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A Surplus of Males

September 28, 2011 29 comments

This is a guest blog post from Autism Speaks Science Board member John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s and Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian.

I spent this Tuesday in Washington, reviewing autism research proposals.  I really enjoy that work, because it puts me among some of the best minds in autism science.   In the course of our discussions, an intriguing question arose.

We know autism is far more common in males, but the reason why remains elusive.  It’s one of those facts of autism that most people take for granted, and simply accept for what it is.  In earlier essays on this blog I have considered possible explanations, from Simon Baron Cohen’s theory that autism is “exaggerated maleness” to reasons why females might be undiagnosed and undetected.

All the explanations I have heard so far do not account for this interesting observation:

If the male/female ratio within a society is 50/50, any random group of families sould have a 50/50 distribution of sons and daughters. Some families would have one child, others would have three.  Some would have all sons and others two daughters and a son.  Taken together, we would expect the total of sons and daughters to be equal.

If we assemble a collection of families in which there is at least one autistic child, that distribution of sons and daughters is not 50/50.  It favors the males.  Any autism researcher who has worked with families knows that to be true, even in the absence of hard studies to quantify it.  Why?

All of us know families that have all sons or all daughters.  We don’t make anything more of that that we do tossing a coin and having it come up heads three times in a row.  Just chance, we say.  But when you identify a group of families with a trait like autism, and they all have more sons than daughters . . . suddenly it stops looking random and starts to seem the result of something else.

If this were a roll of the dice, you’d start to think the dice were loaded.

One explanation is that some parents have a son with autism and stop having children.  So the girls that might even the male/female ratio are never born.  I think that explanation may be true today, but what about the ages before modern birth control?

Critics might say that we don’t know how autism was distributed among the sexes a hundred years ago, and that’s true.  The autism diagnosis has only existed for sixty-some years.  Yet we do have strong anecdotal evidence.  Using that, some modern day people have “diagnosed” historical figures with autism based on what we know of them and their lives.  How many of those individuals are female? Almost none.

Those “post-mortem diagnoses” are certainly subject to challenge and I’m sure some are even wrong.  That said, they can’t all be wrong and the male-female ratio in the known historical record of autism remains strikingly tilted toward the male side.

Geri Dawson suggested another possible explanation for the male-female imbalance.  What if girl embryos are actually more susceptible to some factor implicated in autism, but in a different way?  The factor that produces autistic baby boys might result in unsuccessful pregnancies when the fetus is female.  The result – fewer baby girls with autism are born.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has studied pregnancies in families with autism.  All that has been studied are the resultant children.  We don’t know how many miscarriages may have preceded or followed the birth of an autistic boy.  The incidence of miscarriage in general has been studied and it would be interesting to know if families with autism deviate from the norms in that regard.

The son-daughter imbalance certainly ties in with the Baron-Cohen “maleness” theory.  If autism indeed an expression of excessively male genetic material, that imbalance might result in more males being born in those families.

I spoke to several scientists and it became clear that this is one of those obvious questions that has never really been answered.  There is the general belief that autism families contain more males, but we have no hard data to illustrate the difference.  We also don’t have any multi generational data, which could shed light on the heritability of the condition.

In my own family, I have one child, a son with Asperger’s.  My father had many Aspergian traits, but he died before anyone thought to explore that possibility.  He had a brother, and no sisters.   His father also had a brother and no sisters.  His grandfather had three brothers and a sister.  Is there a pattern there that relates to autism?  I really don’t know.

It would be very interesting to see a study that addressed this question.  Perhaps a grad student somewhere will read this, and bring a research proposal to our next review meeting . . . .

Stranger things have happened.

Autism in the News – 09.28.11

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

State board overturns autism therapy rule change (Charleston, W.Va.)
The state Board of Examiners of Psychologists voted to withdraw a controversial legislative rule change from earlier this year, citing a “misunderstanding.” Read more.

Autism hasn’t stopped Temple Grandin’s impressive career (Democrat and Chronicle)
Temple Grandin is an associate professor at Colorado State University, where she is an expert in animal behavior. She has designed one-third of all livestock-handling facilities in the United States. Read more.

School uses vinegar to discipline children (The Imperfect Parent)
Children at a Texas Elementary School allegedly had cotton balls soaked in vinegar put into their mouths and were forced to go on a treadmill longer and faster than they wanted to as a form of discipline. The children being disciplined suffer from autism. Read more.

