Monday, July 24, 2006

Paper on Educational Interventions for Students with Asperger's

This paper reports on a study that looked at how children with Asperger's are educated in southern New Jersey.
A sample of 12 students ranging in age from 8-13, was drawn from 9 public schools and 3 private elementary schools in the South Jersey area. Findings of the study indicate that a small teacher to student ratio was the most successful form of academic intervention, while the behavior modification system in conjunction with positive teacher attitudes was the most successful form of behavioral intervention. Successful forms of social skills intervention were sparse, which indicates a need for further exploration in that area. The report closes with teaching recommendations.

Autism Info on Rice Krispies Boxes

This post at Mind Hacks reports on an Autism Speaks campaign that is putting information about autism sympotoms on cereal boxes.

See Autism Diva's take on it here.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Autism Lit

On the surface, this essay is an overview of recent books written mostly by parents about their children with autism. But it is also a criticism of many of the popular "causes" and "cures" for autism. I know it is sure to be controversial, and I usually try to stay out of this fray. But I think the essay is worth reading, no matter which side of the "war" you are on. It pains me to see parents of children with autism divided over these issues. We should be sharing our insights, resources, laughter and tears and the political infighting reduces us all. The last two paragraphs say it so well:

" 'Acceptance is all’ writes Charlotte Moore, whose account of her two autistic sons George and Sam has recently been republished in paperback. Perhaps this is why that, of all the parental accounts, hers is the one in which the children themselves emerge most vividly as personalities, as children with autism rather than as the autistic children of parents preoccupied with their own predicament. Acceptance does not mean falsely celebrating the different individuality of the autistic child, nor does it mean adopting a fatalistic posture that nothing can be done. But it does mean parents and others accepting and loving the autistic child as another human being, and it means accepting that the quest for a miracle cure is not likely to be helpful for their autistic child, for any other children they might have (Ollie and Daniel, like Joe and George and Sam, and my son, all have long-suffering siblings), or for themselves.
Parents feel sadness and anger when their child is diagnosed as autistic, but in time they usually stop railing at the world and direct their energies into strategies that will benefit their child and their families. Campaigns that channel parents’ energies into the pursuit of wonder cures, or into futile confrontations with doctors, scientists or other professionals, or into litigation over vaccines, offer illusory hopes - and targets for blame and recrimination. At best they divert and dissipate already overstretched parental energies. At worst they encourage an enduring rage that is likely to compound family difficulties, to intensify isolation and lead ultimately to demoralisation. "

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Brain Differences

From Science Daily:
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, M.I.N.D. Institute have discovered that the brains of males with autism have fewer neurons in the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in emotion and memory. The study, published in the July 19 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first neuroanatomical study to quantify a key difference in the autistic amygdala. David Amaral, research director of the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, and former graduate student Cynthia Mills Schumann counted and measured representative samples of neurons in the amygdala of nine postmortem brains of males who had autism and 10 postmortem brains of males who did not have autism. "

Here's how they got the samples:
“Back when these studies were conducted, it wasn't easy to acquire the brain of a deceased person who just had autism,” Amaral explained. “We are fortunate now to have the Autism Tissue Program, funded by the National Alliance for Autism Research and the National Institutes of Health. With their help, we were able to analyze more than double the number of previously examined postmortem brains, none of which had seizure disorders or any major neurological disorder other than autism.”

This is just the tip of a rather large iceberg:
“We're in the very early stages of understanding autism and its neurological pathologies. It's clearly a process with many steps, and at least we are now one step further...One possibility is that there are always fewer neurons in the amygdala of people with autism. Another possibility is that a degenerative process occurs later in life and leads to neuron loss. More studies are needed to refine our findings,” said Schumann.

Full article here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lakewood Blueclaws

August 12 will be Autism Awareness Night at the Lakewood Blueclaws game in Ocean County, NJ.

Born On a Blue Day

"I always knew I was different from other children, but it was not until I was eight or nine that I was aware of being lonely. I used to long to be normal but, because I tend to break things down, my sense of self was thousands of fragments of memories that I was trying to piece together. "

Autistic savant writes a memoir. This book has just been released in the United Kingdom and is not due out in the United States until January 2007.

Friday, July 07, 2006

PDD-NOS Diagnoses

This news wire article refers to a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry which reports that many young children first diagnosed with less severe conditions -- called pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) -- later have their diagnoses changed to autism.

"The researchers...followed 192 children referred for evaluation for possible autism before 36 months of age, plus 22 children with developmental delays between ages 13 and 35 months. At age 9, 172 of these children were available for reevaluation.
According to their report in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the researchers found that at age 9, most of the changes in diagnosis were "associated with increasing certainty of classifications moving from ASD/PDD-NOS to autism."
More than half of those initially diagnosed with PDD-NOS later met the criteria for autism, Lord's team indicates. Conversely, only one of 84 children diagnosed with autism at age 2 years was found to not have the condition at 9 years of age."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Autism Movement Seeks Acceptance, Not Cures

"I love the way my brain works, I always have and it's one of the things I can now admit to myself. I like the way I think in terms of numbers. I like the way I visualize things. I like the way most especially that I can bury myself in work that I love to a degree that makes everybody else in the world look at me and go, 'God! I wish I could do that.' No, I am not changing anything."

Nice, in-depth article from National Public Radio.

At the Movies

An editor at Entertainment Weekly shares a brief story about taking his children, one of whom has an ASD, to the movies. (I think a lot of us can relate to this - although my son really likes the movies, he always insists that we leave before the credits roll. For some unfathomable reason, he cannot stand to see that slow crawl of names.):

"Sue and I figure that now's as good a time as any to try a movie, and Cars is supposed to be pretty good. (Also, Finding Nemo is Sophie's favorite movie — actually, the only movie she'll watch the whole way through, repeating her favorite lines over and over — so maybe Pixar is our lucky charm.)
We shuffled into the theater a little early, thinking that walking into a pitch-black room might be too sudden a shock for the kids. We grabbed four seats in the last row, prepared to dash if it wasn't going well. No popcorn: didn't feel like Heimlich-ing my kids for the first time in a movie theater.
We were set, ready to go. The movie started...and Sophie couldn't have cared less. A few minutes in and she hopped off her chair, climbed onto Sue's lap, and sort of retreated into her own world. And she wasn't quiet about it either, snatches of dialogue from her favorite TV shows coming fast and furious.
She wasn't ready for the movies, as we sort of expected. But, to our surprise, Luc was..."

Test Could Spot Autism at Birth

I'm back from vacation - very busy at work, so posting may be spotty for the next several weeks. This article is making the rounds.
"Previous studies noted the presence of "trophoblast inclusions" -- an indicator of cellular abnormality -- in the placenta as a marker for Asperger Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine studied the placentas of 13 children diagnosed with ASD to determine if there was a similar marker.
Compared to the placentas of 61 healthy children, the 13 placentas of Asperger-affected children were three times more likely to have trophoblast inclusions, the Yale team found.
"We knew that trophoblast inclusions were increased in cases of chromosome abnormalities and genetic diseases, but we had no idea whether they would be significantly increased in cases of ASD," study author Dr. Harvey J. Kliman, research scientist in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale, said in a prepared statement. "These results are consistent with studies by others who have shown that ASD has a clear genetic basis," Kliman said.
Results of the study are published in the June 26 online issue of Biological Psychiatry. The researchers said they expected to further examine the presence of trophoblast inclusions as an indicator of ASD in future studies, with a larger study base and more in-depth analysis."