Author: <span>Angus Martin</span>

The Autistic Brain and Early Intervention

Original Article Posted in Tulsa Kids Magazine. Article by: Betty Casey

I’ve had a lot of kids come to me who couldn’t read,” says Dr. Edward Gustavson, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in Tulsa. “They’re bright, 7 or 8 years old, but they can’t read. They can’t read because they can’t concentrate. These kids live in a rock concert.”

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a diagnosis of abnormal sensory processing, Dr. Gustavson says. The disorder is much more prevalent in boys than girls; however, girls’ symptoms are often more severe. In 2020, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with ASD, according to 2016 data.

Gustavson S

Gustavson, M.D., F.A.A.P., is a graduate of Harvard Medical School, a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and was clinical director of the Children’s Medical Center in Tulsa until it closed. He has been practicing developmental medicine for much of his extensive career and currently is in private practice in Tulsa.

Gustavson uses the rock concert analogy to describe the sensory bombardment that children with ASD experience.

“They have too many brain cells,” he says. “All five senses are overly sensitive.”

Electronic imagery, MRIs and varied observations and measurements of the cerebral cortex with its excessive layers provide research markers that show what happens in the child destined to have ASD.

“The normal fetal brain during middle pregnancy has many more brain cells, called neurons, than it will need,” Gustavson explains. “The bulk of the causes of ASD are related to environmental exposure in terms of the neurology or epigenetics in the womb.”

During normal fetal brain development, a “pruning” process happens to reduce excessive connections in order to direct the senses to normal sensory action and communication. However, this reduction of cells and connections doesn’t occur in the child with ASD, which results in an over-connected brain.

The most important of these connections concerns the visual and verbal cues, which prompt useful language. If this reducing or pruning doesn’t occur, the child will hear sounds as if experiencing electronic interference, with resulting lack of comprehension.

“Albert Einstein, whose brain was studied after his death,” Gustavson says, “was found to have doubled thickness layers; he spoke little until age 4, resulting from hearing too much, not too little.”

Dr. Gustavson says that parents typically bring children to see him when the children are either not talking or not reading. He would like to see children as young as possible because the earlier therapy is started, the better the outcome.

“Children should be evaluated if they’re not having language, and they’re not connecting with the mother or another person like a grandmother or caregiver.”

Dr. Gustavson describes a former fifth-grade patient who was having problems connecting with other children at school. The boy was being bullied, yet the school wouldn’t accommodate his social differences because he was academically successful. Gustavson worked with him, and the boy’s mother enrolled him in a different school where his unique abilities could be accommodated, and the class sizes were smaller.

“He became a star,” Gustavson says. “Those with ASD can learn relationships if people give them the chance and don’t push them into negative behavior patterns. They can learn to function, but not be neuro-typical; they can learn to have conversation and connection, but not be expected to process the same way as a neuro-typical person.”

Schools can accommodate children with ASD by ensuring that they are not over-stimulated. For example, putting them in the front of the class where they don’t have to look through a sea of students to pay attention to the teacher, or allowing them to skip noisy assemblies. Providing a predictable environment and a para-teacher can also help.

Unlike a regular pediatrician, a developmental pediatrician spends at least an hour evaluating a child. Gustavson says he has always opted for spending time quietly and slowly observing, evaluating and talking with his patients in treatment rather than taking a more financially lucrative path. While the coronavirus has forced more internet home observations, Gustavson says that they are sometimes more telling than office visits.

“A child with ASD does not focus into the eyes of the examiners. Often the child hides the eyes and makes repetitive sounds or movements,” he says, “but these are not too different from the actions of other children in a strange situation. In some ways, the observations I make as a doctor via confidential internet sessions of home behavior mean more. At home in quarantine with the mother’s full attention, erratic and aggressive behavior, even ADHD, is likely to be more easily observed.”

Gustavson’s approach is practical and pragmatic. He believes that the sooner therapy begins, the better the results. Swedish studies show that it is critical to establish language as soon as possible in order to see optimum outcomes. So, rather than spending weeks or months in the evaluation phase, Gustavson begins therapeutic work after a much shorter evaluation than might typically be done, for example, in a hospital setting. He also helps parents learn to establish a consistent, quiet, predictable home environment as well as giving them methods to work with their children at home.

If necessary, Gustavson may use simple, non-addictive medications, but says the medicine is “the opposite of stimulants for ADHD. Medication is just to permit a reduction in the excessive input in order to work with the child.”

The medication for ADHD can make the child with autism worse, Gustavson says.

