Schafer Autism Report

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Friday, May 8, 2009                                                  Vol. 13 No. 47




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RESEARCH

President’s Budget Includes Increased Disability Spending
Autism Speaks Releases First Strategic Plan For Autism Research
Vaccine Refusal, Mandatory Immunization, and the Risks of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

PUBLIC HEALTH
The Disappearing Male - CBC
Autism On Rise In Kansas Schools
Merck Makes Phony Peer-Review Journal
Grassley's Beat Goes On With NAMI Probe
Board That Disciplines Texas Doctors May Be Reined In

TREATMENT
New Jersey “Genetic Consultants” Center Opens

RESOURCES
New Jersey Regional Conference Recap with Manual and PowerPoint's
Autism Society of California Publishes Survey Results

COMMENTARY
Why Does the Vaccine/Autism Controversy Live On?
David Kirby on Chris Mooney in Discover Magazine

PEOPLE
Jenny McCarthy Making News


LETTERS
Graduate Research Grants for Education
Progress and Optimism



RESEARCH

President’s Budget Includes Increased Disability Spending


      By Michelle Diament, disabilityscoop.com . is.gd/xRxt

      President Barack Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2010 includes increased funds for employment assistance for people with disabilities as well as autism research and awareness, among other programs.
      The White House released full details of the president’s approximately $3.5 trillion budget proposal this week, which includes $17 billion in cuts. The budget must now pass through Congress before going into effect October 1.
      The budget proposal includes:
      • IDEA: $11.5 billion for special education. Coupled with stimulus funds already set aside for 2010, total federal spending on special education is slated to reach nearly $16 billion.
      • Autism: $211 million which includes more than $140 million for autism research funded through the National Institutes of Health. In addition, Obama wants $22 million to help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitor and improve early diagnosis and $48 million for the government to increase autism awareness.
      • Employment: An increase of $10 million for the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor.
      • Mental health: $125 million to provide mental health care to kids and teens with emotional disorders.
      • Social Security: $11.6 billion to decrease the backlog of disability claims at the Social Security Administration.
      • Civil Rights: $145 million to increase the number of attorneys handling civil rights cases at the U.S. Department of Justice.
      • Miscellaneous funds: $8 million for Centers for Independent Living and other programs benefiting those with disabilities.




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• • •

Autism Speaks Releases First Strategic Plan For Autism Research


      From an organization announcement.

      Autism Speaks released its strategic plan for autism research, which outlines its goals and priorities for research funding over the next three years. Autism Speaks, to date, has committed over $130 million in autism science, more than any other private entity. The Autism Speaks Strategic Plan, developed in consultation with its Scientific Advisory Committee and outside advisors, is focused on innovation and an emphasis on translating discoveries into diagnosis and treatments for individuals living with autism today. Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., chief science officer of Autism Speaks, introduced the Strategic Plan today at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR). Visit www.AutismSpeaks.org for comprehensive IMFAR coverage.
      “At the core of this plan is a sense of urgency, standards for scientific excellence, involving families as partners, and recognition that persons with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are the “heart” of the organization’s efforts,” explained Dr. Dawson. The strategic plan details the types of research that will be prioritized in six areas: Etiology, Biology, Diagnosis, Treatment, Dissemination, and Bioinformatics as detailed in the executive summary and the complete plan document available at www.AutismSpeaks.org/science.
      The key strategic directions include the need for biomarkers that can index meaningful subtypes, point to underlying causes, and help determine which treatments will be helpful for which individuals. The plan seeks a better understanding of gene-environment interactions in the etiology of autism. The plan also seeks to translate genetic and other biological findings into clinically useful tools for risk assessment and treatment discovery. Research under the plan will seek to develop treatments that can be of immediate benefit for alleviating both core symptoms of autism and associated medical conditions and to disseminate treatments already shown to be effective into the broader community. Another key strategic direction is continued investment in large data repositories that can help scientists address the heterogeneity in ASD.
       “We want to move as quickly as possible from basic discovery to dissemination of results into the real world. The Autism Speaks mission, which is to improve the future of all individuals with autism spectrum disorders and provide hope for families, guided our strategy. Our mission will not be fulfilled until treatments that are discovered are put into practice and become widely available,” explained Dr. Dawson.

