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Autism: the Brain, Thinking and Behavior. Mary Joann Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N. Beacon Day School Orange, California. Course Objective:.

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autism the brain thinking and behavior

Autism: the Brain, Thinking and Behavior

Mary Joann Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.

Beacon Day School

Orange, California

course objective
Course Objective:

To understand basic concepts related to the brain, thinking and behavior and how to make appropriate interventions for children with ASDs, which help each individual reach his or her maximum potentials.

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

autism defined according to the nih
Autism DefinedAccording to the NIH

Autism is characterized by three distinctive behaviors:

  • difficulties with social interaction
  • problems with verbal and nonverbal communication
  • repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. 

These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling.  Autism varies widely in its severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when more debilitating handicaps mask it. 

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

slide4
Systems Theory

A system is greater than the sum of its parts.

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

systems theory common elements
Systems TheoryCommon Elements:

input-signal going into a system

output-the act of turning out

throughput (or process)-raw material processed within a given time

feedback-response to a particular process

control-ability to manage or direct

environment-the entire set of conditions under which one operates

goal-the result toward which effort is

directed

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

systems theory
Systems Theory
  • Open System—capable of growth, development & adaptation. Interaction occurs within the environment. (i.e.: The Rules of a Classroom)
  • Closed System—relationships among system components are set and inflexible; no interaction with the environment (i.e.: The Laws of Physics)

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

systemic approach to understanding the brain
Systemic Approach to Understanding the Brain

In order to understand an individual with Autism,

it is necessary to understand him or her as an

individual from a systems approach:

  • How do mind and body function?
  • How does the individual fit into the

community and society?

  • What interventions can be provided

to help an individual reach

his or her potential?

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

systemic approach to understanding the brain1
Systemic Approach to Understanding the Brain

Functions of the

“Orchestra”

Perception

Attention

Language Processes

Visual-spatial Processes

Memory

Sensory Inputs

Motor Outputs

Knowledge and Skills

Functions of the

“Conductor”

Inhibit

Shift Flexibility

Modulate Emotions

Initiate

Working Memory

Planning

Organizing

Self-monitoring and Evaluating

Ref.: Peter Isquith, “Executive Function: Concepts and Assessments”

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

systems theory medical issues human body systems
Systems TheoryMedical Issues:Human Body Systems

SystemLocation

Nervous System Brain and Nerves

Skeletal System Bones and Skull

Muscular System Skeletal, Cardiac and Smooth Muscles

Endocrine System Glands and Hormones

Cardiovascular System Heart and Blood

Lymphatic and Immune Systems Lymphocytes and Macrophages

Respiratory System Lungs and Airways

Digestive System Mouth and Gastrointestinal Tract

Urinary System Kidneys and Bladder

Reproductive System Male and Female Organs

Integumenary System Hair, Skin and Nails

A person with Autism will experience

System Interruptions with many of the above.

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

systems theory breaks in the system
Systems TheoryBreaks in the System
  • It is becoming clear that the normal trajectory of neurodevelopment is altered in autism. Abnormalities in brain growth, neuronal patterning and cortical connectivity are often seen.
  • Changes to the structure and function of synapses and dendrites have also been strongly suggested in the pathology of autism .
  • Finally, environmental factors are likely to interact with the underlying genetic profile, and foster the clinical heterogeneity seen in autism spectrum disorders.
  • *reference: Pardo CA, Eberhart CG, “The neurobiology of autism,” Brain Pathol. 2007 Oct;17 (4): 434-47. Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

system theory
System Theory

The Beacon Model

Supports:

Physical

Emotional

Cognitive

Behavioral

Individual

Functioning

Cognition

Educational Achievement

Adaptive Behavior

Participation/Social Roles

Health

Context

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking
Cognition/Thinking

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

slide13

Cognition/Thinking

Exploring Brain Behavior with Respect to:

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Language
  • Visual-Spatial Functioning
  • Executive Function, and
  • Emotional Functioning

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

slide14

School Neuropsychological Assessment Model

Overall Cognitive

Functioning and

Academic

Achievement

Speed and

Efficiency of

Cognitive

Processing

Social, Emotional,

Cultural,

Environmental and

Situational Factors

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking attention
Cognition/Thinking Attention

What happens when an individual interacts with environment?

  •        Always assimilating and accommodating info
  •        Take in, process and act
  •        In order to think—one must pay attention

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking attention1
Cognition/Thinking Attention
  • Why do children with ASD

have trouble with attention?

They’re not able to determine what’s important—creating a system overload!

    • Sensory input is too much
    • Frequently don’t have organizational strategies….
    • Don’t see relationships in environment
    •  Rate of info is provided in too much volume
    • Information is too complex

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking memory
Cognition/Thinking Memory

We are required to process information, store it and retrieve it as needed.

