December 16, 2020
Vol. 12 No. 176
NYTimes: Are Nut Bans Promoting Hysteria?
Nicotine Addiction and Autism
Wayne State Prof's Research Pushes Autism Treatment Forward
Urinary Porphyrins Study Continues in the Puget Sound Region of
Experts Boost Learning In Rats With Hearing Defects
Autism's Mysterious Increase
Makeover' Family Saved From Foreclosure
Utah May Mandate Health Insurance For Autism Therapy Legislation
Need Support Between Support Group Meetings? Get Online Help Now!
Helping Your Son/Daughter and Family Have a Happy Holidays: The Twelve
Tips of Christmas
Dr. Harry Schneider to Premiere on Autism One Radio on December 17!
NYTimes: Are Nut Bans Promoting
Worries about nut allergies are intense in some circles.
By Lars Klove for The New York Times. is.gd/bUyt
Every parent of a school-age child has
heard the warnings about nut allergies. Some schools ban nuts entirely,
while others set aside special nut-free tables. Parents are often
quizzed about the ingredients and preparation methods for birthday
treats they send to school. One parent told me she was asked whether a
knife used to cut brownies had ever been used to spread peanut butter.
While nut allergies are clearly a risk
to some children, often the response to this health concern represents
a gross overreaction to the magnitude of the threat, argues Dr.
Nicholas A. Christakis, an internal medicine doctor and professor at
Harvard Medical School, in a recent column in the British medical
In the column, Dr. Christakis points out
that about 3.3 million Americans are allergic to nuts, and even more
6.9 million are allergic to seafood. But of 30 million
hospitalizations each year, just 2,000 are due to food allergies, and
about 150 people die annually from serious allergic food reactions.
Thats the same number of people killed by bee stings and lightning
strikes combined. About 10,000 children are hospitalized annually with
traumatic brain injuries from sports, 2,000 children drown each year,
and about 1,300 die in gun accidents, he writes.
Dr. Christakis notes that while its
reasonable for schools and parents to take basic precautions, there is
no scientific evidence that nut bans are particularly effective at
protecting children. But more important, he argues, is that limiting
widespread exposure to nuts can make things worse. The policy of
avoidance means that fewer children are being exposed to nuts, likely
increasing their risk for developing an allergy. A 2008 study in The
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology of 10,000 British children
found that early exposure to peanuts lowers risk of allergy, rather
than increasing it.
Dr. Christakis is best known for his
work on social networks and the effect they can have on health issues
like obesity, smoking and even happiness. He also argues that extensive
efforts to protect children from nuts has created a culture of anxiety
We try to relieve anxiety about nut
allergy by signs saying, this is a nut free zone, which suggests that
nuts are a clear and present danger, Dr. Christakis said. But in
doing so, we increase the anxiety.
To read more about Dr. Christakiss
research, go to his Web site is.gd/bUzM,
where you will also find a link to the full BMJ article, This
Allergies Hysteria Is Just Nuts.
Nicotine Addiction and Autism
Shared brain protein link.
Scientists have identified a
relationship between two proteins in the brain that has links to both
nicotine addiction and autism. The finding, presented at the Society
for Neuroscience Meeting in November, has led to speculation that
existing drugs used to curb nicotine addiction might serve as the basis
for potential therapies to alleviate the symptoms of autism.
The discovery identified a defining role
for a protein made by the neurexin-1 gene, which is located in brain
cells and assists in connecting neurons as part of the brain's chemical
communication system. The job of the neurexin-1 beta protein is to lure
another protein, a specific type of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor,
to the synapses, where the receptor then has a role in helping neurons
communicate signals among themselves and to the rest of the body.
This function is important in autism
because previous research has shown that people with autism have a
shortage of these nicotinic receptors in their brains. Meanwhile,
scientists also know that people who are addicted to nicotine have too
many of these receptors in their brains.
"If we were to use drugs that mimic the
actions of nicotine at an early time in human brain development, would
we begin to help those and other circuits develop properly and thus
significantly mitigate the deficits in autism? This is a novel way of
thinking about how we might be able to use drugs to approach autism
treatment," said Rene Anand, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology
in Ohio State University's College of Medicine and principal
investigator of the research.
"It would not be a complete cure, but
right now we know very little and have no drugs that tackle the primary
causes of autism," he said.
