autism

Kids with autism struggle with reading non-verbal cues, like facial expressions. They also have a tough time knowing the right words to say. That’s why there are social skills clubs for kids with autism.

One such club meets regularly at Bel-Mark Lanes in Ann Arbor. There are three different groups based on age, and this particular group includes kids in junior high and high school.

After a little bowling, and cheering each other on, everybody heads back to a side room.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder wants people in Michigan to do more to promote their own health. He also outlined policies he’d like to see legislators pass to help lower health care costs and improve access.

Snyder says he wants Michigan to create a health care exchange: a place where individuals can compare health care insurance.

The new federal health care law mandates states create their own exchange, join a regional one or wait until the federal exchange is in place.

“Having the idea of having an exchange done right is a good idea and my view is Michigan should establish one. We shouldn’t wait and say the federal government is going tell us it’s their exchange.”

Snyder wants to reform the state’s health code, improve health care for veterans and children with autism. He also wants to reduce regulations on health care professionals.

user frank juarez / Flickr

According to Michigan State University researchers, many educators in the state are not using some of the most effective teaching methods  when working with the more than 15,000 Michigan students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Summer Ferreri, an MSU assistant professor of special education, and Sara Bolt, an MSU associate professor of school psychology conducted the study.

Using data from more than 200 school professionals, 34 parents of students with ASD, and classroom observations, the researchers found that more than 40 percent of the educators were not using techniques known as "Applied Behavior Analysis", and "Social Stories" (a method for teaching social skills to children with autism).

They also found it difficult to "access statewide data on students with ASD" and "concluded that better access is crucial to determine whether the services schools provide are actually helping students succeed."

From the MSU press release:

Suzanne Wilson, a University Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Teacher Education at MSU, said autism education is one of the most pressing issues facing educators today.

“While autism rates have rapidly increased, many new and experienced teachers have little to no experience working with children with autism,” Wilson said.  "Without the appropriate education, new teachers could, at worst, marginalize these students and, at best, be supportive but not effective.”

The researchers also found that 26% ASD students in Michigan "never or rarely had learning opportunities that reflected the general education curriculum."

And "one-third of the 194 Michigan teaching professionals responding said their students with ASD wouldn’t meet any grade-level achievement standards."

The findings of the research will be presented to the State Board of Education tomorrow (September 13). The study was conducted with funding from the Weiser family, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Skillman Foundation.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan plans to close its well-known, decade-old autism center when its director leaves this fall for a new post with a New York venture.

AnnArbor.com reports that Catherine Lord, director of the University of Michigan's Autism and Communication Disorders Center, plans to leave to head a joint effort between Columbia University
Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Lord says her two grown children who live in New York City drove her decision. The new Institute for Brain Development is to open next year.

Lord says a psychologist and a small number of researchers and staff will follow her to New York.

Lord says the Michigan center provides services for 300 to 400 people. Some federally funded research programs will continue.

Capitol Building, Lansing
Terry Johnston/Flickr

It's expected that the debate over whether insurance companies should be required to cover autism treatments for children will continue at the state Capitol next year.

Legislation that would have required insurance companies to cover autism treatments stalled in the GOP-led state Senate in the final hours of the 2009-2010 legislative session.

Republican Lieutenant Governor-elect Brian Calley has an autistic daughter.  He's been one of the most vocal proponents of the reforms.  Calley said:

Eventually the facts will catch up with the decision-makers and this will happen. I plan to advocate for this starting immediately next year and help education the incoming members, the new members, on this issue, and find a solution for the 15,000 families in Michigan that are struggling through this right now.

Calley said he hopes leaders in next year’s Republican-controlled House and Senate will approve the reforms.

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