Vol. 19 No. 2
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The Most Promising Areas Of Autism Research
Autism-Epilepsy Connection Explored In Four Studies
Gene Networks Offer Entry Point To Unraveling Autism
No Association Found Between MMR Vaccine and Autism, Even Among
Children at Higher Risk Sperm DNA Changes Linked To Autism
The Brain And Behavioral Effects Of Early Exposure To Chlorpyrifos
Study Links Autism With Mothers’ Diabetes
Epigenetic Marks Lay Foundations for a Child’s Future Abilities
Autism and Prodigy Share A Common Genetic Link
Is There Such A Thing As 'Pure' Autism? Genetic Analysis Says No
Exploring the ADHD-Autism link
Parent Training Program Helps Reduce Disruptive Behavior of Children
Kids With Autism See Big Benefits From Massage, Study Says
Vitamin Warning: Too Many Can Give You Cancer
A Movie Theater With a Mission: Employing the Disabled
One In Three Young Adults With Autism Disconnected From Work And School
California Forced Vaccinations Bill Passes Senate Committee
Graphic Video Showing Abuse of Autistic Adults Leads To Closure of
Jurors Urge 7 Years In Prison, Fine For Parents Found Guilty Of Caging
Two Nonverbal Teens With Autism Prove Friendship Has No Boundaries
What Neurodiversity Means To Me – By Jonathan Mitchell
The Most Promising Areas Of Autism
By Jessica Firger CBS
Researchers have been making tremendous progress in their efforts to
understand the causes of autism, as well as which interventions may be
most effective to help children with the disorder thrive.
This work is especially critical as the number of children in the U.S.
with autism grows. Approximately 1 in 68 children in the U.S. currently
has autism, an increase of nearly 30 percent in recent years -- at
least partly due to greater awareness and improved diagnostics.
Experts in the field say there are a number of areas of research that
could potentially change the lives of millions of families. Here are a
few that are showing significant progress -- and promise.
"There's been a lot of movement in genetics," Alycia Halladay, PhD,
chief science officer at the Autism Science Foundation, told CBS News.
Halladay says because autism advocates have supported a great deal of
funding for this area of research, it's helped scientists make the
discovery that the disorder occurs as a result of many gene
expressions. This research has also helped to crystalize the fact that
there are likely "many autisms" or at least many genes that drive the
In the largest-ever
genome study, published January in the journal Nature Medicine,
researchers sequenced 340 genomes from 85 families with two affected
children. The researchers focused on 100 different genetic variations
in the genomes sequenced. They found 70 percent of siblings had little
or no overlap in the gene variations that contribute to autism.
By understanding the genetic blueprint of the autism, researchers can
begin to develop more effective drug treatments, said Halladay. "We're
only going to improve interventions if know about the biology of
"We're then trying
develop new drugs or actually use the drugs that are used for other
treatments for autism," said Halladay. Researchers have identified
genetic similarities between autism and tuberous sclerosis -- a rare
disorder that causes tiny non-malignant tumors to form in organs and
often leads to autism. Some preliminary research suggests a drug used
for tuberous sclerosis could be useful for kids with autism. Other
genetically-driven research suggests oxytocin, the "love hormone" could
help kids with autism struggling with essential skills for social
Research is finding autism may actually be caused by a fine interplay
between genetic and environmental health factors -- a growing area of
medical research known as epigenetics.
"This could be really exciting because there are some environmental
factors we can do something about," said Halladay. "We're just starting
to recognize in the past few years that epigenetics plays an important
role in autism. Last year there was study looking at brain tissue that
shows there's areas of the genome of the brain that are methylated,
which means they're turned on or off depending on the environment that
Research is showing
certain stressors and environmental factors can activate certain genes.
A study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical
Association, for example, finds women who develop diabetes while
pregnant are 42 percent more likely to have a child with autism.
Another recent study links autism to prenatal exposure to two air
toxins, chromium and styrene.
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Connection Explored In Four Studies
affects nearly 30 percent of all people with autism
spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurobehavioral condition marked by impaired
social and language development. Conversely, many patients with
epilepsy display ASD-like behavior. Recent studies suggest that
epileptic seizures impair the neural pathways needed for socialization,
but the details of this process remain unclear.
