Thursday, August 17, 2006

Teen with Asperger's Tops in Lacrosse

California teen Austin Green won the National Lacrosse League's Scoop n' Shoot timed skills competition in Buffalo, N.Y. He beat out hundreds of other young men ages 12 to 14 from across the country by making six shots in the fastest time: a speedy 17 seconds.
Article here [site registration required].

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Profile of Gary Numan

The singer of the 1979 hit "Cars" has Asperger's.
While Numan was having his artistic woes, bands like the Smashing Pumpkins and Foo Fighters were covering his songs and Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson were citing him as an inspiration. He was also diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a neurobiological disorder named for Hans Asperger, who studied young boys with normal intelligence who exhibited autistic-like behavior and insufficient social skills. People with Asperger's have a normal IQ and many exhibit exceptional talent in a specific area.
"I realized there was a reason for the way I see the world, which was a relief," Numan says. "I'm more comfortable around machines than people. When I was younger, there were a lot of misunderstandings because I didn't know how to deal with people. I'd do something that was perfectly understandable to me, but people found it offensive. Finding out I had a condition let me focus on what I was doing that annoyed people and helped me change the way I relate, even if I had to learn the new behavior in a mechanical manner."

Free Lecture Series

In New Jersey:
The Developmental Disabilities Lecture Series is a community and continuing education program provided for Division of Developmental Disabilities staff, community provider agencies, people with disabilities, and family members to enhance their knowledge and skills in innovative approaches and state of the art practices for people with developmental disabilities. A variety of topics are offered each fall and spring.
More info here.

Study Suggests Autism Affects Entire Brain

From ScienceDaily:
A recent study provides evidence that autism affects the functioning of virtually the entire brain, and is not limited to the brain areas involved with social interactions, communication behaviors, and reasoning abilities, as had been previously thought. The study, conducted by scientists in a research network supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that autism also affects a broad array of skills and abilities, including those involved with sensory perception, movement, and memory.
The findings, appearing in the August Child Neuropsychology, strongly suggest that autism is a disorder in which the various parts of the brain have difficulty working together to accomplish complex tasks.
The study was conducted by researchers in the Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism (CPEA), a research network funded by two components of the NIH, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Something to Share With Teachers

Ten Things Your Student With Autism Wishes You Knew

"The last word: believe. That car guy Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are usually right.” Believe that you can make a difference for me. It requires accommodation and adaptation, but autism is an open-ended disability. There are no inherent upper limits on achievement. I can sense far more than I can communicate, and the number one thing I can sense is whether or not you think I “can do it.” Expect more and you will get more. Encourage me to be everything I can be, so that I can stay the course long after I’ve left your classroom."

Model School Program Gains Attention

"A collaboration [in Pennsylvania] among Neumann College, Ellyn Institute, and the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District (the NEW-S project) is attracting national attention. For a full year, the three institutions have been working together to meet the needs of special education students, especially those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), in two public schools. Recently, members of the NEW-S team presented their work at the 2006 National Autism Conference in State College.

The resulting collaboration brought public, private and higher education together in a project that provides not just abstract consultation and advice, but daily on-site classroom support for ASD students at The Kids Place (the W-S district-wide kindergarten center) and Swarthmore Rutledge School. A NEW-S team member is present every day of the school week in different classes to observe students, create learning strategies, and serve as a resource for school district personnel, who provide language and speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and social skills training in addition to the regular elementary curriculum.
Groups at both schools hold regular meetings to implement adjustments to individualized educational plans and review progress toward identified goals.Feil calls NEW-S "a landmark program" because of the scope of services (20 children with special needs at the two schools), the significant amount of in-service training provided for faculty and staff during the summer of 2005, and the daily presence of a team member in the schools."
Full article here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ultrasounds and Brain Development

Here is an article in USA Today reporting on a study that suggests that ultrasound waves can affect fetal brain development.

"[Pasko] Rakic's paper said that while the effects of ultrasound in human brain development are not yet known, there are disorders thought to be the result of misplacement of brain cells during their development.
"These disorders range from mental retardation and childhood epilepsy to developmental dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia," the researchers said.

In Rakic's study, pregnant mice were exposed to ultrasound for various amounts of time ranging from a total exposure of 5 minutes to 420 minutes. After the baby mice were born their brains were studied and compared with those of mice whose mothers had not been exposed to ultrasound.
The study of 335 mice concluded that in those whose mothers were exposed to a total of 30 minutes or more, "a small but statistically significant number" of brain cells failed to grow into their proper position and remained scattered in incorrect parts of the brain. The number of affected cells increased with longer exposures."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Founder of BitTorrent Has Aspergers

Here is a profile of Bram Cohen, a 30 year old computer whiz who also has Asperger's.