• • •

Vaccine Refusal, Mandatory Immunization, and the Risks of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases


      Paper by Saad B. Omer, M.B., B.S., Ph.D., M.P.H., Daniel A. Salmon, Ph.D., M.P.H., Walter A. Orenstein, M.D., M. Patricia deHart, Sc.D., and Neal Halsey, M.D.
New England Journal of Medicine Volume 360:1981-1988  May 7, 2009  May 7, 2009

is.gd/xy8

      Abstract Vaccines are among the most effective prevention tools available to clinicians. However, the success of an immunization program depends on high rates of acceptance and coverage. There is evidence of an increase in vaccine refusal in the United States and of geographic clustering of refusals that results in outbreaks. Children with exemptions from school immunization requirements (a measure of vaccine refusal) are at increased risk for measles and pertussis and can infect others who are too young to be vaccinated, cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, or were vaccinated but did not have a sufficient immunologic response. Clinicians can play a crucial role in parental decision making.
      Health care providers are cited as the most frequent source of immunization information by parents, including parents of unvaccinated children. Although some clinicians have discontinued or have considered discontinuing their provider relationship with patients who refuse vaccines, the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics advises against this and recommends that clinicians address vaccine refusal by respectfully listening to parental concerns and discussing the risks of nonvaccination.
+ Full Report: is.gd/xy8z
      
• • •

PUBLIC HEALTH

The Disappearing Male - CBC


is.gd/xPZ1

      The Disappearing Male is a CBC documentary about one of the most important, and least publicized, issues facing the human species: the toxic...all »The Disappearing Male is a CBC documentary about one of the most important, and least publicized, issues facing the human species: the toxic threat to the male reproductive system. The last few decades have seen steady and dramatic increases in the incidence of boys and young men suffering from genital deformities, low sperm count, sperm abnormalities and testicular cancer. At the same time, boys are now far more at risk of suffering from ADHD, autism, Tourette's syndrome, cerebral palsy, and dyslexia.
      The Disappearing Male takes a close and disturbing look at what many doctors and researchers now suspect are responsible for many of these problems: a class of common chemicals that are ubiquitous in our world. Found in everything from shampoo, sunglasses, meat and dairy products, carpet, cosmetics and baby bottles, they are called "hormone mimicking" or "endocrine disrupting" chemicals and they may be starting to damage the most basic building blocks of human development.

• • •

Autism On Rise In Kansas Schools


      By Jan Biles, cjonline.com. is.gd/xRq7

      The number of children with autism enrolling in Topeka Unified School District 501 and other Kansas schools is increasing each year, school officials say.
      And that means more money must be funneled into providing services for them.
      On Dec. 1, 2008, USD 501 officials reported to the Kansas State Department of Education that 84 students with autism were enrolled in the district’s schools. In December 2001, that number was 56.
      Statewide, the number of public school students with autism went from 846 in 2001 to 2,223 in 2008.
      Karla Denny, director of communications for the state education department, said the state spent $6,137 above the base state aid per pupil for each student in special education during the 2007-08 school year.
      “That may be more or less, depending on the services provided to the student,” Denny said.
      The base state aid per pupil is $4,374, bringing the estimated total cost for each student in special education to $10,511.
      Autism advocates and teachers say the mounting cost of educating children with autism — now and in the future — can be curbed with early intervention and therapies before the child enters kindergarten.
      “The cost of treatment can be reduced by two-thirds with early diagnosis and intervention,” Marlene Graber, an autism consultant with Topeka public schools, said at a recent inservice program.
      According to state education department records, the other school districts in Shawnee County also have seen increases in the number of students with autism from 2001 to 2008: Shawnee Heights USD 450, 6 to 13; Seaman USD 345, 6 to 28; Auburn-Washburn USD 437, 15 to 40; and Silver Lake USD 372, 1 to 6.
      School districts near military bases are reporting marked increases in the number of children with autism. According to the Pentagon, the incidence of autism in military families is 1 in every 88 children, higher than the 1-to-150 ratio for nonmilitary families.
+ Read more: is.gd/xRq7
      
• • •

Merck Makes Phony Peer-Review Journal


is.gd/wiKw

      It's a safe guess that somewhere at Merck today someone is going through the meeting minutes of the day that the hair-brained scheme for the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine was launched, and that everyone who was in the room is now going to be fired.
      The Scientist has reported that, yes, it's true, Merck cooked up a phony, but real sounding, peer reviewed journal and published favorably looking data for its products in them. Merck paid Elsevier to publish such a tome, which neither appears in MEDLINE or has a website, according to The Scientist.
      What's wrong with this is so obvious it doesn't have to be argued for. What's sad is that I'm sure many a primary care physician was given literature from Merck that said, "As published in Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, Fosamax outperforms all other medications...." Said doctor, or even the average researcher wouldn't know that the journal is bogus. In fact, knowing that the journal is published by Elsevier gives it credibility!
+ Read more: is.gd/wiKw

