Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Specific Memory Problems in Autism

This article reports on research that sheds new light on memory function in people with autism and how that can affect socialization. Some excerpts:

"First, the children with autism, compared to the matched controls, had poorer memory for complex information (many individual elements or one complicated element) in both word and picture form. In essence, the children with autism found it hard to remember information if they needed a cognitive organising strategy to aid recall or if they had to detect such an organising element in the information itself.

The authors speculate that people with autism "don't have the automatic cross talk between brain systems - the reasoning and the memory systems - that tells their brain what is most important to notice or how to organise it thematically."

...Second, children with autism also had poor working memory for spatial information, or remembering over time where something was located once it was out of sight...

...Despite these two impairments, the children with autism did not have global memory problems. They showed good associative learning ability, verbal working memory and recognition memory. ..

...Let us say some teenagers see a poster for a new movie about a small-town romance. They talk about going to the movie and joke about the love story. One boy, though, interrupts with how great it will be to see a football film. Hearing this seeming non sequitur, the other kids stop talking. The boy, who has autism, does not understand why they are not interested in what he is saying. He was responding to what he saw - not the larger-than-life stars embracing, but the small background detail of a man in a football jersey. "

Nice Collection of Articles

GRASP (The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership) has a page of links to informative articles.
"What makes GRASP unique, other than its proven four year-old support group network, its educational outreach, and its use as an informational clearinghouse on issues relating to the autism spectrum, are the stipulations GRASP must adhere to in accordance with our bylaws — that the Executive Director, 100% of the Advisory Board, and 50% of the Board of Directors of GRASP must be diagnosed with either Autism, Asperger Syndrome, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder."

Child Brain Database

This is cool!
From Mind Hacks:
"A database of MRI scans of normally developing children has been launched that could revolutionalise the understanding of childhood brain function, injury and disease. It includes brain scans of 500 children from 7 days to 18 years-old and aims to be representative of the population at large...One difficulty with many current studies of brain development in children is there is no precise reference for what constitutes 'normal' development." [bolding done by me]
Here is a link to a summary and Powerpoint presentation from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Article Suggests Genetic Cause of Autism

Here are some excerpts from this article in the Telegraph, a British newspaper:

"In a new study, Prof Simon Baron-Cohen believes the impaired ability of people with autism to communicate, recognise emotions and socialise is linked with the same genes that enable a person to systemize - find the laws that govern how a system works...

...According to a survey of 1,000 members of the National Autistic Society, fathers and grandfathers of children with autistic spectrum conditions are twice as likely to work in a systemizing profession such as engineering...

When all the evidence is taken together it suggests a genetic cause of autism, with both parents contributing genes that ultimately relate to a similar kind of mind: one with an affinity for thinking systematically...[Prof Baron-Cohen] thinks the key characteristic is "exactness"[italics are mine] in their style of thinking."

What autism is costing schools

"I understand autism is on the front page of many newspapers and the lead on many news programs, and rightfully so," Johnson said. "It is presenting us with a new challenge we must respond to. That response includes reaching out for professional development opportunities to increase our knowledge, collaboration with those who have greater expertise than we do and, most importantly, being committed to the children and the resources they need. That's the reason why I am so proud to be a part of this program, because we share this philosophy."

Nice to hear these words from a Connecticut school principal. Full article here.

Article on early detection

"We need to remember that even though children with autism may seem very different than other children, the fact is that they are capable of growing and changing, too," she said. "They just need our support to show the world their gifts ands talents."

Parents can relate to this article.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Disability Radio

Mother of a child with Asperger's hosts a radio show called "Disability News and Views". Past guests include Henry Winkler, (The Fonz), Teri Garr (movie and TV actress), and Dr. Temple Grandin, among other. More information here.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Dubbed "the first ever theater festival dedicated to neurological conditions", this event has been going on since January 5 in New York City. It ends on January 29th. One play "The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Robot", is described as "A Pinocchio tale in reverse, presented as a fairy tale from a foreign culture—the culture of people with Asperger's Syndrome. Features puppetry and design elements inspired by the work of autistic artists. "

Rock On!

Here is a heartwarming article about a boy with Asperger's who is a drummer in a rock band.

