Friday, May 26, 2006

Online Aspie Community

"WrongPlanet is a web community designed for individuals (and parents of those) with Asperger's Syndrome, Autism, ADHD, and other PDDs. We provide a forum, where members can communicate with each other, an article section, where members may read and submit essays or how-to guides about various subjects, and a chatroom for real-time communication with other Aspies. Asperger's Syndrome, a pervasive development disorder, is a form of autism. People with Asperger's Syndrome usually have normal or above normal IQs. It is described as an inability to understand how to interact socially. "

Check out the Parents' Forum here.

The complete forums list is here.

There is a lot of interesting stuff at this site to explore.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

ASD: The Parents' Experience

This article touches on the agony of parents of kids with ASDs - always wondering - did we do enough - always second guessing our actions on behalf of our children.
Here are some tidbits:

"Only in the last three years has government funding for autism research surpassed private funding. Parents have been the driving force. They are the lifetime advocates for their child. ...They have led and will continue to lead the way.”

" New Jersey Department of Education statistics show nearly 7,400 children with autism were eligible for special education services in 2005. In 2002, that number was just above 4,600. And a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 5.5 children out of every 1,000 have been diagnosed nationwide. The CDC is conducting a 13-state study, which includes New Jersey, to determine if occurrence rates are on the rise."

"Early intervention is most important... The sooner ASDs are diagnosed, the more effective treatments are. Knowing that, many parents feel they're in a race against time. Specialist waiting lists in South Jersey can be six to 18 months. "

“They say these first years are critical. You lie awake at night asking, "Did we do enough, early enough? Did we waste too much time?' That's the hard part.”

Monday, May 22, 2006

RE-SCHEDULED - "Asperger in the CLassroom"

Session on Asperger in the Classroom

ASPEN Ocean County Chapter presents
Marlene P. Brown, B.A., BCABA
Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center at Rutgers University
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
7:00 - 9:00 PM
Temple Beth Shalom
Corner of Whitty Road & Old Freehold Road
Toms River (directions are on
then click on Ocean County Chapter link)
$5.00 non-members2 CEU credit for professionals attending the meeting
For more information contact

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Best & Brightest

Here's an article about a teen with Asperger's who is committed to social justice. I wonder if the President will invite him to the White House? With all the hoopla over Jason M, let's not forget that kids with disabilities can do a lot more than shoot hoops.

"“Growing up with Asperger’s syndrome (a high-functioning form of autism) has been an exercise,” [Joel] Northam said, “but overcoming it helps strengthen my resolve.”
...Northam’s goal is to make a difference in the lives of others. Northam is a magnet for social-justice issues, taking on causes such as food drives for hurricane evacuees, peer counseling on drug abuse and teen pregnancy through Team Engage, and building a house for a needy Mexican family during a spring break mission trip to Juarez. “I’m committed to social justice. I was taught we shouldn’t just go through life without leaving something behind,” Northam said. “I like helping people and knowing their concerns, and having a disability gives me the insight and the ability to relate to people.” “Joel’s activism extends far beyond lively classroom discussion on political matters; he is making a difference wherever he goes, living out by example the values and convictions he wants others to share,” said Bruce Casson, one of Northam’s teachers."

Support Meeting for Orthodox Jewish Individuals

GRASP Group Meeting Monthly for Orthodox Individuals Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Thursday Jun 8 2006 - 6 pm to - 8 pm

An Orthodox Jewish network for members of the tri-state area Orthodox community that have autism spectrum diagnoses (such as Asperger Syndrome, Autism, or PDD) has just been formed thanks to a generous grant from the IDT Telephone Corporation. Meetings will take place on the 2nd Thursday of every month (with the exception of October 2006, which will likely occur elsewhere in the month). Both men and women are welcome.

