Sexual Education of Persons with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Use of the Technique: ‘Social Stories

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Tanja Stankova & Vladimir Trajkovski 

Sexuality and Disability (2020)

 

Abstract

The difficulty in the area of social skills for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is particularly visible in the area of sexuality and intimate relationships. Therefore, it is important to create a curriculum including information about sexuality and to address the individual and specific needs of persons with ASD. For this purpose we designed a study using Social Stories for conducting sexuality education following the criteria of Carol Gray. The main goal of our study was to assess the effects of the use of Social Stories to implement sexuality education with three participants with ASD. The individual sessions lasted for 45 min and they continued for a period of 6 months. The participants were tested and their parents interviewed before starting and after finishing 6 months of sexual education, and this allowed us to assess knowledge and behavioral changes regarding sexuality. The most significant changes were determined through assessment of the following areas: the private and reproductive parts of the body; changes occurring during the period of puberty; distinguishing pleasant and unpleasant touch; sexual relations and contraception. Our conclusion after analyzing results were that a period of 6 months implementing sexuality education through Social Stories was sufficient to upgrade and expand knowledge, but definitely was insufficient for noticing visible behavioral changes.

Source: https://link.springer.com/

Manual for parents of children with autism spectrum conditions and professionals in their circle of support

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PREFACE

Autism spectrum conditions continue intriguing the world as well as the domestic public due to its frequent occurrence, the uncertain mechanisms that prompt the conditions and, moreover, due to the lack of a unique treatment. Difficulties in the sphere of social development and the realization of interaction and communication with the environment are considered to be key vulnerabilities in autism. Difficulties in social functioning are the greatest factor that predicts the diagnosis and the forecast of the respective conditions. In the last decade, research has shown that these early deviations in social development contribute to the overall development of the child and its accommodation in the environment. 

Our practical and theoretical experience denies the notion that children with autism are not social or that they have no strive for social interaction and communication. On the contrary, children with autism spectrum conditions often do not have the skills for an everyday social behaviour and these difficulties need to be recognized and implemented in a comprehensive individual program. Given the importance of the social interventions for children with autism, it is imperative for specialists and parents to have access to resources dedicated to social behaviour.

This manual offers you a variety of approaches, practices and evidence-based suggestions for parenting skills for children and youth with autism. However, it is important to point out that due to the heterogenous nature of the autism spectrum conditions, and regarding the parenting skills related to every child, there is no such thing as a unique approach. Therefore, this manual should be treated as a guide, having in mind the variability of success of a specific approach that depends on each child. Nevertheless, the principles described by the authors may be widely utilized and seen as useful for many families with children who have autism spectrum conditions. At the same time, this manual is a valuable tool that will be useful for different profiles of specialists included in the support of children as well as in their daily work. Apart from families, when making of the concept of this manual, we also had in mind the teachers, special educators and rehabilitators, speech therapists, psychologists, pedagogists, medical professionals, nursery caregivers, social workers, personal and education assistants as well as the future professionals, such as the students from the Institute for Special Education and Rehabilitation, and many other vocational profiles that will show their interest in this subject.

The manual “Supporting Social Skills and Positive Parenting” is the first such reading published in our country in three languages: Macedonian, English and Albanian. It covers 7 chapters which fully elaborate the curriculum for education of professionals and parents and the trainings realized in several public institutions of social protection and through a series of virtual workshops and webinars in the period from January to June 2020. The introductory part, which gives the basic characteristics of this pervasive condition, was prepared according to the material created by Prof. Dr. Vladimir Trajkovski, which was used for the needs of the trainings. The second chapter describes the developmental aspects of social skills and social communication and the most common challenges faced by children with autism. In the third chapter are given instructions for assessment of the socio-communication skills and the framework for intervention planning. The fourth chapter explains the evidence- based practices and types of approaches in teaching of this vulnerable category of children. These three chapters are formed according to the material used for the needs of the training and made by Ivana Vasilevska Petrovska, MA. In the fifth chapter, great attention is paid to the methods and tools for child support, including: organizational support, social support, communication support and behavioural support.  The fifth chapter was prepared according to the materials made by Ivana Vasilevska Petrovska, MA and Prof. Dr. Vladimir Trajkovski which were used for the needs of the training.

Lately, our understanding of the great influence of sensory sensitivity on the conditions of the spectrum has increased, so this topic has been approached from a practical aspect in the sixth chapter which was prepared by Prof. Dr. Vladimir Trajkovski. Last but not least, the final segment deals with sexual development and sexuality education as inevitably related to the social behaviour of children. The seventh chapter is prepared according to the materials that were used for the needs of the trainings, made by Tanja Stankova, MA.

This manual contains numerous illustrations and examples of practices that will be of immense help to parents and specialists.

We express our gratitude to the reviewers Radmila Stojkovska Aleksova, MA and Irena Lozana for the remarks and valuable suggestions in the favour of bringing this manuscript closer to its esteemed readers. Many thanks to the staff of the UNICEF Office in Skopje and the Government of the United Kingdom for the financial support of this manual.