The drugs in question are known as
cholinergic agents, which interact with the brain to counter nicotine
addiction. Dr. Anand said the medications could be retailored for use
in children in an effort to increase the level of neurexin-1 beta
protein in the brains of people with autism.
More neurexin would in turn not only
enhance the presence of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, but also a
host of other proteins that are important for the proper formation and
maturation of synapses. Proper synapse function is critical to the
nervous system's ability to connect to and control other systems of the
"Now that these associations have been
made, we believe that nicotine in smokers' brains possibly increases
the level of neurexin-1 and, as a consequence, helps bring more
receptors to the synapses and makes those circuits highly efficient,
reinforcing the addiction. In autism, we have the opposite problem. We
have a lack of these receptors, and we speculate that neurexin levels
are lower," he said.
+ Read more: is.gd/bUHx
Wayne State Prof's Research
Pushes Autism Treatment Forward
From Wayne State University: Jon Zemke
Alexander Gow, a Wayne State University
School of Medicine (Michigan) professor, is pushing forward research
into a number of neurodegenerative diseases, such as autism and
His latest research, published in the
Journal of Cell Biology, sheds light on why these diseases
develop and how they might be treated.
It basically breaks down to the white
and gray matter in the brain and how they communicate. Those lines of
communications that send signals for everything from sneezing to
wiggling a toe sometimes fail. Gow's research shows that a leak in the
myelin sheath of these communication lines might play a part in
developing diseases like autism and schizophrenia.
Although far from a cure, if further
research shows this is the case, it could give scientists a big clue on
how to treat and possibly prevent such diseases.
Urinary Porphyrins Study Continues
in the Puget Sound Region of
Who: Chief Investigator James S. Woods,
Ph.D., Professor, DABT Director, Toxicology Program Department of
Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences School of Public Health
and Community Medicine, University of Washington.
What: Study to determine whether or not
children with autism have higher urine porphyrin levels than other
children of the same age. Parents and/or caregivers are requested to
provide urine samples from both autistic and non-autistic children ages
Compensation: Porphyrin assay results
will be provided for free to caregivers of all participants via e-mail
at a future date.
Where: Puget Sound region of Washington
state (vials must be picked up and returned to coordinators in person)
Seattle area - enroll and submit vials: Jason Allen ND, MPH Study
Co-Investigator Seattle Integrative Medicine 5322 Roosevelt Way NE
Seattle, 98105 Call ahead to set up a brief appointment: 206-525-8012
South Sound - enroll and submit vials: Denise Fulton Study
Coordinator Enroll: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 20, 2008, Jan. 17 & Feb
21, 2009 - Table offered outside next three meetings of the Western
Washington Chapter of Talk About Curing Autism - S. Campus Bates
Technical College, 2201 S 78th St. in Tacoma Unfortunately, due
to the nature of this particular study, individual samples are not
being submitted by mail - hand-off in person is required. We apologize
if you receive this message and are unable to participate due to this
When: Enrolling through Feb. 28,
View/print Porphyrins Study Flyer tinyurl.com/5pmvcw
(.pdf) Funding for the Urinary Porphyrins study is also provided by the
National Institutes of Health and the Wallace Foundation
Experts Boost Learning In Rats
With Hearing Defects
Reuters - Scientists have managed to
train rats with hearing defects to pick out sounds from background
noise, giving a possible solution to hearing-impaired children with
difficulties in learning language.
Distinguishing speech from background
noise, or temporal processing, is important in learning a language.
When there are defects in this function, young children may encounter
problems learning a language and reading.
In an article published in Nature
Neuroscience, scientists in China and the United States described how
they trained rats with hearing defects to pick out relevant sounds from
background noise using food rewards.
"The training-induced cortical changes
endured for at least two months after training ceased," wrote
scientists Xiaoming Zhou at the East China Normal University in
Shanghai and Michael Merzenich at the W.M. Keck Center for Integrative
Neuroscience at the University of California.
"Our results illustrate, for the first
time to the best of our knowledge, the neurological restoration of
cortical temporal processing capacities by intensive behavioral
training in developmentally degraded juvenile and adult animals.
Looking ahead, the researchers said
their findings could be used in training people with temporal
"All of these findings contribute to the
rapidly growing body of studies that reveal the extent to which, and
the specific strategies by which, developmentally impaired brains can
be corrected in older children and adults," they wrote.
