Monday, December 31, 2007

Clinical Trials

I may have posted this before but it seemed worth revisiting. If you are looking for clinical trials related to ASDs, check out

Here is a sampling on a search "autistic disorder".

Friday, December 21, 2007

Smart is not an Endgame

Penelope Trunk reminds us to pay attention to social skills - our own and our children's.

"And when you think about someone finding his way to success in the real world, consider the Wall Street Journal's list of traits that recruiters look for in business school candidates:
• Communication and interpersonal skills
• Original and visionary thinking
• Leadership potential
• Ability to work well on a team
• Analytical and problem-solving skills"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Just testing out a change made nervously to my template. I am such a blog design coward!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Article on RDI

This article by Mary Jiminez from the Shreveport Times (Louisiana) describes one family's experience with RDI - Relationship Development Therapy. The price tag is $500-$800 per month, and it is not covered by insurance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Autistic Brain Structure & Development

Wrongplanet posts an interesting article from the journal Neuron about the size of portions of brains in autistic children and autistic adults.

"Surprisingly, current research is showing different results in the brains of autistic children compared to data collected in adults. The very same structures that appear smaller in adult autistic brains appear much larger and overgrown in autistic children. "

This paragraph is kind of shocking:
"Considerations for developmental aspects of autism are becoming ever more important. Even gene-association studies may be inconsistent because the genes that cause and regulate differential development may not be the same as those genes that respond to these differences later in life, making it hard to define a clear set of “autism” genes. This means, that genes found in autism studies may be identifying genes involved with secondary issues and are not finding genes that have to do with developing autism directly. Indeed, many genes identified thus far in autistic patients have to do with regulating cell death in the brain and may only be expressed secondarily in response to the overgrowth of particular brain structures."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Contestant with AS on "America's Top Model"

Aspiring model Heather Kuzmich made it to the Top 5 on the current edition of "America's Top Model." Heather, has Asperger's Syndrome, and her experience is described in this article. I'm sorry I missed this. If anyone did watch it, please comment with your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

AS and Sleep

This should come as no surprise to parents of children with Asperger's. But at least they are studying it.
" The first known attempt to evaluate the sleep patterns of children with Asperper Syndrome (AS), taking into account sleep architecture and the cyclic alternating pattern (CAP), finds that children with AS have a high prevalence of some sleep disorders and mainly problems related to initiating sleep and sleep restlessness together with morning problems and daytime sleepiness, according to a new study."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bush Vetoes Funding Bill for Combating Autism Act

From the Autism Society of America Web site:
"On November 13, President Bush vetoed the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill. This bipartisan bill had strong support in both the House and the Senate, but the President objected to the overall funding levels of the bill, which includes modest increases for vital programs - most of which have experienced significant cuts, lost purchasing power or both over the past three years.
This legislation includes significant increases for autism programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Services Administration and the National Institutes of Health. These increases represent full funding of the Combating Autism Act, and are critical in improving our ability to diagnose, intervene and develop new therapies for autism. We need this crucial investment!
The House could move to override the President’s veto as early as this week. Contact your Member of Congress and urge them to vote YES on the veto override.
Click here to take action now."

Monday, November 05, 2007

NJ Theater Workshop for Adults with Autism

From Tina Kelley, reported in the New York Times, an article about a 12 week theater workshop at Montclair State University.
"B. Madeleine Goldfarb, the director of outreach and education at the Autism Center, helped get funding for the program. She said of the center’s clients: “Most of them have some sort of passion for something, and can be savantlike within that particular passion. How do you harness that?”
Ms. Goldfarb, who is pursuing more grants for the program, described its roots in discussions with some of the center’s clients.
“They were all sitting in their own little worlds, not communicating with one another around a big conference table, not making eye contact or engaging,” she said. She asked them what their passions were, and the atmosphere quickly became charged as a consensus grew around theater.
“There was a change in connectedness, in reciprocity, in giving suggestions, with other people in the room commenting on suggestions,” she said. “It was astounding.”
By welcoming adults, the workshop fills a crucial need. Suzanne Buchanan, the director of clinical services at the New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community, described “almost a total lack of funding of appropriate programs” for adults with autism, many of whom do not work full time.
“Having a meaningful activity where they’re working productively with others, working toward a common goal, is a really great way for them to spend their time,” Dr. Buchanan said.

Monday, October 29, 2007

AAP Reports

The American Academy of Pediatrics just published two new reports related to ASDs. Although they are written for clinicians, they are sure to have useful information for families.

The first is called "Identification and Evaluation of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders".
It describes signs and symptoms for pediatricians.
The second is "Management of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders". According to the press release, this report "strongly advises intervention as soon as an ASD diagnosis is seriously considered rather than deferring until a definitive diagnosis is made. The child should be actively engaged in intensive intervention at least 25 hours per week, 12 months per year with a low student-to-teacher ratio allowing for sufficient one-on-one time. " The press release also says, "Pediatricians who treat children with ASDs should recognize that many of their patients will use nonstandard therapies. The report says it’s important for pediatricians to become knowledgeable about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, ask families about current and past CAM use, and provide balanced information and advice about treatment options, including identifying risks or potential harmful effects. They should avoid becoming defensive or dismissing CAM in ways that convey a lack of sensitivity or concern, but they should also help families to understand how to evaluate scientific evidence and recognize unsubstantiated treatments. "

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


This article by Debi Boucher Stetson in a New England newspaper, touches on a sticky subject: what and whom to tell about your child's special needs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Facilitated Communication

This blog post from Dr. Sanjay Gupta at CNN triggers some interesting comments on Facilitated Communication.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Clinton Asked About Autism

Just a blurb that came my way. Posted by Mark Murray on an MSNBC News blog called "First Read":
"[Hillary} Clinton answered questions from voters at a town hall at the opera house here, which was her second stop on a two-day swing through the state...Other audience members asked...what she would do to address disorders like Asperger's syndrome, which is part of the autism spectrum of disorders. Clinton responded ...that she wanted to be the president to put autism on the map and help families dealing with it. ."

