Recent studies show that people with autism are twice as likely as others to engage in substance abuse, contrary to previous belief that they are extremely unlikely to use drugs or alcohol. An expert and an author who has used alcohol to cope with his autism discuss the developments and their impact.
Drowning: It Doesn’t Look Like You Think
Seven hundred children under age 15 drown in the US each year, most within sight of a parent or other adult. Experts discuss one major reason: drowning doesn’t look like most people picture it, and so are unaware the child is in trouble.
Contrary to public opinion, autism is not a safeguard against substance abuse. In fact, experts say people diagnosed with autism are just as likely, if not more likely, to turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with the challenges of their lives. Elizabeth Kunreuther, clinical instructor at the University of North Carolina Wakebrook Addiction Treatment Center and co-author of Drinking, Drug Use and Addiction in the Autism Community, explains what autism is, why people with autism turn to harmful substances, and the implicit ethical implications.
Many family members and friends assume that their loved one is immune from substance abuse because of several protective factors inherent in autism, such as social and sensory issues and rule-following behavior. But, Kunreuther says, these factors are not as protective as they seem. People with autism struggle to fit in with society and thus can develop a dependence on various substances. She also points out that if the person with autism is indeed helped through substances, she believes there is nothing wrong with their use, as long as it is moderated.
Providing another perspective, Matthew Tinsley, Asperger syndrome patient and co-author of Asperger Syndrome and Alcohol: Drinking to Cope, shares the story of his own experience, as he struggled with using alcohol as a coping mechanism. He says that being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, is what helped him move away from an unhealthy addiction.
To learn more about autism and its connection to substance abuse, visit Kunreuther’s and Tinsley’s websites in the links below.
Elizabeth Kunreuther, Clinical Instructor at University of North Carolina Wakebrook Addiction Treatment Center and co-author of Drinking, Drug Use and Addiction in the Autism Community
Matthew Tinsley, Asperger syndrome patient and co-author of Asperger Syndrome and Alcohol: Drinking to Cope
A drowning person is usually within a few feet of people who could help. Although, bystanders can only help if they recognize what drowning really looks like. As summer approaches, many of us will head to the pool or beach. Seven hundred children under the age of 15 drown every year in the US, and about half of them are within 75 feet of an adult. Dr. Francesco Pia, water safety educator, lifeguard and trainer for over 20 years, tells us about his study of what a drowning person really looks like.
While movies often show the drowning person thrashing, waving, or calling for help, Pia says that drowning is actually a quiet event. When someone is drowning, their body functions on instinct, which means all of their energy is focused on taking at least one more breath and trying to push themselves up to the surface.
Mario Vittone, retired Marine Safety Specialist in the US Coast Guard, explains a few common signs of drowning. While the person may look like they’re treading water or trying to climb a ladder, they are actually extending their arms and trying to push their mouth above water. Head tilted back, eyes glassed over, and hair over the eyes are more signs of a quiet, desperate attempt for life.
While it’s important to recognize the signs of drowning, prevention is better. Pia says that drowning can result from a mere five-minute lapse in supervision. Parents often read a book or look at their phone, thinking they’ll hear their child if something is wrong. But, Pia says, if you don’t hear them, they’re in trouble. Above all, he emphasizes the importance of parents knowing CPR.
To see a video of what a drowning person really looks like or to learn what to do if someone is drowning, visit the links below.
Dr. Francesco Pia, water safety educator
Mario Vittone, Retired Marine Safety Specialist, US Coast Guard
Growing up on a farm leads to a more stress-resistant immune system and a lower risk of mental illness. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences lends support to the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which holds that growing up in “too clean” an environment can produce asthma and other health problems. The study compared people raised in the city with no pets against those who were raised with farm animals, surrounded by bacteria-laden dust. Researchers found that the bodies of people raised on farms responded better to a stressful situation…although they felt they were more stressed than the city dwellers.
Macular degeneration is the largest cause of blindness in older people and vigorous exercise may make it more likely in men. A study in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology tracked more than 200,000 people over more than 10 years and found that men who exercised vigorously five or more days per week were 54 percent more likely to develop macular degeneration within 10 years. Researchers say they’re surprised by the results. Exercise did not produce the same problems among women.
And finally, if you want to enjoy your job more, get your co-workers to complain about work with you. A study in the journal Organization Studies finds that complaining with colleagues in a joking way about common problems at work boosts morale and builds relationships. However, researchers caution that the joking has to be about work structure not people.