• • •

Grassley's Beat Goes On With NAMI Probe


      By Tracy Staton  is.gd/xegY

      Big Pharma won't escape from Sen. Charles Grassley's eagle eye yet. Rather than slipping into newly Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter's seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley made a deal to postpone his move until the next Congress launches in 2011, the New York Times reports. In the meantime, the ranking Republic on Judiciary will be Sen. Jeff Sessions--and Grassley will stay firmly fixed on the Finance Committee, the better to influence healthcare reform and follow through on his pharma-oversight initiatives.
      Grassley has made it his business to delve into all sorts of pharma issues: DTC advertising, doc-payment disclosure, and so on and so on. Last week, when Grassley was widely believed to be stepping into Specter's Judiciary seat, pharma was buzzing with speculation that those issues would be forgotten. Or at the very least, pushed farther down on Finance's to-do list. But the Iowa senator is too involved in the healthcare-reform push to change horses now.
      Grassley's latest? Funding for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a lobbying group. Last month, Grassley wrote for a breakdown of the organization's money sources, and according to Furious Seasons, he's now discovered that 56 percent of its $12 million to $13 million annual budget, on average, comes from pharmaceutical companies. Perhaps because of Grassley's activism, NAMI is now disclosing pharma (and other) contributions; for the first quarter of 2009, for example, the organization reported $1.2 million in donations from drugmakers, including $262,500 from Bristol-Myers Squibb.
+ Read more: is.gd/xegY

• • •

Board That Disciplines Texas Doctors
May Be Reined In

Bill would create new oversight panel, force disclosure of some accusers.

      By Mary Ann Roser, American-Statesman. is.gd/xRu8

      A bill that was the subject of a 5½-hour hearing Tuesday would sharply curtail the powers of the Texas Medical Board if it becomes law.
      Backers argued that it would bring much-needed transparency and provide greater fairness to doctors whom, some say, the board is persecuting. They especially raised concerns about practitioners of alternative medicine and those who treat conditions such as autism.
      Opponents, however, said the legislation would leave patients more vulnerable to bad doctors and make it difficult for patients to complain about physicians in a state where the Legislature has made it harder to sue for malpractice.
      In the end, the House Public Health Committee said it would amend House Bill 3816, which also would disclose the names of some complainants to doctors and create an advisory committee to oversee the board. The committee didn't specify what it might change.
      "I don't want to make a mistake," said chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.
      The mission of the board, which licenses and disciplines doctors in Texas, is to protect the public.
      "This bill does not keep faith with the people of Texas," said Melinda Fredricks of Conroe, who served on the medical board from 2003 to 2008. She said the state passed a tort reform law in 2003, and "as a trade-off, we toughened the medical board," which had been criticized as being too lax. Fredricks was the last to testify among two dozen people.
      But supporters of the bill, authored by Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan, said the board has abused its authority and gone after minor infractions, costing doctors thousands of dollars, time away from their practices and sleepless nights.
      The bill was co-authored by various individuals and groups, including the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which is suing the board in federal court, alleging misuse of its authority. Andy Schlafly, son of famous conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, is general counsel for the group, which claims several thousand members.
      "The board should not be telling people how to practice medicine," Schlafly said.
+ Read more: is.gd/xRu8