Some people are simply unable to keep pace with the demands of society. They suffer from one or more forms of memory dysfunction.

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking memory1
Cognition/Thinking Memory
  • Memory requires systematic handling of information, including:
    • Receiving new information and holding it in short-term memory
    • Temporary storage of information as active working memory
    • Processing information and knowledge in long-term memory
    • Recalling information from long-term memory

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking visual spatial processing
Cognition/ThinkingVisual/Spatial Processing
  • The ability to visualize and process information is
  • needed for school success
  • and for practical use.
    • Interpretation of relationships involves spatial processing—knowing how objects relate to each other (size, order, etc.)

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking visual spatial processing1
Cognition/Thinking Visual/Spatial Processing

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking language
Cognition/Thinking Language
  • Aphasia—inability to produce or understand language caused by brain damage or dysfunction
  • Speech Production (Oral Expression)
  • Speech Comprehension (Receptive Language or Listening Comprehension)

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking language1
Cognition/Thinking Language
  • Problems Can be Associated with Weak Processing when Deficiencies involve:
    • Phonological Abilities (sound)
    • Morphology (root words and adaptations)
    • Semantics (word meanings)
    • Syntactic (word groupings/sentences)
    • Discourse (larger word groupings/paragraphs)
    • Metalinguistics (how language works)
    • Pragmatics (understanding in context)

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking language impairments
Cognition/Thinking Language—Impairments

Broca’s aphasia —

non-fluent aphasia with

effortful, often

agrammatic speech production.

Conduction aphasia —fluent aphasia with severely impaired repetition, but relatively preserved language comprehension

Expressive aphasia —non-fluent output

Global aphasia —complete loss of all linguistic function

Mixed aphasia —displays both receptive and expressive deficits

Receptive aphasia —impaired comprehension

Transcortical motor aphasia —impaired expressive aphasia

Transcortical sensory aphasia —language comprehension is impaired, but repetition is preserved

Wernicke’s aphasia —receptive language and repetitions are severely impaired.

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking language2
Cognition/Thinking Language

Wernicke-Geshwind Model of Language

Primary Motor Cortex

Arcuate Faciculaus

Broca’s Area

Angular Gyrus

Primary

Auditory

Cortex

Primary Visual Cortex

Wernicke’s Area

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking executive function
Cognition/Thinking Executive Function

Neuroanatomy:

Frontal Lobe Involvement

is associated with

Executive Function.

Identification of problem areas allows us to develop adaptive behavior skills for individuals with ASD.

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking executive function1
Cognition/Thinking Executive Function
  • Executive Functions include those behaviors that include:
    • Abstract and Critical Thinking
    • Choosing to Take Action
    • Voluntary Response to Stimulation
    • Planning and Organizing

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking executive functioning terms associated with executive functions
Abstract Reasoning

Anticipation

Attention Control

Behavioral Initiation/

Productivity

Behavioral Regulation

Common Sense

Concept Formation

Creativity

Estimation

Fluency

Goal Setting

Hypothesis Generating

Inhibition of Impulsiveness

Mental Flexibility

Organization

Planning Problem Solving

Rule Learning

Self-control

Self-monitoring

Set Formation and Maintenance

Set Shifting

Working Memory

*Source: Miller, Dan; Essentials of School Neuropsychological Assessment; Wiley, 2007, p. 235.

Cognition/Thinking Executive FunctioningTerms Associated with Executive Functions*

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking executive functioning development
Cognition/Thinking Executive Functioning Development

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking emotional function
Cognition/Thinking Emotional Function

Emotions are the feelings that color our lives and allow us to experience all of the joys and sorrows of life. Core emotions that are universally experienced and recognized:

  • fear
  • anger
  • sadness
  • enjoyment

Enjoyment can enhance learning; but fear,

anger and sadness interfere with learning.

People with ASD experience all of the same emotions as other people—but they can’t always communicate their feelings.

Reference: Center for Development and Learning

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking summary
Cognition/Thinking Summary

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

breaks in the system
Breaks in the System

Stored Energy

Autistic children don’t know how to manage information overloads.

Energy builds up—looking for a release.

Eventually, the child discharges energy in any available manner.

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking visual spatial processing2
Cognition/Thinking Visual/Spatial Processing
  • Overload—the body responds by seeking a situation to reduce the overload….

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

cognition thinking visual spatial processing3
Cognition/Thinking Visual/Spatial Processing

Reactions to System Overload Include Sensory-Seeking Behaviors, such as:

  • Screaming,
  • Aggression,
  • Rocking
  • Etc…

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California

system theory1
System Theory

The Beacon Model

Supports:

Physical

Emotional

Cognitive

Behavioral

Individual

Functioning

Cognition

Educational Achievement

Adaptive Behavior

Participation/Social Roles

Health

Context

Mary Jo Lang, Ph.D., A.B.P.N.-Beacon Day School-Orange, California