 Skopje, July 2020

 Authors

 If you are interested you can download the manual for free HERE.

Effect of Stress on Neuroimmune Processes

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Abstract

Purpose: Psychological stress worsens many diseases, especially those with inflammatory components, such as atopic dermatitis (AD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), conditions that are significantly correlated in large epidemiologic studies. However, how stress contributes to these conditions is still poorly understood. This narrative review of the relevant literature advances the premise that stress affects inflammatory processes in AD and ASD via stimulation of mast cells (MCs).

Methods: MEDLINE was searched between 1980 and 2019 using the terms allergies, atopic dermatitis, autism spectrum disorder, brain, corticotropin-releasing hormone, inflammation, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, mast cells, neuropeptides, stress, neurotensin, and substance P.

Findings: Exposure to psychological stress is associated with onset and/or exacerbation of AD and ASD. This association could be attributable to activation of MCs, which are ubiquitous in the body, including the brain, and could contribute to inflammation.

Implications: Understanding and addressing the connection between stress and MCs is important in clarifying the pathogenesis and developing effective treatments for diseases that worsen with stress and involve inflammation, such as AD and ASD.

Keywords: Atopic dermatitis; Autism spectrum disorder; Corticotropin-releasing hormone; Inflammation; Mast cells; Stress.

Source: PubMed

20 years of MSSA – Press Release

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Respected colleagues and friends,

It is my great honour and pleasure to announce that Macedonian Scientific Society for Autism is celebrating its 20th birthday today, May 22nd. This period was neither too long, nor too short. The societies that can say they’ve achieved such a jubilee are scarce. The previous years were filled with turbulence in the socio-political field in Macedonia and this has been reflected in the society’s work. The activities were filled with highs and lows. Many members have marched though the society, out of which only the most persistent remain to ensure the implementation of its goals and responsibilities, which are the following:

  • primary prevention of persons with autism;
  • investigation mechanisms connected with autism;
  • investigation the effects of rehabilitation on the persons with autism;
  • treatment of the persons with autism;
  • cooperation with the parents of the children with autism;
  • coordination of governmental and non governmental organizations dealing with autism;
  • cooperation with international universities and associations whose priority is autism.

During these past years, we have demonstrated an equal position with other societies of this type in the EU, leadership in the field of special education and rehabilitation of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in Macedonia and primarily care for health, education and social protection of this fragile category of citizens. In these 20 years we have tried to increase our citizens’ awareness about this topic and this is especially visible in the past 10 years through a spread of activities in which we have included stage stars, actors, athletes, scientists, politicians and naturally families with children or other family members that have ASD. For this purpose, we have held big events for WAAD April 2nd – four times. We have also organized five professional tribunes which treat not only ASD, but Down syndrome as well. We were organizers or co-organizers of nine seminars, symposia and conferences, most of which had international participants. During this period, 250 free diagnostic and consultative exams have been done on children with ASD. In 2002, the brochure „Chater for Persons with autism in Republic of Macedonia” was published and it was distributed to all 120 parliament members at the time.

From 2008 until 2017 MSSA was co-publisher of Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation and since 2019, it is also co-publisher of the international Journal for ReAttach Therapy and Developmental Diversities (https://jrtdd.com), whose publisher is ReAttach International Therapy Foundation from the Netherlands.

Our members have participated in over 100 local and international seminars, congresses and conferences. We are authors of over 60 articles on the topic of autism and slightly less than 10 of these have been published in journals with impact factor. This gives a particular scientific impact to the society in the world of autismology.

Our members have participated in 15 local and international project, some of which are “Equity and social inclusion through positive parenting”, “A hollistic approach of person-centred planning for people with Autism”, “Autism Social Skills and Positive Parenting Programme” and “Autism Friendly Spaces”. The mentioned projects have been realized in the past five years and some are still ongoing.

In the past years two school books titled “Autism” and “Autism and pervasive developmental disorders”, which are mainly meant for the students at the Institute of Special Education and Rehabilitation and the Institute of Psychology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Skopje and can be used by medicine students, have been published.

MSSA is present on social media every day with popular posts about ASD meant to educate the general population about this complex disorder in our community.

MSSA was supposed to celebrate the 20 years’ existence jubilee with a big conference that was set to happen May 29-31 in co-organization with our partners “ReAttach International Therapy Foundation” from the Netherlands, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were going to be more than 150 guests from our country, from around 20 other European and Asian states and from the USA. Because of this, we have switched to an internet campaign fit to honour this jubilee. This campaign is being shared on a daily basis on MSSA’s blog, and the official social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

We as members of MSSA will continue working and discovering new cases of autism, we will keep creating new projects, write scientific articles, help parents and naturally children and persons with ASD in direction of improving their life quality.