Missing 7-year-old with autism could be released from the hospital Wednesday (WHAS11.com)
A 7-year-old boy who went missing for nearly two days, could be released from Kosair Childrens Hospital in Louisville Wednesday. Read more.

Categories: Autism in the News Tags: ,

2nd Annual Autism Speaks Fall Classic

September 27, 2011 1 comment

On Monday, September 26, 2011, Autism Speaks celebrated its 2nd Annual Autism Speaks Fall Classic at the illustrious Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ.  Joined by Title Sponsor ShopRite and Tournament Sponsor GTS-Welco, we hosted an exciting afternoon golf tournament and evening reception that raised over $268,000 for Autism Speaks’ research and advocacy initiatives! The tournament kicked off with a shotgun start on Baltusrol’s famed lower course and featured several contests, including the US Bancorp Million-Dollar Shootout, prizes distributed for the longest drive and the Bachman Putting Contest where qualifiers could compete to win a $10,000 prize.

The day wrapped up with evening cocktails, and a silent and live auction which offered guests an opportunity to help fund Autism Speaks’ initiatives for adults with autism. Honorary Co-chair and Autism Speaks Co-founder Bob Wright showed a highlight video from the second annual “Light It Up Blue” initiative on World Autism Awareness Day, on April 2.  He also honored longtime Autism Speaks supporter Joe Kernan, host of the CNBC’s popular morning show “Squawk Box.”  Event Co-chair and President of the Bachman Company Scott Carpenter welcomed another honoree, fourth grader Zachary Brooks, a tireless advocate for Autism Speaks whose twin brother, Jack,  is affected by autism.  Carpenter also introduced a special “thank you” video message on behalf of his fellow Co-chairs: his wife Suzie, John and Nico Sumas of ShopRite, Peter and Heather Kapsimalis, and Anne and Dave St. Clair. The video summed up why it’s so important to help raise awareness and funds for Autism Speaks, and expressed gratitude to everyone involved in making the Fall Classic such a special day.

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LIVE Chat with Dr. Ricki Robinson Transcript

September 27, 2011 2 comments

On Monday September 26 Dr. Ricki Robinson, author of  Autism Solutions: How To Create a Healthy And Meaningful Life For Your Child, hosted a LIVA Facebook Chat.

Having a child with ASD can and will have an impact on your immediate family and extended family. While it is easy to be distracted by your child’s often overwhelming needs, it is important to carve out time for your family and friends. Often they can be your best support. Additionally you may need help dealing with many concerns, including those that are emotionally charged, such as how to tell others about your child, whether to have more children, how to incorporate siblings into his program, and practical ones such as financing respite care and just organizing your life and family, as well as getting your own job at work done.

2:34
Hi everyone! We’ll be live with Dr Ricki Robinson in just under 30 minutes, at 3PM EST. In the meantime, feel free to submit questions!
2:42
Type any questions in the box below and hit ‘send’. Don’t worry if you can’t see your question, it goes straight to us!
2:42
We’ll be live with Dr Ricki in 20 minutes!
2:52
Today Dr Robinson will be …..taking questions about Having a child with ASD the impact on your immediate family and extended family.
2:59
Hi Everyone, we’re here with Dr Ricki Robinson. We’re thrilled to have her back after the last live chat she did with us!
3:00
Dr Robinson: I am so pleased to be with you again. My first chat was an exciting, intense hour! I’m a pediatrician and I’ve devoted my practice to the care of children and families affected by autism for the past 20 years.
3:01
Dr Robinson: I have recently published Autism Solutions: How to Create a Healthy and Meaningful life for your child, in which I share with families what I’ve learned over the years that has helped their children move up the developmental ladder, and problem solve the challenges they meet along the way
3:02
Dr Ricki: A portion of the proceeds of the book of course gets donated to our host, Autism Speaks!
3:02
www.DrRickiRobinson.com for more info!
3:03
So without further ado…. first question!
3:03
Comment From Loni Alpino

Is there any monetary aid for an Autistic child for feedback and therapy services?