Epilepsy affects nearly 30 percent of all people with autism spectrum
disorder (ASD), a neurobehavioral condition marked by impaired social
and language development. Conversely, many patients with epilepsy
display ASD-like behavior. Recent studies suggest that epileptic
seizures impair the neural pathways needed for socialization, but the
details of this process remain unclear.
Four studies presented at the American Epilepsy Society's recent Annual
Meeting delve deeper into this relationship, revealing biological
mechanisms and clinical findings that could help advance treatments for
patients with both disorders.
Jennifer Avallone, DO, and colleagues retrospectively examined the
video EEG findings and clinical records of 53 children and adults
diagnosed with both epilepsy and ASD. The authors uncovered abnormal
video EEG findings in 50 of the 53 records studied. Clinical and EEG
records indicated that 40% of the patients had focal epilepsy, 30% had
generalized epilepsy, 25% had both focal and generalized epilepsy and
5% had an unclear diagnosis. During the period between seizures,
subclinical epileptiform activity occurred in 85% of the studies, while
non-epileptic abnormalities in EEG activity were observed in 40% of the
"The presence of
an important finding in patients with autism spectrum disorder," says
Dr. Avallone. "Exploring the variations in EEG activity between and
during seizures, and how those variations relate to genetic and
behavioral findings in people with ASD, could greatly assist with the
management of both conditions."
second study, Andrey Mazarati, MD, PhD, and colleagues investigate the
relationship between autism-like behavior and epilepsy associated with
maternal infection. Previous animal studies have potentially linked
epilepsy and autism by showing that immune activation in a pregnant
mouse can trigger two immune molecules -- interleukin-6 (IL-6) and
interleukin-1β (IL-1β) -- in the offspring, thereby exacerbating the
faulty signal transmission through an area of the brain known as the
The authors explored
whether epilepsy and ASD might occur concurrently in another
established mouse model of epilepsy known as the intrahippocampal
kainic acid model. Surprisingly, the authors report fewer seizures in
mouse offspring that displayed autism-like behavior and had IL-6
activation. At the same time, more severe epilepsy was observed in
mouse offspring with the over-production of both IL-6 and IL-1β.
According to the authors, the mouse model reveals evidence for a
rivalry, rather than cooperation, between autism- and epilepsy-like
features in certain circumstances.
"These observations suggest that the processes contributing to the
autism-epilepsy connection are highly complex," says Dr. Mazarati.
"Studies exploring the relationship between autism and epilepsy must
take this complexity into account when establishing a proper
• • •
Networks Offer Entry Point To Unraveling Autism
Jessica Wright sfari.org
Moving beyond compiling long lists of genes that may be involved in
autism, researchers are constructing networks: To find unifying threads
among the embarrassment of genetic riches, they are stringing together
autism genes to map connections between them — and, potentially, reveal
clusters of biological insight.
Building the networks is an art in itself. Researchers must decide
which genes should form the hub of the network and how to connect the
genes — inherently subjective tasks that can deeply influence the
published in the
past few months have tried to minimize researcher bias in the choice of
genes1,2. They also connect the genes in creative ways. Their findings
— that autism may stem from problems with motor skills and brain
connections, for example — confirm results from other approaches,
offering reassurance that researchers are on the right track.
“Genetics is a small part of what’s going on in autism,” says Michael
Snyder, chair of genetics at Stanford University and lead investigator
of one of the studies. “You really need to pin these pathways and
networks to understand the biological factors that also play into it,”
In the study,
December in Molecular Systems Biology, his team began with a large
database of gene and protein interactions called BioGrid1. The database
is considered ‘naïve’ because it is not limited to autism genes but
rather links more than 13,000 proteins based on their interactions.
The team looked for the clusters of interacting proteins — or ‘modules’
— that contain the largest numbers of autism candidates from a preset
list of 383 genes.
“Two modules came
out screaming.” says Snyder.
One module has genes that are mostly involved in neuronal signaling;
the other has genes that control the expression of other genes by
modifying DNA structure.
connections: Both functions are already strongly implicated in autism,
but the study confirms their importance, says Stephan Sanders,
assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San
Francisco, who was not involved in the work. “I think it’s very
positive news that protein-protein interactions are hitting the same
two broad categories of genes as other methods,” Sanders says.