Contact Information:

Brought to you by: Fifth Avenue Synagogue

Sponsored by:

Fifth Avenue Synagogue
5 E. 62nd St. (off Fifth Ave.)
4th Floor or ground floor
New York, NY

Cost: Free

Review article on existing studies of elimination diets

This article looks interesting. All I could see for free was the abstract:

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2006 Apr;27(2 Suppl):S162-71.
Elimination diets in autism spectrum disorders: any wheat amidst the chaff?
Christison GW, Ivany K.1Department of Psychiatry, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, California 2Department of Psychiatry, Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.
ABSTRACT.: The use of complementary or alternative treatment approaches in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is increasing, and the most popular of such approaches are diets that eliminate either gluten or casein, or both. The popularity of these diets indicates a need for more rigorous research into their efficacy. Owing to significant methodological flaws, the currently available data are inadequate to guide treatment recommendations. The purpose of this review is to examine the available trials of gluten/casein diets in children with ASDs regarding the strength of their findings and also concerning points that may be useful in the design of future studies. Seven trials of these diets in ASD are critically reviewed; 6 of these were uncontrolled trials and 1 used a single-blind design. All reported efficacy in reducing some autism symptoms, and 2 groups of investigators also reported improvement in nonverbal cognition. Design flaws in all of the studies weaken the confidence that can be placed in their findings. Careful double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are needed to evaluate whether actual benefit undergirds the diets' popularity and to provide better guidance to clinicians and caregivers. The literature currently available suggests that diets eliminating both gluten and casein (rather than either alone) should be studied first and that outcome measures should include assessments of nonverbal cognition.

Autism Speaks Tri-State Lecture Series

Autism Speaks Tri-State Lecture Series
Saturday, May 20,
The Sheraton Edison, 10 am - 1:20 pm
(Just off exit 10 of the NJ Turnpike)
There is no cost for this event, but pre-registration is required.
10 am - 10:50 Let's Face It
Dr. James McPartland, Yale Child Study Center"I will discuss face processing in social development and how it informs our understanding of autism spectrum disorders. I will also describe our Let's Face It program, a game-based software platform that we have developed to improve children's ability to recognize and interpret human faces." ·
11 am - 11:50
Social Attention in Autism
Dr. James McPartland, Yale Child Study Center
"This talk will focus on the use of eye-tracking technology to investigate the ways individuals with autism see and construct their social world. It will also cover the implications that this line of research has for intervention." ·
12 noon - 12:30 Lunch (no cost)·
12:30 - 1:20 Understanding Sensory Integration in Children with Autism
Teal Benevides, MS, OTR/L, Thomas Jefferson University
"I will discuss current and past research on sensory integration for children with autism and our current research at Thomas Jefferson University."

If you have any questions about the Tri-State Lecture Series, Edison, NJ, please call 888-777-6227 ext 15 or e-mail

Family Fun Day

FACES 3rd Annual Family Fun Day
Sunday May 21, 200612:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Event Location: Cape May County Park and Zoo
For more information or to register pleasecall Isabelle at 609-822-1735.
For directions call 609-465-5271.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Combat Autism Bill

Read here about the Combating Autism Act of 2005.

Here is a summary of the bill. I lifted it from a blog called { A } :

Combating Autism Act of 2005 - Amends the Public Health Service Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish: (1) a program to provide information and education on autism and its risk factors to health professionals and the general public;
and (2) the Autism Coordinating Committee to coordinate autism related activities within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Requires the Secretary, acting through the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), to award grants or cooperative agreements to develop statewide autism screening, diagnosis, and intervention programs and systems.
Requires the Secretary, acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to award grants or cooperative agreements to provide technical assistance to state agencies to conduct applied autism research.

You can tract the status of the bill by going to:

Type HR2421 into the search field (make sure you click bill number below the search field). You can read the full text of the bill there as well.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Help for Home Schoolers

This article highlights the Bridgeway Academy, which offers online curricula for homeschooling children with disabilities like autism.