"The band was the idea of Evan and Sawyer's dad, Daniel Goodson, as a way to involve Sawyer in socially-acceptable activity and, according to Goodson, the benefits were more notable and larger than he expected.
Sawyer has a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning autism with profound social issues. The band has provided an opportunity for social interaction — not only for Sawyer, but for his 6-year-old brother Cameron, who has the more recognizable non-verbal form of autism. "

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Free Online Courses

The Rich Center of Youngstown University offers two free online courses: one on autism and one on Asperger's. Here is the info on the Asperger's course:
"The Paula and Anthony Rich Center for the Study and Treatment of Autism is an externally funded unit of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio. The Rich Center was designed to improve the social, educational, and vocational success of children with Autism. Through Youngstown State University, the Rich Center provides referral information, treatment, and support to families affected by Autism, as well as education for professionals and students.This course was designed to help visitors understand more about the distinctions between Asperger's Syndrome and Autism.When you have completed this course, you will have a better understanding of what Asperger's Syndrome is, how it compares to Autism, and the treatment strategies associated with Asperger's Syndrome."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Online Journals

I have been playing around with a feed from Pubmed, and stumbled upon this online journal:

Asperger's Syndrome Research Today
They seem to post articles from scholarly journals. It looks promising. I will try to keep tabs on it and post studies that look interesting. Full-text access may cost money, though.

The same company also puts out:
Autism Research Today

I am trying not to post too many studies. They seem to be to me very narrow in their subject matter - both in scope and in size. By scope, I mean they seem to cover very particular aspects of autism and ASDs. And by size, I mean that the sample sizes in many studies seem to be incredibly small.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Major survey on autism to be carried out across European Union

"DUBLIN, Ireland: A major survey on autism is to be carried out across European Union member states to see if the condition is reaching epidemic levels, it emerged today.
Disability rights campaigner Kathy Sinnott said the European Autism Information System (EAIS) project, which has €480,000 in EU Commission funding, will discover how common the condition is...

...A central aim of the project is to have an agreed information system to record data on autism and a specific database is being developed by the National Centre on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities in Atlanta, in the United States."

Read the full article here.

Was Andy Warhol Autistic?

This is from The Scotsman:

AMONG those given MBEs in this year's New Year Honours was the artist Stephen Wiltshire. A big success, his immensely detailed cityscapes fly off gallery walls. He is also autistic. But are the two connected?
Ioan James, a professor of geometry at Oxford, is writing a book investigating whether Andy Warhol, among other influential figures in the arts, mathematics and history, suffered from Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism. His use of grid patterns, paralysing shyness and tendency to repetitious behaviour may be clues that he did. Michael Fitzgerald's The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger's Syndrome and the Arts suggests it could also be added to Van Gogh's list of ailments. Likewise, LS Lowry. Seems that Scottish painter Peter Howson, who realised as an adult he was an Asperger's sufferer, is in good company.
James has said characteristics associated with creativity - "perseverance, perfectionism, disregard for social conventions and unconcern about the opinions of others" - are remarkably like those associated with Asperger's.
In Edinburgh, meanwhile, the work of three remarkable young artists is at the Atticsalt Gallery, 50 Thistle Street North East Lane, until next Saturday, to raise funds for the Autism Treatment Trust. Lloyd Allanson, 10, Danielle McLernon, 14 and Louis Larochelle, 9, all suffer from autism to different degrees and all have produced artwork with an unusual degree of attentiveness and maturity.
Exhibition organiser Lorene Amet, Lloyd's mother, says: "A lot of people have autism. Are they more talented than others? I don't think you can be sure. I think their work stands out because it's different, they perceive the world differently."

Saturday, January 21, 2006


This article mentions a man with AS using neurofeedback.

What You Eat Is How You Think

Here is an article from upi.com that mentions gluten-free and casein-free diets for people on the spectrum.

The Vines

I just found out that The Vines' lead singer was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. They are about to release a new album and possibly resume touring. You can read about them on their website here, and about their recent troubles here.

Employing People on the Spectrum

This article from the BBC claims only 1 in 10 people with Asperger's are in full-time employment. I don't know what region(s) of the world that entails.


