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Archive for February, 2012

Got Sleep Questions? We’ve Got a Webchat for You

February 21, 2012 6 comments

Please join us TODAY for a live webchat with neurologist and autism sleep expert Dr. Beth Ann Malow, M.D., of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, at 1 pm Eastern (noon Central; 11 am Mountain; 10 am Pacific).

Dr. Malow will be fielding questions on sleep issues affecting individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. This webchat is being held in tandem with the same day release of Sleep Strategies for Children with Autism: A Parent’s Guide, the latest free tool kit published by the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN) as part of its participation in the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P). The tool kit will become available for free download on the ATN’s “Tools You Can Use” page the same day.

Joining Dr. Malow will be ATN Program Director Nancy Jones, Ph.D., who will be fielding general questions about ATN services and other Autism Speaks resources.

We hope you’ll join us:

What: Live “Sleep Chat” with neurologist and autism sleep expert Dr. Beth Ann Malow
When: Feb. 21, at 1 pm Eastern; noon Central; 11 am Mountain; 10 am Pacific
Where: Join via the Live Chat tab on left side of the Autism Speaks Facebook page.

Autism Speaks to Young Professionals Winter Gala a Success

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Last night, more than 250 guests, including Miss New York 2012 Johanna Sambucini, packed the house at the ultra-cool Avenue lounge in New York City for the fifth Autism Speaks to Young Professionals winter gala. The annual event is designed to bring together young professionals from all industries to generate funds and awareness of autism. Co-chaired by Jesse Morris and Danny Ryan, the Autism Speaks to Young Professionals winter gala raised over $33,000 dollars for Autism Speaks’ research and advocacy initiatives.

A special thanks goes out to the sponsors who helped make the event such a special evening, including RBS, Brooklyn Brewery, Crop Organic Vodka, DonQ Rum, Farmers Botanical Organic Gin, Given Tequila Liqueur, Magner’s Irish Cider, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. And finally, thank you to Lauren Colatrella of Bakari for the delicious and festive cupcakes!

Be sure to scroll through all of the great pictures below.

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Tune-in to NBC Nightly News Tonight!

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Tune-in to NBC Nightly News this evening, February 17, at 6:30 p.m., ET, for an interview with Geri Dawson, Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer. Dawson will discuss the Autism Speaks funded Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) reported online today in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The new study suggests the changes in brain development that underlie autism may be detectable in children as young as 6 months of age, even before symptoms emerge.

For more details, here’s a link to a Science news item on the study.

Autism Speaks U “Light It Up Blue” LIVE Q&A Transcript

February 17, 2012 2 comments

On Thursday, February 16, our Autism Speaks U team hosted a LIVE Facebook Q&A for college students across the country. We discussed Light It Up Blue, World Autism Awareness Day, awareness/fundraising event ideas and shared links to awareness and promotions resources. If you were unable to join,  read below for the full transcript. Visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/U for more information.

4:59
Hi everyone, thanks for joining our LIVE Q&A! We’ll begin in 2 minutes.
5:02
This Q&A is intended for college students, faculty and staff.
5:02
It is text only – you’ll interact with us via the live chat client that you are logged into now. When you submit a question or comment there will be a delay from when it appears on the chat client.
5:03
Moderating this Q&A will be Sarah Caminker and Jaclyn Renner from Autism Speaks U.
5:03
Let’s do a roll call, so we know the schools that are being represented.Enter your school name and if you’re an undergrad, grad or staff.
5:03
Comment From Amanda

NYU

5:03
Comment From Theresa

SUNY Albany- undergrad

5:03
Comment From Rosalie

Seattle Pacific University, undergrad of psychology department

5:04
Comment From John

National Univ. San Diego

5:04
Comment From Elisse Bachman

Elisse Bachman, Graduate Student (’13): Bloomsburg Univ of PA (Bloomsburg, PA)

5:04
Comment From Guest

Liberty University – Undergrad

5:04
Comment From sharon moreno

VCU, Richmond, VA – parent of undergrad

5:04
Comment From Jessica

Appalachian State – undergraduate

5:04
Comment From Guest

University of Texas at Austin – undergrad

5:04
Comment From Guest

San Joaquin Delta College undergrade in early child development

5:05
Comment From Rob and LK @ Gettysburg

Co-founders and -presidents of Autism Speaks U Gettysburg College

5:05
Comment From Lori – staff

Bridgewater State University, MA

5:06
Comment From Aspen

Arizona State University Undergrad

5:06
Comment From Susan

Remington College of Nursing, faculty

5:06
Comment From Guest

Smith College, undergrad

5:06
Looks like we have a diverse group here! If anyone comes on later, please post your name and school.
5:07
Comment From Brookie

