Archive for January, 2007

The Benefits of Music Therapy for Autism

Posted in Health & Fitness on January 26th, 2007

A professional who specializes in autism can suggest different treatment for autistic’s that can have a significant positive effect on their behavior. One such treatment is Music therapy.

Music therapy is a controlled music experience that is used to facilitate positive change in human behavior. Each session of music therapy is carefully planned, carried out, and evaluated to suit the specific needs of each patient. Music therapy can include any of the following musical activities:
• Listening to music and/or musical creation
• Playing musical instruments (any instrument can be used)
• Moving to music
• Singing

As far as autism is concerned, studies have shown that music therapy has a significant, positive influence when used to treat autistic individuals. Participating in music therapy allows autistics the opportunity to experience non-threatening outside stimulation, as they don’t engage in direct human contact.

As was previously mentioned, music therapy is made specific to each individual. This is extremely important, because what may be positively received by one autistic may be negative to another. That being said, let’s take a look at the positive influence music therapy has had on autistic individuals.
Music therapy -

Improved socio-emotional development: In the first steps of a relationship, autistics tend to physically ignore or reject the attempts of social contact made by others. Music therapy helps to stop this social withdrawal by an initial object relation with a musical instrument. Instead of seeing the instrument as threatening, autistic children are usually fascinated by the shape, feel and sound of it. Therefore, the musical instrument provides an initial point of contact between the autistic and the other individual by acting as an intermediary.

Assisted in both verbal and non-verbal communication – When music therapy is used to aid in communication, its goal is to improve the production of vocalization and speech, as well as stimulate the mental process of comprehending, conceptualizing and symbolizing. A music therapist will attempt to establish a communicative relationship between the behavior of a child with autism and a specific sound. An autistic person may have an easier time recognizing or being more open to these sounds than they would to a verbal approach. This musical awareness, and the relationship between the autistics’ actions and the music, has potential to encourage communication.

Another form of music therapy that may help with communication is to play a wind instrument (IE flute). It is thought that by playing such an instrument, you become aware of the functioning of your teeth, jaws, lips and tongue. Thus, playing a wind instrument almost mirrors the functioning required in order to produce speech vocalizations.

Encouraged emotional fulfillment – Most autistics lack the ability to affectively respond to stimuli that would otherwise allow them to enjoy an appropriate emotional charge. Thus, since most autistics respond well to music stimuli, music therapy has been able to provide autistics with an environment that is free of fear, stimuli considered threatening, etc.

During a music therapy session, an autistic individual has the freedom to behave in specific ways that allow them to discover and express themselves when they want and choose. They can make noise, bang instruments, shout and express and experience the pleasure of emotional satisfaction.

Musical therapy has also helped autistic individuals by:
• Teaching social skills
• Improving language comprehension
• Encouraging the desire to communicate
• Making creative-self expression possible
• Reducing non-communicative speech
• Decreasing echolalia (uncontrolled and instant repetition of the words spoken by another)

Keep in mind that although music therapy can have positive effects on autistic individuals, it is vital that an autistic receives such treatment from a trained and experienced musical therapist.

For more help and advice regarding autism therapy please browse through the rest of the autism articles on the Essential Guide To Autism blog.

Hidden Causes of Fibromyalgia

Posted in Health & Fitness on January 16th, 2007

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that has no known cure. It is a common disease that affects between 2 – 6 percent of all people. Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain in the tendons, ligaments and muscles, and also causes sleeping problems which can leave the affected person feeling constantly fatigued.

Medical researchers are still not clear on what causes fibromyalgia. That being said, it is believed that a number of different factors can contribute to the disease including problems with joints in the low back and neck, surgery, work related injuries, physical or emotional stress or emotional trauma. These factors may explain why some Gulf War veterans suffer from Fibromyalgia.

A health study was done on Gulf War veterans, over a decade after they served in the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. It was discovered that Gulf War vets are more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome compared to other veterans who did not take part in that war.

The study that came to this conclusion was done over the course of three years at 16 Veteran medical centers across America, and involved over 1000 gulf war veterans and over 1000 non-Gulf War vets. What was found was that while just over 1% of non-gulf war vets have fibromyalgia, 2% of Gulf War vets are affected by the pain characterized by the disease. This is a significantly higher percentage.

Due to the fact that fibromyalgia can develop in regular citizens and non-Gulf War veterans, scientists are not certain what particular factors have put Gulf War vets at a higher risk for this debilitating disease. Although it is clear that Gulf War syndrome may be the reason, research has yet to confirm that this is true.

What is Gulf War syndrome? It is a term given to illness that cause certain symptoms, some of which include: chronic fatigue, migraines, dizziness, loss of balance and/or muscle control, muscle and joint pain, problems with memory, shortness of breath, indigestion and skin problems. It is believed that Gulf War syndrome was caused by some of the drug experimentation that was performed on the veterans during their time of service.

Thus, some researchers think that Gulf War syndrome may be the reason why some of the vets deployed in this war have developed fibromyalgia. In fact, it is now being suspected and recognized by the Defense and Veterans Affairs, that along with fibromyalgia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig ’s disease), and brain cancer has a potentially direct connection to service during the Gulf War.

To learn more about Gulf War syndrome and the other illnesses that affect Gulf War veterans visit In addition, for those Gulf War vets who suffer from Fibromyalgia, there are different treatments that can be tried to help relieve pain and discomfort. As was mentioned, there is no cure for the disease, but there are ways you can make living with fibromyalgia more bearable. For instance, a treatment that all fibromyalgia sufferers may benefit from is Trigger Point Therapy.

If you are looking for more ways to experience Fibromyalgia relief please go to where you can sign up for a free newsletter.