3:04
Hi Loni!
3:04
You ask a question that plagues every parent and family who has a child with autism.
3:05
There are so many stressers that families face, and financial issues are one of the primary ones that we see in families of children with special needs.
3:05
There are potential sources of aid…. many of them depend on the state in which you’re living.
3:07
Many of the services in some of the states are provided for through state agencies. As an example, I come from California, and children who have been diagnosed with ASD qualify for services through both the educational system and the California department of Developmental Disabilities. So my recommendation is to mine the services available in your community for funding, and don’t forget about medical insurance.
3:08
Through medical insurance if you have a willing physician, you can sometimes get funded for ancillary services that might be covered by your own insurance policy, or through Medicaid, especially if your child has other medical diagnoses such as seizures, GI problems or special dietary needs.
3:09
additionally approximately 25 states have now passed state insurance reform for autism service coverage to provide many of the services that occur in home for your child.
3:10
Once you know where all your sources of funding might be, then take a critical look at your treatment plan that is required for your child, and see how each element might be covered by each of these resources to put together the most robust treatment plan for your child possible.
3:11
For more information about the state supported autism insurance laws in your state, i suggest you go to www.autismvotes.org
3:11
Comment From Guest

My daughter is 2 years old and was diagnosed autistic on April 1st. I have some family members that keep insisting she’s just delayed. They don’t understand it’s more than her not talking yet. She doesn’t respond to her name, doesn’t point to let us know what she wants and really has never babbled. She makes noises, but not what I would call babbling. Any suggestions.

3:12
Your situation is very common in families where a child has been diagnosed with special needs, most especially autism.
3:13
There are so many emotional processes that are occurring for the family as a unit, and for each of you individually after getting this diagnosis.
3:14
Of course there is the initial shock that can send you spiraling into a true grieving process, and each of you in the family will work through this in your own time frame. Part of that process includes a stage of denial as particularly i see this in family members who aren’t living with your child day to day.
3:15
It will take them often longer to come to terms with the diagnosis and along with everything else we have to be patient for these things to happen. I particularly see this in grandparents, whose often have forgotten what it was like in the early years with their children, and the bumps that happen along the way.
3:16
To that end Autism Speaks has published ‘A Grandparent’s Guide To Autism’, that was developed specifically to help grandparents understand and deal with the emotions related to a diagnosis.
3:18
I find that when other family members get some understanding of what autism is, and they can get beyond the autism label to understand what are the strengths and challenges of the child who has autism, and learn about ways in which they can learn to relate and then help their family, that this will put the family members back on track to becoming a support that you might be able to rely on.
3:22
There are also professionals who understand this process who can provide help for those who are really struggling, and sometimes that is necessary. Finding a caring pediatrician with whom you are able to share these issues may provide you the support you need to be able to take the help back to your family members. In my experience having such a case manager for the long term allows you to not only meet both the medical needs of your child and your family, but also your emotional needs.
3:22
Comment From Maureen Early

What is the best way to educate your extended family about autism, especially when it looks like a child is tantruming because they’re “naughty” instead of due to their symptoms of autism.

3:22
Hi Maureen!
3:23
I am so glad that you asked that question, because it is one of my pet peeves.
3:23
So often children, all the way up to adults with autism, are described by their behavior, as you noted.
3:23
and yet…. this behavior often comes the greatest clue that we have to what a child is thinking or feeling.
3:24
and why do I say that? When a child is not able to communicate, and yet has intent, what would we expect them to do?
3:24
Of course they’re going to do something to express themselves.
3:25
So our job is to become a detective, and to try to figure out what they’re trying to tell us. So often these behaviors don’t have intent, but are actually a response to the environment. We know that children with autism have unusual responses to the world around them.
3:26
Additionally one of the senses that we have is how we interpret our own bodies. It’s how we know that we’re hungry or that we have a pain, and where that pain is going to. My hypothesis is that it is just as difficult for children with autism to understand this sense as it is for them to understand the world around them.
3:27
Therefore quite often a change in behavior is related to how your child is feeling at that time. If a behavior is persistent and is effecting his quality of life, then it is my experience that a medical illness must be ruled out. I have covered this issue extensively in my book, for those of you who might be concerned that your child may be experiencing a medical problem.
3:28
However it is important that we “demystify” a child’s behavior for your family members. If you can ask your therapy team to help you with language that is understandable to describe these behaviors to your family members so that they can also begin to understand what your child might be expressing. This can be incredibly helpful.
3:29
Comment From Relonda Supel

What therapies and doctors should a child with autism have in place beside the therapy he gets in school and seeing your usually pediatricians