Meredith College Raleigh NC

5:07
Comment From Katrina Mesina

Chicago Autism Speaks Office

5:07
For those new to Autism Speaks U, it is a program that supports students who
-host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events
-start chapters
-become campus ambassadors.We have 50 official Autism Speaks U Chapters across the country and work with hundreds of students who host events!
5:07
Get more information at www.AutismSpeaks.org/U or email sarah.caminker@autismspeaks.org
5:07
This Q&A will include the following:
-Explanation of Light It Up Blue & World Autism Awareness Day.
-Overview of how to get your campus to participate.
-Event ideas and links to resources.
-Question and answer session.
5:08
Before we dive into our first topic, we’d like to ask….
5:08
Did you know that Monday, April 2 is Light It Up Blue and World Autism Awareness Day?
Yes: ( 73% )

No: ( 27% )

5:09
Thanks for the feedback.For those who answered no, Light It Up Blue is Autism Speaks 3rd annual awareness campaign, where iconic buildings, landmarks and schools across the world are asked to change their lights from white to blue on April 2nd in Honor of United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day.
5:09
April 2nd also kicks off Autism Awareness Month which is all throughout April.
5:09
So what does this mean?April 2nd is a BIG deal, and we need your help to turn everything blue!
5:09
Last year, 150 colleges and universities across the country participated in Light It Up Blue by illuminating a building or structure or by hosting events on campus.
5:10
Did your school light it up blue last year?
Yes: ( 11% )

No: ( 89% )

5:10
Here are few images of buildings that went blue in 2011
5:10

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UConn’s Wilbur Cross Building.
5:11

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UC Berkeley’s Campanile
5:11

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Colgate University’s campus chapel.
5:11

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Case Western Reserve University’s Peter B. Lewis building.
5:11

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The Great Buddah at Hyogo in Kobe, Japan. – We know it’s not a school, but this is one of our favorite pictures!
5:12
Other incredible monuments that lit it up blue last year include the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls, Sydney Opera House, Christ the Redeemer Statue, Tokyo Tower and more!
5:12
A new question for everyone…..please vote!
5:12
Is your school planning to light up a building/monument blue this year?
Yes: ( 48% )

No: ( 52% )

5:13
If you answered no, here are 5 easy ways to get your school to participate in Light It Up Blue.
5:13
1. Decide what building you want to light up blue. Determine this BEFORE you ask your school to participate, so you’re prepared when meeting with faculty and staff.
5:13
2. Contact your school’s President and Student Activities Director to ask them to participate. Do this via email or by making an in-person appointment.
5:13
Download a sample letter template that you can modify and send to your school athttp://bit.ly/liubletter.
5:14
3. See if there’s an Autism Speaks U chapter (http://bit.ly/chapterlist) or one of our national philanthropic partners (Αlpha Xi Delta http://bit.ly/azdlistings & Theta Delta Chihttp://bit.ly/tdxcharges) at your school. If so, contact them and work together!
5:14
4. Ask different academic department heads (Psychology, Education, Communication, Speech & Hearing, etc.) to work with you and the school administration to light up your campus blue.
5:15
5. Explain to your school WHY it is important to Light It Up Blue.
5:15
For example, 1 in 110 individuals are on the spectrum and a new case is diagnosed every 15 minutes. All the more reason to educate your campus about this prevalent disability.
5:16
Your campus will also be aligning themselves with prestigious schools, such as Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern, UC Berkeley and Penn State who lit up their campuses blue last year.
5:16
Now….HOW do you actually light up the building blue? There are 2 ways.
5:16
1. The school purchases blue bulbs from a hardware and lighting supply stores and replaces the white bulbs with blue ones.
5:17
Contact your school’s facilities manager for specific details on what type of lights you will need.
5:17
2. Place gels, filters or blue cellophane over the existing lights. These can be purchased from a local lighting supply store.
5:18
A few tips about the gels/filters…
5:18
If the installed lights are very bright white light, then it is recommended to use Roscolux #80 Primary Blue.If the lights have a medium intensity or the surface isn’t highly reflective, use Roscolux #68 Sky Blue.
5:18
The school’s facilities manager will be able to discuss this in more detail, but it’s helpful to have this information on hand.
5:18
If unable to light up a building blue there are other ways to have your school participate.
5:19
If there is an electronic marquee on your campus ask them to display the Light It Up Blue logo and announce that it is World Autism Awareness Day.
5:19