From the U.S. Department of Education, via this newspaper article:


•The number of children in the U.S. served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has increased from under 20,000 in 1993 to almost 120,000 in 2002, the most recent year that data is available.

•Students with autism have increased by more than 500 percent in the last 10 years.

•Approximately 68 percent of all federal expenditures for children with autism are used for education and instruction related services

Autism Workshop

This is in Atlantic County, NJ:

FACEs Autism Worskhop - 2/7/06

The next FACES Autism Workshop at the Northfield Community School will be on February 7th from 6pm until 9pm.

This workshop will focus on giving participants the opportunity to develop potential solutions for the following areas:

1. Positive Behavior Support. The speakers are Chris Devaney, DDD, and Elaine Bailey.
2. Sensory Integration Support. The speaker is Mary Kientz, MS, OTR.
3. Floortime/Greenspan. The speakers are Susan Elmer, Cindy Fertsch and Trish Doebbler.

The fee for this workshop is $5 for FACES members and $10 for non-members.

If you are interested in attending or have any questions, please call me at (609) 569-8081.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Autism Speaks Database

This looks promising. I am glad to see them including parents in the program.

"Bob and Suzanne Wright's organization, Autism Speaks, is giving $2.3 million to the Kennedy Krieger Institute to fund the first year of development of an autism database that eventually will connect parents, educators and researchers. The idea: Through an open, interactive process, those participating will be able to share information, be part of ongoing studies and look for clues to causes and treatments for autism spectrum disorders, which now affect 1 in every 166 U.S. children. "

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Autism in the Media

More evidence that autism is catching the attention of that double edged sword, big media:

Autism Speaks Co-Founder Suzanne Wright will appear on ABC's Emmy
Award-winning daytime talk show The View this coming Wednesday, Jan. 18,
to discuss Autism Speaks' work to increase public awareness and raise funds to facilitate research, as well as the importance of early diagnosis. Check your local TV listings to find out when and where The View airs in your area.

Dr. Phil is doing a show on Asperger Syndrome which will air on Tuesday,
1/17/06. One of the families featured is from Ohio and includes a 15-year-old
teenager with ASD.

Monday, January 16, 2006

"A Disorder That Is Defining an Era"

Big article in Child Magazine.

Sometimes coverage like this just makes me a little squeamish. Autism is not, and never will be, trendy. It is not the flavor of the month to those who live with it every day.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

MSNBC Coverage

MSNBC has put together a special report, with lots of articles and links here. I have not read it all yet, but it looks like a lot of information. While we may know a lot of this information already, this might be a good place to refer extended family members to, as they learn about your child's diagnosis.

A Dash of Poetry

I subscribe to a daily newsletter from the Writer's Almanac. I signed up to get the daily dispatches of literary history. I am not usually a big fan of poetry. I thought I would just ignore the poems that come with the e-mail every day. But I have found, to my surprise, that I like them. They aren't as frustratingly obtuse as I usually find that whole genre. One day last year, when I was having a speaker on visual learning here at the library, the daily poem was written by the mother of an autistic child. Here it is:

Poem: "Autism Poem: The Grid" by Barbara Crooker from Radiance © Word Press.

Autism Poem: The Grid

A black and yellow spider hangs motionless in its web,
and my son, who is eleven and doesn't talk, sits
on a patch of grass by the perennial border, watching.
What does he see in his world, where geometry
is more beautiful than a human face?
Given chalk, he draws shapes on the driveway:
pentagons, hexagons, rectangles, squares.
The spider's web is a grid,
transecting the garden in equal parts.

Sometimes he stares through the mesh on a screen.
He loves things that are perforated:
toilet paper, graham crackers, coupons
in magazines, loves the order of the tiny holes,
the way the boundaries are defined. And in real life
is messy and vague. He shrinks back to a stare,
switches off his hearing. And my heart,
not cleanly cut like a valentine, but irregular
and many-chambered, expands and contracts,
contracts and expands.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

ASDs and Brain Function

Here are some sketchy details about a study out of Australia. It doesn't say how many subjects they studied, and I have to wonder what "less activation in the deep parts of the brain responsible for executive function (attention, reasoning and problem solving)" really means.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Ritalin Study

This article describes the results of a study of the effects of Ritalin on children with pervasive developmental disorders. It seems there are no easy answers - "Methylphenidate was often efficacious in treating hyperactivity associated with pervasive developmental disorders, but the magnitude of response was less than that seen in typically developing children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder," and "adverse effects were more frequent," the researchers concluded."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Actors Teaching Social Skills

From a California newspaper: "Drama Program Enhances Social Skills for Children with Asperger's Syndrome".

