Friday, September 28, 2007

Thimerosal Study

Here is a link via Robert Bazell in The Daily Nightly that leads to the full-text article in The New England Journal of Medicine "Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years". I don't know how long it will be available for free online.

NJ Father Wins Lawsuit for Son's Care

I heard the teaser for this story by Larry Abramson on NPR, but missed the broadcast. It is now available live online.
"What they said when they rejected me was that treatment was not restorative. It didn't restore a previously existing function," Micheletti says. "Jake was three and a half. He had never spoken before. [The insurance company thought], 'Why should we give him verbal behavior therapy to make him speak now.'"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Autism in Girls

I missed this article from August 5th's New York Times Magazine by Emily Bazelon on autism in girls. It's heartbreaking in its description of the social isolation and depression that girls on the spectrum might be in greater danger of suffering, simply becasue social connections are so important to girls' self-esteem and social awkwardness is a more acceptable male trait.

"Because there are so many fewer females with autism, they are “research orphans,” as Ami Klin, a psychology and psychiatry professor who directs Yale's autism program, puts it. Scientists have tended to cull girls from studies because it is difficult to find sufficiently large numbers of them. Some of the drugs, for example, commonly used to treat symptoms of autism like anxiety and hyperactivity have rarely been tested on autistic girls. "

"No doubt part of the problem for autistic girls is the rising level of social interaction that comes in middle school. Girls’ networks become intricate and demanding, and friendships often hinge on attention to feelings and lots of rapid and nuanced communication — in person, by cellphone or Instant Messenger. No matter how much they want to connect, autistic girls are not good at empathy and conversation, and they find themselves locked out, seemingly even more than boys do."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Contagious Yawning

Fron Mindhacks come this study published by the British Psychological Society that claims that people with ASDs are immune to contagious yawning.
"Past research has found that seeing the eye region of someone yawn is key to the yawn's contagious effects. So perhaps the fact that people with autism are known to focus more on the mouth region of people's faces, rather than the eyes, could partly explain the current findings.Atsushi Senju and colleagues said their results “support the claim that contagious yawning and the capacity of empathy share common neural and cognitive mechanisms.' "

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Tuesday's (9/18/07) episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show (CBS) will be about Autism.
Actresses Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson Peete will guest. (Thanks, ASPENNJ Ocean County!)

Friday, September 14, 2007

New Baron-Cohen Study Links Autistic Traits to Testosterone

From a story in the Telegraph of the United Kingdom by Nic Fleming and Roger Highfield"
"Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, from Cambridge University, one of the world's leading experts on autism, revealed initial details of his new study at the British Association Festival of Science in York yesterday.
Professor Baron-Cohen said: "The idea that fetal testosterone may play a causal role in autism is an existing hypothesis.
"There's no evidence that it's a causal factor, but this research is certainly consistent with that hypothesis."

The Urge to Label

When I started reading this article in Newsweek by Lorraine Ali, I thought it was bashing "overdiagnosis" of ASDs. But then I came upon this paragraph:
"... Mary-Dean Barringer, of the nonprofit learning institute All Kinds of Minds, says we put too much emphasis on the labels that others assign to our kids. "We're absolutely appalled by this diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome," says Barringer. (Asperger's is a high-functioning form of autism, marked by obsessive interests and impaired social interaction.) "These are very highly specialized minds, and to put a syndrome on it and treat it as an aberration does damage to kids and families. There are still challenges there on how to manage it, but why not call it a highly specialized mind phenomenon rather than a disorder? That label alone shapes public perception about uniqueness and quirkiness." "

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NJ Autism Bills Signed Into Law reports "A bill package sponsored by Senators Loretta Weinberg and Joseph Coniglio, designed to increase and improve available resources for families and individuals living with autism, was signed into law today by Governor Jon Corzine. The bills were signed at the Eden Institute, a non-profit organization which provides educational and vocational services to adults and children living with autism."
If you go to this page, you can type in the bill numbers to see the text of the laws. The bills are:

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Possible Genetic Link Between Anorexia and Autism

Katy Campbell of the London Times interviews Professor Janet Treasure, the author of a new study examining the similarities in thought patterns between people with eating disorders and people (especially girls) with autism.
"What we now realise is that we need to be looking at underlying neural networks in the brain – how patterns of information are processed, how this affects both behaviour and the way an individual reacts to her environment, and why this goes wrong. We need to consider those aspects of how the brain functions that increase the risk of someone falling prey to an eating disorder. "
"We have found, for example, that people with eating disorders find it difficult to change self-set rules and learnt behaviour once fixed in the brain. They also see the world in close-up detail, as if they are looking at life through a zoom lens – but this can be at the cost of having an ability to see and think about self-identity and connections with others without getting lost in the details.
We also discovered that this distorted pattern of processing information has a strong similarity to autistic spectrums. It has even been described as the female form of Asperger’s. Traits that may appear present in childhood, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or overperfectionism, can often indicate a vulnerability to developing an eating disorder later in adolescence. "

Scholarship for Students with Autism

Lisa Jo Rudy of reports that the Organization for Autism Research is offering a scholarship to students with autism pursuing post high school studies. They will award three $3000 scholarships annually. The deadline to apply is September 28, 2007. Full details here. Cool!