5:19
Encourage students, faculty and staff to all wear blue on April 2, or on another designated day in April. Gather everyone together, take a picture and send it to us!
5:19

5:20
Get a banner hung cross campus or near student housing to let everyone know that it’s World Autism Awareness Day.
5:20

5:20
Does your school have a well-known statue, monument or mascot? If so, decorate it with Autism Speaks U banners, gear and blue balloons!
5:20

5:20
Deck out the campus in blue. See how one school got approval to paint their campus’ tunnel.
5:21

5:21
There are SO many different ways to light up your campus blue! Be creative, think outside the box and don’t forget to send us pictures!
5:22
Now for a QUESTION….please submit a response
5:22
What building(s) or monuments are you planning to light up blue?
5:22
Comment From Caitlyn

The student center

5:22
Comment From Guest

Library, student center, and quad

5:23
Comment From Guest

Dorms

5:23
Comment From Lori – staff

I would love for the University to light up the main administrative building ~ Boyden Hall.

5:23
Comment From Rosalie

Demaray Hall Clocktower

5:23
Comment From Jessica

Mascot statue and our university’s main sign

5:23
Comment From Kimberly

Hey something I haven’t seen … let’s try and get towns or cities lite up blue that day

5:23
Comment From Rob and LK @ Gettysburg

Our main historic Building, Penn hall

5:24
Comment From Guest

I would like to light up College Hall here at Smith College, MA. It is very visible.

5:24
Comment From Theresa

I requested my school to light of the University Hall which is the first building you would see if you walked onto campus or the Campus Center

5:24
Comment From Kasia

We have a building that is a historic building here that just got new led lights so the building is always lit up and they can make them change different colors.

5:24
Comment From Susan

Will encourage everyone to wear blue April 2nd

5:24
Comment From Guest

Main building

5:24
Comment From Jasmine

The preschool I work for, the quad at the college and my house!

5:24
Comment From Kasia

Possibly our Mountaineer statue as well

5:24
Comment From Theresa

University Hall or the Campus Center

5:25
Comment From Guest

We are planning on having a block party on April 2nd. We’ll be having blue bracelets that light up, so we can do a countdown for sunset and have students light theirs up then.

5:25
Comment From Mike

We’re lighting up all the dinning halls on campus blue

5:26
Comment From Brooklyn at ISU
I love that block party idea
5:26
In addition to lighting up a building blue, host an event on April 2, or throughout the month of April!
5:26
To start, download our Light It Up Blue cards at http://bit.ly/liubcards.
5:26

5:27
Print these out and distribute the cards outside the buildings that are lit blue. They are a great way to raise awareness!FYI….we’ll be listing all available materials in a few minutes.
5:27
Event ideas can include, but are not limited to:
5:27
Bake sales
Autism Speaks wristband sale
Blue cupcake eating contest
Walk/run
5:27
Blue hair extensions booth
Spare change campaign
Zumbathon
T-shirt sales
Blue flower sale
5:28
One of our favorites….a blue cake pop fundraiser!
5:28

5:28
They’re easy to make and a big hit. Download the cake pop recipe at http://bit.ly/bluecakepops.
5:29
Or try a puzzle piece campaign.
5:29

5:29
Set up a table on campus and sell puzzle piece cards to students, faculty and staff. Whoever purchases the card, signs his/her name and display the cards in your Student Center.
5:30
Attach fact cards to blue flowers and sell them on campus throughout April. It’s a great way to raise awareness and brighten someone’s day.
5:30

5:31
For more event suggestions, download our “A through Z Event Ideas” guide athttp://bit.ly/q4Ex0w.
5:33
Another QUESTION for everyone….what awareness and fundraising events are you planning for Light It Up Blue & World Autism Awareness Day?
5:34
Don’t be shy….what events are you planning on April 2nd?
5:34
Comment From Rob and LK @ Gettysburg

trying to get the entire campus to wear blue, trying to light up a couple buildings, facts will be written throughout the ground in crayon, and we will be passin out info cards as well as wrapping trees up in blue tape

5:35
Comment From Mike

We’re having an all blue relay race on campus. $20 a team to register. The team with the most creative uniform wins a gift card which was donated.

5:35
Comment From Guest

We are getting shops around the university to post facts, make donations, and decorate their stores blue throughout the month of April.