Free online courses

This information came my way via Jackie of FACES:

Dear Colleague,

We are pleased to offer these free resources to help increase independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

"Partners in Education," is a six-hour, self-directed e-learning course to help parents with children with developmental disabilities better understand and maximize the benefits of special education services and inclusion for their children, is now available. Go to www.partnersinpolicymaking.com/education to review the course and give us your comments and feedback.

"Making Your Case" is a three-hour, self-directed course on how to communicate with public officials by effectively telling your personal story, writing a letter, providing testimony, and communicating in positive ways. Go to www.partnersinpolicymaking.com/makingyourcase to review the course. We welcome your comments and feedback.

"Partners in Employment" is a six-hour, self-directed course created to give users the practical skills needed to find real, competitive employment in their own community. Participants will receive helpful information on how to find a job, writing a resume, participating in an interview, and planning for your career. Go to www.partnersinpolicymaking.com/employment to get started.

Please know that these free resources are relevant and useful regardless of where a participant is located.

We would greatly appreciate your mentioning these valuable opportunities in your next newsletter, listserv or other communications with those you work with, and forwarding this message to anyone who might be interested.

And as always, please let us know by return email (MinnesotaDDCouncil@msn.com) if you prefer to not receive future announcements.

Thanks again for all you do, and your consideration of this ongoing project.

Colleen Wieck
Executive Director
Minnesota Governor?s Council on Developmental Disabilities

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Information & Referral

I know I am posting a lot today about COSAC (The NJ Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community). They have a wealth of information and families need to know about it. For example, they have this page of referral lists for services for children with autism and ASDs. Need a dentist who can work with a child on the spectrum? They have a list, broken down geographically by NJ county. Check it out. I am sure you will find something useful.

FREE Parenting Series in NJ

This is from COSAC:

Parent Series on Behavioral Intervention & Educational Rights and Home-Based Consultation Services

This series of classes is presented four times per year at various locations throughout New Jersey. This series is designed for parents who have children with autism, PDD-NOS, “autistic-like” behaviors, and related developmental disabilities.

Parents and other family members can be the best teachers a child with autism will ever have. Thus, COSAC teaches family members those techniques that have been demonstrated to be effective with individuals with autism to increase the family's likelihood of an improved outcome. Behavioral treatment offers a systematic and well-researched approach to teaching appropriate behaviors and decreasing inappropriate behaviors. Most individuals with pervasive developmental disorders have an expanded repertoire of skills and increased quality of life when the treatment is implemented in a person-centered, positive, and consistent manner. The Parent Series on Behavioral Intervention focuses on this type of assessment and teaching, formally known as applied behavior analysis (ABA).

The classes cover the following information: how to define and analyze behavior, how behaviors are learned, the components of successful teaching, and safely reducing inappropriate behaviors. Other important classes include information on advocacy, special education rights, and parent and professional collaboration. COSAC staff presents the series using a combination of lecture, videotape, and group participation activities.

COSAC's 2006 Parent Series will be held in Mercer, Union, Salem and Bergen Counties. Be sure to visit our COSAC News & Events page for details about the next Parent Series.

Parent Series on Behavioral Teaching - January 14, 21, 28 and February 4, 2006
Location: Kimball Medical Center600 River AvenueLakewood, NJ 08701
10 AM-230 PM
Cost: Free
Contact Barbara Wells @ 609-883-8100 x 45 or -email her at barbara.wells@njcosac.org for more information.

One stop shop

This site offers a wealth of information on autism and ASDs.
I like to read Mind Hacks when I get the chance. This blog charts the latest developments in neuroscience and psychology. Autism comes up as a topic from time to time. A recent posting pointed to a BBC radio program "All In the Mind" which explores the "very latest research on autism" and also touches on the idea of neurodiversity. There is a link to listen online. The BBC page has a link to this study on the genetics of autism.