3:29
Hi Relonda!
3:29
Putting your team together is one of the paramount issues for parents and families.
3:30
Depending on your community, there will be a variety of resources that you can tap into.
3:30
If you happen to be in a community where there are few resources, then Autism Speaks has provided a resource guide to help you identify local resources.
3:31
Here’s a link to that guide:http://www.autismspeaks.org/community/fsdb/search.php
3:31
Depending on the resources available, you still need the manager of your team. In general it becomes one of the parents.
3:32
Sometimes you are able to find a professional on your team who has experience in case management. Pediatricians and other physicians sometimes do have this expertise, and you will want to find out about that.
3:33
Deciding on who your team members will be really comes from understanding your individual child. Nowhere in medicine have I experienced a complex disorder requiring so much individualization of a treatment plan.
3:33
When you determine through your professional consultations what your child’s challenges are, then my approach is that every challenge deserves the proper treatment.
3:35
This means that your treatment team will look like a wheel, with the child, parents and family at the center of the wheel, but the therapists as the spokes of the wheel, and the tire of the wheel are all the challenges and barriers that your child faces. What we know is that these challenges will change over time, especially as your child goes into adolescence and into adulthood, and so this therapeutic team will change accordingly.
3:37
That’s a long way of saying that I can’t tell you how many doctors you will need, and you will be the advocate for that, depending on the challenges that arise. Finding team members where you can have an ongoing dialog where they will listen to your concerns is key to finding the right professionals at the right time. And you, as the parent, are the keeper of that key.
3:37
Comment From Lou Melgarejo

My wife and I fear that when our kids are older, our two neuro-typical kids will resent their autistic sister for the restraints that her condition has put on our lives. Do you have any suggestions for raising siblings without resent?

3:38
Hi Lou! You too ask a question that is on the mind of most parents who have more than one child.
3:38
If truth be told, it’s on the mind of all parents, as typical siblings, as they grow up, often become resentful of their siblings, and their perception of their place in the family.
3:39
For siblings of children with autism, these feelings may come sooner, and are more real.
3:39
because off the 24/7 nature of living and helping a child with autism.
3:40
Although I can’t guarantee that you can’t raise siblings without resentment in any family, there are things we can do. I think they first thing you have to do is to help your siblings understand what is happening for their brother or sister.
3:41
We must always inform siblings as directly as possible using age appropriate language, and be certain to not let our fears and worries be evident, as they are able to pick up on these aswell. I like to describe to them, not in the terms of the autism label, but we have to tell them what that really means for their sibling.
3:43
I find that older siblings, who so much crave to have an interaction with their brother or sister, but don’t know how, can be mentored by giving simple techniques and instructions as to how they might be able to engage their sibling in a meaningful way that will be fun for both of them. I find also that having a sibling with autism is a double edged sword: resentment goes hand in hand with guilt.
3:45
Siblings may feel guilty because they do not have autism, and yet may resent the time that you might have to spend with their brother or sister. These issues are best dealt with if brought to the front and center in a way that will help these children deal with their own emotional journey.
3:47
Studies have shown that siblings who have brothers or sisters with ASD often learn to cope quite well. For many learning to be a helpful member of the family becomes second nature. In fact as an adult a sibling one of the helping careers and may become more skilled than their peers in responding positively to their own emotional needs.
3:48
if you happen to have a child who’s having a difficult time, especially as an adolescent you may also need to consider getting them the support they need to work through these emotional issues.
3:48
Comment From Bobbie Jo

sometimes my son seems as if he is bi polar. I expressed my concern and I am told that it is normal for a child that has autisim?

3:49
Actually Bobbie Jo, what you’re describing, which I presume is mood changes, both highs and lows in your son, can occur in autism, but is not necessarily part of autism.
3:51
Often these mood concerns can interfere with your child’s daily life and absolutely derail learning and interactions. if this is the case, then we do have ways of addressing these issues medically. Certainly your son deserves a full medical evaluation. In this case I would suggest asking your primary care physician first, to refer you to a specialist, which might be a child psychiatric or neurologist, or developmental pediatrician who has expertise in this area.
3:53
Mood issues in autism is considered a co-morbid condition that are overlapping the symptoms of the autism. this is not always easy to sort out, and is why you need a physician with expertise to help you determine what is happening for your child, and the correct treatment approach. Again, if you’re having trouble finding a professional in your community who can help you, please check out the Autism Speaks resources guide:http://www.autismspeaks.org/community/fsdb/search.php
3:54
Comment From Joseph

Do you put any emphasis into the new belief that Autistic kids should now also have included in their therapies joint attention therapy?