5:35
Comment From Caitlyn

I was thinking a run/walk race and if that wasn’t possible an Autism Awareness BINGO night where the prizes would be blue

5:35
Comment From Jasmine

I plan on baking blue treats, cupcakes, cookies, cakepops and getting crafty by making blue flower headbands. Also, I plan on wearing blue as much as possible through out April! My 4 yr old son has autism and he makes my whole world a better place!

5:35
Comment From Lori – staff

My hope/plan is to get the involvement started at my campus! I love the ideas people are posting though!!

5:36
Comment From Susan

Blue Sidewalk chalk might be cool

5:36
Comment From Anna

We’re setting up a blue hair extension booth from April 2-6 on campus.

5:36
Comment From Lakesha

A scavenger hunt using puzzle pieces as clue cards, having students and faculty wear blue and having a walk.

5:36
Comment From Theresa

Aside from having a building lit up blue, we are trying to get everyone to wear blue and I was having trouble coming up with an idea but I really love the idea of the cake pop fundraiser attached to fact cards. And Sunday April 1st is our walk.

5:37
Comment From Caitlyn

Also I was thinking of painting a bunch of puzzles blue and hiding the pieces around our student center and the library and the person with the most pieces got a prize

5:37
Comment From Vicky Cid

we will be wrapping trees in blue ribbon, posting fact puzzle pieces into the ground with stakes, chalking facts onto the ground, lighting up a building blue, teaming up with our student body to hold awareness events like a blueberry pie eating contest, trivia bowl, etc… and teaming up with a local bar to raise funds

5:37
Comment From Rosalie

Will try to light up the buidling, blue ribbons around trees, mass emails to student to wear blue, and a fundraiser

5:38
Comment From Kasia

We are celebrating the entire week. We’re going to get a banner and have people sign but I’m liking the puzzle piece campaign better. Selling blue or puzzle piece printed ribbon. Selling wristbands. Giving out prizes to people we see wearing blue in support. Try to do a walk and have a game night. Having a guest speaker. On the 2nd we are also having a party (if the weather is nice) out by the building that we are lighting up blue.

5:38
Comment From Jasmine

My house will be decorated with Light It Up Blue and blue decor inside and out!

5:39
Comment From Michelle

We’re having a powder-puff football game with a few different sororities on campus. All the funds raised go to Autism Speaks! We’re getting the Greek Council & Student Government Assoc. to encourage everyone to attend.

5:39
All awesome ideas! There is one GREAT way to promote your events and that is through texting.
5:39
How many emails do you open? 1 out of every 10.How many text do you open? ALL
5:40
Send a text to 10 people. Include the event info. and ask them to forward the text on to 10 of their friends.
5:40
Create a text messaging campaign to increase attendance and funds raised!
5:41
Comment From Will

That’s a great idea! I never thought of that.

5:41
We’re excited for all you have planned.
5:41
Please remember to send pictures to autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org of your events and campus lit up blue!FYI, since photos tend to be large, only send one photo per email.
5:42
Once your event is confirmed, we’ll send out awareness materials and a banner. Email autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org your name, mailing address, event name/time/date/location.
5:42
A few additional tips….
5:42
1. Distribute awareness materials outside the building being lit up, so students connect the color blue to autism and Autism Speaks U.
5:42
2. Remember to take pictures! Contact your school’s newspaper or photography club and ask them take a high resolution picture of the building being lit blue and of your events.
We promote all of the schools that we receive pictures from.
5:43
3. Don’t start from scratch…use our promotional materials to get the word out!
5:43
Click the links below to download the items and print them off.
5:44
Side note: We’ll be posting the transcript from this Q&A later on the Autism Speaks U Facebook (www.facebook.com/autismspeaksu), so you’ll be able to access the links again.
5:44
Customizable Light It Up Blue Posters
• 8.5 x 11 poster- http://bit.ly/liubposter1
• 11 x 17 poster- http://bit.ly/liubposter2
5:44
•How To: Light It Up Blue Flyer- http://bit.ly/liubflyer
• This offers ideas for how you can get your campus involved.
5:44
Light It Up Blue Fact Cards - http://bit.ly/liubcards
5:45
These cards were just made for Autism Speaks U & Light It Up Blue, so use them!
5:45
Autism Speaks U Quarter Cards - http://bit.ly/quartercards
5:45
Fact & School Cards – http://bit.ly/vefknD
5:45
Autism Speaks U Handout - http://bit.ly/xfp6fq
5:46
Remember to email autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org when your school CONFIRMS what building will be lit up and/or you have a confirmed event planned for Light It Up Blue.
5:47
We promote all the schools that participate in Light It Up Blue and want to include your campus!
5:47
We have a few minutes left, and wanted to take one more poll, before we open it up to questions.
5:47
Do you prefer attending a monthly Facebook Q&A or would you rather have a monthly conference call?
Conference call: ( 11% )

Facebook Q&A: ( 89% )

5:49
Good to know that we all love Facebook!
5:49
Now, please ask any questions about what was discussed or about the Autism Speaks U program.
5:50
We’ll share these questions, so everyone can learn from each other. If you have tips/suggestions please provide those as well.
5:50
Comment From Kim

If I’m having trouble getting my school to Light It Up Blue, who should I contact?

