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#62 - 11/10/07 03:24 PM ASL - A Useful Tool With Autism
CSN Offline
Active Member
Registered: 10/09/07
Posts: 162
Loc: Omaha, NE
Sign Language and Autism

One of the most frustrating aspects of autism is the breakdown in communication. Children with autism struggle with the complexity of spoken language. Sign language creates an avenue of communication that strengthens speech and language development.

Sign language provides numerous social, emotional, cognitive and communicative benefits for children with autism, such as:

- Stimulation of speech and language development

The visual stimulation provided by sign language activates the same centers in the brain that are activated by speech. Many signs are iconic, meaning they are gestures that are visually associated to the object they refer to. These visual associations are easier for children with autism. Sign language acts as a bridge to speech and language by “turning on” areas of the brain that are inactive due to the breakdown in spoken language.

- Reduction of negative social behaviors

Children with autism typically display negative social behaviors such as tantrums, anxiety, self-injury, and aggression. These behaviors are intensified when the child cannot communicate basic needs and wants. Sign language offers access to communication and eases the frustration that a child with autism feels when they are unable to express themselves!

- Increase in social interaction

Sign language provides a way for children with autism to express themselves. It also makes it easier for your child to receptively associate gestures with meaning. Expressive and receptive language skills are the building blocks for social interactions. Children that are able to express themselves are more likely to seek out social interactions!

-Development of cognitive structures

Sign language supports development of cognitive structures that are important for speech and language. Communication through sign helps to establish connections in the brain that are necessary for encoding language. Encoding language early is the key to learning, and learning is the key to success.

Sign language is a wonderful tool for parents, educators and families of children with autism. The benefits are immense! So then why is sign language not used for all children with autism? While there are many advantages for using sign language, there are also a few disadvantages:

Sign language is a visual mode of communication and requires the ability to focus. In many cases, children with autism have attention deficits. In severe cases, attention deficits may prevent sign language from being advantageous to children with autism.

Unfortunately, sign language - depending on where it's used (i.e. geographical location) - is not always a well-known accepted form of communication. Although sign language may be beneficial to the child with autism, it may isolate that child from interaction with people who do not know or learn sign language.

While autism can be challenging in many ways, there are many advantageous approaches to communication development. Sign language offers multiple proven benefits for children with various degrees of autism. Autism affects each child in a unique way and as a result the benefits are also unique to each child. In severe cases, sign language may not provide additional communication benefit to children with autism.

However, the fact that it may provide benefit offers hope and blessings to countless families. Sign language has never proven to be detrimental to children with autism, so what is there to lose?

If you have ever known a child with autism, then you know the hope that communication development provides. Sign language stimulates and strengthens communication development and offers hope for families and children that are affected by autism.

As this article shows, sign language is useful for many whom it is thought are without a language (which is an erroneous perception).

Signing also reduces the 'acting out' or other anti-social behaviours.

Obviously, as a language it helps the social interaction of the signers be they deaf or not.

Further, signing is another way of incorportating information which contributes to the cognitive development of the individual.

For many individuals (adults and children) there is an awareness of wanting to say something but not being able to express the ideas and/or emotions in words. In this instance, being able to express oneself via signing is a definite asset. **5**
#131 - 12/21/07 06:05 PM Re: ASL - A Useful Tool With Autism [Re: CSN]
SweetMind Offline
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Registered: 09/11/07
Posts: 201
Loc: Mother Nature world
New therapy for autism gives kids hope

By Barbara Correa, Staff Writer

Article Last Updated: 12/12/2007 10:04:52 PM PST

Daniel, a 5-year-old with autism, can string together only a few words at a time. So when he really needs to get something off his chest, he hits his fist into the palm of his other hand, the sign that he needs help.

Researchers began studying in the 1970s whether infants and pre-verbal toddlers could be taught to communicate using sign language. This spurred the development of a "baby" sign language, with the accompanying books and videos for parents.

But speech therapists and child psychologists see a new application for sign language: helping children with autism express their emotions.

"A lot of my kids have trouble articulating or getting in touch with any kind of feeling state, and I thought if there was a way for them to communicate it would improve their relationship with their parents," said Esther Hess, a clinical child psychologist in West Hollywood who's been working with kids with autism for 17 years.

She began to incorporate an adapted form of American Sign Language into her practice about a year ago after meeting Etel Leit, a language specialist and founder of SignShine, which runs signing workshops for babies and toddlers.

"The kids caught on to it. Autism is a spectrum disorder - they are not retarded."