3:55
I am so glad you asked that question Joseph.
3:57
For children with autism, who at their core have a delay in social and emotional development, it behooves us as part of their treatment program an approach that helps them gain mastery of social interactions. In order to do that one has to go back to the basics, and help a child develop his ability to attend to another in a meaningful way, in order to engage and interact.
3:57
Recent research has confirmed that children who developed joint attention have greater gains in language than those who have not.
3:59
This underscores the hypothesis that strong foundational social and emotional development is really required for a child to be able to think and create. This at the end of the day is what we hope for all children with ASD. So how are you going to do this? There are many techniques that can supplement what your program is, or can be the primary focus of your program, that will support your child developing joint attention and engagement and reciprocity in play.
4:00
I use the DIR/Floortime approach in order to foster these abilities. I have described them fully in “Autism Solutions, and describe how to implement Floortime in the home throughout the day.
4:03
Other approaches that can help include the Early Start Denver Model. Practitioners of these approaches are increasing around the world. Floortime was designed for parents to learn how to interact with their children by understanding how their child learns about the world, what they’re individual differences are that derails this interaction, and then entering their world with this understanding by following their child’s interests.
4:03
If you wish to pursue this, Autism Speaks has a reference library for books on these subjects.
4:04
Remember, shared emotion with others and relationships that are developed are the glue that supports all that your child does.
4:07
I want to leave you with a final message today: I’m sorry I couldn’t get to all your questions, but I hope to be back in the future for more. Just remember: believe in your strength, creativity and love. Your family will help you meet the challenges of raising a child with autism, so you can help your child be the best that he or she can be!
4:08
Autism Speaks: Thanks everyone for coming, and thanks Dr Ricki for another great chat. Sorry we didn’t get to everyone’s questions.
4:08
You can forward any questions to familyservices@autismspeaks.org, or call our autism response team 888 288 4762
4:10
If you’re interested in Dr Ricki’s book, Autism Solutions, check out her site here: http://www.drrickirobinson.com/
4:11
Thanks everyone!

Autism in the News – 09.27.11

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Autism Memoir Author Monica Holloway to Appear on Autism America Radio 9/17 In Observance of National Dog Week — Holloway Shares Hope and Healing Through Connection With Dog ‘Cowboy’ (Stock Market Review)
Acclaimed author Monica Holloway will join Autism America Radio as a special guest, sharing her journey with autism and discussing her book “Cowboy and Wills” on Saturday, September 17 from 3-5 p.m. PT on KTLK 1150 AM. Read more.

A Perfect Score Means a Good Week (Northbrook Patch)
As the parent of child with autism, one of the things that I always struggle to keep in mind during the tough times is that things always change. Read more.

Revision would eliminate Asperger’s as a diagnosis and replace it with autism spectrum disorder (Syracuse.com)
Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism being diagnosed in a growing number of children, may soon disappear from the official psychiatric diagnostic manual. Read more.

Forsyth County’s “A Boy and His Dog” (Cumming Patch)
Josh and Laraleigh Forester have a snake, a fish and four amazing children under the age of six. As you can imagine there is never a dull moment in the Forester home. Although they have a full house they are looking to add one more to their brood. A dog. Not just any dog, an autism service dog. Read more.

Pioneer Center CEO to Retire (Crystal Lake Patch)
Lorraine Kopczynski, president and CEO of Pioneer Center for Human Services, told the center’s board about her plans to retire in the spring of 2012. Read more.

Categories: Autism in the News Tags: ,

Our New Medication Decision Aid in Action …

September 27, 2011 23 comments

Posted by pediatric nurse practitioner Lynn Cole, associate director of clinical services at the University of Rochester’s Division of Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, one of 17 Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN) sites across North America.

As a nurse practitioner and autism specialist, I often see families who ask about medicine. Today was no exception. The third family on my schedule was that of a delightfully engaging 7 year old who loves Thomas the Tank Engine and airplanes. While he has made substantial progress in many areas—language, changes in routine, self-help skills—he continues to struggle with attention problems and anxiety. His family described the many behavioral and educational interventions in place to help him. They worried that these difficulties would limit his learning and success. They wondered what I thought about medication.

The decision to use medicine to treat challenging behaviors is a difficult one. Some childhood disorders have an obvious treatment–diabetes is treated with insulin, for example. Best treatment for a child with autism is not so clear cut. Hearing parents talk about their stress around these decisions, I began thinking about new ways to partner with families in the decision-making process.

It was on this quest that I learned about Shared Decision Making. In a nutshell, this describes a process for making a decision when there is not one clear “best choice.” Patients, families and health care providers work together to make a decision while considering risks and benefits in the context of patient and family values and preferences.

