INTERVIEW: Attacking autism (Rochester, N.Y.)
You may not instinctively group autism with cancer, AIDS, and heart disease. But people afflicted with this often-misunderstood disorder will most likely require some level of assistance throughout their lives. The time, money, and personnel required to provide a lifetime of care make autism one of the country’s top public-health challenges, says Vincent Pandolfi, assistant professor in the psychology department at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Read more.
NIH Grant to Aid Autism Language Investigation (Dallas, Texas)
A UT Dallas neuroscientist has earned a $1.6 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate how autistic children process language and why they experience communication difficulties. Read more.
Gene mutation is linked to autism-like symptoms in mice, UT Southwestern researchers find (EurekAlert)
When a gene implicated in human autism is disabled in mice, the rodents show learning problems and obsessive, repetitive behaviors, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found. Read more.
Balls promises special needs support (U.K.)
Ministers today promised a helpline and extra support for parents of children with special educational needs.Read more.
Teaching assistant could face jail after assaulting pupil (U.K.)
A teaching assistant from Sheffield could face jail after being convicted of assaulting a special needs pupil, with whom she worked on a one-to-one basis. Read more.
Camelot plans school for autistic pupils in CL (Crystal Lake, Ill.)
A Texas company is planning to establish a school for students with autism in Crystal Lake. Read more.
Special Ed. Assistant Accused Of Biting Child (Minneapolis, Minn.)
He was trusted to help teachers with students in special education class. However, the teacher’s aide quit his job after being accused of abusing a disabled child. Read more.
Va. panel kills autism treatment coverage mandate (Richmond, Va.)
Legislation that would have required many Virginia employee health care plans to cover a treatment for autistic children died Tuesday under business and insurance industry claims that its costs would hurt business. Read more.
Antibully measure advances to Senate (Boston.com)
A bill aimed at dramatically reducing bullying in schools gained a key endorsement yesterday and will go to the Senate for a vote early next month, weeks after a South Hadley teenager committed suicide following apparent harassment from her peers. Read more.
TouchPoint touches lives (Joplin, Mo.)
Home training for families with an autistic child is available through TouchPoint. Read more.
Costs may force Davoren centre to close (Australia)
A childcare centre for the north’s most vulnerable children is at risk of closing because of rising staff costs. Read more.
Soup Leads to Independence for Arizonans with Autism (Phoenix, Ariz.)
Adults with autism have a new opportunity to live independent lives, thanks to the first business venture of a Phoenix-based support agency. Clients of the Southwest Autism Resource and Research Center (SARRC) will be making and selling soup prepared from recipes donated by some of Arizona’s best-known chefs. SARRC interim president Jeri Kendle says hands-on training is part of the eleven-week “Culinaryworks” curriculum. Read more.
Legislative budget proposals would keep Rainier School open (Buckley, Wash.)
The future of Rainier School is looking safer as lawmakers cast their eyes on state facilities to downsize and close. Read more.
Hunt for missing St Leonards man moves to Rock-a-Nore (U.K.)
Police looking for missing man Piers Hopson are shifting their focus to Hastings Old Town. Read more.
Three Google executives convicted after allowing video of autistic boy being bullied to be posted online (U.K.)
Three Google executives were convicted today by an Italian court because they did not act quickly enough to pull down an online video that showed an autistic boy being bullied. Read more.
Va. Del. Marshall Draws Criticism For Comments Linking Birth Defects, Abortion (MedicalNewsToday.com)
Virginia Del. Robert Marshall’s (R) office issued a formal apology Monday for comments he made last Thursday suggesting that the birth of children with disabilities was God’s way of punishing women for obtaining an abortion during a first pregnancy, the Washington Post reports. Read more.
Joy at Redcar boy’s success on dance show (U.K.)
The proud mum of three autistic boys has spoken of her joy after one of her talented sons reached the final stages of a TV dance show. Read more.
Fencing company donate shed (U.K.)
Kind-hearted owners of a Kings Langley fencing company are to donate a shed to a woman with autism. Read more.
Monroe teen emerges from cocoon of autism (Monroe, N.Y.)
By all appearances, Vijay Buddiga is a typical college student. He is a freshman at SUNY New Paltz and lives on campus. Last semester, he earned a B average. He likes to hang out with friends, play his guitar and party. Read more.
Student Excluded From Field Trip Because Of Autism (Madison, Wis.)
Cathy Hasslinger says she tried everything to make sure her son would be included in his class’ field trip. Read more.
Agoura Hills woman grateful to charity for saving son’s dog (Agoura Hills, Calif.)