“Children with ASD who are ready for a subject to be understood may fail simply because they are feeling panicky and upset by classroom noise, bright windows or rapid movement, for example,” Gustavson says, “or even crossed or swinging legs can create too much stimulation for them to learn. The milder medications will reduce anxiety, rather than overstimulate.”

The younger a child with ASD receives appropriate intervention through therapy, as well as classroom and home environment adjustments, the better it will be for the child and the family.

“They need to be identified early on, and the main thing we can do for all of them is reduce the stimulation and have them hear language in a calm way.”

Dr. Gustavson warns that screens are not good for children, but they have especially negative effects on children with ASD. Recent studies of 6- to 9-month-old infants in Europe show that some babies will not focus on a virtual face as “normal” babies do.

“There are 100 times the bites in Sponge Bob as in Mr. Rogers,” Gustavson says. “That screen is more confusing to the child than hammering on a simple, old-fashioned toy.”

Dr. Gustavson says he teaches parents how to talk to their child and how to manage their child.

“Communication is what we’re fostering,” he says. “I’m helping the mother communicate with her child, giving them opportunities to get better, and to help the mother and father learn to get better, to learn how to communicate with their unique child.”

 

Hope After Betrayal- A Women’s Empowerment Group

This group is for women who have experienced trauma due to their husband’s infidelity, pornography use, or other sexual addiction issues. The purpose of this group is to present the trauma perspective, provide skills to help overcome the initial trauma, and relate to other women who have gone through similar betrayal. The 10 week group will be led by Julie Likins, LCSW, CCPS.

Required Reading: Rescued- A Women’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving After Sexual Betrayal by Shelley Martinkus. Can buy from Amazon or other bookstores. Recommend paper copy versus e-book.

$50 a session. No insurance accepted for group therapy.

$250 (to cover first five sessions) is due by June 13th to secure your spot.

Julie Likins is passionate about seeing people grow, she helps people walk through struggles in life and develop the skills they need to successfully navigate them. Julie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Clinical Partner Specialist through the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). Julie would like to help you on your road to recovery.

PainPals

Chronic Pain Group (Pain Pals) will begin Wednesday, October 3rd.  Hours will be from 4:00-5:30.
My group leading experience includes six years leading the Anxiety Group at the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma.  I have led a therapy group for adult victims of sexual abuse.  I have led processing groups at Brookhaven and Laureate and Aftercare groups for persons in recovery from alcohol and drug dependency.
In introducing me to prospective clients, please emphasize my 20+ years of counseling experience with individuals, families, pre-marital, and married couples.
I am a lifelong learner and am now a candidate for LPC in the state of Oklahoma.  Therefore I am able to offer lower rates than other counselors on staff.  Please assure them I will be able to confer with colleagues as needed to best help them.
Basically, although working on licensure, I am no novice in the field.  I have a compassionate heart and am thrilled at the opportunity to work with persons needing care.
Mary L. Call, M.A.
LPC Candidate
Crossroads Counseling & Consulting
Link to this post

What is Counseling?

I will address what “counseling” is not. Counseling is not “someone getting in your head”. Counseling is not someone doing something to you to produce a predictable result. Counseling is not witchcraft. Counseling is not laying on a couch and being psychoanalyzed. (at least not in my office.) Freud was a pioneer, but the therapeutic world has evolved. Counseling is not evil or a sin.

Counseling, however, does happen in everyday situations. And it can come in a few forms: it may come in the form of a friend or an online support group. It may come in a general conversation in a grocery store line or at the gym. It can come in sitting on the shoreline and listening to the waves and your own heartbeat or watching a sunset.

Counseling involves the concept that every individual has needs that, over time, come to be expressed in a myriad of emotional Bx’s and /or negative coping skills. At some point, these behaviors become counter-productive on a daily basis or at the least, uncomfortable to the point of interfering with relationships, job performance, causing a lack of control in an area on a daily basis, or being affected by someone who displays these tendencies. These are merely a small portion of opportunities when a person may want to seek counseling.

In a counseling session, a therapist will provide a broad-based assessment of a client’s current emotional, behavioral, and relational condition. In a counseling situation, the therapist should be informed of the client’s current medications and the effectiveness and/or side effects of the medication(s). The therapist should be open, approachable, and honest about his/her ability to address the client’s concerns. Needless to say, one might look for the therapist who optimally portrays the ability to provide a comfortable, stable, safe place to “park your soul” for a while.