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!

Friday, August 31, 2007


No posts this week - I have been on vacation. We went to Sesame Place. NT daughter and I enjoyed the roller coaster! It's amazing to see the progress my son has made since we last visited. We all really enjoyed ourselves. We also went to a minor league baseball game where he begged to stay for the postgame fireworks. We can't believe this is the same kid who had major panic attacks every Fourth of July! My son and I also saw a wild major league game yesterday between the Mets and the Phillies. So we have had a lot of fun family time. Next week is back to school. The new routine might be tough for the first few days. Fourth graders are going to change classes this year, to get them used to a different way of doing things. So we are anticipating some bumps in the road from out organizationally-challenged kid. But I am optimistic that he will adapt. Enjoy these last days of summer!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Talk of the Nation Today

The online link for this story is up here.
Audio of the broadcast will be available online after 6:00 pm, Eastern Time.
Please also consider commenting on the Blog of the Nation here.
Related NPR story on parents fighting for insurance coverage of treatment of autism here.

I heard on the radio this morning that "Talk of the Nation" on National Public Radio is devoting an hour to the impact of the rise in autism cases on schools. This is a call-in show. They generally have a few experts talk for a while, then open the phones to comments from listeners. It runs for 2 hours with a different topic devoted to each hour. It airs live at 2:00 pm, Eastern. More details will eventually appear here. Find your local NPR station here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

An Aspie's Perspective

The August 20 issue of the New Yorker has a wonderful essay called "Parallel Play" by Tim Page. He writes a wonderful first person account of life with Asperger's. Page is a Pulitzer Prize winning classical music critic for the Washington Post. Unfortunately, this essay is not available online. Here are a few excerpts:
"In the years since the phrase became a cliche, I have received any number of compliments for my supposed ability to 'think outside the box'. Actually, it has been a struggle for me to perceive just what these "boxes" were - why they were there, why other people regarded them as important, where the borderlines might be, how to live safely within and without them."

"A friend published a sweet autobiography entitled "Thank You, Everyone," in which she expressed gratitude to everybody who had influenced her...If I were to create a similar book, I would call it "Sorry, Everyone" and apologize for my youthful cluelessness..."

"...I cannot pretend that Asperger's has not made much of my existence miserable and isolated (how will I get to sleep tonight?). I hope that young Aspies, informed by recent literature on the subject, will find the world somewhat less challenging than I have."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Autism Researchers Think They Are Closing In on Cause

This extensive Newsday article by Delthia Ricks focuses on recent genetic research and the reaction of some parents of children on the spectrum.
" With his Cold Spring Harbor [Laboratory] collaborators, Jonathan Sebat and Lakshmi Muthuswamy, [Michael] Wigler has found that spontaneous mutations specific to autism occur with a relative degree of frequency in the human genome. These random strikes are technically known as copy number variants, or CNVs. The Cold Spring Harbor team defines these mutating hits as a major cause of autism."

"Support from the Simons Foundation has allowed the researchers to collect genetic samples from 264 families nationwide, involving more than 1,000 individuals. Within these families, Wigler and colleagues were able to identify 118 families they dubbed as "simplex" where only one member displayed symptoms of autism and 47 families that were identified as "multiplex," with two or more affected siblings. The rest were controls.By studying families, the team was able to determine whether a child's genes were identical to the parents' or whether they contained variants. The investigation revealed the variants were most prevalent among people with autism."

"Alison Singer, executive director of Autism Speaks, a national advocacy organization, said the Cold Spring Harbor studies are destined to have a strong impact on how parents understand autism."We want them to pursue the science wherever it leads," Singer said. "But we don't want to get into a situation where we blame the parents. When some parents read stories about older fathers or older mothers, they can become very sensitive."Singer said what's missing in Wigler's work is the mechanism that causes genes to mutate. Susceptibility genes, she said, often need an outside stimulus to set off a genetic chain of events. Perhaps parents may be correct who think vaccination underlies autism, said Singer, whose daughter and brother are autistic."

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Meaning of Napoleon Dynamite

Child Psychiatrists Hope Levin and Steven Schlozman weigh in on the popularity of the movie "Napoleon Dynamite". Psychiatrist Brett Sharp writes a letter of response.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Autism/Pesticide Link? And What to Do About It

Charles has an excellent post at The Special Education Law Blog about the recent study demonstrating a possible link between autism cases and maternal exposure to pesticides while pregnant. Hip post has lots of advice about what parents can do to learn about their local school's use of pesticides and how to promote an IPM - Integrated Pest Management system.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Autism on Oprah

Oprah's August 2nd show was on autism. Go to her website to see the episode and explore other resources.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Preparing for an IEP Meeting

Charles at the Special Education Law blog has linked to an informative web site that helps coach parents at IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings. It's a table of typical comments made by school officials with suggested responses by parents that might help get a more meaningful dialogue going. The law site is out of Colorado, but laws from other states are also cited.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

AS in Adults

Very interesting article in USA Today, by Suzanne Leigh, about diagnosing Asperger's Syndrome in adults. Be sure to check out the comments. This quote is sure to generate some response:
"Almost by definition, an Asperger's person would not form an intimate relationship, get married and have children," says research scientist Katherine Tsatsanis of the Yale Developmental Disabilities Clinic. "They don't form connections. The desire, the drive and the social knowledge is lacking."