5:50
Kim, please contact your school’s president and/or student activities director. Download a sample letter template that you can modify and send to your school at http://bit.ly/liubletter.
5:51
Comment From Mojdeh

How long does it take to start an Autism Speaks U chapter?

5:51
Mojdeh, it can take some students 1-2 months, while 6 months+ for others. It depends on your school’s process, and if you finish all the required Autism Speaks U paperwork.
5:51
Comment From Isabel

If we’re having an event can we use the Autism Speaks U logo on our flyer?

5:52
We have a specific Autism Speaks U logo that is used for people hosting events. Please email jaclyn.renner@autismspeaks.org, explain your event and we’ll provide the correct logo.
5:53
We do ask that you submit a proof to us of ALL items using the Autism Speaks U logo before it gets printed/distributed.
5:53
Comment From John

To Kim, I have found that getting the Local TV station involved can sometimes push things in the right direction.. Be Nice…

5:53
Comment From Lakesha

I am having trouble getting my school to light it up. The presidents secretary is not letting us get through, and other faculty are not showing up to meetings we have scheduled to talk about plans

5:54
We have had students email the school President directly and explain WHY it is important to light it up blue. Explain to them what this day/campaign means. You can also CC other school administration on the email, so they are appear about it as well.
5:54
Comment From Jasmine

If I host an Autism Awareness/Light It Up Blue party at my house, will you still be willing to send banners and additional materials?

5:55
Absolutely! Email us the details.
5:55
Comment From Kasia

As far as selling t-shirts are we allowed to sell the shirts from the website or does it have to be designed that we created to sell?

5:56
You can sell shirts from the website or from other places that you purchased them. Completely up to you!
5:56
Comment From Kim

John- That’s a great idea. I was thinking of contact our school and local news paper and TV station to see if they would publicize what we’re trying to do.

5:56
Comment From Mojdeh

How to you go about getting sponsors for events? My school has said that once my chapter is approved I am given $200 for the year.

5:58
Contact local businesses, restaurants, shops, etc. Stop by stores close to campus and explain to them what a sponsor for your event/chapter would entail.
5:58
Access our sponsorship guide at http://bit.ly/o2REod.
5:58
It’s a great resource!
5:59
We’re just about out of time. Thank all of you for participating in our Q&A!
5:59
It’s fantastic to see college students so involved in raising awareness and advocating for the autism community.
5:59
Remember to check out www.AutismSpeaks.org/U for more information!
5:59
If we didn’t get to your question or you have a few more, email us at autismspeaksu@autismspeaks.org.
6:00
Thanks, and have a great night!

Weekly Whirl – Autism Swag!

February 17, 2012 3 comments

If anyone knows how hectic life can get – WE DO! That’s why we have created the Autism Speaks Weekly Whirl to fill you in on all of the highlights of the week! The last thing we want is for you to be left out of the loop! Please share with friends and family to spread the word about all of the exciting things going on in the autism community. Keep in mind, these updates aren’t limited to Autism Speaks — we will be featuring news from across the community.

This week we wanted to focus on autism swag! We all know that awareness is key and these awesome people show us how they do it! 

Tracy R

Ruth Ann Luna

Nicole Persaud Settles

Julie McDonald Gilmore

Jenny March

Autism in the News – 02.17.12

February 17, 2012 2 comments

Brain scans in infants shed light on autism onset (CNN)
New research provides evidence that wiring in the brains of children with autism differs from typically developing children as early as six months of age, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on Friday. Read more. 

Doctors “fire” patients who refuse vaccines for their children: Ethical? (CBS)
Won’t get your kid vaccinated? You’re fired. That’s the extreme step some pediatricians are taking when it comes to dealing with parents who won’t get their children vaccinated over concerns the injections cause autism or other side effects. Read more.

Playground crusader (Garland, Texas)
A 10-year-old Garland, Texas girl wants her city to make city playgrounds more accessible to students with disabilities. She took her fight to the city council. Read more. 