The mother of an 11-year-old boy with autism in Agoura Hills is praising the generosity of an animal charity that paid for life-saving medical treatment for her son’s therapy dog. Read more.
When robber struck, she got help. Now, it’s her turn. (St. Paul, Minn.)
When Emily Zitek’s Braille laptop was stolen as she rode a Metro Transit bus a couple of years ago and a former U.S. senator bought her a new one, she wanted to find a way to pay the kindness forward. Read more.
Autistic man who was jailed 13 months awaits housing (Canada)
The last time Ken McEwan was released from prison, he coped at home for two weeks before landing in a psychiatric ward. This time, his family hopes he can hang on for several months. Read more.
5|25: Celebrating Five Years of Autism Science Day 24: Early Intervention for Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders
In honor of the anniversary of Autism Speaks’ founding on Feb 25, for the next 25 days we will be sharing stories about the many significant scientific advances that have occurred during our first five years together. Our 24th item, Early Intervention for Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders, is from Autism Speaks’ Top 10 Autism Research Events of 2009.
Although previous studies have found that early intervention can be helpful for preschool-aged children, interventions for children who are toddlers are just now being tested. As 2009 came to a close, the results were unveiled for the first controlled study of an intensive early intervention appropriate for children with ASD who are less than 2½ years of age. Published in Pediatrics, results of this study showed that a novel early intervention program was effective for improving IQ, language ability, and adaptive behavior in children as young as 18 months.
The intervention, called the Early Start Denver Model, combines applied behavioral analysis (ABA) teaching methods with developmental ‘relationship-based’ approaches, thereby blending the rigor of ABA with play-based routines that focus on building a relationship with the child. Children in the study were separated into two groups, one that received 20 hours a week of the intervention – two two-hour sessions five days a week – from University of Washington specialists. They also received five hours a week of parent-delivered therapy. Children in the second group were referred to community-based programs for therapy. Researchers closely monitored the progress of both groups.
At the beginning of the study there was no difference in functioning between the two groups. At the conclusion of the study, the IQs of the children in the intervention group had improved by an average of close to 18 points, compared to only 7 points in the comparison group. The intervention group also had a nearly 19-point improvement in receptive language (listening and understanding) compared to approximately 10 points in the control group. Whereas only one child in the community-based intervention group had an improved diagnosis, seven of the children in the intervention group had enough improvement in overall skills to warrant a change in diagnosis from autism to the milder condition known as ‘pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.’
While the youngest children in the study were 18 months old, this particular intervention is designed to be appropriate for children with ASD as young as 12 months of age. Given that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all 18- and 24- month-old children be screened for ASD, it is crucial that we are able to offer parents effective therapies for children within this age range. This new study strongly affirms the positive outcomes of early intervention and the need for the earliest possible start.
Did you know?: To encourage research in early intervention, at the end of 2006 Autism Speaks funded a set of multi-site randomized trials to investigate the efficacy of different early intervention techniques in toddlers who show early signs of autism. From this effort a Toddler Treatment Network (TTN) was born to establish the groundwork for collaborative studies that can incorporate different aspects of these various intervention approaches. The TTN investigators have also been collecting and sharing information on a variety of best practices, including how to build partnerships with local communities. Importantly, all studies are testing interventions that can be implemented outside the clinic, with the aim of decreasing the time between parent’s first concern and initiation of treatment.
5|25: Celebrating Five Years of Autism Science Day 23: Gastroenterology consensus recommendations provide recognition of the need for specialized approaches to GI problems in children with autism
In honor of the anniversary of Autism Speaks’ founding on Feb 25, for the next 25 days we will be sharing stories about the many significant scientific advances that have occurred during our first five years together. Our 23rd item, Gastroenterology consensus recommendations provide recognition of the need for specialized approaches to GI problems in children with autism, is adapted from a 2009 press release.
Gastrointestinal (GI) problems are a commonly expressed concern of parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but families have often found it difficult to find appropriate care for these issues. In December 2009, a consensus statement and recommendations for the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders in children with ASD were published in Pediatrics. These recommendations are an important step in advancing physician awareness of the unique challenges in the medical management of children with autism and will be a prelude towards the development of evidence-based guidelines that will standardize care for all children with ASD. The reports highlighted the crucial need for information to guide care, and emphasized the critical importance of fostering more research in this area, including genetic research, to support the development of these guidelines.