The signaling cluster is also rich in genes that function mainly at the
corpus callosum — a band of nerve fibers that connects the brain’s
hemispheres. One-third of people who lack a corpus callosum meet
diagnostic criteria for autism.
Snyder and his colleagues began with a large set of unrelated genes
instead of autism candidates, which most network studies of this type
use. Because of this, their study may avoid some selection bias, they
• • •
Association Found Between
MMR Vaccine and Autism, Even Among Children at Higher Risk
In a study that included approximately 95,000 children with older
siblings, receipt of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine was not
associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD),
regardless of whether older siblings had ASD, findings that indicate no
harmful association between receipt of MMR vaccine and ASD even among
children already at higher risk for ASD, according to a study in the
April 21 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on child health.
Although a substantial body of research over the last 15 years has
found no link between the MMR vaccine and ASD, parents and others
continue to associate the vaccine with ASD. Surveys of parents who have
children with ASD suggest that many believe the MMR vaccine was a
contributing cause. This belief, combined with knowing that younger
siblings of children with ASD are already at higher genetic risk for
ASD compared with the general population, might prompt these parents to
avoid vaccinating their younger children, according to background
information in the article.
Jain, MD, of the Lewin Group in Falls Church, Va., and colleagues
examined ASD occurrence by MMR vaccine status in a large sample of U.S.
children who have older siblings with and without ASD. The researchers
used an administrative claims database associated with a large
commercial health plan. Participants included children continuously
enrolled in the health plan from birth to at least 5 years of age
during 2001-2012 who also had an older sibling continuously enrolled
for at least 6 months between 1997 and 2012.
Of the 95,727 children included in the study, 1,929 (2.01 percent) had
an older sibling with ASD. Overall, 994 (1.04 percent) children in the
cohort had ASD diagnosed during follow-up. Among those who had an older
sibling with ASD, 134 (6.9 percent) were diagnosed with ASD, compared
with 860 (0.9 percent) diagnosed with ASD among those with siblings
without ASD. The MMR vaccination rate (l dose or more) for the children
with unaffected siblings (siblings without ASD) was 84 percent (n =
78,564) at 2 years and 92 percent (n = 86,063) at age 5 years. In
contrast, the MMR vaccination rates for children with older siblings
with ASD were lower (73 percent at age 2 years and 86 percent at age 5
years). Analysis of the data indicated that MMR vaccine receipt was not
associated with an increased risk of ASD at any age.
“Consistent with studies in other populations, we observed no
association between MMR vaccination and increased ASD risk among
privately insured children. We also found no evidence that receipt of
either 1 or 2 doses of MMR vaccination was associated with an increased
risk of ASD among children who had older siblings with ASD. As the
prevalence of diagnosed ASD increases, so does the number of children
who have siblings diagnosed with ASD, a group of children who are
particularly important as they were undervaccinated in our observations
as well as in previous reports,” the authors write.
This project was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health,
National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Health and
• • •
DNA Changes Linked To Autism
By Meghna Kataria BioNews
A study has
found a link between DNA methylation levels in sperm and an
increased risk of autism in children, indicating that epigenetic
changes could explain why the disorder appears to run in families.
Analysing semen from a small group of 44 men, the researchers
identified distinct changes in the epigenome of sperm from men whose
infants went on to show early signs of autism.
They also found that many of the genes around those sites were involved
in neural developmental processes.
'The higher the methylation in the genes we looked at, the higher the
score for observational risk for the autistic symptoms in the
children,' explained co-author Professor Daniele Fallin of the Johns
Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, USA.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex condition of varying
severity and affects communication and social behaviour. It is thought
to be influenced by a host of genetic and environmental risk factors,
and it has been seen to cluster in families.
While there is evidence of a strong inherited link to the development
of ASD, the genetics is complex and in many cases the causes remain
unexplained. In this study, the researchers set out to identify whether
epigenetic changes, rather than genes themselves, might affect ASD.
'We wondered if we could learn what happens before someone gets
autism,' said Professor Andrew Feinberg, from the Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine and a lead author on the study. Professor
Fallin added: 'If epigenetic changes are being passed from fathers to
their children, we should be able to detect them in sperm.' The
researchers gathered semen samples from 44 fathers-to-be, who already
had a child with a diagnosis of ASD, and mapped the methylation changes
across 450,000 individual spots in their genomes.