"There is a full K-12 curriculum, complete with online lessons, CD-based lessons or paper-based lessons. There is a tutoring option, with over-the-phone or online tutors helping students and parents on a given subject. Students' work, although mainly corrected by parents, is sent in quarterly for a teacher review, where the work is scrutinized closely to make sure students aren't short-circuiting the system. Grading, transcripts and diplomas are provided through Bridgeway, accredited by all 50 states.

In addition, Bridgeway partners with the Essential Learning Institute (ELI) to provide unique educational support to students with learning disabilities. Working with parents, the learning block is isolated and an appropriate method of instruction is created to counter it.

"We find out how the student processes information inside his brain," Mr. Salzman explained in a recent interview. "Then we create a specific program for them for maximum learning efficiency." The program has helped children with dyslexia, autism, attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"Of the nearly 700 previously diagnosed with ADHD or ADD, we have found most had either a severe audial recall deficiency or a visual recall deficiency -- they can't remember what they heard or saw in the short-term memory area." The Bridgeway and ELI team works with the family to create a learning program, such as sensory integration training, that helps them overcome the block. "

They claim that "The team has been able to bring the vast majority of special learners up to full functioning through a combination of home-schooling courses and individualized learning programs. "

TIME Cover Story

Big article in TIME.

Pediatricians Fail To Screen for Autism

Here's information on a Johns Hopkins study which found that few Maryland and Delaware primary care pediatricians screen patients regularly for autism and autism-spectrum disorders (ASD) as part of their overall look at possible developmental delays.

Of the 255 pediatricians who participated in the study, 209 (82 percent) said they regularly screen their patients for general developmental delays, but only 20 of the 255 (8 percent) said they do so for ASD. Of those who do not screen routinely for ASD, almost two-thirds (62 percent) said they failed to do so because they weren't familiar with the screening tools.

Previous research suggests that another factor might be that many pediatricians do not feel well-trained in general developmental and behavioral issues, researchers say.
Enhancement of residency training, complemented by introduction and training in ASD screening tools, might boost ASD screening in the general pediatric practice, dosReis added.

Almost half (47 percent) of the physicians who did not screen routinely said they preferred to send the child to a clinical specialist, whereas nearly one-third (32 percent) cited lack of time as a major reason for not screening. Of those who reported screening regularly for ASD, 90 percent said they were usually prompted to do so by parental concern and/or suspicion of ASD during routine examination.

Autism and Daydreaming

Here is a summary of a study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which suggests that people with autism might not daydream the same way that other people do.

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to compare brain activity while at rest in a group of 15 people with autism spectrum disorders (including autism and related conditions such as Asperger's syndrome) and 14 people without autism or related disorders.

Researchers say activity in certain areas of the brain is suppressed while performing mentally demanding tasks, like solving a puzzle. But when a person is at rest or performing nonstimulating tasks, these areas become very active, triggering daydreams and other introspective thoughts.
The scans showed that this type of daydreaming brain activity found in nonaustistic participants was missing in those with autism.
Researchers say these self-directed thoughts are important for processing emotional and social issues. In fact, they found that the more socially impaired the autistic individuals were, the less of this brain activity they had.
The researchers say the results of the study suggest that although some of the emotional and social symptoms found in people with autism seem to be associated with inability of this network to function properly, they cannot say that autism is caused by a neurological abnormality or vice versa.

Session on Asperger in the Classroom

ASPEN Ocean County Chapter
Marlene P. Brown, B.A., BCABA
Asperger Syndrome in the Classroom
Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center at Rutgers University
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
7:00 - 9:00 PM
Temple Beth Shalom
Corner of Whitty Road & Old Freehold Road
Toms River (directions are on
then click on Ocean County Chapter link)
$5.00 non-members
2 CEU credit for professionals
attending the meeting
For more information contact

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Helping Hands

The Epilepsy Foundation of New Jersey has a volunteer program called Helping Hands. It is an intergenerational program designed to provide families with social and emotional support, as well as much needed respite from the responsibilities of caring for a child with special needs.