Autism's Mysterious Increase
By Neal Rauhauser. Excerpted from
Why is the incidence of autism
mushrooming? The Autism Society of America states, Autism is growing
at a startling rate of 10-17 percent per year. At this rate
prevalence of autism could reach four million Americans in the next
decade. The steady upswing in the number of cases in the last 20 years
has brought us to today's count of one in every 150 children being
somewhere on the spectrum.
Many theories exist as to the causes of
autism: the mercury preservatives thiomersal in vaccines, environmental
contaminants, infection, and various forms of prenatal stress. It is
believed there is a genetic component to ASD, but no specific genetic
marker is known at this time. The exact mechanisms behind the changes
to the brain are unknown, however the clumsiness and impaired social
function seem tied to differences in mirror neurons, and the speech
deficit has tantalizing links to other disorders that have been
partially characterized via genetic inspection.
Mirror neurons, or "monkey see, monkey
do" neurons, were first identified by chance in lab animals a decade
ago. When monkeys were wired with EEG caps to observe brain function,
researchers noted that if a subject animal was engaged in solving a
puzzle, another monkey watching the process would have the same brain
activity, despite the fact that it was sitting motionless. Further
experiments were done, first on monkeys, then on humans, and it was
learned that we have systems in our brain that allow us to judge
another's mood and intent based on facial expression as well as the
ability to mimic the physical actions we observe another performing.
Having deficits in these areas, those with autism are often physically
and socially clumsy.
A study entitled "A Functional Genetic
Link Between Distinct Developmental Language Disorders," published in
the November 2008 New England Journal of Medicine, describes a possible
genetic explanation for some of the language deficits that autistics
experience. Mutations in the FOXP2 gene can affect the CNTNAP2 gene, a
massive stretch of DNA representing 1.5 percent of chromosome 7,
resulting in speech deficits and deafness. No causal mechanism is
described for the mutation, but knowing where the genetic change occurs
is a large step forward in the search for the culprit.
+ Read more: is.gd/bU1x
Makeover' Family Saved From Foreclosure
Deaf Couple Has Blind, Autistic Son
From My58.com. is.gd/bTXg
OAK PARK, Mich. -- Several thousand
dollars have rolled in for a Michigan family who feared they were going
to lose the home whose renovation was seen by millions of television
viewers in 2004.
Judy and Larry Vardon said that the
money should help them avoid foreclosure on the Oak Park home that was
refurbished to better accommodate their blind, autistic son, Lance.
The deaf couple was featured on "Extreme
Makeover: Home Edition.
The Macomb Daily and The Daily Tribune
reported Sunday the couple didn't request money, but donations started
coming after media outlets this month reported on their plight.
"I'm afraid I'm going to lose my house
now," Judy Vardon, using sign language through an interpreter, told The
Macomb Daily. "This house really belongs to Lance. This is his
environment. He can't speak out for himself, and I hope we can save
ABC said 20.5 million viewers saw a crew
led by host Ty Pennington rehabilitate the Vardons' 980-square-foot
house in suburban Detroit from the inside out, including installing
cameras and flat-screen monitors allowing the Vardons to monitor Lance.
The Vardons said they were weighed down
by a mortgage payment that has almost doubled since the makeover and
medical insurance that hasn't covered autism treatment for Lance, who
is now 16.
Utah May Mandate Health Insurance
For Autism Therapy Legislation
Sen. Howard Stephenson sponsoring bill in 2009 session.
By Heather May for The Salt Lake
Leeann Whiffen made a promise that
when it was over -- two years of intensive therapy to free her son from
the grip of autism -- she would do what she could to help other parents
afford the same sort of expensive treatment.
The Highland mother says her son, Clay,
is now recovered from the disorder that had muted her babbling toddler
and traded his peek-a-boo play for obsessions with round shapes and tan
foods. Not even his third-grade teacher would know he was once labeled
autistic, she said.
But she had to take out a second
mortgage on her home and put every expense she could on credit cards to
free up $30,000 a year for treatment. Knowing other parents aren't so
lucky, Whiffen is working to force Utah health insurance companies to
cover autism therapy.
"People need to know these kids can get
better," Whiffen said this week. "I can't imagine what life would have
been like for him if we wouldn't have been able to do this program.
This fall, over breakfast at Mimi's
Cafe, Whiffen and another mother of an autistic child, Brittany
Recalde, easily persuaded Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, to sponsor
the bill in the upcoming legislative session.