The doctors quoted in this article have posted a disclaimer on their website. They say they were misquoted.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


This article by Eliza McGraw in the Washington Post offers a nice detailed description of hippotherapy - "which uses the natural movements of the horse as a tool for physical, occupational and sometimes speech therapy."

"Unlike therapeutic riding, which teaches people with special needs how to ride, hippotherapy (the name derives from the Greek word for "horse") focuses purely on the repetitive motion of the horse's walk, which mimics an average person's gait."

"Therapists may work with adults as well. But William Benda, an emergency physician and advocate of hippotherapy in Big Sur, California, is more enthusiastic about hippotherapy's effects on children than on adults. "The future benefit is much greater for the 4-year-old than a 40-year-old," he says. 'Injury to the brain is static, but the function worsens over time. Children's bodies have to grow around an asymmetrical disability, and they get worse. So we try to catch them as early as possible.' "

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Swimming Lessons

I could really relate to this post from Ali Edwards at A. I like Edwards blog because it's about more than all autism, all the time. Kind of like life.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Social Skills Therapy: Ineffective?

Lisa Jo Rudy has initiated a discussion at on social skills classes for children with ASDs. She refers to a recent review article which looks at studies of social skills interventions. The results are not so great.
See the discussion here.
An article about the study is here.

Study Shows Signs of Autism Appear Early in Some Children

Anita Manning writes in USA Today that "Children with autism can be identified as early as 14 months old, the youngest age at which the disorder has been diagnosed, a study by researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore suggests.
But about half the time, symptoms may not show up until months later. That suggests at least two distinct paths leading to autism: one that starts early in life and one in which a child seems to develop normally and then regresses, losing language and social skills. " Full story here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Author to Appear on NPR

Ralph Savarese, author of REASONABLE PEOPLE: A MEMOIR OF AUTISM & ADOPTION, will be interviewed on the nationally-syndicated National Public Radio program, "The Diane Rehm Show", on Monday, June 25th to talk about his autistic son and the new book. He will be on from 11am - 12pm in the Washington DC area, although the show airs in hundreds of markets around the country. Please use this link to find a local station in your area that airs the show and the time it will air:

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Help Group

This California Based organization has a nice collection of practical articles on ASDs and Asperger's on their web site here. Topics include - how to talk to your pediatrician, improving behavior, medications. They are brief, and may be worth sharing with family members who might be having difficulty understanding what ASDs are.

Autism Research Bills Pass NJ Assembly

From the AP wire in the NJ Courier-Post:
"Amid concern about New Jersey having America's highest autism rate, state senators Thursday pushed forward proposals to promote autism research.
The Assembly-approved bills would establish a statewide autism registry and provide more money for research and treatment. The bills are among several autism-related proposals that can now be considered by the full Senate."

Here is information on the registry bill.
This bill also seems to be moving along.
Information on other bills related to autism pending in the State Legislature is here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Blog Carnival

The Special Education Law blog is hosting a blog carnival on June 18, 2007. Guidelines for submission are here. This is a great way to discover other blogs.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hacking My Child's Brain - Update

Here's a progress report from Mark Woodman, who wrote a series of articles in Wired magazine about treatment for his son's sensory processing disorder.
"Despite the encouraging results, the program isn't a quick fix for sensory processing disorder. Proprioceptive awareness is still pretty tough for Caleb. His brain may be getting the right information now, but he still has to learn how to use it for the first time. We hope that he now has the neurological wiring needed to eventually catch up with his peers in social areas. The intriguing aspect of this whole experiment is to see evidence that my son's brain continues to reorganize itself around the sensory information. Caleb is experiencing the world in new ways, and only time will tell what comes of it. "

Monday, May 21, 2007

Autism and Race

Kathleen Megan of the Hartford Courant reports on the 18 month lag time in diagnosis for an African American child with autism.

" Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association based in Nixa, Mo., said the issue is "actually driving us crazy. ... I think there are probably a lot of kids with autism in the minority community who are going undiagnosed."Fournier said her group is establishing a committee to reach out to minority communities. "At conferences we go to, there are no black people there, no minorities. It's kind of freaky. It's very, very noticeable.' "

"[David] Mandell, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, studied children on Medicaid in an attempt to eliminate income as a factor in quality of care. He found that white kids were diagnosed at 6.3 years old, compared with 7.9 years for African American kids. This late age for diagnosis is "not good for anybody," said Mandell."

"Mandell's study also showed that African American children were less likely - by 2.6 times - to receive an autism diagnosis on their first visit to a specialty care office and more likely to be misdiagnosed with conduct disorder and adjustment disorder."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

When a Child Outgrows the Safety Net

UPDATE: I neglected to include the essay's author in my initial post. It's Lisa Romeo. My apologies.

The New York Times publishes some wonderful essays on the weekends. I have really liked what I have found in their "Modern Love" weekly in the Sunday Styles section. The "New Jersey/NY Region" section also has some really good pieces.

This one appeared on Mother's Day in the NJ section, under a heading that said "Generations". I don't know how much longer it will be available for free online. But I thought it was worth sharing. A few excerpts:

"How does a mother keep from continually moving the net? Am I done with all that because Sean no longer arranges toys in straight lines or needs listening exercises? Because he can focus on a tennis ball in play, calmly enter new classrooms sans rehearsal? He is no longer so different, but is there still a special need? Something he still needs, from me? Maybe knowing, but not revealing, where his molted skins lie?