The program targets children ranging in age from birth to 12 years who live in the Ocean County area. Senior volunteers (55+) will be recruited to form trusting and caring relationships with children with special needs and their families. Volunteers will share their experience and insight with families to help provide relief from stress and fellings of being overwhelmed by caring for children with special needs. Volunteers will reveive ongoing support and supervision and will also receive a stipend of $10.00 per visit.

For more information, contact:
Marge Nikodem, Helping Hands Coordinator Ocean and Monmouth Counties
Enza Jacobowitz, Helping Hands Coordinator Middlesex County
35 Beaverson Blvd., Suite 8A, Brick, NJ 08723

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Autism and Environmental Genomics

This forthcoming article in the journal Neurotoxicology seems to back up some of the claims in Richard Lathe's new book (see earlier post).

" Genetic studies to date have not uncovered genes of strong effect, but a move toward "genetic complexity" at the neurobiological level may not suffice, as evidence of systemic abnormalities (e.g. gastrointestinal and immune), increasing rates and less than 100% monozygotic concordance support a more inclusive reframing of autism as a multisystem disorder with genetic influence and environmental contributors. We review this evidence and also use a bioinformatic approach to explore the possibility that "environmentally responsive genes" not specifically associated with the nervous system, but potentially associated with systemic changes in autism, have not hitherto received sufficient attention in autism genetics investigations... Both our review and the bioinformatics exercise support the expansion of criteria for evaluating the relevance of genes to autism risk to include genes related to systemic impact and environmental responsiveness. This review also suggests the utility of environmental genomic resources in highlighting the potential relevance of particular genes within linkage regions. Environmental responsiveness and systems impacts consistent with system-wide findings in autism are thus supported as important considerations in identifying the numerous and complex modes of gene-environment interaction in autism."

Upcoming Events

1. The New Jersey Center for Outreach & Services for the Autism Community, COSAC presents its 24th Annual Issues in Autism Conference. COSAC invites individuals, families & professionals to participate in the largest New Jersey autism conference that continues to find ways to bring more information & opportunities for networking. May 18-20 Atlantic City 9 - 4:30Atlantic City Convension Center - Madelyn Schiering 609.883.8100

2. Special Education Workshop
Sharon Oleszkiewicz Director, Special Education Services, East Brunswick Public Schools Understand IDIEA and Section 504 Plan
Sunday, May 7, 2 PM Room 314, 71 Cedar Grove Lane, Somerset, NJ 08873
FREE ADMISSION *Event sponsored by the CARE center.
RSVP to: to ensure enough handouts will be available.

Autism and Pollution

This article in the London Times summarizes the major points of a book coming out at the end of May called Autism, Brain and Environment by Richard Lathe. Some interesting tidbits:

"Lathe points to research showing that autism is more prevalent in cities than in rural areas to support his view that pollution may be implicated.
He emphasises that nothing in his book contradicts the genetic research. “I aim to show how genetics and environmental factors might come together,” he says.
Lathe argues that many cases of autism could be caused by a genetically determined frailty in the body's biochemistry that makes it less able to deal with particular pollutants. So when the individual is exposed to toxins (even at levels that have no ill-effect on most of the population) their bodies cannot cope. If exposure is at a vulnerable stage of development (foetal, neonatal or at significant points in brain development) the toxins may cause damage to key areas of the brain.
“People with autism have a diverse set of physiological impairments such as hormone imbalances, gut problems and immune system deficiencies in addition to their psychological and cognitive difficulties,” says Lathe. Practitioners have often chosen to ignore these, he adds, preferring to see the physical and psychological as separate. But “recent evidence contradicts this”, he says.
It is well established that exposure to certain toxins can cause brain damage and that brain damage (particularly in the limbic system) can lead to autistic symptoms. What is more, the limbic brain is known not only to affect emotions and behaviour, but also to play a major role in regulating the body’s physiology. So the initial brain damage may go on to cause further physical problems, which, in a vicious cycle, could in turn cause yet more damage to the brain. "