Archive for January, 2011

Sneak Preview of Robison’s New Book, “Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian”

January 31, 2011 11 comments

Autism Speaks Science Board member John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, has a new book, Be Different: Adventured of a Free-Range Aspergian, that will be released in March. In this video, created by Alex Plank, John reads the introduction of Be Different, set to photos from his life.

For more information about Wrong Planet visit their site here.



Autism in the News – Monday, 01.31.11

January 31, 2011 1 comment

SAG Awards: Claire Danes wins for ‘Temple Grandin’ (Los Angeles Time)
Claire Danes won the Screen Actors Guild Award on Sunday for outstanding performance by a female actor in a TV movie or miniseries for her role in “Temple Grandin.” Read more.

Hawkins County teenager overcomes autism to become Eagle Scout (Surgoinsville, Tenn.)
When Rex Meachum was 4 years old, a doctor told his mother he should be institutionalized after being diagnosed with autism. Read more.

6-Year-Old Boy With Autism Found Safely (Dickson County, Tenn.)
A Middle Tennessee Endangered Child Alert has been cancelled after a missing boy with autism was found safe. Read more.

Hope for autism: One family’s journey (
The sun burned through the morning fog on Carl Twisselman’s ranch along the Temblor Range, west of Buttonwillow, as cowboys separated cattle and herded them into corrals. Helping Twisselman on that Saturday were several of his grandsons, including 20-year-old Justin. Read more.

AutismOne/Generation Rescue Conference is Free (Sherman Oaks, Calif.)
AutismOne and Generation Rescue are thrilled to announce free registration for the country’s largest and most comprehensive international autism conference.  Read more.

What types of behavior therapy have you tried?

January 31, 2011 120 comments

We are starting a new feature, ‘Topic of the Week.’ These topics stem from submissions from our community. If there is anything in particular that you would like to see featured, please contact us!

What types of behavior therapy have you tried? What kind of results have you seen? Which were successful and which were unsuccessful?

The Happy Hannah Dance

January 30, 2011 10 comments

This is a guest post by Teresa Foden, Assistant Editor of the IAN Project at Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Sometimes you look at a rescue dog and wonder why he was dropped off at the shelter. This was not the case for Bailey. He was a mess. Transported north more than 500 miles in hopes that someone at a dog-rescue event in Maryland might be fool enough to adopt him, he barked, he yelped, he yanked the leash…and this turned out to be Bailey on his best behavior. In line to be euthanized at an animal shelter down South, Bailey, a Catahoula leopard dog who flunked his tracking training, had danced when the staff delivered his food. It was described as a four-step sort of canter dance, really something you had to see to believe. It saved his life. But now it looked like he had “flunked” adoption, too, his antics keeping potential adoptees at bay (oh, I forgot to mention – he bayed, too). As volunteers for the rescue organization, we agreed to take Bailey home, temporarily, until another volunteer could retrieve him. Hopefully, it would be soon.

But one of our twin daughters, Hannah, found in Bailey her four-legged soul mate. Hannah had always been a little different from other children, but most people, well, adults mostly, found her endless monologues about dogs – their behavioral psychology, their strong loyalties, even their genetics – somewhat engaging and endearing. And when that didn’t work, she had this hopping sort of dance she couldn’t contain when she was happy. We called it the “Happy Hannah Dance.” But that all changed in middle school, when teachers lost patience for her idiosyncrasies and she became the brunt of teasing from her disdainful classmates. At 12, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s. Rather than giving her comfort that there was a name that explained her difficulties, that there were other people who saw the world through a similar lens, the official confirmation that she didn’t “fit in” was devastating for her. The Happy Hannah Dance was over.

In the following months and years, Bailey grew to be a central part of our family. When Hannah says, “Sit,” (sometimes) he sits. When Hannah says, “Lie down,” (sometimes) he lies down. When Hannah says, “I love you, Bailey,” he crawls into her lap on the floor and they seem to become one. During Bailey’s time with us, we have watched Hannah grow to trust not only Bailey, but herself. She and Bailey have been engaged in a metaphorical dance. Like many families, we have seen a relationship with an animal contribute to the emotional healing of someone with a disability. It’s hard to put into words, and we are left saying inadequate things like, “Those two, they saved each other.” Like others with similar experiences, we wonder if there is any possibility that what we see is real enough to be actually measured, scientifically tested in a research situation, and someday delivered to children. Is there a way to harness the bond that seems to arise naturally between many children and animals to treat something we don’t fully understand, something like autism?

Read IAN’s Dogs, Horses, and ASD: What Are Animal-Assisted Therapies? to find out more about the state of the research into animal-assisted therapies.

Learn about the Interactive Autism Network and how you can participate in autism research.

Autism in the News – 01.28.11

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Don’t isolate students with autism (Asbury Park Press)
Gov. Chris Christie’s recent proposal to create a state-funded autism school in every county has turned a lot of heads. Coming from a Republican governor in a time of fiscal austerity, many disability advocates have seen it as a welcome statement that some things are still worth spending money on. Read more.