“The Pediatrics paper represents long-sought recognition by the mainstream medical community that treatment of GI problems in children with autism requires specific and specialized approaches,” reacted Dr. Dawson. “Autism Speaks has been actively engaged in the study of GI problems associated with children with autism, working toward enhanced medical community awareness for over five years through its research agenda and the Autism Speaks’ Autism Treatment Network (ATN). Dan Coury, M.D., ATN medical director, commented, “We are delighted to see the publication of important information that can support clinicians and caregivers in providing better care for children with autism, particularly with GI concerns, as parents unfortunately very often find it difficult to identify physicians who have an understanding of these issues and are able to provide appropriate medical care for their children. GI and pediatric specialists from six of the ATN sites participated in the forum and in the development of these recommendations, which shows the power of interaction among the communities and individuals dedicated to this problem. Autism Speaks is already engaged in the crucial next step which is to move beyond these consensus-based recommendations to develop evidence-based clinical guidelines.” In addition to development of evidence-based clinical guidelines for GI issues, the ATN is also currently working on evidence based clinical guidelines for medical management of sleep, and neurologic disorders associated with autism. “Delivery of evidence-based clinical guidelines will serve as excellent opportunities for future training and education of physicians,” added Dr. Dawson.
The consensus statement highlights several important themes, the first emphasizing that GI problems are a genuine concern in the ASD population and that these disorders exacerbate or contribute to problem behaviors. The need for awareness of how GI problems manifest in children with autism and the potential for accompanying nutritional complications and impaired quality of life were also emphasized.
In the second paper, the authors make consensus recommendations providing guidance on how current general pediatric standards of care that can and should be applied for children with ASD. George Fuchs, M.D., a co-author on the two papers and chair of the ATN GI Committee remarked, “The recommendations provide important guidance for the clinician to adapt the current practices of care (for abdominal pain, chronic constipation and gastroesophageal reflux) for the child with autism. The recommendations from the Autism Forum meeting complement the ATN’s on-going work to develop evidence-based, ASD-specific guidelines. The ATN is currently piloting newly created guidelines and monitoring their effectiveness. We anticipate this data will contribute to an evidence-based foundation to support best practices for GI problems in ASD.”
Autism Speaks is committed to the sustained support of efforts that address co-morbid medical conditions in the ASD population. In recognizing that there’s not enough evidence in any GI area and more research is needed, the Pediatric papers reaffirm the importance of the recent November 2009, Autism Speaks sponsored symposium and workshop on Gastrointestinal Disorders in Autism Spectrum Disorders. The symposium and workshop represented an important partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) – the largest professional society for GI and nutritional specialists, and a professional authority for the development and implementation of pediatric GI guidelines. The symposium raised awareness and provided the latest scientific information to an audience of 168 researchers, clinicians, and pediatric GI and nutrition specialists, most of whom had limited expertise in autism. The symposium was followed by a workshop that brought together a diverse group of experts in GI, nutrition, pediatrics, pain, ASD, and biological research. Recommendations were developed for an expanded and targeted research agenda for the field that will address current gaps in the knowledge base and aim to advance evaluation and treatment of ASD-GI disorders. Proceedings from the meeting are scheduled to be published in 2010. A unique and important element in both the Symposium and Workshop was the inclusion of parents of children with ASD.
Did you know?: Autism Speaks’ Autism Treatment Network (ATN) is developing evidence-based guidelines that will provide specific guidance to physicians on how to address a number of medical issues of concern for children with ASD. The ATN is currently piloting a GI guideline algorithm (decision flow charts) for the assessment and treatment of constipation, and a sleep guideline algorithm for insomnia. The ATN is also working on guidelines in the areas of psychopharmacology and neurology. For more information on ATN guideline activities, please see www.autismspeaks.org/airp.
John Elder Robison, author of bestselling memoir, ”Look Me in the Eye,” is appearing tomorrow (Wednesday, February 24) at 5:30 p.m. at Drew University, in Madison, N.J. The event, which takes place in room 107 of the University Center is free and open to everyone. He will be speaking and answering questions from the audience, followed by a book signing. Robison, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, will be talking about life on the autism spectrum, growing up and finding acceptance, and the latest research he is involved in at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
This event should definitely be worth your time if you are in the area. Either way, be sure to check out “Look Me in the Eye” – it is a fun and compelling read.
Why autism is different for girls (U.K.)
With hindsight, Nicky Clark says early signs of autism were present in both her children. The elder one, though very bright, had a love of routine and was not interested in fantasy games like other children. The younger one liked to line things up in rows and would watch the same video clip over and over again for hours. When she got the diagnosis it came as a huge shock, as it would be for any parent. But there was an additional reason why it was unexpected – both her children are girls. Read more.