"It's a draconian society that would
knowingly watch children grow past the window of opportunity [for
treatment] without [providing] assistance," said Stephenson, who has
successfully sponsored an autism treatment bill in the past.
Stephenson said "Clay's Law" is still
being drafted, but would include an annual coverage cap, likely around
$30,000, and a to-be-determined lifetime cap. It will also require
families to contribute.
To receive coverage, the children
couldn't be older than 5, since research has shown the most dramatic
benefits occur the earlier the treatment starts, Stephenson said.
+ Read more: is.gd/bU2f
Need Support Between Support Group
Meetings? Get Online Help Now!
Real Help Now Live Chat
Talk About Curing Autism is currently
testing a new web feature: Live Chat with a TACA Parent. Please link
to is.gd/bQQ2 to initiate
a chat session.
Trio Pitches Plan For Autism
Ambitious plan would create site for adults with autism at Dubuque
By Andy Piper. is.gd/bU9h
A mutual acquaintance suggested a
meeting of the minds.
Breyan Strickler, an English professor
at Loras College, was seeking ways to preserve one of the last strips
of undeveloped land within Dubuque's city limits -- the former Lange
Greenhouse property near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and
Meanwhile, Craig and Alyson Beytien were
looking into what the future holds for their 15-year-old autistic son
once he turned 18 and legally became an adult.
"We began about a year ago in
conversations with Marilyn Althoff, of Hills & Dales, and the
mutual recognition that there are significant gaps in services for this
growing population of adults with autism," Craig Beytien said. "We've
networked with other families in the area faced with a similar
challenge. What do you do when these children become 18? What kind of
opportunities are there for them?
As the Beytiens researched those
questions, they discovered The Homestead, near Des Moines, and
Bittersweet Farms, in Whitehouse, Ohio, residential facilities
specifically designed for adults with autism that provide work on-site
They then received a call from
Strickler, who describes herself as an environmentalist and social
ecologist, and the three agreed to meet at the 4 1/2-acre Lange
Greenhouse property to exchange thoughts.
"My original idea was to create a
community garden," Strickler said. "It should stay a working farm. It
can't be preserved with a picket around it.
Through a melding of the minds, the
concept of Red Oak Farm emerged, based on those other residential homes
for autistic adults.
Craig Beytien said the property
galvanized fledgeling support they already had received in talking to
community leaders and lending institutions. The trio thought the
property wouldn't go up for sale until early spring and they would have
time to write grant applications and seek funding for their project,
which could run in excess of $2 million, including the purchase price
of the property listed at about $985,000.
"Everyone we talk to is very excited
about this, but in reality, it's going to be very hard to do," Beytien
said. "We're virtually going to have to raise all of the money and
relatively quickly. We've got the passion and some ability, but does
the economic model support it? We are now literally putting together a
business plan that we can put in front of potential investors.
News You Can Use
To learn more about the Red Oak Farm
concept, visit theredoakfarm.org or call Alyson Beytien at
563-564-5190. To learn more about residential living for autistic
adults, visit thehomestead.org
Helping Your Son/Daughter and Family
Have a Happy Holidays: The Twelve
Tips of Christmas
Contributed by Dr. Cathy Pratt, Ph.D.
Director, Indiana Resource Center for
Autism While many happily anticipate the coming holiday season,
families of sons/daughters on the autism spectrum also understand the
special challenges that may occur when schedules are disrupted and
routines broken. Our hope is that by following these few helpful tips,
families may lessen the stress of the holiday season and make it a more
enjoyable experience for everyone involved. The following tips were
developed with input from the Autism Society of America, the Indiana
Resource Center for Autism and the Indiana Autism Leadership Network.
Preparation is crucial for many
individuals. At the same time, it is important to determine how much
preparation a specific person may need. For example, if your son or
daughter has a tendency to become anxious when anticipating an event
that is to occur in the future, you may want to adjust how many days in
advance you prepare him or her. Preparation can occur in various ways
by using a calendar and marking the date of various holiday events, or
by creating a Social Story that highlights what will happen at a given
Having decorations around the
house may be disruptive for some. It may be helpful to revisit pictures
from previous holidays that show decorations in the house. If such a
book does not exist, use this holiday season to create a picture book.