Father-Son Venture (Harvard Magazine)
In the 12 years that Tom Fields-Meyer ’84 spent writing human-interest stories for People magazine, never did he consider writing about his own family. Only on the eve of his departure from People in 2007, when his editor approached him on the subject, did he think of writing that personal story. Read more.

Special Ed Teacher Hadn’t Completed Required Credentials Upon Hire (Redwood City Patch)
The school board waived the specific credential requirements to allow Alexia Bogdis to teach special education while she was working toward certification. Read more. 

Autism Speaks’ daily blog “Autism in the News” is a mix of top news stories of the day. Autism Speaks does not vet the stories and the views contained therein do not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks beliefs or point of view.

Categories: Autism in the News Tags: ,

My son has sleep problems. What can help?

February 17, 2012 55 comments

 Today’s “Got Questions?” response comes from two clinicians in Autism Speaks’ Autism Treatment Network (ATN). Neurologist and sleep specialist Sangeeta Chakravorty, M.D., is director of the pediatric sleep program at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh; and psychologist and sleep educator Terry Katz, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and co-founder of the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

First, know that you are not alone! Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. So Autism Speaks’ Autism Treatment Network (ATN) clinicians have been studying how to help them sleep better. One result of this research is the Sleep Strategies for Children with Autism: A Parent’s Guide, made possible by the ATN’s participation in the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P). Starting next week (Feb. 21), this tool kit will become available for free download from the ATN’s Tools You Can Use webpage.

Here are some of the tips that we and our patients’ parents have found most helpful:

1. First, ask your child’s doctor to screen for any medical issues that may be interfering with sleep.

2. Prepare your child’s bedroom for sleep: Is the temperature comfortable? Does your child like the sheets, blankets and pajamas? A dark bedroom promotes sleep, but your child may need a night light for comfort. If unavoidable noises present a problem, ear plugs or a white noise machine may help. Keep the bed just for sleeping, not for playtime or time outs. And try to keep the environment consistent: e.g. If you use a night light, leave it on all night.

3. Maintain good daytime sleep habits: Have your child wake up around the same time each morning. Try eliminating daytime naps. Help your child get plenty of exercise and sunlight, but avoid vigorous physical activity within three hours of bedtime. Likewise avoid caffeinated food or drink (chocolate, cola, etc.) in the evening.

4. Prepare for bed: Keep bed time consistent, choosing a time when your child will be tired but not overtired. Develop a calm and consistent bedtime routine. Keep the lights low.

5. Consider using a visual schedule to help your child learn and track the bedtime routine.

6. Teach your child to fall asleep without any help from you. If your child is used to sleeping next to you, substitute pillows or blankets. If you can, leave the room. If this is too difficult, stay in the room without touching—for instance in a chair facing away from your child. Over a week or so, slowly move your chair toward the open door—until you’re sitting outside.

7. Teach your child to stay in bed. Set limits about how many times your child is allowed to get out of bed. Use visual reminders such as one or two bathroom and drink cards per night. Put a sign on the inside of the bedroom door to remind your child to go back to bed. If your child does get out of bed, stay calm and put him or her back to bed with as little talking as possible.

8. Reward your child for sleeping through the night, and remind your child of your expectations. Consider drawing a contract of expectations and rewards. Small rewards are best.

Helping Teens Sleep
Like young children, teens need adequate exercise and sunlight and consistent waking and bed times. However, adolescence brings hormonal changes that can delay the onset of sleepiness until late at night. Unfortunately, many middle and high schools start early! Find out if a later class schedule is an option. In any case, work with your teen to set a good bedtime. And teens who drive need to know NEVER to drive when sleepy.

Helpful steps include having your teen finish homework and turn off computer and TV at least 30 minutes before bed. Keep lights low. A light snack before bed can help growing teens sleep through the night. Finally, it’s probably a good idea to remove electronic devices, including TVs, from the bedroom.

Have more sleep questions? Join us for a live webchat with neurologist and autism sleep expert Dr. Beth Ann Malow, M.D., of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, on Feb. 21, from 1 to 2 pm Eastern. Join via the Live Chat tab on left side of our Facebook page

Got more questions? Please send us an email at GotQuestions@autismspeaks.org.

New Findings Hold Promise for Revolutionary Pre-Symptom Screening

February 17, 2012 5 comments

 Posted by Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson, Ph.D.