Sharing in these decisions, however, is easier said than done!  Families often need help conveying the nature of the role they want to play. Often, they also need help taking stock of their personal values and preferences as they relate to medications. Providers, in turn, need to convey risk and benefit information in ways that makes sense to families.

Should My Child Take Medicine for Challenging Behavior?—is an interactive toolkit with questions and worksheets that help families work with their health care providers to make decisions that reflect the family’s goals and values for their child.

From first-hand experience, we know that this decision aid can help families move through the decision-making process before, during or after meeting with a healthcare professional. The family with whom I met this morning, for example, had used the toolkit before their appointment and brought a printout of their worksheets. When I asked them how they saw their role in the decision, they told me that they would like information and options, but that they would make the final decision. They were able to express their values, including that they were generally a “no medicine family,” that they generally preferred natural treatments and that side effects were a big concern for them.

They had put thought into both the risks of treatment and the risks of not treating their son’s symptoms. For instance, they saw a significant risk of his missing out on educational and social opportunities because of his symptoms. Given their concern about side effects, we focused on an option with relatively few of them.

Together, we developed a treatment plan. They left with a prescription and a commitment to review the risks and benefits again that weekend—before making their decision.  Although this remained a difficult issue, they spoke with satisfaction about the process we used.

Healthcare providers have likewise expressed great satisfaction with the ATN’s new medication decision aid. “I liked using it with my patients so much,” one colleague told me, “that I found a decision aid about treatment of my own health condition and used it to discuss options with my doctor!” We hope you, too, will find this new toolkit useful. You can download it here. Please let us know about your experience by emailing us at atn@autismspeaks.org.

The Autism Speaks ATN/AIR-P Medicine Decision Aid is the product of on-going activities of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, a funded program of Autism Speaks. It is supported by cooperative agreement UA3 MC 11054 through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Research Program to the Massachusetts General Hospital. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the MCHB, HRSA, HHS.


Categories: Science, Uncategorized

Autism Speaks U Spotlight: UC Berkeley Chapter President

September 26, 2011 2 comments

This guest post is by Caroline McCloskey, a sophomore at UC Berkeley. She is the president and founder of her school’s Autism Speaks U chapter and is a true ambassador for our cause! Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Helping those with autism has always held a place in my heart. My older brother Joey was diagnosed with autism at a very young age, and has always been my big “little brother.” Joey has a considerably severe case of autism and is often misunderstood because he has difficulty communicating with others. He lives in the world of a six-year old and still watches Disney movies (his favorite being Peter Pan), Sesame Street and Winnie the Pooh.  One of the truly amazing things about my brother is his ability to complete a 500-piece puzzle in twenty minutes – something I would never be able to do. He will never fail to impress me with his unique gift and now that I’ve gone to college and live 6000 miles away from home, I miss him dearly.

Caroline hikes to the big Campanile to raise autism awareness.

Coming to the University of California, Berkeley was by far the best decision I have ever made. As soon as I got here I knew that I wanted to get involved on campus, so I looked into various student organizations and tried to find one that promoted autism awareness or raised money for scientific research. No such club or organization existed. I thought to myself: of all the hundreds of student organizations that Berkeley has to offer, how is it that not a single one addresses the problem of autism, something that affects 1 in 110 people?

Consequently, some friends and I took the initiative and our chapter of Autism Speaks U at Berkeley was officially founded on March 9th2011. Now we have over 30 active members and have begun to establish a firm presence on campus as of this academic year. The UC Berkeley community has been very supportive of our efforts and during Autism Awareness Month this year we held an awareness campaign and small-scale fundraiser in the Unit 2 Residence Halls. Our biggest achievement so far has been lighting up the Campanile blue on Autism Awareness Day, which we hope to do again in April 2012.

Campanile Lit Up Blue.

Right now we are in the process of planning a benefit concert to be held on November 19, of this year. We are also trying to establish a mentoring program with the Berkeley Unified School District, where members of our chapter would volunteer with children and young adults on the spectrum. Furthermore, we are in the early phases of planning a large-scale walk event on UC Berkeley’s campus, which will be held on April 72012, during Autism Awareness Month.

This year we have a very strong team of officers who are all contributing incredible amounts of time and effort to our cause. It means so much to me that my friends have been so supportive of what I am so passionate about, and I honestly appreciate their help and support more than they will ever know. I know that this year we’re going to go far and it’s all because of them: thank you, guys.

To get involved with Autism Speaks U and/or the UC Berkeley collegiate chapter, contact autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.  

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