Why Some Kids With Severe Autism ‘Bloom’

by Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer   |   April 02, 2012

A small number of children with severe autism “bloom” over time and progress to a high-functioning state, and a new study may reveal part of the reason this happens. In most cases, children with autism who show severe symptoms at diagnosis improve very little as they age, while those who are least impaired improve more rapidly in their social and communication skills, the study showed. However, about 10 percent of autistic children are so-called bloomers, the researchers said, and the study showed that one factor that distinguished these children was higher socioeconomic status.

Bloomers tended to have white mothers with more education.

This suggests that the children’s “blooming” is likely due, at least in part, to better access to high-quality, intense treatments, the researchers said. “These socioeconomic disparities suggest that equal access to early interventions and services for less advantaged children is going to be really vital,” said study researcher Christine Fountain, of Columbia University in New York City.

The study is published today (April 2) in The Journal Pediatrics.

Fountain and colleagues analyzed records from nearly 7,000 children with autism between ages 2 and 14 in California. The children had at least four years of records of that described the severity of their autism symptoms.  The researchers found the children fell into six groups that were related to their development over time: high-functioning children, bloomers, medium-high functioning, medium functioning, low-medium functioning and low functioning. Most of the children experienced at least some improvements in their communication and social skills over time, but children who were high functioning to begin with tended to improve more rapidly than children in the other groups.

For instance, on a test of communication skills with a maximum score of 100, those in the high-functioning group progressed, on average, from a score of about 50 at age 3 to a near-perfect score at age 14. In contrast, children in the low-functioning group progressed from a score of about 15 to about 20.

Bloomers progressed from a score of about 20 to about 80. The most rapid improvements were typically seen before age 6, the researchers said. The fact that bloomers’ progression was tied to their socioeconomic status indicates that whatever factors are behind the cause of autism are not the only things driving a child’s development.

More research is needed to understand what puts children with autism on a “blooming” path, and whether anything can be done to get them there, Fountain said.

Pass it on:  About 10 percent of autistic children progress from severely affected to high functioning.

Metacognition: Nurturing Self-Awareness in the Classroom

7 Strategies That Improve Metacognition

1. Teach students how their brains are wired for growth.

The beliefs that students adopt about learning and their own brains will affect their performance. Research shows that when students develop a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset, they are more likely to engage in reflective thinking about how they learn and grow. Teaching kids about the science of metacognition can be an empowering tool, helping students to understand how they can literally grow their own brains.

2. Give students practice recognizing what they don’t understand.

The act of being confused and identifying one’s lack of understanding is an important part of developing self-awareness. Take time at the end of a challenging class to ask, “What was most confusing about the material we explored today?” This not only jumpstarts metacognitive processing, but also creates a classroom culture that acknowledges confusion as an integral part of learning.

3. Provide opportunities to reflect on coursework.

Higher-order thinking skills are fostered as students learn to recognize their own cognitive growth. Questions that help this process might include:

  • Before this course, I thought earthquakes were caused by _______. Now I understand them to be the result of _______.
  • How has my thinking about greenhouse gases changed since taking this course?

4. Have students keep learning journals.

One way to help students monitor their own thinking is through the use of personal learning journals. Assign weekly questions that help students reflect on how rather than what they learned. Questions might include:

  • What was easiest for me to learn this week? Why?
  • What was most challenging for me to learn? Why?
  • What study strategies worked well as I prepared for my exam?
  • What strategies for exam preparation didn’t work well? What will I do differently next time?
  • What study habits worked best for me? How?
  • What study habit will I try or improve upon next week?

Encourage creative expression through whatever journal formats work best for learners, including mind maps, blogs, wikis, diaries, lists, e-tools, etc.

5. Use a “wrapper” to increase students’ monitoring skills.

A “wrapper” is a short intervention that surrounds an existing activity and integrates a metacognitive practice. Before a lecture, for example, give a few tips about active listening. Following the lecture, ask students to write down three key ideas from the lecture. Afterward, share what you believe to be the three key ideas and ask students to self-check how closely theirs matched your intended goals. When used often, this activity not only increases learning, but also improves metacognitive monitoring skills.

6. Consider essay vs. multiple-choice exams.

Research shows that students use lower-level thinking skills to prepare for multiple-choice exams, and higher-level metacognitive skills to prepare for essay exams. While it is less time consuming to grade multiple-choice questions, even the addition of several short essay questions can improve the way students reflect on their learning to prepare for test taking.

7. Facilitate reflexive thinking.

Reflexivity is the metacognitive process of becoming aware of our biases — prejudices that get in the way of healthy development. Teachers can create a classroom culture for deeper learning and reflexivity by encouraging dialogue that challenges human and societal biases. When students engage in conversations or write essays on biases and moral dilemmas related to politics, wealth, racism, poverty, justice, liberty, etc., they learn to “think about their own thinking.” They begin to challenge their own biases and become more flexible and adaptive thinkers.

What other ways do you help students reflect on their thinking in your classroom?

Source: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-pathways-metacognition-in-classroom-marilyn-price-mitchell

55 Interesting Intel Devices

WordDreams...

Often in my novels, I use digital devices to create havoc in my plot. There are so many ways to do that–electronic eavesdropping, cloning smartphones, stealing wifi signals–that I now keep a list of the devices and purposes. See if any of these motivate–or frighten–you.

A note: These are all from novels I’ve read and therefore for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).

Computers

  • Each keystroke made a distinct sound, as individual as a fingerprint. As the strings of keystroke clacks and clatters were beamed across the Atlantic, they were processed and stored at the Tordella Supercomputer Facility on the grounds of Fort Meade. Space bars, for example, made a very different sound when struck than regular keys. So did the return key, and it was always struck at the end of…

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