I want to share my perspective on an important new research finding released today. The study is headed up by Joe Piven, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I am a co-author. The study followed the early brain development of 92 infant siblings, 28 of whom went on to develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Infants were imaged using MRI at 6, 12 and 24 months. Those who later developed ASD showed abnormal development of white matter fiber tracts by 6 months. White matter is the part of the brain cell, or neuron, that connects one part of the brain to another. (See our related news item here.)

This finding tells us that, very early and before the emergence of behavioral symptoms, the neural networks that connect different brain regions are not developing normally in infant siblings who go on to develop autism. Previous studies of both children and adults have repeatedly shown that autism involves abnormal connectivity between different brain regions. In fact, my colleagues at the University of Washington and I did one of the first studies to show this.

Now we are seeing that these changes are evident by 6 months of age. Future research is needed to help us understand what is causing these early brain changes.

Why is this finding important?  First, it helps us understand why people with autism have trouble with complex behaviors such as social interactions. Even simple social behaviors involve coordination of many brain systems. For instance, when something catches a baby’s interest, the normal response is a combination of gestures, babbling and eye contact. This requires several brain regions to communicate efficiently with one another.

Even more important, these results offer promise of using imaging results or other “biomarkers” to flag risk of ASD before symptoms become evident. In other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, such early biomarkers are being used to identify those at risk and allow treatment to start before symptoms appear – to maximize benefits.

We can imagine the day when noninvasive brain imaging is available for babies at high risk for autism (such as infant siblings of affected children). When the imaging reveals tell-tale abnormalities, these babies can receive medical or behavioral treatments that stimulate normal brain development. For example, a recent study by Marcel Just demonstrates that certain reading interventions for children with reading disabilities produce positive changes in the children’s brain white matter, or neural connectivity.

So, it’s reasonable to consider that some of the changes we are seeing in 6-month-old infants might likewise be improved through early intervention. Just’s study suggests that such “rewiring” may possible even later in life with interventions that support the connectivity between different brain regions.

Parents who are concerned that their baby might be at risk for autism may be wondering whether they should ask their doctor to order an MRI. The results published today are too preliminary for that. We are not recommending MRI screening for autism at this point. The best way to screen for autism at this time is to look for early behavioral signs (see Learn the Signs) and use screening tools such as the M-CHAT.

The research published today was funded in part by Autism Speaks and would not be possible without our community’s passionate and continuing support. Thank you.

Disability Advocates Press Case for ABLE with Congress

February 16, 2012 5 comments

Autism Speaks joined with advocates from the nation’s other leading disability organizations today to make the case before Congress for ABLE—a bill that would allow families raising children with disabilities to save tax-free for their future needs.

The briefing was organized by Reps. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) all cosponsors of HR.3423, the House version of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.  A panel of disability experts, including Stuart Spielman, senior policy counsel with Autism Speaks, addressed the briefing.

The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act would level the playing field for individuals with autism (and other disabilities) and their families to save for disability-related expenses. Just as families can put away savings in tax-exempt accounts for children to go to college, the ABLE Act would allow such accounts for individuals with disabilities to cover their future education, housing, transportation and related expenses. ABLE Accounts would resemble existing 529 college savings plans and would supplement, not replace, benefits provided through Medicaid, private insurance or employment.

Spielman noted the 600 percent increase in the prevalence of autism over the past two decades and the financial hardship encountered by many families caring for loved ones with autism. The ability to plan for the future needs of loved ones with autism would offer another resource for some families, he said.

John Ariale, Rep. Crenshaw’s chief of staff, said the bill was drafted so that SSI and Medicaid benefits would not be negatively impacted by opening an ABLE account.  If the account balance reaches $100,000, SSI benefits would be suspended, he said. SSI benefits would resume if the account balance drops below $100,000.

Crenshaw and Van Hollen said the bill enjoys strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and already has over 90 House sponsors.

Qualified disability expenses under ABLE would include: school tuition and related educational materials; expenses for securing and maintaining a primary residence; transportation; employment supports; health prevention and wellness costs; assistive technology and personal support; and various miscellaneous expenses associated with independent living. Eligibility would extend to any individual who is receiving supplemental security income benefits or disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, or “who has a medically determined physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations” that can be verified by a physician.

Spielman noted that he and his wife were able to establish a traditional 529 account for their typically developing son  to save for his college expenses, but are unable to do so for their other son who has autism to save for his future life needs. The ABLE act would improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities, he said.

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In Their Own Words – Our Path to Diagnosis

February 16, 2012 32 comments

This post is by Jennifer, a stay at home mom with two children.  In 2009 her family started walking for Autism Speaks and since then, we have raised over $38k and are gearing up for another year.  Our walk team is called Grape Jelly on Pizza because my son has a very strange appetite! You can check our her blog Grape Jelly on Pizza which was created  to help others navigate through all the difficult questions and behaviors associated with autism and to also remind parents that they are not alone.  Support – Compassion – Awareness.