One year after the birth of their children, the researchers then
assessed the infants using the Autism Observation Scale for Infants
(AOSI), which is thought to predict autism. Comparing the results, they
found 193 sites where higher or lower methylation levels in the
fathers' sperm DNA meant that the child had a high AOSI score, and
hence was more likely to develop the condition.
To further verify their results, the researchers compared similar
methylation data available from brain samples of 40 deceased people,
half of whom had been diagnosed with autism. Out of 75 sites found in a
particular region of the brain, only 18 showed the patterns that were
detected in the study, suggesting that the causes of autism are likely
to be more complex.
Speaking to the
Mail Online, Dr Judith Brown, of The National Autistic Society said:
'This is a thought-provoking piece of research which adds a new angle
to the discussion about the complex and substantial role genetics play
• • •
Brain And Behavioral Effects Of Early Exposure To Chlorpyrifos
Topic of Next MIND Institute Distinguished Lecture
institutional press release.
In a presentation scheduled for May 20 Virginia Rauh, a researcher from
Columbia University, will discuss her studies of the effects of
prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, a common insecticide and
neurotoxicant, in a group of inner-city minority children.
The lecture will be part of the MIND Institute Distinguished Lecturer
Series and will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20 at
2825 50th St., Sacramento. It is free and open to the public and no
reservations are required.
Chlorpyrifos has been banned for indoor residential use in the United
States since 2001, but continues to be widely used in agriculture. The
neurotoxic effects of chlorpyrifos have been shown in animal studies at
exposure levels well below the threshold for systemic toxicity. Those
findings prompted a prospective cohort study to investigate possible
long-term human effects at levels of exposure that are commonly found
in many areas of the country.
presentation examines the evidence for long-term effects of prenatal
chlorpyrifos exposure on neuropsychological profiles and brain
morphology, as measured by MRI. Highly exposed children show a unique
neuropsychological profile, with significant deficits in auditory
attention and fine motor performance, but no deficits on more complex
visual attention and inhibitory control tasks.
These findings, Rauh said, are consistent with abnormalities in brain
structure and function, and suggest that prenatal pesticide exposure,
at the relatively modest doses common in agricultural regions of the
U.S., result in a signature pattern of neuropsychological deficits,
accompanied by disturbances in brain morphology by MRI, persisting into
the early school years.
• • •
Links Autism With Mothers’ Diabetes
A new study shows that children are slightly more likely to develop
autism if their mothers were diagnosed with diabetes early in pregnancy.
It’s yet another
study to debunk the myth that autism is caused by vaccines.
Researchers found women newly diagnosed with diabetes by the 26th week
of pregnancy were 42 percent more likely to have a child diagnosed with
autism, according to the study of more than 322,000 children born
between 1995 and 2009, published in the Journal of the American Medical
Overall, about 1
of children in the study were diagnosed with autism by age 5½. Having
gestational diabetes, the kind diagnosed during pregnancy, increased
the chance of having a child with autism to 1.4 percent.
Researchers found no increase in autism risk if mothers were diagnosed
with diabetes after 26 weeks of pregnancy. A typical pregnancy lasts 40
Authors also found
increased risk of autism if women had type 2 diabetes before becoming
pregnant, possibly because these women already had their blood sugar
under control, according to the study.
Diabetes interferes with the body’s ability to move the sugar provided
by food into cells. That can lead the levels of sugar in the blood to
rise to unhealthy levels, damaging blood vessels.
Anny Xiang of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of
Research & Evaluation says the study doesn’t reveal why
diabetes in pregnancy increases the risk of autism. It’s possible that
high blood sugar levels have long-lasting effects on a fetus’ organ
development and function, says Xiang, the study’s lead author.