10 Ways to Avoid the Serious Complications of High Blood Pressure

Posted in Health & Fitness on January 12th, 2007

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can have many negative affects on your health, leading to a number of dangerous illnesses including:

• Heart disease
• Stroke
• Heart Attack
• Kidney problems
• Blindness
• Dementia
• Death

High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer”, because many who have it are oblivious to their condition until they experience a heart attack or stroke. Regularly monitoring your blood pressure and making effective lifestyle changes to control hypertension, greatly reduces your risk of developing dangerous health complications, and can even help you avoid, prolong or reduce your need for medication.

The following are 10 ways you can effectively reduce your chances of developing serious complications related to high blood pressure:

1. Loose the extra weight – Did you know blood pressure usually increases with weight gain, and decreasing your weight by 10 pounds can help you lower blood pressure? Thus, the more pounds you lose, and the closer you are to your ideal body weight, the better chance you have of keeping your blood pressure in check. In addition, a healthy weight loss plan also improves the overall effectiveness of blood pressure medication

2. Regular exercise – Staying active is a great way to keep in shape and control blood pressure. Engaging in regular exercise (a minimum of 30 – 60 minutes everyday or every other day) will help you decrease your risk of developing hypertension.

3. Improve your diet – Eating healthy by lowering your intake of foods that are high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol and adopting a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grain and low-fat dairy products, can do wonders for improving your blood pressure.

4. Lower your salt intake – A diet rich in sodium can increase your blood pressure. Salt is naturally found in many of the foods and beverages we consume. Therefore, refrain from adding salt to food, limit your intake of processed foods, read the labels of the foods you buy, and eat more fresh foods so you can enjoy the natural flavor.

5. Drink alcohol in moderation – Drinking alcohol in moderation (a single drink – IE a glass of wine or beer per day) has its health benefits. However, regularly drinking beyond moderation is detrimental to your health and blood pressure.

6. Steer clear of tobacco and secondhand smoke – The nicotine in tobacco raises blood pressure by at least 10 mm Hg. Although this is only a temporary increase (lasting up to an hour), if a person is repeatedly exposed to nicotine, blood pressure can remain high constantly.

7. Limit caffeine – Studies have found that regular caffeine drinkers have higher blood pressure compared to non-caffeine drinkers. Therefore, if you can live without it, try cutting caffeine completely out of your diet. If not, dramatically reduce your intake by drinking only one caffeinated beverage daily.

8. Reduce stress – People who suffer from chronic stress are at a high risk of developing hypertension. If you lead a hectic lifestyle you need to take time out of your busy schedule to relax. You can achieve this through breathing exercises, massage, getting proper sleep, venting emotions, thinking positively and having a sense of humor.

9. Visit your doctor regularly – Have a full physical and get your blood pressure checked regularly. If you have hypertension you will probably need to learn how to self-monitor your condition. This will help both you and your doctor find the best treatments for you.

10. Find support – There are many people who suffer from hypertension. Befriending others with the same condition or joining a support group can be excellent treatment. Knowing you are not alone, and realizing that others care about your heath and well being, can help you find the encouragement you need to take better care of yourself.

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Understanding Visual Thought and Autism

Posted in Health & Fitness on January 9th, 2007

The best way to help an autistic child cope with change is to understand the way they think, so you can present ideas and situations to them in a way they will effectively comprehend.

While the average person thinks in language, the average person with autism thinks in pictures. This thinking process is known as visual thought. Visual thought is when a person thinks in pictures, images or even movies, instead of actual words and concepts. Therefore, for most autistics, words are like a second language. Written and spoken words are transformed into moving pictures with sounds in their mind. It is through the comprehension of their visual thoughts that they can either identify with a situation and words, or not understand.

Recent research on autistic thinking has found that people with autism are inclined to focus on specific details instead of the bigger picture. Unlike a normal brain that connects all of its different processing parts together, the brain of someone with autism is not entirely connected to each of its systems. This is what sometimes makes autistics excellent at one thing and unskilled at something else.

Visual thinkers have difficultly forming concepts. This is because conceptual thinking usually occurs in the frontal cortex of the brain; the part of the brain that has unusual makeup in autistics. The frontal cortex incorporates information from the thinking, sensory and emotional areas of the brain. Due to the fact that the frontal cortex of autistics is not properly connected to the other parts of the brain, they encounter problems when it comes to carrying out normal functions.

Most autistics excel at visual spatial skills, but have difficulty with verbal skills. Instead of developing new conceptual ways of thinking through emotions and words, they can create new visualizations by taking small pieces of other images they have stored in their memory banks to create new visual concepts of understanding. They translate words into pictures, and piece pictures together with actual experiences to create video-like images that make up their thought process.

Autistic individuals have difficulty learning things that cannot be visualized as a picture. For this reason, nouns become the easiest words for children to understand and learn because they can be directly related to images. However, prepositions, verbs, etc. are more difficult for autistics to process because the usually do not understand these words until they are associated with an actual event they remember doing. For instance, the word “under” may be understood through a memory of going under a table. Usually, an autistic has difficulty with words that cannot be converted to pictures and have no definite meaning on their own such as the word “and”.

One of the best ways to help the average person understand the autistic brain is to visit an online image based search engine (IE Google Images) and type in words. The images these words produce can give you an idea of how autistics think and use pictures to form concepts.

The best way to teach an autistic child is to build on their strengths, not just on that which they have difficulty. Thus, teaching and communicating with a visualization aid can be very effective and help them process their thoughts. In most cases, the more someone with autism learns, the more they will comprehend and understand that they think and feel in a different way than the average person.

Just remember, effectively communicating with a person with autism can take time. Therefore, you need to be patient, understanding, and engage your sense of humor.

Rachel Evans has an interest in Autism. For further information on Autism please visit understanding autism or autism resource blog posts.

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Posted in Uncategorized on January 5th, 2007

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