It was not a simple path to his diagnosis.  Realizing there was a problem was tough.  Knowing where to start was hard and dealing with the fact that your child will have autism his entire life was horrible. I haven’t heard one story that was cut and dry yet about getting a diagnosis.  Here is our story.
My son was born at 13:13 on January 7th.  (13 happens to be a lucky number for me.)  It seemed like everyone was there to welcome in the first born grandson from both sides.  It was a happy occasion.  We had many visitors for months to come.  He was a squirmy little guy with a big smile.  He didn’t like to stay still, ever. He was hitting all of his milestones and his gross motor skills were off the charts.  He was climbing stairs before he could walk.  Everything seemed normal.

We didn’t want to wait, so we had another baby.  My daughter and son are 17 months apart.  Oh, how our lives changed when there were two.  Lack of sleep because my son still wasn’t a good sleeper and now a newborn.  They would both be up every three hours and not at the same time.  There were days that were just a blur.

A friend of mine had a son who was five months younger than B.  She would bring T over to play often.  That’s when I started to notice differences between the boys.  T would talk to her, point at things, make eye contact, play appropriately with toys; the list went on and on.  Now, I’m not big on comparing but it couldn’t be helped.  Why was B so much different than T?  At night I would tell my husband about all the differences and would end up crying at the dinner table.  After a while he didn’t want my friend to come over anymore because of how upset I would get.

Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true. 

When we were alone he was fine.  We were fine.  It didn’t matter that he couldn’t talk.  Kids throw fits.  We could justify anything.  We were good at explaining what was happening or not happening away.  Confirmation bias.

Finally we heard the word autism.  Two family members stepped forward at two different times to express their concerns.  Unfortunately, they left it up to me to relay the information to my husband.  It is sorta like when people keep asking the girl, “When are you going to get engaged?”……go to the guy to find out.  It puts her in a bad spot.
At my son’s wellness visit at 2+ we asked if he could have autism. While I was holding my son on my lap, the pediatrician said his name.  My son looked up at the doctor and the doctor told us, “No.  He doesn’t have autism.  If he did, he wouldn’t have looked at me.”  OK.  Again, confirmation bias.  A doctor confirmed it, he didn’t have it.  Sounded good.  Everyone else is crazy.  Instead he wrote a prescription out for a speech therapist.  This we would do.

After the intake and he started therapy, his speech therapist suggested he had developmental delay.  OK.  No ‘autism’ word.  We kept with the speech therapy.  In the meantime I had contacted the county to get started on getting him evaluated for speech delay and developmental delay.  Not autism.  The papers were received in the mail, completed and re mailed that same day.  I knew he needed help.  I waited and finally got the appointment call.

So we went and of course he qualified for services.  The report brought me to tears.  I HATE reading those reports.  Still do.  Then I get a call from someone saying she was his teacher.  I was like, what?  Turns out he qualified for 1/2 days, 4x a week and he could ride the bus.  He started when he was just 3.  I had never been away from him with the exception of having my daughter.  It was tough.  Then a few months went by and I received a flier in his backpack advertising an Autism Awareness day at Sesame Place.  Autism?  He doesn’t have autism.  Speech and developmental delay yes but not autism.  I called the teacher to see if it was a mistake and she said, oh, I must have put it in his backpack by accident.  See, every professional we had dealt with up to this point had never used the autism word.  Since then we found out why.  If a professional says ‘autism’ to you and you don’t have insurance, then they are responsible to pay for your services.  Didn’t know that did you?

I also started going to a parent support group through the IU and after the second time a mom told me the truth……speech delay & developmental delay = autism.  We now had to find a developmental pediatrician to get an official diagnosis then start with medical assistance.  My head was spinning and I went into depression.  I swear I lost days, weeks and months.  Feeling completely numb and truly alone in my quest to get help.  I tried my best not to show the stress.  Like I was in control but I was falling apart.

Eventually, we went in to see the developmental pediatrician.  We walked out with an official diagnosis of autism.  For the first time I had a smile on my face.  I knew what it was, it had a name and I was going to do everything in my power to help my son.  Nothing was going to stop me and nothing has.  We are a strong family unit out to do whatever it takes to not only help our son but to help others.  We are not alone.  You are not alone.  We are all here for each other.  We need to continue to reach out to others.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

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