What do I know anyway? That it took 136 vision therapy sessions for his eyes not to hurt when the TV picture rolls or the sun glints off the pool? That his toddler habit of repeating every sentence I said was not cute but a sign of neurocognitive miswiring?

Sean may not be so different now, but I will always be a different mother, with painful memories of what could have been ordinary moments...

...I cherish the cheerful, dimpled adolescent with the amazing vocabulary, but he comes packaged with the recovered child of a thousand traumas. And the mother-advocate is a role difficult to relinquish. I was good at it. I got him through..."

This essay is adapted from “Special Gifts: Women Writers on the Heartache, Happiness and Hope in Raising a Special Needs Child,” to be published by Wyatt-MacKenzie in June.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

We Just Got a Diagnosis, What Do We Do?

This brief article has some good tips.

I would add to it "Visit Your Library." Most of the library's books on autism have been selected because they have gone through the publishing process, which usually involves some sort of fact checking, and they have received good reviews from reliable professional resources. (Our library uses Booklist and Library Journal, along with catalogs from specialized publishers.)

A staff member at our library is also creating a collection of worthwhile web sites that will soon be posted on our library's home page. As soon as it is up I will link to it from the blog.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Jenny McCarthy Goes Public About Son with Autism

"I did want to acknowledge and confirm the fact that my son does, indeed, have an autism diagnosis," McCarthy, 34, said on Thursday's edition of ABC's The View, on which she served as guest cohost.

McCarthy's book on the subject, Louder Than Words, is scheduled to published in September.

"I just want moms ... who have children out there with autism ... to know that I am coming back in a few months with this book, and I am planning on using my big, giant, controversial mouth to blow the lid off a lot of things related to autism to give moms hope," she said. "It is so needed." story here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Garage Door Cakes

"When he turned three years old, I brought out my inner “Martha Stewart” and baked a birthday cake that I knew no one else would ever imagine — a cake in the shape of a garage door."

Just another day in the life of a parent of a child with autism!

"It is never my intention to have him labeled ... I just want to have him understood."

"...I didn’t want to write this commentary to draw attention to my child. I just think it’s important for everyone to be aware that all too often there’s “more than meets the eye”. Before I had my son, I admit to judging a parent’s skills if the child misbehaved. But now I’m aware that we don’t know the whole story. I’m still learning patience and know that there is hope for each child diagnosed with austim, wherever they fall on the spectrum."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Book Review: Children's Fiction

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis
Did you ever watch that wildlife show with Marlon Perkins that was on Sunday nights before "Wonderful World of Disney"? Marlon Perkins was so unflappable and smart, like a scholarly grandfather. Emma-Jean is sort of like Perkins, observing the behavior of her fellow 7th graders at William Gladstone Middle School. Their antics are quite messy and illogical, according to her. But they don't bother with her much, so she is free to observe them at her liesure. But one day she stumbles on Colleen Pomerantz crying her eyes out in the girls' bathroom, and Emma-Jean decides to see if she can apply her knowledge and intellectual abilities to solving Colleen's problem. To her great satisfaction, Emma-Jean's efforts are successful. This leads her to try to fix the problems of other students and some teachers at her school. What happens next teaches Emma-Jean a lot about matters of the heart and the mind.
It's hard for me to be subjective about this book. I devoured it in about a day and absolutely loved it. Though it is never stated, Emma-Jean displays many hallmarks of high functioning quirky kids on the autism spectrum. What is so cool is that Emma-Jean may be odd, but she is not really any stranger than the kids at the public school she attends. And by the end of the book, Emma-Jean takes her place among them - even though she is a bit odd, she finds a way to belong. Phew! Even thinking about it now makes me a little bit verklempt. I truly hope kids take to this book - it's got such a positive, affirmative message - we are all different, and we all belong.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spanish Language Site

Here is a web site providing information and support for Spanish-speaking parents of children with autism.

I found this on my colleague Ellen's blog. Thank you, Ellen for your encouragement and hard work on behalf of families of autistic children!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

TV Show Alert

Nick News on the Nickelodeon network is broadcasting a show entitled "Private Worlds: Kids and Autism" on Sunday, April 22. It will be hosted by Linda Ellerbee and profile one child with autism, one with Asperger's and one with savant abilities. Temple Grandin also appears, asking kids not to tease their classmates with autism.
More details here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New Early Diagnosis Test

Found this on the Special Education Law Blog:
Researchers have discovered that something as simple as calling out a baby's name to see if he or she responds could be the first step in early diagnosis of autism. "If a child fails the test at 12 months, they're highly likely to have some abnormal developmental outcome that could probably respond to therapy," said Dr. Sally Ozonoff, a professor at the University of California, Davis' M.I.N.D. institute.
Full article here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sensory Wall

An Occupational Therapist has designed a wall that helps kids with sensory integration issues. The article includes this description of SID:
"It's like when you are watching television," explained Merrin Brown, registered occupational therapist at BMH and team leader for Blount County Schools. "You are using your sense of sight, sound, touch and also taste if you are eating. You are also using cognition to enjoy your favorite show. But if the dog starts barking or the kids are screaming or the phone rings, you will either get frustrated or yell at someone to be quiet. With children with sensory needs, it's like that every day."

Monday, April 16, 2007


It's National Library Week! If you haven't visited your local public library lately, give it a try. There's lots of good stuff there, including DVDs, magazines, and books. Check out what they have on ASDs - you might be pleasantly surprised. And it's a lot cheaper to borrow books than to buy them!
In celebration of reading, here is a heartwarming story from a mom with two children on the spectrum.
"...when my twins were diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, I could feel my legs go numb as I read all the things an autistic child might never do. One of my favorite activities with my children has always been reading books to them; could it be they would never share that joy? Would I never hear them read "Go, Dog. Go!" to me?"
"...although there are many fears for our children, they can reward you with wonderful surprises, just like a colorful flower suddenly pops from the barren and cold ground. It was there the whole time, just waiting for everything to come together."