• • •

TREATMENT

New Jersey “Genetic Consultants” Center Opens


       ASD Centers, LLC announces the opening of Genetic Consultants of New Jersey, another in a network of consulting centers located to provide improved access to advanced genetic and other biomarker screening, evaluation and, where appropriate, tailored therapies designed to recover those who also have a neurodevelopmental diagnosis (e.g., autistic disorder, peripheral developmental disorder – not otherwise specified [PDD-NOS], Asperger’s, and ADHD) and, where possible, assist their parents and other family members in finding effective supportive and recuperative protocols.  Conveniently located near the junction of I-287, I-80 and US Route 46 in Morris County, New Jersey, Genetic Consultants of New Jersey is now open for new patient intakes. ASD Centers, LLC was founded in 2008 by Drs. Mark R. Geier and John Young and David A. Geier with physician collaborators around the nation.
      As a member of the ASD Centers, LLC network (www.ASDCenters.com), Genetic Consultants of New Jersey provides local access to the screening, evaluation, and curative protocols developed by ASD Centers, LLC.
      The important clinical tools utilized for the patients’ medical evaluation and treatment response monitoring include:
      Genetic biomarker s – to help determine if there are genetic causal or susceptibility factors present, and, when they are found, to provide insights into behavior modification to help reduce the impact of such genetic factors.
      Hormonal biomarkers – to help determine if hormonal abnormalities are present and, when they are found, to monitor patient progress during the indicated treatment with hormonal regulation drugs such as Lupron® (leuprolide acetate) and Yaz® (drospirenone/ethynyl estradiol).
      Mitochondrial Dysfunction biomarkers – to help determine if there are disruptions in the energy production pathways, and, when they are found, to monitor patient progress during supplementation with drugs such as Carnitor® (L-carnitine).
      Oxidative Stress/Inflammation biomarkers – to help determine if there are excessive by-products of metabolic pathways, and, when they are found, to monitor patient progress during supplementation with anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aldactone® (spironolactone).
      Pophyrin biomarkers – to help determine if mercury toxicity is present, and, when it is found, to monitor changes in mercury-burden during detoxification therapies.
      Trans-Sulfuration biomarkers – to help determine if mercury biochemical susceptibility is present and, when it is found, to monitor patient response during supplementation with nutritional therapies such as methylcobalamin (the methyl form of vitamin B12), folinic acid, and pyroxidine (vitamin B6).
      Today, any parent or guardian located in the North Jersey regional area can easily engage the services of a qualified clinical geneticist to help evaluate and treat those diagnosed with an ASD by contacting Genetic Consultants of New Jersey. For information about scheduling a consultation, you can call Genetic Consultants of New Jersey or ASD Centers, LLC at (301) 989-0548 or e-mail Info@ASDCenters.com.

• • •

RESOURCES

New Jersey Regional Conference Recap
with Manual and PowerPoint's


      Thanks to Oxy Health Corporation, we are able to share with you the 2009 USAAA / CoMeD Regional Conference Proceedings Manual and all of the PowerPoint's from the conference. There is a wealth of information from speakers who presented on biomedical treatment, sensory processing and arousal, new insights into the biochemistry of autism, first steps to healing your child, special diets for special kids, living with autism, plus much more.
      Click here is.gd/xQtu to download the Proceedings Manual and to view the Powerpoint presentations.

• • •

Autism Society of California
Publishes Survey Results


      By Carin Yavorcik from the Autism Society of California newsletter.

      Findings to help determine action The Autism Society of California recently conducted an online survey to determine a course of action to assist families living with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in California. Online surveys were sent to over 50 California autism organizations for distribution. Families and individuals on the spectrum received an email invitation to participate in the survey, which was held Feb 12, 2009-March 1, 2009. A total of 713 parents and 18 individuals on the spectrum participated. A total of 643 or 90% of the participants completed the survey.
      Key findings included: The average age at which a child received a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder was 4.7 years of age, though parents first suspected something was wrong at an average of 2.3 years of age.
      Forty-two percent of the adults with ASD indicated they were presently employed (part-time, full-time or volunteer) and 29% attended a day program. However, 57% of the respondents said they were not happy with their employment situation.
      Social skills/groups were the most requested service families wanted to receive, second to training of teachers/aides from school districts, first in needs from regional centers, and the number one need for adults.
      Read more key findings is.gd/xQxq or view a presentation on the survey is.gd/xQxF at the ASC Web site.

• • •

PEOPLE

Jenny McCarthy Making News


E-Online!  Jenny McCarthy is Oprah’s latest Protégé
is.gd/xRWw
 
NY Magazine – The McCarthy Empire
is.gd/xRWV
 
Entertainment Tonight – Jenny McCarthy to Join Forces with Oprah Winfrey
is.gd/xRXe
      
• • •

COMMENTARY

Why Does the Vaccine/
Autism Controversy Live On?

Research has soundly disproved the alleged connection, yet fears about vaccines continue to be a major risk to public health.

