How Can Autism Affect Your Sleep?

If you or your child are autistic, you likely know that autism can affect sleep. Good sleep can be as elusive as it is essential, and countless people experience insomnia at some point in their lives. But for autistic people and their families, restorative sleep can seem a little farther out of reach. Considering its impact on critical areas such as emotional processing, learning abilities, and social interactions, improving sleep is a priority. This is true for everyone, but particularly for autistic people, whose strengths exist outside the social arena. Even though disrupted sleep is often part of autism, it’s possible to improve the situation and wake up well-rested. Sleep differences in autism present before 2 years of age and are one of the first indicators of this neurotype. By comparison, only about half of typically developing children and adolescents experience disrupted sleep. Genetic and neurological differences combined with environment... Read more

Neuroscience of New Fatherhood: Empathy, Bonding, Childcare

A father's ability to empathize and mentalize during pregnancy correlates with later bonding and parenting during infancy. Specific brain areas in expectant fathers affect social information processing, self-awareness, emotion regulation, and cognitive control. While the role of mothers in child-rearing has historically drawn attention, more recently researchers are examining the impact of fathers on child development. Even before the baby is born, the idea of who they could be takes shape in the mind of expectant parents, to varying degrees shaping the ultimate attachment parents will have once the baby is born, for all parents. In this piece, we will look at recent research on how fathers' empathic attunement and associated brain connectivity during mid to late pregnancy with the first child correlates with bonding and parenting behavior at 6 months following birth. For instance, recent research has identified four key aspects of becoming a father (2021): the “trigger moment”... Read more

All About Trauma: What It Is, Short- and Long-Term Effects, How to Cope With It, and When to Get Help

Although she didn’t witness the event herself, Heidi Horsley, PsyD, found herself replaying the last moments of her brother’s life again and again in her mind. He died in a car accident after hydroplaning during a rainstorm. “That narrative kept going over and over, and I couldn’t get the loop out of my head,” she says. With each replay, she recalls, she ruminated on whether her brother suffered before his death — and she became increasingly worried someone else was going to die. “The safe predictable world you once knew is gone. When my brother died, I didn’t feel like my parents could protect us. I felt my brother died, so I could die.” Dr. Horsley’s younger brother died when she was 20 years old. Her experience as a young adult eventually prompted Horsley to become a therapist who specializes in grief and trauma. Now an adjunct professor at Columbia... Read more

What Is Developmental Psychology?

Developmental psychology is the study of how humans grow, change, and adapt across the course of their lives. Developmental psychologists research the stages of physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development from the prenatal stage to infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Learn more about developmental psychology, including the definition, types, life stages, and how to seek treatment when necessary. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), developmental psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on how human beings grow, change, adapt, and mature across various life stages.1 In each of the life stages of developmental psychology, people generally meet certain physical, emotional, and social milestones.2 These are the major life stages, according to developmental psychologists: Prenatal development: Developmental psychologists are interested in diagnoses, such as Down syndrome, that might be noticed during the prenatal (before birth) stage. They also investigate how maternal behaviors (behaviors of the pregnant parent), such as... Read more

Parenting a ‘Difficult Adult Child’

"You can't go home again," according to the old saying. Tell that to the adult children who are returning to live with their parents, or never leaving, in record numbers. For the first time in recent history, more young adults are living with their parents than cohabitating in romantic or married situations. No doubt about it: how we think about parenting and retirement have changed. While the economic downturn associated with COVID-19 explains some of the recent rise in adult children moving back home, this trend has been increasing since the 1960s. The employment market has changed drastically, for one thing. Gone are the factory jobs and other opportunities for people who have not graduated college. Delayed marriage and increasing divorce rates have also contributed to the rise in intergenerational households, as has the skyrocketing price of housing. There are, however, two different groups of adult children who return home... Read more

Child Sleep Problems Affect Mothers and Fathers Differently

After the birth of children, fragmentation of parental night sleep and fatigue due to the nightly demands of the infant are common.1 Indeed, there is evidence that mothers’ and fathers’ fatigue increase immediately following the birth of their child.1,2 Resulting in insufficient, non-restful sleep, this poses a stress factor for parental health, daily well-being, and functioning.3 In contrast, good children’s sleep quality predicted good maternal sleep.4 Most often, this is a temporary problem and infants develop the competence to fall asleep independently in the evening and go back to sleep after night waking during the first year of life.5,6 However, about 20–30% of the infants and young children are affected by sleep problems during the entire first 3 years of childhood and need support by a caregiver to fall asleep.7–10 Consequently, many parents are concerned with difficulties pertaining to their own sleep as well as handling their children’s sleep problems.... Read more

