholarly journal. According to a press release, findings from the study conducted by Dream Catchers at the Cori Sikich Therapeutic Riding Center and the College of William and Mary School of Education were published in February in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.” Mmh, huh. Right. I guess in the old days when everyone travelled by horse back autism wasn’t a problem.

Going to the dogs again. In a study published in the
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Francesca Cirulli, of the National Institute of Health in Rome, Italy reviewed evidence therapy dogs may be helpful to children with autism. Specifically, Cirulli's team found six published studies of dogs' effects on children with an autism spectrum disorder. Four of them looked at therapy dogs -- dogs that therapists use during formal sessions to help children settle in, get engaged and be more open to communicating. In one study (i.e. 16%) of 22 children, for example, kids were more talkative and socially engaged during therapy sessions where a dog was present. In another study (another 16%) , of 12 boys, the children were less aggressive and smiled more when their therapy session included a canine companion. According to the Autism Therapy Dog Association of America, “The full cost to breed, raise and train an ASDA service dog can range from $15,000 to $20,000.” That’s quite a bit to pay to get your child to talk more during therapy sessions and smile more and be less aggressive. Gosh, I wonder if they had a comparison group?

More about Guinea Pigs. Maggie O’Haire at the University of Queensland looked at the effect of placing two guinea pigs in classrooms of children with autism. “The researchers found that the guinea pigs did increase the social activity of the autistic children with their peers and teachers. The autistic students were significantly more talkative and cheerful in the presence of guinea pigs than in the presence of toys. The children were also more likely to look at faces, make physical contact, and interact with others in the classroom.” Guinea pigs are good, but you have to watch out they don't eat their babies. They don’t cure autism or teach any skills, but they’re fun to have around. Besides they eat left over lettuce.

And finally, exercise is good. I suppose you didn’t need to be told that, but nonetheless, now we are being told it fixes autism’s problems. A new study from the Vrijet University in Amsterdam has revealed that some physical activity every day improves self-control in children, teenagers and adults up to the age of 35 years. Authors say exercises increase the blood and oxygen flow to the pre-frontal cortex of the brain (as well as to your elbow and big toe). Pre-frontal cortex is responsible for functions that are imperative for concentration and learning in children and teens. Also, exercises helps in treating impaired higher brain functions such as autism and attention hyperactivity deficit disorder, according to the study (for which there is NO EVIDENCE). The research was based on a review of studies published up to April 2012. The studies were based in the impact of exercises on brain functioning in the age group of six to 35 years. Actually, no evidence of brain functioning was shown in any of the studies. Improved self-control through physical activities was reported by 12 of those studies according to the authors. Now let me tell you about a bridge I have on sale at a bargain basement price.

Summary: So far today we’ve learnedhorse back riding, dogs, guinea pigs and exercise are good. Mice that are stressed during pregnancy have kids with developmental problems, so don't stress your mice. Do these helpful hints solve our challenges with autism? No, not at all, but if you enjoy them and prefer reading "The Mouse and the Pussy Cat," to your mice, and your child does to, why not? Is it worth $20,000? probably not? I