Going to work while not feeling well could be harming the economy. Three experts discuss the impact of presenteeism, when employees come into work but don’t get much done. Rob Hosking, Senior Vice President of the HR and staffing firm Ranstad USA, was involved with a national survey which found that over half of the participants always or frequently go in to work when they’re feeling sick. Presenteeism is mostly caused by chronic conditions, like illnesses or injuries, as well as distractions from media and technology.
Todd Whitthorne, President of ACAP Health, discusses the various reasons and fears behind presenteeism. Employees can be afraid that they’re out of sick days or will lose vacation days, feel guilty that someone else will have to take on their responsibilities, or be worried that they’ll lose their jobs by missing too many days of work. But in the long run, coming in to work while unwell can cost the company more time and money. Presenteeism has also been found to affect 35-44 year olds and certain professions, such as flight attendants, more than others.
The role of employers in presenteeism is also important. Whitthorne encourages managers to examine the work culture they are creating in the office and the example they are setting for their employees. In the long run, accommodating employees helps the company more than encouraging them to come to work no matter what.
Chronic illnesses, such as allergies, diabetes, and migraines, are often behind presenteeism, rather than the common cold. Michael Klachevsky, Practice Consultant for Absence Management at Standard Insurance Company, says that the nation’s total cost of productivity loss at work because of chronic conditions can be billions of dollars a year. Mental health is an especially big factor, as it is rarely acknowledged or treated.
Klachevsky says that spending the money to accommodate these chronic conditions, especially under the motivation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ends up saving the company more money by making the employees more productive. The responsibility for saving the money lost on presenteeism falls to the employer and the health culture they create in their workplace, which can potentially improve the overall health of the population.
Find out more about these experts and about presenteeism by following the links below.
Rob Hosking, Senior Vice President, Randstad USA
Todd Whitthorne, President, ACAP Health
Michael Klachevsky, Practice Consultant for Absence Management, Standard Insurance Co.
When life changes from revolving around the kids to adjusting to an empty nest, many parents find themselves asking “what next?” Wendy Aronssen, psychotherapist and author of Refeathering the Empty Nest: Life After the Children Leave, explains the common experiences of many parents when their last child leaves the home.
While popular culture often sees the empty nest as an opportunity for celebration, many parents commonly feel a sense of loss, insecurity, and instability. Aronssen says this is no surprise, because parents who have had the same life and job description for 18+ years are suddenly left without a label. She calls the experience of the empty nest “the shift,” because every aspect of life gets changed.
Aronssen says the emotional experience of empty nesters can follow the outlines of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. To handle all these emotions, Aronssen encourages parents to see the empty nest as an opportunity for growth and development as individuals and as a couple.
The impact on a couple’s marriage holds potential for the great rewards of a newly revived marriage or for divorce. It takes intentionality to rediscover goals and dreams for the parents. Aronssen also brings up the complication of the boomerang children, kids that return home after being unable to move out or find a job after graduation. She emphasizes the importance of setting clear expectations on both sides. Ultimately, there is a loss in the empty nest, but there are also many opportunities for a fulfilling future.
To learn more about empty nesting or to purchase a copy of Aronssen’s book, visit the links below.
Wendy Aronssen, psychotherapist and author, Refeathering the Empty Nest: Life After the Children Leave
If you’re heading outside here’s more reason to use insect repellant. A new report from the CDC shows that illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flee bites have more than tripled in the U.S. since 2004. Reported cases of diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile, Zika, and Lyme disease increased to nearly 100,000 cases in 2016, and those are just the cases that officials know about. Many people get sick who are never reported. Experts say a warmer client means that ticks and mosquitoes are moving into areas where they couldn’t live before.
Chemicals used in fracking are often found in ground water supplies nearby. And now a study shows those chemicals could harm the immune systems of children exposed in utero. A study on mice in the journal Toxicological Sciences exposed pregnant mice to 23 fracking chemicals at levels similar to those found in ground water near fracking sites. Offspring grew up with abnormal immune systems and an inability in females to fend off diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
And finally, a few years in the future people with food poisoning may be able to drink a cocktail of viruses to get better. Researchers using a simulated small intestine have demonstrated that viruses can attack and kill E. coli without harming nearby beneficial bacteria. The study in the journal Gut Microbes predicts that when the technique is perfected viral cocktails could replace antibiotics for the treatment of some bacterial infections.