      By Chris Mooney for Discover. is.gd/xwLY

       Vaccines do not cause autism. That was the ruling in each of three critical test cases handed down on February 12 by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. After a decade of speculation, argument, and analysis—often filled with vitriol on both sides—the court specifically denied any link between the combination of the MMR vaccine and vaccines with thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative) and the spectrum of disorders associated with autism. But these rulings, though seemingly definitive, have done little to quell the angry debate, which has severe implications for American public health.
      The idea that there is something wrong with our vaccines—that they have poisoned a generation of kids, driving an “epidemic” of autism—continues to be everywhere: on cable news, in celebrity magazines, on blogs, and in health news stories. It has had a particularly strong life on the Internet, including the heavily trafficked Huffington Post, and in pop culture, where it is supported by actors including Charlie Sheen and Jim Carrey, former Playboy playmate Jenny McCarthy, and numerous others. Despite repeated rejection by the scientific community, it has spawned a movement, led to thousands of legal claims, and even triggered occasional harassment and threats against scientists whose research appears to discredit it.
      You can see where the emotion and sentiment come from. Autism can be a terrible condition, devastating to families. It can leave parents not only aggrieved but desperate to find any cure, any salvation. Medical services and behavioral therapy for severely autistic children can cost more than $100,000 a year, and these children often exhibit extremely difficult behavior. Moreover, the incidence of autism is apparently rising rapidly. Today one in every 150 children has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum; 20 years ago that statistic was one in 10,000. “Put yourself in the shoes of these parents,” says journalist David Kirby, whose best-selling 2005 book, Evidence of Harm, dramatized the vaccine-autism movement. “They have perfectly normal kids who are walking and happy and everything—and then they regress.” The irony is that vaccine skepticism—not the vaccines themselves—is now looking like the true public-health threat.
+ Read more: is.gd/xwLY

• • •

David Kirby on Chris Mooney
in Discover Magazine

      By David Kirby on AgeofAutism. is.gd/xRAo

      I have seen a number of online postings and comments from readers of Discover Magazine who are wondering why freelancer Chris Mooney did not interview doctors and scientist who believe that more vaccine-autism research is warranted in his recent article, “Why Does the Vaccine/Autism Controversy Live On?"
      Chris contacted me in mid-March to ask if he could interview me for the piece. When I wrote back to say that was fine, I added that I hoped he would consider “doing an honest examination of this controversy."
      I also urged Chris before, during and after our 90-minute interview to not just listen to me, but to speak with several scientists and clinicians who do not feel like the vaccine-autism question has been thoroughly answered.
      Chris and Discover Magazine have every right to craft an article as they see fit, and I would not tell another journalist how to do their job. Nor am I complaining about how I was personally portrayed in the piece. I am writing this simply for the record.
      Among the things I mentioned to Chris was that Department of Health and Human Services' National Vaccine Advisory Committee Vaccine Safety Working Group (NVAC VSWG) had just recommended appointing a panel of experts to explore the strengths and weaknesses of conducting studies on health outcomes in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children, and they said it was "desirable" to include autism as one of the health outcomes.
      I suggested he might want to contact some of the mainstream doctors who supported the measure, which is still moving forward, even if they didn’t personally believe in a connection. I sent him the names of many of these doctors, including Bruce Gellin, M.D., MPH, Director of the HHS National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) and Executive Secretary of NVAC, Andrew Pavia, M.D., an NVAC Member and Chair of the NVAC Vaccine Safety Working Group, and James Mason, M.D., DrPH, an NVAC member and member of the Vaccine Safety Working Group and a former CDC Director and former Assistant Secretary of Health.
+ Read more: is.gd/92Zz

      Note: The opinions expressed in COMMENTARY are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Schafer Autism Report.

• • •

LETTERS

Graduate Research Grants for Education


      Each year the Wing Institute offers funding for graduate students who are interested in doing research in the area of evidence-based education. 
      The purpose of the Wing Institute Graduate Research Funding Program is to:
      Sponsor and promote new research in areas of evidence-based education, including: efficacy research, effectiveness research, implementation, and monitoring
      Sponsor and promote new research across disciplines, types of research, and venues
      Encourage graduate students to focus their future professional work in this subject area, increasing the number of professionals dedicated to the field of evidence-based education
      Disseminate research findings for application in real world” settings, further bridging the gap between research and practice.     
      The window for applications is very narrow.  The grant application can be found on our web site at www.winginstitute.org.
      - Randy Keyworth

Progress and Optimism

      The diagnosis of Autism scares me. I have 4 sons that are 30 (twins), 12 and 10.
      My only daughter, Angelia is 7 and she is diagnosed with Autism.
      While my business as the owner of a Mortgage Brokerage Business was very successful, we took her to many therapists.
      Angelia now attends a public school program at Discovery Key Elementary in Lake Worth, FL that is amazing.
      I am an optimist and feel that she will develop into a mainstream child.
      Please do not take away my optimism.
      - Truly Sieli


                      
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