Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Social Skills Site

A 27 year old Canadian man named Chris, who describes himself as a "(mostly) recovered shy, awkward guy" has created a website filled with practical advice for young adults seeking to improve their social skills. It includes a whole page devoted to high school. Also includes a blog noting recent updates.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Study Links Autism to Immune System

Carrie Peyton Dahlberg reports in the Sacramento Bee about a UC Davis study that found "11 genes, all governing "natural killer" immune cells, that are more active in autistic children than in other youngsters."

Researchers Frank Sharp and Jeff Gregg are part of the M.I.N.D. Institute, which is currently doing a lot of research on autism.

Autism in Girls

ABC's Nightline did a special report on autism in girls, reported by John Donovan.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Series: Our Children's Brains

Here is an interesting series of articles mostly put together by reporter Robbie Woliver of the Long Island Press. Includes topics like Auditory Processing Disorder, autism, and Asperger's, along with other issues like depression in children.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Summary of Research

This article by in Ashley Pettus Harvard Magazine provides a nice overview of research on possible causes of autism spectrum disorders. This sounds intriguing:
"The researchers are paying particular attention to networks of genetic activity that affect 12 genes already known to play a role in autism. These are genes that regulate the brain’s response to environmental stimuli, affecting learning and memory by regulating the plasticity of connections between neurons. Here, the work of Michael Greenberg, professor of neurology and neuroscience and director of neurobiology at Children’s Hospital, has been critical. Greenberg looks at animals to examine how experience shapes the formation and refinement of synapses during brain development. He believes that autism-spectrum disorders may result from flaws in synapse development that affect the brain’s ability to process incoming signals. During the first years of postnatal development, trillions of synapses form in the brain as a child interacts with his or her surroundings; many synapses that aren’t needed naturally fall away, while others are strengthened. One possibility, Greenberg suggests, is that this pruning process doesn’t happen effectively in people with autism."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Using Second Life

Ashley Phillips at ABC News reports on researchers using Second Life to aid in the improvement of social skils for people with Asperger's Syndrome.
"As a treatment, professionals that include occupational therapists and psychiatrists take patients through a series of exercises, in groups and individually, designed to help them learn social skills. In the center's new therapy, patients may have a job interview with a "boss" character or learn to ask another avatar out on a date. "

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Study on Genetic Links to Autism

In an editorial by Evan Eichler and Andrew Zimmerman, The New England Journal of Medicine says:
"It has become clear that the solutions to autism will be neither simple nor uniform among patients with various autistic syndromes. At least 60 different genetic, metabolic, and neurologic disorders have been associated with autism and involve approximately 10% of patients, whose clinical presentations frequently vary, even among those with known disorders...these examples highlight a different paradigm for the genetic basis of autism. Rather than being an inherited disease, autism may be the result of many independent loci that rarely delete or duplicate during gamete production. Collectively, such de novo events might contribute significantly to the disease and explain why few genetic loci have been confirmed with the use of traditional linkage-based approaches...The discovery of significant associations for the rarer loci may require the screening of tens of thousands of DNA samples from patients rather than a few thousand samples. Deeper sample collection and new cost-effective genomic techniques may be needed..."

This is how mainstream media is reporting it:
"A rare genetic variation dramatically raises the risk of developing autism, a large study showed, opening new research targets for better understanding the disorder and for treating it..."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

PBS Doc Premieres Tonight

"Today's Man", a documentary about a man named Nicky Gottlieb with Asperger's Syndrome, will be premiering tonight on most PBS stations. Here is an article by Felicia R. Lee about filmmaker Lizzie Gottlieb, Nicky's sister, from the New York Times. The PBS website for the film contains more information and a link to local listings.

Interview with "Unstrange Minds" author

Here's a highly interesting interview with Roy Richard Grinker, the author of Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism, on the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website. The interview was conducted by Benjamin Radford.
Some excerpts:
"I wrote Unstrange Minds so that people can see that autism is universal and that autism awareness is increasing everywhere in the world. But the most important reason for writing the book—though this was not my original intention—was to tell the world a simple message: the increase in autism diagnoses is not a crisis but rather evidence that we’re finally beginning to address a kind of human difference that has for too long been misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mismanaged. More than six decades after autism was first described by Leo Kanner, we’re finally getting it right, and counting it right."
"I thought I could articulate some of the cultural and scientific reasons behind the increase in rates and give a positive message: the higher rates are due to positive changes in the way we understand and treat neurological and psychiatric disorders."
"The reality is that (1) the higher rates mean that autism is a bigger public health issue than we ever realized; and (2) there is nothing mutually exclusive about saying there’s no epidemic and at the same saying that we’ve finally figured out what’s going on with people on the autism spectrum, and we need more research and services. I recently received an e-mail from a parent who decried my stance: “How can you say there is no epidemic of autism?” she wrote. “When I was in school, there were no kids with special needs in my school. Today, in my daughter’s school there are dozens.” Actually, that is my point. In the past autistic people were not included in our schools. Today they are. And that’s a very good thing.
Another big misconception is that autism is somehow new. I am frequently asked: If there is no epidemic, then where are all the adults with autism? The answer is easy, but also complicated. Finding adults with autism is very hard, not because they do not exist but because they are dispersed in our society. Some live in group homes, others in institutions, others are living and working among us in our everyday lives. Kids are easy to count because they are all in school, neatly recorded in school records. But adults are a different story."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Yale Child Study Center Director in NJ

For anyone in the area, Dr. Ami Klin, director of the Autism Program at the Yale Child Study Center, will present a free program on ASDs and AS on Wednesday, Jan. 23, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Adath Israel Congregation, 1958 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrence.
More details can be found here.
He is also presenting an all day workshop for educators the following day for $75.00.