Monday, April 09, 2007

Did Mr. Darcy Have Asperger's?

At first I thought this was a bit silly, but upon further reflection, maybe it demonstrates that people on the spectrum have been around for a very long time, and represent a predictable, recurring aspect of human nature.

I may touch more on this after I finish reading Unstrange Minds, a new book on autism written by a medical anthropologist. It explores the labels we give to different human behaviors. So far it is really good.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Learning Social Skills by Watching

Two new studies at Indiana University demonstrate that videos depicting exemplary behaviors can be effective in helping children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders develop social skills and daily living skills.
Details here.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Did It Work?

Part 8 of the Wired Series "Hacking My Child's Brain" looks at preliminary results.

Thomas the Tank Engine

Here's an example of a child with ASD whose Thomas obsession led to a breakthrough.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Another Way to Communicate

This article highlights a promising use of Makaton, a kind of modified sign language.
"To the untrained eye, it may look like a funky new dance routine.
But for many the introduction of Makaton, a new form of sign language, is proving a lifeline. Little Morgan Harrison, a pupil at Park School on Whitegate Drive, is a "non-speaker" and on the autistic spectrum. But since September the five-year-old's development has come on leaps and bounds thanks, his mum and teachers believe, to the use of Makaton. Makaton uses simple pictures, hand gestures and the spoken word to communicate on a child level. "

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Philadelphia Zoo Awareness

April 22 is Autism Awareness Day at the Philadelphia Zoo. There will be a magic show, jugglers, live music, and Pierre Robert from radio station WMMR. This event is sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Autism Society of America. More info about the event here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Work in Progress

If things on the blog look a little funny, please bear with me. I am trying to learn to use more Blogger features, like adding a blogroll, just like my friend Liz said to. So please be patient while I stumble along.

DNA Glitches Tied to Autism

From CNN:
"Little glitches in the DNA of people with autism suggest that the disease might be caused by as many as 100 different genes, researchers reported Thursday.
The study is one of several new reports on autism in recent months, which have shown the disease is far more common and more complex than many experts had believed.
"These findings certainly complicate the search for genes contributing to autism. These are rare changes, dispersed across the genome, and they tell us that autism may be the final common path for many different genetic abnormalities," said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute for Mental Health, which helped fund the study.
The small changes are not what people usually think of as genetic mutations but are called copy number variations -- extra copies or missing stretches of DNA.
For instance, one child with Asperger's syndrome was missing DNA from a stretch of 27 genes.
The findings suggest that autism spectrum disorder may involve 100 or more genes, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science."

"Usually, tests of DNA of people with diseases show that everyone in a family who has the disorder carries the same mutation or pattern of mutations.
But that's not the case here. The researchers found numerous spontaneous mutations in 14 of 195 people with autism spectrum disorders compared to two of 196 unaffected people.
And of the 14 autism patients with mutations, only two had relatives with autism.
"Our results show conclusively that these tiny glitches are frequent in autism, occurring in at least 10 percent of cases, and primarily in the sporadic form of the disease, which accounts for 90 percent of affected individuals," Sebat said in a statement.
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said such work does not answer one overwhelming question about autism -- what causes these genetic changes in the first place."

I also heard about this in National Public Radio.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Jeremy Sicile-Kira and Elijah Wapner, sons of Autism One 2007 Conference presenters Chantal Sicile-Kira and Dr. Valerie Paradiz will be featured on MTV's documentary series “True Life.” "True Life: I'm Autistic" will air on Sunday, March 18th at 9:00 pm EST. This episode will follow three teenagers on the spectrum, Jeremy, Elijah, and Jonathan Lerman, over 6 months.
MTV website here.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Other Shoe Droppped

Part 7 of the ongoing series "Hacking My Child's Brain" is up. The inevitable questions about neurodiversity have cropped up, and the writer has opened up the forum and asked for comments.
I have to admit, I was waiting for this reaction. This is an issue all parents of children with ASDs face, in some form or another.

A Brother's Story

I don’t feel disabled,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m weird. I just know that from everyone’s reactions.”

This is an eloquent account of a family's journey with Asperger's, as told by a young man's neurotypical younger brother.

Some excerpts:
"Mom stayed home then, taking care of us and the house. Dad worked 10-hour days at IBM, feeling stuck in a managerial job he never really wanted. Every morning before Erik and I headed off to primary school, Mom would make our breakfast and Dad’s lunch.
While Mom got our cereal or toast with chocolate sprinkles ready, I’d get dressed in my second-floor room. A floor above, in Erik’s room, the drama would start.
Erik, get dressed! I’d hear my mother yell up the stairs. Erik, take 20 less minutes on your shower!
Erik, brush your teeth! And — again — Erik, get dressed!
Despite her pleas, most mornings found Erik curled up in his room, reading a video game magazine or staring off into space.
I hated the yelling, so I’d hear one order and follow it. (That stuck with me for life — I’ve often been called mature for my age, probably from watching my parents give the same orders over and over. Or maybe from not wanting to add to the chaos.)
“It was a really, really tough time,” Mom told me recently.
One exhausting morning after another, after we were finally out the door, she would sink into a living room couch, turn on the TV and try to forget what was going on around her. She’d try to forget her husband’s disaffection with a job he hated. She’d try to forget that she was thousands of miles from her parents. And she’d try to forget that she had a son who didn’t seem to be learning any of the practical aspects of life."