The prevalence of obesity in children with autism: a secondary data analysis using nationally representative data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (Biomedcentral.com)
The prevalence of childhood obesity has increased dramatically in the last two decades and numerous efforts to understand, intervene on, and prevent this significant threat to children’s health are underway for many segments of the pediatric population. Understanding the prevalence of obesity in populations of children with developmental disorders is an important undertaking, as the factors that give rise to obesity may not be the same as for typically developing children, and because prevention and treatment efforts may need to be tailored to meet their needs and the needs of their families. The goal of the current study was to estimate the prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents with autism. Read more.
Research builds on genetic link to autism and schizophrenia (EurekAlert)
A genetic link between schizophrenia and autism is enabling researchers to study the effectiveness of drugs used to treat both illnesses. Read more.
Dolphin therapy is booming despite concerns about efficacy and animal cruelty (The Washington Times)
Do you or does your child suffer from cerebral palsy? Down syndrome? Autism? A knee injury? General ennui? Read more.
Kathy Walsh Nufer column: East student wins writing contest about friends with autism (Appleton, Wis.)
Marcus Christenson has great affection for his buddies across the hall in Room 1128 at Appleton East High School. Read more.
SCSU Becomes First Conn. School to Open Center on Autism (Conn.)
Southern Connecticut State University is making a name for itself in the field of autism education. The university can already be considered a leader in that sphere – it’s currently the only public university to offer autism as a concentration in its special education Master’s program – but the biggest step yet is becoming the only school in Connecticut to open a center on autism spectrum disorders. Read more.
Teaching autistic child at home (North Port, Fla.)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the symptoms of 5-year-old Charlie Jackson’s disorder as “atypical development in socialization, communication and behavior.” For parents Jenifer and Sean, it has meant their child continually retreated into his own world, unable to play or learn like other children. Read more.
House panel to take up autism insurance (Va.)
The middle-schooler can tell you what he needs and how he’s feeling, and it’s been worth every penny of the Maloney family’s life savings to get there. Read more.
Google SketchUp lets children with autism create (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Ever since its 2000 debut by two Colorado software designers, SketchUp has been known as a cutting-edge 3D modeling computer program for architects. By pushing a cursor around downloadable objects, designers created two-dimensional scenes that could later be rendered three-dimensional with editing tools. Read more.
Project could be a lifesaver (Catskill, N.Y.)
There’s nothing scarier than when a child goes missing, and the dread is compounded when that child has special needs. Read more.
Early investment (Pleasant Hill, Iowa)
As The Homestead prepares to celebrate its 15th anniversary, the organization faces budget uncertainty from county, state and federal sources. Read more.
Orlando To Evict ‘Freedom Ride’ (Orlando, Fla.)
Lawmakers in the city say some disabled people may have to go. Read more.
Project Lifesaver’s bracelets help track those with Alzheimer’s when they get lost (Gainesville, Fla.)
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office issued a reminder to county residents Monday morning about a program that can help people with memory-loss issues who may get lost or confused. Read more.
Jordan, Ruth & Tartaglia Join Got Talent? – An Autism Benefit 5/24 (BroadwayWorld.com)
Got Talent?, a competition benefiting QSAC, a NY agency serving people with autism, has announced three new celebrities who are joining the Grand Finale Judging panel on May 24 at the Times Square Arts Center. Don’t think Paula, Simon and Randy. QSAC’s GOT TALENT – GOT: Leslie, Ruth and John – that’s funny man Leslie Jordan, (aka Beverly Leslie and Brother Boy) the sexy Dr. Ruth and Broadway & TV Star/Puppet Master John Tartaglia. Read more.
Chaotic love (TheSpec.com)
My house is extremely busy. What some people may call chaotic. I live with my mother, father, brother age 13, sister age four, foster sister aged 23, and my foster brother age seven. Unfortunately at birth he was diagnosed with a severe case of autism. Living with an autistic child really changes the way you live. Read more.
Hackney woman to run London Marathon for autism charity (U.K.)
A Hackney woman is trying to raise £1,600 ahead of this year’s London Marathon for The National Autistic Society (NAS). Read more.
Ashington man gets tattoos for charity – Video (U.K.)
Many people would not be brave enough to get a tattoo – let alone two on the same day. Read more.
Lee Flames will host Mountain State in Hoops-4-Hope Friday (Cleveland, Tenn.)
A chance to see the top-ranked NAIA team in the country at a bargain price plus a chance to recognize some very special people is what Lee University is offering local basketball fans this evening. Read more.
Del. Marshall says abortion remark misconstrued, apologizes (The Washington Post)
Virginia Del. Robert G. Marshall apologized Monday to people with disabilities for remarks suggesting that women who have abortions risk having later children with birth defects as a punishment from God. Read more.