Read it just to savor the fact that the article treats his Asperger's as just one part of who he is, not the entire part. And no mention of "suffering" or "affliction".

Friday, August 04, 2006

Families Online Columnist

Families Online welcomes new monthly columnist Christopher Auer, author of Parenting a Child With A Sensory Processing Disorder. Auer's column is called "Exceptional Families With Exceptional Kids. His first column talks about back to school anxiety -- for parents, as well as children, and offers some concrete advice for starting the year off with clear communication between families and schools.

Labels - "Asperger's" or "Specialized Mind"?

Thought-provoking article on Mel Levine.

Here are some choice bits:

"At the very least, kids with specialized minds deserve toleration and support. And what we find, is, very often their strengths are being neglected while everybody tries to plug up holes or leaks in their minds. And that's a shame because when they grow up they are going to make a living on their strengths."

"I think the labels can be a self-fulfilling prophecy -- if you decide you are pathological, you can become increasingly pathological."

"I'm very controversial," Levine said, "which is what I always wanted to be. They disagree with me. There are several complaints about me -- the most common is that Mel Levine is right in all of his thinking and he's totally impractical. Schools need labels and insurance companies need labels and we have to lump kids together so we can do research on them."

NJ Eases Rules to Fill Special Education Jobs

The old state code required teachers to have six credits in special education courses before they could be eligible for special education certification and begin to teach special education students.But with a statewide shortage of special education teachers, many school districts were instead asking the state for emergency certifications to allow the teachers to begin teaching before they complete the courses.The new code allows the teachers to begin teaching special education students and enter the alternate route special education certification program simultaneously. State officials said that eliminates the need for emergency certifications and assures that the teachers are taking the required coursework while they teach.

Full article here.

No Link Between Month of Birth and Autism

Study debunks birth season-autism link.

"...the season in which a person is born reflects their exposure to certain types of infectious agents in the womb. An example is whether their mother caught the flu during flu season. Nutrition could also vary throughout the year, he added.


[Dr. Abraham Reichenberg of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and colleagues] looked at Jewish men and women born in Israel during the early 1980s who were assessed by the Israeli Draft board at the age of 17. There was a total of 311,169 people, including 211 with autism or related disorders.

The researchers point out that a person with autism in the group they evaluated would be likely to truly meet diagnostic criteria for the condition, especially since the individuals in the study grew up in an era where the diagnosis of autism was much more rare than it is today.
The researchers found no link between the month a person was born and autism risk. "In light of the present and other recent findings, it would seem logical that future attempts to identify an association between birth months and risk for autistic spectrum disorders should be exercised with caution," they conclude.
SOURCE: American Journal of Psychiatry, July 2006."

Cambat Autism Act

The Combat Autism Act passes in the U.S. Senate. Next stop - The House.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Study: Different Genes May Cause Autism in Boys and Girls

News from Science Daily on a study from a team at the University of Washington, headed by Gerard Schellenberg:
" "It is highly unlikely that there is only one gene responsible for autism," said Schellenberg. "There may be four to six major genes and 20 to 30 others that might contribute to autism to a lesser degree.
"If an individual only gets three high-risk variants of these genes, it could mean a less-severe form of autism. And because autism is rarer in females, it may take more risk genes for a female to have autism. There also is the possibility that there might be a biological difference in autism for females versus males," he said.
"What is meaningful is that we have found evidence for two genetic subtypes of autism, male versus female and early versus late onset," added Geraldine Dawson, a professor of psychology. "This is a critical piece of information. With Alzheimer's disease research, one big breakthrough was segregating the late and early onset forms of the disease, and this led to important genetic discoveries."
The search for autism genes is part of a long-term Autism Center effort to uncover the genetic and neurobiological causes of autism. To find regions of the human genome that contain autism genes, the researchers scanned the DNA of 169 families that had at least two siblings who met the strict criteria for autism. They also scanned the DNA of another 54 families that, in addition to having individuals with strictly defined autism, also included members who had less severe forms of the disorder, such as Asperger syndrome.
"We have been working almost 10 years to get to this point," said Schellenberg. "If we can find and confirm that a particular gene is involved in autism the field will explode. We have to find a gene so that molecular biology can be defined and we can understand what's inside autism. Until that happens, we are dancing on the outside." "

Please also note the following:
The research is part of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism. The research is ongoing and families who have more than one child of any age with an autism spectrum disorder who are interested in participating in the UW genetics study can call toll free 1-800-994-9701.