"That was the year my parents sent Erik to his first psychologist. They didn’t learn then that he had Asperger’s; the disorder hadn’t been identified yet. But they did learn that he needed special attention, and that it wasn’t their parenting that was at fault. They received tips, such as breaking down activities into smaller steps, on how to help him learn. “What we learned was we could not expect Erik to do what other children were doing at his age,” Mom said. “We had to meet him where he was and where his needs were. When we started doing that, when we stopped putting demands on him, the whole atmosphere in the house improved tremendously.”
It saved the marriage.
They were lucky."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Classroom Design for Kids with ASDs

"The standard of education for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can be improved by better classroom design, but often not enough attention is given to their needs. Now, researchers Coventry University's Design Ergonomics Applied Research Group have developed a new environment that is engaging autistic children in schools through digital technology.
Experts from Coventry University have designed the first low cost education and activity area for children with autism that can be used in mainstream schools. The environment is enabling teachers to educate and integrate children with special needs within conventional schools.
Over 100 primary and secondary school children in Birmingham and Coventry have successfully tested and used the high-tech (fixed and portable) teaching and learning spaces. "

"The system is comprised of a computer, tailor made software, a projector, a video camera and sound speakers. To provide a safe, neutral environment traditional classroom strip lighting is swapped for daylight bulbs and an LED lighting system, and hypo allergenic marmoleum flooring and a padded projection screen where installed. The rooms are painted white, and black blinds block out light and noise from outside.
Improvements in users have included greater levels of engagement with other people, for example, improved communication with their peers. Teachers and parents have also noted that the children develop a better relationship with their school routine and improve their performance in mixed ability classes. "

Full article here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

NJ Autism Bills Advance

"A package of bills aimed at improving the diagnosis, treatment and awareness of autism gained widespread support during an Assembly committee hearing today. It comes after a recent study found New Jersey had the highest incidence of the disorder among 14 states.
The bills would establish an autism registry under the state Department of Health and Senior Services, with funding of $500,000; create a task force on adults with autism; extend funding for autism research and treatment; and strengthen an early intervention program for babies and toddlers.
Other measures would reorganize the Governor's Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism to attract research funding, and require extra training about autism for classroom teachers. A separate bill would establish an autism awareness program for emergency, police and fire department personnel.
Two resolutions would urge the state to look at any possible links between the incidence of autism and prenatal sonograms or vaccinations containing thimerisol -- two proported causes of autism that have never been scientifically proven. "
Full article here.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"It's not the label that's the problem...'s the baggage associated with it." Quick, somebody engrave that somewhere!
This is a very interesting article about our tendency to want to give everything a name, and what mindset it might produce.
"...parents and children may be relieved to learn that there's a name for the problem and specific remedies. But, she says, "it's incumbent on parents to explain that 'Well, you may be wired a little differently; this might make it more difficult for you; you might have to work harder and use different strategies,' as opposed to 'This means you can't learn.' "
Recent research in neuroscience bolsters the idea that people can and do change. Says Perry: "The brain is like a muscle: The areas that are used grow and improve while those which aren't, don't." Such growth is often visible on brain scans. Parents should also be aware that the criteria used to define these conditions are not absolute and that they shift over time. The conditions themselves also change as children learn and grow, often worsening with stress and improving when the child feels calm and safe."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Blog Series on Sensory Processing Disorder

This series of first person articles appeared on Wired Magazine's website, in the Blogs section. Part 1 is at the bottom of the page. The writes calles Sensory Processing Disorder the "human equivalent of a computer that can't adequately multitask, or a network that drops packets when there is a lot of traffic. All of [her son Caleb's] senses work individually, but his brain loses information when they are combined. This problem wasn't obvious to us when he was younger, but now that he is in first grade, the complications are growing."
She continues:
"I've become solidly convinced that my son Caleb doesn't need a coping strategy, he needs his brain to be recalibrated. With the help of some professionals and some surreal neurotechnology, I'm going to try doing just that. We're going to try to hack my child's brain.
Today our family will travel to a clinic in Boulder, Colorado to do initial tests with Caleb. The treatment itself begins in earnest next Friday, which is when the neurotech comes into play. In this multiple-part series, I'll take you with us on the journey. I don't know what the outcome will be, but we can watch it unfold together."
At the end of Part 4, this is where she is at:
"Caleb is now over half-way through the program at the Center, going once in the morning and then again in the afternoon. We make careful observations of his behavior, taking notes and watching how he relates to the world around him. It is too early to tell what kind of effect the treatment is having, but our hopes are high."
To be continued...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Book Review: Rules by Cynthia Lord

This is a children's book, for ages 10 and up. It's a good read for siblings of autistic children.
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Catherine is 12 years old and in between. She is stuck between her brother David and her parents, and David and the outside world. Nothing goes as she wishes it would. Why does her best friend have to spend the summer in California? Why do all her hopes for friendship with Kristi, who just moved in next door, get twisted out of shape? Why can't she be honest about her new friend Jason? Above all, why can't everyone have the same chances in life?
I liked this book because Catherine is so real. She's human, she has faults, and she makes mistakes. She cares about what she wears and being popular. But she also has a big heart. So I was rooting for her all the way, even when she did things I didn't agree with.