Tallis takes off with first steps (Australia)
When Tallis Munro began Prep this year at Coolnwynpin State School, he was able to face his classmates eye to eye. Read more.
Uncle Charged in Abuse, Death of Special Needs Girl (Phoenix, Ariz.)
A 47-year-old man has been criminally charged with the death of his 5-year-old niece. Read more.
Robbers steal special laptop from visually impaired college student at St. Paul bus stop (St. Paul, Minn.)
Phil Sporer depends on his laptop more than many other college students. The 20-year-old is visually impaired, and his computer, issued by the Minnesota State Services for the Blind, has special software. Read more.
AUTISM SPEAKS NEWS
Tennis Celebrities to Participate in Event Benefitting Walk Now For Autism (Fla.)
For the fourth consecutive year, ten tennis celebrities of the present and legends of the past will play at the center court as part of the exclusive IV Annual Tennis ProAm which benefits Walk Now For Autism, now affecting 1 out of every 110 children. Read more.
5|25: Celebrating Five Years of Autism Science Day 22: Combined Therapies Hold Promise for More Effective Treatments
In honor of the anniversary of Autism Speaks’ founding on Feb 25, for the next 25 days we will be sharing stories about the many significant scientific advances that have occurred during our first five years together. Our 22nd item, Combined Therapies Hold Promise for More Effective Treatments, is from Autism Speaks’ Top 10 Autism Research Events of 2009..
Just over three years ago the FDA’s landmark approval of risperidone for the treatment of ASD represented a significant breakthrough for the autism community. Since then other large-scale autism studies have sought FDA approval for drugs that target core or associated symptoms for autism, but unfortunately few of these trials have proven successful. In 2009, taking a cue from other disorders such as ADHD where a combined effect of both medication and behavioral therapies has proven fruitful, researchers published the first successful combined randomized controlled trial for ASD. The paper in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry demonstrated that combined pharmacological and behavioral treatments was more effective than pharmacological treatment alone for reducing challenging behaviors.
Risperidone is approved for reducing aggression and irritability in children and adolescents with autism. However, its use still presents a number of challenges to clinicians. Like other atypical anti-psychotics it can have adverse side effects including weight gain, potentially leading to increased risk for obesity, and GI symptoms such as diarrhea and constipation, which can already be problematic for children with ASD. Clinicians must therefore balance the benefit of treating the problem behaviors with the potential for creating new health challenges for the child. On the other hand, behavioral therapies have been shown to be one of the most reliably effective treatments for improving problem behaviors with limited side effects. Combination therapies create a synergistic therapeutic environment in which medication allows a child to get more from behavioral therapies and, at the same time, the benefits of behavioral therapy may mean lower doses of medication are required.
A new multi-site study by the Research Units on Pediatric Psychopharmacology Autism Network, the same group that conducted the pivotal studies leading to the approval of risperidone, investigated whether combining risperidone treatments with a simultaneous behavioral intervention would be more effective than medication alone. Their 24-week study of 124 children ages 4-13, compared a treatment regime of risperidone alone with a combined treatment regimen of risperidone and a parent training program that followed the principles of applied behavioral analysis. While both the combined and medication-only treatments reduced the severity of non-compliant behaviors, the combined therapy resulted in a significantly greater reduction while using lower doses of risperidone. The combined therapy was also better at reducing other challenging behaviors, such as irritability and hyperactivity.
This study provides hope for a wider range of available treatments and greater flexibility for clinicians who should be encouraged to use combined approaches in cases where medications or behavioral interventions are not effective on their own. Confirming the effectiveness of coordinated treatments that take full advantage of the benefits of both pharmaceutical and behavioral approaches also demonstrates the continued need to support research establishing the most effective treatments in all realms. Finally, the vast majority of clinical trials conducted to date have only addressed how an individual treatment compares to a placebo. Very few studies have been conducted that make head-to-head comparisons of two or more treatments as was done here, so the success of this trial will also serve to highlight the utility of “comparative effectiveness trials” for determining the best treatments for ASD.
Did you know?: Autism Speaks’ funded Interactive Autism Network (IAN) is a web-based family registry and social network that brings together thousands of families with autism research and provides a forum for families to report information about their experiences. In a recent study on over 5000 children in IAN, 35% of parents reported that their children were taking at least one psychotropic medicine and the use of these drugs increased with age. The incidence of a comorbid condition such as seizures, ADHD or anxiety increased the likelihood of medication use. The IAN authors also reported on correlations between insurance access and use of multiple medications, noting that those children using public insurance plans (such as Medicaid) tended to be on more medications, possibly due to an inability to get coverage for behavioral therapies.