Please find 20 years of MSSA – presentation in Prezi on the following LINK.

Stay safe and healthy!

Sincerely,

President of MSSA

Projects of MSSA

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Dear colleagues and readers,

In 20 years history MSSA realized 15 domestic and international projects.  We want to put accent in last 5 years. In this period there are four projects from which someones are still ongoing. They are: Equity and social inclusion through positive parenting”, “A hollistic approach of person-centred planning for people with Autism”, “Autism Social Skills and Positive Parenting Programme”, “Autism Friendly Spaces”.

President of MSSA

Articles in scientific journals

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Dear colleagues,

Members of MSSA have published over 60 articles in domestic and predominantly in international scientific journals. Less than 10 of them are in impact factor journals. With this we are giving small contribution to world scientific map. We will continued to work hard on promoting Macedonian autism special education and rehabilitation and medical aspects as well.

President of MSSA

Cancellation 2nd Scientific ReAttach Conference 2020 in Skopje, Macedonia

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Dear colleagues,

We are sorry to inform you that we have decided to cancel the 2nd Scientific ReAttach Conference on May 29th-May30th, due to the coronavirus outbreak.
We will refund all conference tickets in the upcoming weeks.

Thank you for your enthusiasm for ReAttach and the overwhelming response and the warm welcome of the Macedonian Scientific Society of Autism as co-host of this event.

We especially thank all our invited presenters for their abstract submission. We intend to continue our international friendship. Of course, we will keep you informed about their papers that are coming up, future training, and events.

We would also like to draw your attention to our peer-reviewed academic journal that was founded under the inspiring leadership of Prof. Dr. Vladimir Trajkovski: Journal for ReAttach Therapy and Developmental Diversities. JRTDD is an open-access journal with a broad scope and a fantastic international editorial board.  You can find it at https://jrtdd.com!

Yours sincerely,

ReAttach Therapy International Foundation
Drs. Paula Weerkamp-Bartholomeus,  President

Macedonian Scientific Society for Autism
Prof. Dr. Vladimir Trajkovski, President

Oxidative Stress in Autism Spectrum Disorder

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 2020 Feb 5. doi: 10.1007/s12035-019-01742-2. [Epub ahead of print]

Bjørklund G1, Meguid NA2,3, El-Bana MA3,4, Tinkov AA5,6,7, Saad K8,9, Dadar M10, Hemimi M2,3, Skalny AV6,7,11,12, Hosnedlová B13,14, Kizek R13,14, Osredkar J15, Urbina MA16, Fabjan T15, El-Houfey AA9,17,18, Kałużna-Czaplińska J19,20, Gątarek P19,20, Chirumbolo S21,22.

Abstract

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 11, 2016, the reported average incidence of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was 1 in 68 (1.46%) among 8-year-old children born in 2004 and living within the 11 monitoring sites’ surveillance areas in the United States of America (USA) in 2012. ASD is a multifaceted neurodevelopmental disorder that is also considered a hidden disability, as, for the most part; there are no apparent morphological differences between children with ASD and typically developing children. ASD is diagnosed based upon a triad of features including impairment in socialization, impairment in language, and repetitive and stereotypic behaviors. The increasing incidence of ASD in the pediatric population and the lack of successful curative therapies make ASD one of the most challenging disorders for medicine. ASD neurobiology is thought to be associated with oxidative stress, as shown by increased levels of reactive oxygen species and increased lipid peroxidation, as well as an increase in other indicators of oxidative stress. Children with ASD diagnosis are considered more vulnerable to oxidative stress because of their imbalance in intracellular and extracellular glutathione levels and decreased glutathione reserve capacity. Several studies have suggested that the redox imbalance and oxidative stress are integral parts of ASD pathophysiology. As such, early assessment and treatment of antioxidant status may result in a better prognosis as it could decrease the oxidative stress in the brain before it can induce more irreversible brain damage. In this review, many aspects of the role of oxidative stress in ASD are discussed, taking into account that the process of oxidative stress may be a target for therapeutic interventions.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32026227

Преведен ATEC на македонски јазик

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Почитувани колешки и колеги,

Сакаме да ве известиме дека Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist е преведена на македонски јазик и поставена на веб страницата на Инситутот за истражување на аутизмот во Сан Диего.

Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) претставува метода зa утврдување и анализа на ефективноста од третманот за аутизам. ATEC примарно е дизајниран да ја процени и утврди ефективноста на третманите со аутизам, но исто така може да биде корисен како алатка за скрининг за деца. Доколку родителите би можеле да вршат редовни психометриски проценки на нивните деца, тогаш цената на клиничките испитувања ќе се намали, овозможувајќи подолги клинички испитувања со поголем број на учесници. Прашалникот е дизајниран за употреба со деца на возраст од 2–12 години.

Листата е преведена на 22 јазици, меѓу кои и македонскиот и сите родители и професионалци можат да ја пополнат онлајн овде.

Претседател на МНЗА