Book Review: George and Sam

I always meant to do book reviews on this blog, but it's been difficult. I read a lot of very different things for my job, as a librarian, and just because. But here's one I finished recently"

"George and Sam: Two Boys, One Family and Autism" by Charlotte Moore.
Moore is a British writer and friend of Nick Hornby, who raved about this book in "The Polysyllabic Spree". It wasn't available in the US until recently. Moore has taken up the task of describing the experience of living with two children with autism as clearly and accurately as she can. This is a rather unsentimental view of "autists", as she calls them. But at the same time, it is clearly evident that she fiercely loves all of her children and would not change them if she could. When describing her perpetual state of sleep deprivation, Moore says, "Acceptance is key - for me, anyway. Once I'd let myself stop fighting the boys' sleep habits, everything improved. One should set oneself realistic targets." This sums up Moore's approach to rearing her autistic boys. She walks the fine line between acceptance, which could easily veer over into passivity, and active education/rehabilitation, which also, taken too far, can become obsession. I think she does an admirable job. I don't agree with everything she says (she is adamantly against mainstreaming even high functioning autisitic children in school), but she does try many treatments, with different degrees of results. Above all, Moore's humanity shines through. Her book is heartbreaking and sardonic at the same time. She doesn't ever feel sorry for herself. As a writer, she ruminates eloquently on what autism "means" to us "normal" people. Moore says, "...autism challenges our assumptions about what it means to be human...they can be instruments for us to learn benevolence upon; unwittingly, they provide a yardstick for neurotypical moral behavior."

Inability to Metabolize Fats May Be Key to Autism

This article in the Newark Star-Ledger describes research by NJ scientists on how the body breaks down fatty acids, and its connection to autism. Some excerpts:
"Researchers say that in the future a person's risk for autism could be measured with a simple urine test that would look for high levels of "bad" fat molecules, or a blood test that could reveal genetic problems, including the absence of a key gene, called GSTM1, which is responsible for metabolizing good fats. Many people with autism do not have this gene.
Xue Ming, a neuroscientist and a founding director of the Autism Center at UMNDJ-Newark, discovered that children with autism have higher levels of bad fat molecules in their urine than typical children.
No one understands yet why it is that so many children with autism have such metabolic differences, but Ming suggested it might be caused by an interaction between genes and the environment. It may be that having less of these key fats reduces the body's ability to deal with environmental and metabolic stress. "

""Metabolic issues in autism are entirely understudied," said Sophia Colamarino, science director for Cure Autism Now, a major advocacy and research group in Los Angeles. "It's a very exciting area. There is accumulating evidence that would clearly tell me this is where I should look."
The New Jersey scientists are cautious, however, about their preliminary results, and warn families not to expect a miracle cure. Testing on humans, they say, could take a few years.
Meanwhile, the researchers are preparing a preliminary study to begin in September. Lambert hopes to work with 5- to 7-year-olds at the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center in New Brunswick, a school for children with autism run by Rutgers.
Lambert will be giving the children doses of a good fatty acids to see if they have any noticeable effect on the children's cognitive, social and behavioral states. The study will use a control group of similar students.
"New Jersey is the perfect place to do this," said Lambert, director of the EPA-funded Center for Neurotoxicology. "We have a high incidence (of autism), a long history of activism and a strong community." "

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Article on NLD

Coverage of Nonverbal Learning Disorder is generally sporadic, probably because it is not yet listed in the DSM Diagnostoc Statistical Manaual). Here's a decent article, with a rather unfortunate headline.
"Coworkers do not understand why people who are smart and educated have problems with tasks such as managing a classroom or assisting customers. Teachers and parents often cry out in frustration, "If you're so smart, why can't you..." or "I shouldn't have to tell you!" But you do have to tell them, because people with nonverbal learning disability often don't learn by observation, and have trouble learning and doing the simple, everyday things most people take for granted. "

"Day to Day" on NPR

Today's edition of "Day to Day" on NPR is supposed to do a feature on renewed attention on Asperger's Syndrome in the wake of the murder in the Boston area. Find your local station here.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

1 in 150

New numbers are coming out of the Centers for Disease Control.

"Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders --- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, Six Sites, United States, 2000."Catherine Rice et al. (CDC).MMWR CDC Surveillance Summaries, February 9, 2007, Vol. 56, No. SS-1

"Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders --- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, 2002."Catherine Rice et al. (CDC).MMWR CDC Surveillance Summaries, February 9, 2007, Vol. 56, No. SS-1

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Treating Autism Through Diet

Nice article on gluten free and casein free diet here. It's good to see some research being done on this. Some excerpts:
"Why the diet seems to work isn't completely understood. One theory involves the "leaky gut syndrome," in which the autistic child's body isn't able to process proteins found in wheat and dairy products, said Gary Stobbe, medical director of Seattle's Autism Spectrum Treatment and Research Center, a non-profit organization that diagnoses, treats and manages people with autism. The undigested chunks of protein get into the blood stream and affect the brain. Another theory is the body's immune system is reacting to the proteins in the body."Nothing is determined for certain and there is no set approach with the diet," he said. "In my practice, it is something we encourage in younger kids or if we see a kid not making progress with more conventional therapies. "Stobbe said for some children, especially the more severe autism cases and those with physical complaints, the diet works well. They are calmer, have better attention spans and have less severe behavioral disturbances.Still no one knows whether this will work in the long term.
So far, only anecdotal evidence from parents is available.One study under way at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York looks at the effects of the diet in autistic children between the ages of 2 1/2 and 4 1/2. Sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, it began in 2004 and should be completed in 2008.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Media Coverage vs Scientific Research

Sifting through the pages of newspapers, most people reading stories about autism would think scientists are primarily grappling with understanding how environmental factors, such as childhood vaccines, might contribute to the condition.
But the truth is quite different. The efforts of the scientific community to explore autism lie predominantly in brain and behavior research.
This disconnect between the scientific community and the popular media is starkly laid out in a study published in the February issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The researchers found that while 41 percent of research funding and published scientific papers on autism dealt with brain and behavior research, only 11 percent of newspaper stories in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada dealt with those issues. Instead, 48 percent of the media coverage dealt with environmental causes of autism, particularly the childhood MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella that was once linked with autism in a widely refuted study. Only 13 percent of published research was about environmental triggers of autism.
“What was very interesting is that media frequently reported being very skeptical of the MMR evidence, as was scientific literature,” said Judy Illes, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics and senior author of the paper. The media stories accurately reflected scientific thinking, but didn’t reflect the breadth of scientific research including the genetics, treatment and epidemiology of autism.