An involved therapist believes in celebrating the complicated individuals we have become while assisting to unravel what complicated relational situations we have created on the way. Counseling helps the counselee understand that there is comfort in knowing that someone can speak to their situation with authority. And, for the sports fans, counseling is a participation sport. The therapist should suggest “homework”. Let’s face it: if we lived in a perfect world, we would have accomplished the developmental tasks which would have prevented ours and others’ current lack of coping skills in the first place. -So a little practice is necessary to obtain the maximum bang for one’s counseling buck. “Homework” can come in the form of reading an applicable book, writing in a journal, and practicing some specific coping skills appropriate to your situation. One should enter into a counseling relationship (Yes, it IS a relationship.) with the idea of committing to at least 15 appointments. And, news flash: YOU ARE WORTH 15 APPOINTMENTS!

There are four basic steps to recovery: 1. One-on-one counseling, 2. Group (12-step Group, Codependency Group, Al-Anon, Al-Ateen, Grief recovery, Overeaters Anonymous, Divorce Recovery, Church, A book club, etc…), 3. Having some friends for accountability, 4. Having a spiritual resource.

Counseling is as effective as someone wants to make it. If you participate, it can also be a positive, life-changing experience for you on many levels, your family, and all the people whose lives you touch daily.
For more information, please contact me or one of our highly experienced, qualified therapists at Crossroads Counseling & Consultation.

Announcing the all new Crossroads Psychiatric Center- Open House March 2nd, 2018

We are excited to announce our new Psychiatric Center at Crossroads Counseling. Late last year we completely remodeled our existing facilities and added a half dozen members to our staff! In order to better serve the medical and mental health community we now offer psychiatric medication management for both children and adults. We are honored to add to our staff Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Saliba and Andrew Carter, PA-C.

Our clinic will provide SAME WEEK appointments for psychiatric medication assessments, offering morning, afternoon, and evening appointments. We accept all major insurances including Blue Cross, Cigna, and CommunityCare starting March 1st, 2018! We appreciate all you do to help advance the health of our community and we can’t wait to see you on March 2nd!

Continuing Education Event: Sexual Addiction and Partner Trauma: A New Perspective

 

Sexual addiction has become very prevalent in our culture- pornography, affairs, emotional attachments, just to name a few. While men who struggle with the addictions often have several treatment options to receive help, however their spouses are often left feeling alone, humiliated, and traumatized.

This Event will show a new perspective to treating couples that have an issue with sexual addiction and in treating the partner for trauma. LPC/LMFT CE approved; LCSW can request paperwork to submit to their organization to inquire about approval.

This Event is being led by Jim Grinnell, LMFT, ABCST and Julie Likins, LCSW, APSATS.

For more information or to register, please contact us at 918-270-4100 or fill out the contact form to register. Spots are filling up very quickly!

Children Turned Caregivers: A Support Group. Starting September 12th on Tuesday Nights

Children Turned Caregivers is an educational support group for adult children helping care for parents with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

Have you found yourself devastated by a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia in one or both of your parents? Do you struggle with the daily responsibilities, heartaches, and difficulties as you become a caregiver for them? Whether your parent is in an assisted living, nursing home, or home with you, this is a difficult transition. Come to a 6 week support and educational group run by Julie Likins, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, counselor, and previous medical social worker. As you learn more about your role and how to care for yourself and your parent, you can connect and share your story with others going through something similar. You are not alone or isolated!

Info:
Starting September 12th and concluding on October 17th. Every Tuesday night from 7:30-9:00.

$300 for this 6 week group. Must sign up and pay by 1 week before class starts to reserve spot. No insurance accepted.

Minimum of 5 people for group to start.
Max of 10 people.

If you would like to attend simply fill out our Make an Appointment Form or call us at (918) 270-4100 and we will reserve your spot.

Women’s Support Group- June 28th 2017 at 6pm

Do you feel betrayed and like there is no one to turn to? Well there are many other women who feel the same and benefit from support from one another. Join Stacie Casler at Crossroads June 28th 2017 at 6pm for an evening of encouragement and comfort for women who have experienced partner infidelity. To register, please call our office at 918-270-4100.

Looking for help is sign of strength

Individual treatment is often termed as psychotherapy, and is meant to help people with their emotional issues, which can range in order of their severity or intensity. The main aim of this form of therapy is to change the quality of life by defining the path of life clearly, and bringing in more clarity. Whether it is the problem of repressed childhood that you are facing, or an emotional breakdown due to divorce, failure or loss of a loved one, a professional psychologist can help you revive your mental health through systematic counselling.

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Get the most out of your work day

There are many emotional issues that find a corner in our heart, and refuse to die down. With time, these issues can transform into a sort of emotional tumor that impacts negatively on our daily life, such as lack of concentration, enthusiasm, self respect, will to change, encouragement, and so on. These issues can spiral into our lives in various ways and gets channelled into other zones, which can create problems in the relationships, professional life, and health.

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