With speaker in support, autism insurance coverage mandate wins key Virginia House vote (Richmond, Va.)
A Virginia bill that would mandate some employee health plans to cover treatment for autism cleared a major legislative hurdle Thursday that has been the measure’s killing field. Read more.

Temple Grandin, the voice of autism, rocks the crowd at Villa Esperanza (Pasadena, Calif.)
Grandin, in town to address today’s sold-out Autism Conference at the Pasadena Hilton, gained widespread fame as the subject of an award-winning HBO movie, and her life story has become an inspiration to those affected by autism. Read more.

Women’s Hockey Creates Puzzle-Piece Fundraiser (Hamilton, N.Y.)
The Colgate women’s hockey team is holding a Player Puzzle Fundraiser as part of its Autism Awareness Project. Each player has created their own individual online puzzle on the Web site for Autism Speaks. Read more.

Nice calls for more cross-sector working to improve autism services (UK)
The NHS must improve its autism services for children and young people if it is to cope with the increasing demand on them, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice). Read more.

Wausau Girl Scout Kirsten Radant battles autism to become top Girl Scout cookie seller (Wausau, Wis.)
A year ago, Kristen Radant of Wausau sold 1,301 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Let’s put that number in context. If a Girl Scout sells more than 300 boxes in a selling season, it’s considered a superlative effort, and it’s likely that family members have gotten involved with those sales, said Christin Stapelmann, product program manager for the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes Council. Read more.

I wish I may, I wish I might

January 27, 2011 3 comments

This guest post is by Lavanda Robertson, who is the Autism Speaks Virginia Chapter Advocacy Chair and mother of a child with autism.

Some people would say that after the first defeat, you should just give up. More people would douse you with this opinion even more heavily after the second time you go down. By the third time…

That is exactly what is going on in Virginia right now. Last week, Autism Speaks joined with the Virginia Autism Project and parents and advocates from across the Commonwealth to endorse the autism insurance reform bill for the third year in a row. Autism advocates have been working since mid to late 2008 on making this legislation a reality in our Commonwealth. Coming back for the 3rd straight year will not be easy. We may be battered, beaten and bruised from the beating we have taken, but we refuse to give up.  Despite a continually mistaken opposition and a tough as nails legislature, our community and our legislative champions are still walking tall and committed to ending insurance discrimination against individuals with autism.

How is it that we are still able to do this? The only thing I can think of is a higher power that knows the intentions of our hearts and gives us the will to keep moving forward. Not only does having a child with autism rob you of sleep, nutrition, exercise and a social life, but holding down a full-time job while working around the clock on a project that has seen two years of defeat adds insult to injury. However, it is an injury that I gladly welcome.  It is injury that may hurt in the short term, but whose long term benefits for our children will be great.

This is not about me, or even about what my family has been though. This is about the thousands of children in Virginia that require evidence-based medical treatment for their autism and yet are continually denied coverage from their health insurance companies for their speech therapy, occupational therapy, or behavior health treatments, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). This is about the Commonwealth of Virginia and about an entire nation that must move toward a time when all children get the medical treatment they need to lessen their symptoms of autism.

I ask that you consider this when you go through your day today. I ask you to consider taking part in this effort.  There are 27 states that still have yet to see passage of autism insurance reform legislation.  If you live in Virginia, please call and ask your state legislators to support the 2011 autism insurance reform bills. If you live in another state, please take a look at the website, find out where your state is in this process, and join in this effort!  We will not stop our efforts in Virginia and Autism Speaks will not stop its efforts in states across the country until every individual with autism receives coverage for the care and treatments they need and deserve.

Have this wish I wish tonight

Autism in the News – 01.27.11

January 27, 2011 3 comments

Xbox Live Labels Autistic Boy “Cheater” (Seattle, Wash.)
She says they’ve stolen his confidence and may end up isolating her autistic son even more than he is now. Read more.

Ante 4 Autism poker tournament raises more than $9,000 (Las Vegas, Nv.)
he third annual Ante 4 Autism event here this week, a Texas hold ‘em poker tournament held during the Las Vegas Market, has raised more than $9,000 for Autism Speaks. Read more.

Game Changer (Pasadena, Calif.)
After nearly two years of talks with Los Angeles County zoning officials and numerous entreaties with a bothered neighbor, Jim and Cathy Gott, operators of Altadena’s Danny’s Farm, a home-based petting zoo that for three years came to serve thousands of special needs children, were forced to close the barn door for good last month. Read more.


Orange supports children with autism (Panorama)
Today in “ArBeS” Health Center Orange and “Arabkir” United Children’s Charity Foundation summed up the results of the project launched in May 2010, which aimed to support the children with autism and their parents. Read more.

NHS student the inspiration behind autism awareness at Colgate (Hamilton, N.Y.)
This weekend, the Colgate University Women’s Hockey team will dedicate a pair of home games to its annual community service project, all in an effort to raise autism awareness and to benefit Autism Speaks, the Family Resource Network, the Kelberman Center and Project Oz. Read more.

Autism in the News – 01.26.11

January 26, 2011 3 comments

Autistic man’s confinement was abuse: province (Canada)
An autistic man was locked in a room at a special care home in Nova Scotia for 15 days, sometimes urinating in the corner when nobody knew he needed to go to the washroom, says his mother and staff at the facility. Read more.