The Stanford team divided autism research into six categories: brain and behavior, genetic, environment, treatment, epidemiology and other. Singh then categorized research spending, published research papers and stories about autism in the media. What she found was a sharp disconnect between the conversation scientists were having via published papers, and what the public learned about autism through the media.

Interesting read! Full article here.

Article on Women with Asperger's

From Psychology Today:
"Girls are pretty neglected," says Shana Nichols, who specializes in treating girls with AS. Most of what we know about the condition is based on research on boys; theories about how it manifests itself differently in girls stem mainly from anecdotal evidence. Researchers agree that girls with AS tend to be more anxious and less aggressive than the boys. And during their teenage years, they are at an increased risk for awkward sexual situations and even date rape because of their inability to interpret social cues and their tendency to take statements literally. "

Monday, January 22, 2007

Career Advice from Someone with AS

The Boston Globe frequently has articles spotlighting people with autism and Asperger's. Here is an interesting article that appeared in the Career Section.

"Hannah's successful strategies for dealing with her disability could be adapted by adults having trouble in their professional lives -- particularly those who can't seem to connect with others at work."

It sure beats seeing this in the Boston Herald.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

American Idol Auditions Get Ugly

I don't watch the show, so I did not see the most recent auditions, but it sounds like it was a sad display of ugliness.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Benefits in NJ

Article in the Courier-Post:

TRENTON -- New Jersey was wrong in denying access to necessary medical therapy for autistic children whose parents are covered under the State Health Benefits Program, the state appeals court ruled today.
Occupational, speech and physical therapy, viewed as standard treatment for the one in 166 children nationwide affected by autism spectrum disorders, did not fall under the program provided by the State Health Benefits Commission, which said coverage cannot be extended "to promote development beyond any level of function previously demonstrated." In other words, because the boys could not previously perform the skills taught in these therapies, the program would not pay for them.A 1999 state law, however, requires coverage parity in medical insurance, meaning state medical coverage for those affected by biologically based mental illnesses must be the same for any other covered sickness. The two rulings today struck down previous court decisions in finding the medical parity act was intended to cover such therapies.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Research on Mirror Neurons

"A study in the Jan. 6 issue of Nature Neuroscience journal indicates [mirror neurons] are involved not only in the execution and observation of movement, but also in higher cognitive processes. These include speaking, imitating and learning from the action of others, by deciphering their intentions and empathizing with their pain.
Because all these abilities come up short in most individuals with autism, scientists have suspected there may be a glitch.
New findings lend substantial support to that theory, providing evidence of a dysfunctional mirror neuron system that may contribute to many impairments, particularly those involving comprehending and responding to the behavior of others, said lead author Mirella Dapretto, assistant professor in residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles.
The study sheds new light on the neural basis of autism and may pave the way to early diagnosis and potential therapies, such as biofeedback, the authors said. "

United Press International article here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Simon Baron-Cohen Launches DVD Series

"The Transporters" is designed to help children recognize different emotions via facial expressions.

"Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) at Cambridge University and David Lammy, Culture Minister, yesterday launched a novel animation DVD to help young children with autism.The Transporters DVD, commissioned by Culture Online, part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, aims to help children with autism to look at the human face and to learn about emotions. The series of 15 five-minute episodes features the adventures of eight lovable toys with human faces, each focusing on a different human emotion. Stephen Fry is the narrator."

"Research by Dr Ofer Golan and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen from ARC found that following a four-week period of watching the DVD for 15 minutes a day, children with high-functioning autism caught up with typically developing children of the same age in their performance on emotion recognition tasks. One parent who took part in the clinical trials said of their son with autism: "We have noticed a change in his behaviour, speech and range of emotional expressions since he started watching The Transporters. It's a bit like someone's flicked a switch in his head."

Article here. [don't know how long it will last]

Autism Research Centre here.
Watch episode one online.
Copies of the DVDs can be requested here - UK residents only.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sad News

Nikki Bacharach, daughter of songwriter Burt Bacharach and actress Angie Dickinson, committed suicide. She had Asperger's Syndrome.
"Does AS or autism make a person more likely to commit suicide, as in the case of Burt Bacharach's daughter? The NAS [UK-based National Autism Society] spokeswoman said it was difficult to answer because the disorder affected people in different ways. "It's not a mental disorder, it's a developmental disability. It is not a mental health issue per se," she said.
But Dr [Lorna] Wing and others have highlighted issues of psychiatric trauma and varying degrees of depression among young adults with AS, something that seems related to their awareness of their difference from others. One paper on the subject claims that five out of 22 young adults with AS had tried to take their lives."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What to Read Next

The Cincinnati Public Library has a wonderful "reading map" that lists tons of books to read after you are done with "The Curious Incident of the the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon (which I ruefully admit I have not read yet!).
Link came from the h20boro blog, my role model, blog-wise.

Communicating with Color

From yesterday's Taday Show, via FACES Yahoo Group email:
http://video. us/msnbc. htm?g=8ef1cae8- f7a8-4c00- 8e2d-4135c08827\54&f=00&fg=email
Watch it - you'll be inspired.