Autism is just one in a group of brain development disorders that afflicts one in every 150 American children, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's generally diagnosed by age 3 and lasts a lifetime, substantially impairing social interaction and communication skills.

Leit explained that sight is the strongest sense in children with autism. Sign language allows them to rely on this strength while reducing their reliance on weaker audio-verbal senses.

Just as they do with the deaf, practitioners working with autistic youngsters always speak aloud as they sign to promote speech, the ultimate goal.

But with deaf kids, signing is all about filling in the lack of verbal communication. Among children with autism, using signs is about emotional communication, a challenge for those afflicted with the spectrum disorder.

Hess described her work with a young boy with autism who'd been hitting his twin sister and had been thrown out of three nursery schools. With speech underscoring her use of baby sign language, Hess asked the boy to describe his emotional state.

"He stopped and looked at me and said `I'm squeaky,"' Hess recalled. "Then we had a place to go.

"Children do negative behaviors because their body doesn't feel good. So signing permits them to have a validation and feel they are understood."

Special schools for autistic children, like The Help Group, with locations in Sherman Oaks and Culver City, and the Academy for the Advancement of Children with Autism in Northridge, have long used standard American Sign Language in their curriculum and as part of their treatment therapy.

But Hess and Leit, who are working on a book on the subject, have adapted standard sign language to make it easier to use for special needs kids.

"The signs are all based on standard American Sign Language, but they simplify the grammar and sentence structure to the basic words," Leit said.

For instance she uses signs for fun, frustrated, worried and happy.

Demand for special services for children with autism is skyrocketing.

Leslie Michelle, administrator at the Academy for the Advancement of Children with Autism, said there are 80 children on the school's waiting list.

Hess is opening a new, larger office close to the 10-405 Freeway interchange so she can see more kids coming from the South Bay, San Fernando Valley and Ventura.

"There is an explosion of children coming in for services," she said.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, the CDC director, has said that it is still unclear whether there is a true increase in autism or there is simply a greater awareness of the disorder.

Several factors may be responsible for an increase in autism spectrum disorders - among them, genetics, the growing number of older parents, the widespread use of childhood vaccinations and environmental hazards. But there's no definitive agreement on any of these within the medical research community.

Autism also can be difficult to diagnose, in part because no parent wants to consider there could be something wrong with their child.

"We were in denial for a long time," said Michelle, the academy administrator and mother of a 17-year-old son.

Although the boy was eventually diagnosed with autism when he was 13, she said she knew for at least a decade that something wasn't right.

"He did not develop language. He didn't talk until he was 3, he didn't walk until very late," she said. "It got worse as time went on."

Zhenya King, the mother of 5-year-old Daniel, said her son appeared to be developing normally, then started losing his speech capability around the age of 2<MD+,%30,%55,%70>1/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>2.

She thought he just needed to learn to socialize and tried to enroll him in preschool. The school rejected him because he was nonverbal, so she went to a pediatrician, hoping a doctor's note would get her son into a different school.

The doctor took one look at Daniel and told her the boy had autism.

"He interacted with toys, but not with kids," King said. "He was in his own world."

Hess has been working since last summer with Daniel, who was easily upset by noise and confusion, couldn't tolerate getting dirty and was always washing his hands.

During a recent session, Daniel knelt on the floor, working with his brother to create a Christmas tree out of a wire hanger and tinsel. He also painted and pasted glitter on paper.

He didn't say much, but he used the "help" sign and gave Hess and Leit a high-five when he was done.

Hess is encouraged by every little step of progress in her young patient.

"When he started therapy," she said, "he couldn't even touch the glitter."
"Light of Love"in our ASL culture. ASL is a form of speech and gives LOVE for all humanity kids. smile
#149 - 12/26/07 04:40 PM Re: ASL - A Useful Tool With Autism [Re: CSN]
CSN Offline
Active Member
Registered: 10/09/07
Posts: 162
Loc: Omaha, NE

True, sign language is both useful and a valid means of communication for those with autism. Signing is a different form of communication that may make use of regions of the brain not usually associated with communication.

Having a relative with autism I can see the frustration on both sides. Yet, the communication does occur. It's amazing to see!

The "negative social behaviors" can be lessened by the positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors. The frustration at not being able to communicate can be lessened through the use of a visual means.

Signing is an alternative method that either replaces or suplements vebal comunication.

The encoding of a language is not limited to oral. This happens with visual languages as well as visual forms of languages.

Sign language while being visual is also tactile. smile

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