ASD Symptoms May be Present Before Your Baby First Speaks

ASD Symptoms May be Present Before Your Baby First Speaks

Some infants with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, may exhibit social communication differences as early as 9 months of age, a new study suggests. Compared to their typically developing peers, infants with ASD may show signs such as a lack of appropriate eye contact and inability to respond to attention. However, these signs may not always be as apparent to parents. Hence, getting help from specialists with child development backgrounds could put concerns to rest. The study’s findings also point to a critical window for targeted early intervention that could help children with ASD reach their full developmental potential. Although speech is many parents’ first concern when spotting signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there may be other forms of communication that could point to autism early on in infancy, a new study has found. Social communication skills such as eye gaze and facial expressions, for example, develop rapidly... Read more

Do Mindfulness Interventions Improve Obesity Rates in Children and Adolescents: A Review of the Evidence

Do Mindfulness Interventions Improve Obesity Rates in Children and Adolescents

Mindfulness interventions have shown promise in improving self-regulation, depression, anxiety, and stress levels across all ages. Obesity rates in children are rising worldwide. It has been postulated that through improvements in self-regulation with mindfulness interventions, obesity rates can be improved in children and adolescents. In this review, we attempt to explain how mindfulness interventions may impact obesity rates and obesity-related complications and give the current state of evidence for the following mindfulness interventions: Mindful Eating, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Yoga, Spirituality, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Over the last 20 years, childhood obesity has become a major public health concern in the United States. According to the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015–2016, 18.5% of American youth between the ages of 2 and 19 were classified as being obese using a body mass index (BMI) threshold >95% for age.1 The rate of obesity increases... Read more

When kids get stressed out by the stress of others

When kids get stressed out by the stress of others

Empathy is our ability to share and understand the emotions of other people. Most experts agree that there are at least two types of empathy; a more emotional (or “affective”) type and a more cognitive type. Affective empathy refers to experiencing another’s emotional state and cognitive empathy means understanding another’s emotional state. Both of these processes usually occur together when we empathise. Our ability to empathise is vital for good social functioning. Research has found associations between increased empathic tendencies and increased altruism. However, engaging in certain types of empathy in different situations can come with various risks for the empathiser or for those around them. For example, experiencing occupational exhaustion (often referred to as empathic burnout) among professionals like nurses or counsellors may mean that patients do not get the best care. For many researchers, empathy has been of interest when it comes to mental health because empathic ability... Read more

Creating social access for autistic children, what does it take?

Creating social access for autistic children, what does it take?

Autistic children have indeed potential: most of their emotional abilities improve with age, concludes Postdoc researcher Boya Li in her second Ph.D. thesis on the emotional development of autistic children. "The development of social and emotional skills is a totally different type of learning. You can't learn it from books or from your teachers in the classroom, you have to learn it in daily interactions with other people. You can imagine that If you have limited access to social interactions, it is a lot harder to learn these skills. It's very possible that when you walk into a school, you might see an autistic child sitting in the corner of the classroom, not really playing with other children or talking to teachers. Possibly, this child prefers to be alone at times, which is fine, but also this child needs friends and other social contacts, and social learning. How can we... Read more

How my children's autism diagnoses led to my own

How my children’s autism diagnoses led to my own

Do you see a lot of your child in yourself? Do you share a lot of the same mannerisms? Have similar temperaments? Think of them as a mini me? This is how I thought of my daughter (my second child) and myself — people would stop me in the streets when she was a baby to gush over just how much she looked the spitting image of me! So when she started showing signs of autism from the very young age of one, (although it took until she was six years old to finally have her formal diagnosis), it did lead me to start to wonder if I may be autistic myself. But I didn't have time for myself at this stage. I had a three-year-old son — my youngest — who was in desperate need of an autism and ADHD diagnosis and support. Interestingly, once these two were diagnosed... Read more

What is Hyperacusis?

What is Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis is a hearing condition that causes a heightened sensitivity to sound, making everyday noises, like running water, seem extremely loud. This can make it difficult to carry out daily tasks in common environments, such as chores at home or workplace responsibilities. In turn, you might try to avoid social situations that could lead to anxiety, stress, and social isolation from exposure to noise. About 8 to 15 percent of adults have hyperacusis. This condition often affects people who have tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Read on to learn more about the symptoms and potential causes of hyperacusis. We’ll also cover treatment options and how each one works. Hyperacusis is a low tolerance for sound in one or both ears. It’s also known as an increased sensitivity to sound. The condition affects the way you perceive loudness. It makes ordinary sounds, such as car engines, seem extremely loud. Even... Read more

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