Autism-vaccine article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. removed from’s website (Los Angeles Times)
The assertion that autism is linked to childhood vaccinations has run and run, even as study after study has failed to find such a link, either with MMR vaccines or ones containing thimerosal,  an organic compound that contains mercury. Read more.

Michigan lawmakers renew fight for autism coverage (The Times Herald)
Michigan lawmakers are renewing efforts to require the offering of insurance coverage for certain autism treatments. Read more.

Miami Companies Join to Benefit Autism Research (Miami, Fla.)
Sedano’s stores in conjunction with IMUSA will initiate the Puzzle Piece Fundraising campaign from Feb. 2, 2011 through March 2, 2011 to raise awareness and funds for Autism research. Sedano’s customers will be invited to purchase a $1 puzzle piece as a donation. Read more.

Family of autistic man shot by police wins case (SF Gate)
A civil jury found in favor of a family Monday that sued the city of Los Angeles after an autistic relative was shot and killed by a police officer. Read more.

An early start to “Light It Up Blue” in Central Ohio

January 25, 2011 3 comments

This guest post is by Kim Niederst, the Area Director of Nationally Managed Walks.

On Friday, January 14, I headed to Dublin Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio for the first Autism Puzzle Shootout.  Not knowing what to expect, I was prepared to watch high school boys basketball.  What I found was an army of students and faculty in blue t-shirts with “1 in 110” printed on the front.  It was a true “Blueout” with the entire Dublin Coffman side of the gym in blue shirts – 600 in all!  The players wore the shirts during warm ups, the cheerleaders cheered in their shirts, everyone replaced the tried and true Ohio scarlet and gray and went blue for autism awareness!!

During the week, the Dublin Coffman students sold all 600 tshirts, wristbands, raffle tickets and contenstant slots in minute to win it games which were held during half time.  The students raised $4,000 to benefit Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of Ohio.  A local car dealership joined the effort by donating $5,000 to the cause – so a $9,000 night for Dublin Coffman!  Visit this link for video coverage of the Shootout!

And the fun doesn’t end with Dublin Coffman!  There are 6 more Shootout events scheduled over the next three weeks.

  • Tuesday, January 25 – Westerville South vs. Dublin Scioto
  • Friday, January 28 – Grove City vs. Lancaster
  • Friday, January 28 – Gahanna Lincoln vs. Pickerington Central
  • Friday, February 4 – New Albany vs. Franklin Heights
  • Thursday, February 10 – Hamilton Township vs. Amanda-Clearcreek
  • Saturday, February 12 – Olentangy Orange vs. Olentangy

The Shootout is the brainchild of Jerod Smalley, NBC 4 Sports Director and father of two young boys diagnosed with autism.  Smalley’s concept is to provide high school students with information about the autism epidemic and create a forum where they can show support for awareness and fundraising efforts in Central Ohio.  Students will participate in a “Blueout” at each game and compete with other area schools in a fundraising effort.  The winning school will receive free food for all students.

The Autism Puzzle is Central Ohio’s source for all things relating to autism.  Powered by NBC 4, the Autism Puzzle is showcased through television specials featuring a live web chat and ask the expert phone bank, print magazine and web portal.

In working with NBC 4, I have realized the true power of a media partnership.  Since 2008, NBC 4 has provided countless hours of air time – either through public service announcements or the anchors on the news broadcasts casually encouraging viewers to attend the Columbus Walk Now for Autism Speaks event.  4’s Army has raised well over $25,000 to advance the mission of Autism Speaks.  I am honored  to work with our partners at NBC 4 to increase awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorders in the local community.

If you live in Central Ohio, please go to an upcoming Autism Puzzle Shootout.  The energy in the gym is electrifying and you may even see yourself on TV as NBC 4 broadcasts live at many of the games.  If you are not a Central Ohioan, check out the Autism Puzzle online at  It is a fabulous resource and who knows you may see the Autism Puzzle at your local station soon!

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If you are a high school interested in hosting an event for Autism Speaks please check out our Student Initiatives Program.

If you are a college student interested in hosting an event please visit Autism Speaks U.

Dawson Letter to The New York Times

January 25, 2011 21 comments

Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson wrote a letter to the New York Times in response to an editorial entitled “Autism Fraud.”

To the Editor:

Re “Autism Fraud” (editorial, Jan. 13):

The latest British Medical Journal paper about autism and vaccines, which provides evidence that the initial report linking autism and vaccines was fraudulent, and the media coverage that ensued, miss an important point: Until science discovers the causes of autism and explains its dramatic increase, parents will continue to reach their own conclusions and desperately try a wide range of treatments, whether there is evidence to support them or not.

The answer is not to look to the past and look for blame, but rather to look to the future. We need increased research financing directed toward rigorous science that can provide the answers that parents are looking for and deserve. Until this happens, we will continue to wallow in controversy, and people with autism and families will continue to struggle with autism on their own.

Geraldine Dawson
Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks
New York, Jan. 13, 2011

See the letter on the The New York Times site.


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