For some it may also be helpful to take them shopping with you for
holiday decorations so that they are engaged in the process. Or involve
them in the process of decorating the house. And once holiday
decorations have been put up, you may need to create rules about those
that can be touched and those that can not be touched. Be direct,
specific and consistent.
If your child has difficulty
with change, you may want to gradually decorate the house. For example,
on the first day put up the Christmas tree, then on the next day
decorate the tree and so on. And again, engage them as much as possible
in this process.
If your child begins to obsess
about a particular gift or toy they want, it may be helpful to be
specific and direct about the number of times a child can mention the
toy. One suggestion is to give your child 5 chips. They are allowed to
exchange one chip for 5 minutes of talking about the desired gift.
Also, if you have no intention of purchasing a specific toy, it serves
no purpose to tell the child that maybe they will get the gift. This
will only lead to problems in the future. Always choose to be direct
specific about your intentions.
Teach your child how to leave a
situation and/or how to access support when an event becomes
overwhelming. For example, rather then having a behavioral episode, the
individual should be taught ahead of time that they should go to their
room when feeling overwhelmed. This self-management tool will serve the
individual into adulthood.
If you are traveling for the
holidays, make sure you have the childs favorite foods or toys
available. Having familiar items readily available can help to calm
stressful situations. Also prepare them via social stories or other
communication systems, for any unexpected delays in travel.
Know your child and how much
noise and activity they can tolerate. If you detect that a situation
may be becoming overwhelming, help your child find a quiet area in
which to regroup. And there may be some situations that you simply
avoid (e.g., crowded shopping malls the day after Thanksgiving).
Prepare a photo album in advance
of the relatives and other guests who will be visiting during the
holidays. Allow the child access to these photos at all time and also
go through the photo album with your child while talking briefly about
each family member.
In preparation for the holiday
season, you might want to practice opening gifts, taking turns and
waiting for others, or giving gifts to others. You might also choose to
practice certain religious rituals. Work with a speech language
pathologists to construct pages of vocabulary or topic boards that
relate to the holidays and family traditions.
It may also be helpful to
prepare family members for strategies to use to minimize anxiety or
behavioral incidents, and to enhance participation. Help them to
understand if your son/daughter prefers to be hugged or not, needs calm
discussions, or provide other suggestions that will facilitate a
smoother holiday season.
If you child is on special diet,
make sure there is food available that they can eat. And even if they
are not on a special diet, be cautious of the amount of sugar consumed.
And while we are talking about health, try to maintain a sleep and meal
Above all, know your child. Know
how much noise and other sensory input they can take. Know their level
of anxiety and the amount of preparation it may take. Know their fears
and those things that will make the season more enjoyable for them.
Our hope above all is that you will have
a wonderful holiday season!
Dr. Harry Schneider to Premiere on
Autism One Radio on December 17!
2:00 pm ET /
11:00 am PT
Many of you may know of Dr. Harry
Schneider from either the Autism One 2008 Conference (The Discovery of
Language-Specific Areas in the Brain of Nonverbal Children with Autism
and Practical Application to Treatment: An Emerging Theory) or from his
interview with Polly Tommey in The Autism File magazine's USA/Canada
September debut issue. Dr. Schneider will premiere his program,
Towards Restoring Language, next week on Autism One Radio on the topic
of Comorbidities. And "stay tuned" for his article in the January
issue of The Autism File entitled New Frontiers in Language
Restoration, which will report on encouraging progress.
And on the VoiceAmerica Health and
Tuesday, December 16 12:00 noon ET /
9:00 am PT
Autism One: A Conversation of Hope
The Relationship of the Gastrointestinal
Tract to Autism as a Whole-Body Condition
Teri's guest, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, MB
BS FRCS FRCPath, is an academic gastroenterologist who has published
over one hundred thirty original scientific articles, book chapters,
and invited scientific commentaries. Dr. Wakefield serves as the
Executive Director of Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin,
Texas. Thoughtful House aims to provide a research-oriented,
integrated biomedical and educational approach. Teri and Dr. Wakefield
will discuss a broad range of topics including immunologic, metabolic,
and pathologic changes occurring in inflammatory bowel diseases such as
autistic enterocolitis, links between intestinal disease and neurologic
injury in children, and the possible relationship of these conditions
to environmental causes, such as childhood vaccines. Teri will
also ask about how to remediate existing damage and prevent damage in
the future. Please visit: www.thoughtfulhouse.org
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