Gestational diabetes increases a number of risks for a fetus, including
death, says Susan Levy, an associate professor of pediatrics at Center
for Autism Research atChildren’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who was not
involved with the study.
study adds to a growing body of research that suggests the brain
changes related to autism occur long before delivery, says pediatrician
Paul Wang, head of medical research at Autism Speaks, an advocacy
organization. He notes that brain scans can now detect differences
between autistic children and other kids when they’re only a few months
• • •
Marks Lay Foundations for a Child’s Future Abilities
University of Southampton sciencedaily.com
Summary: Epigenetic marks on our DNA account for how all cells in the
body have the same DNA sequence, inherited from our parents, but
nonetheless there are hundreds of different cell types. The body uses
epigenetics as its principal control system, to increase or decrease
the expression of our genes, and epigenetic processes are known to be
important in memory and other aspects of brain function.
The new research used umbilical cord tissue collected at birth and
identified epigenetic marks in a key brain development gene called HES1
that were linked to the child’s ability to learn and their cognitive
performance at ages 4 and 7 years. The findings in two groups of
children in Southampton, UK, were accompanied by additional findings in
children from Singapore that HES1 epigenetic marks at birth were
associated with aspects of socially disruptive behaviour that have
previously been linked with a reduced school performance.
• • •
and Prodigy Share A Common Genetic Link
Summary: Researchers have uncovered the first evidence of a genetic
link between prodigy and autism. The scientists found that child
prodigies in their sample share some of the same genetic variations
with people who have autism.
• • •
There Such A Thing As 'Pure' Autism? Genetic Analysis Says No
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Summary: The search for genes that contribute to the risk for autism
has made tremendous strides over the past 3 years. As this field has
advanced, investigators have wondered whether the diversity of clinical
features across patients with autism reflects heterogeneous sources of
• • •
the ADHD-Autism Link
of California, Irvine
Summary: A licensed clinical psychologist is focusing on the
ADHD-autism link to better understand why people with ADHD and autism
may be more prone to substance abuse and, in the process, to develop
more effective behavioral therapies.
• • •
Parent Training Program Helps
Reduce Disruptive Behavior of Children With Autism
JAMA Network Journals
A 24 week parent training program, which provided specific techniques
to manage disruptive behaviors of children with autism spectrum
disorder, resulted in a greater reduction in disruptive and
noncompliant behavior compared to parent education, according to a
study in the April 21 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on child health.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects an estimated 6 per 1,000
children worldwide and is a major public health challenge. As many as
50 percent of children with ASD exhibit behavioral problems, including
tantrums, noncompliance, aggression, and self-injury. Behavioral
interventions are used to treat disruptive behavior but have not been
evaluated in large-scale randomized trials, according to background
information in the article.
Scahill, M.S.N., Ph.D., of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory
University, Atlanta, and colleagues conducted a study in which children
(age 3-7 years) with ASD were randomly assigned to parent training (n =
89) or parent education (n = 91) at 6 centers (Emory University,
Indiana University, Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh,
University of Rochester, Yale University).
Parent training provided specific strategies to manage disruptive
behavior and was delivered individually to the parents in 11 core
sessions of 60 to 90 minutes' duration, up to 2 optional sessions, 1
home visit, and up to 6 parent-child coaching sessions over 16 weeks.
Parent training also included 1 home visit and 2 telephone booster
sessions between weeks 16 and 24. Parent education provided information
about autism but no behavior management strategies and included 12
sessions of 60 to 90 minutes and 1 home visit over 24 weeks.
On parent-rated measures of disruptive and noncompliant behavior,
parent training, compared to parent education, showed a greater
reduction on two scales: a 48 percent vs 32 percent decline on the
Aberrant Behavior Checklist-Irritability subscale; and a 55 percent vs
34 percent decline on the Home Situations Questionnaire-Autism Spectrum
Disorder. Both treatment groups improved over time, although neither
measure met the prespecified minimal clinically important difference.
The authors suggest that one possible explanation for the smaller than
anticipated differences between groups is the larger than predicted
improvement in the parent education group.
Parent training was superior to parent education on a measure of
overall improvement as judged by a clinician who was blinded to
research assignment (69 percent vs 40 percent).
The authors write that the cost-effectiveness of the 2 interventions
needs to be investigated, and that future analyses may identify child
and family characteristics that predict success with parent training or
"To our knowledge,
this is the largest randomized trial of any behavioral intervention for
children with ASD. The results of this multisite study provide
empirical support for wider implementation of this structured,
relatively brief parent training intervention for young children with
• • •
With Autism See Big Benefits From Massage, Study Says
By Amy Wang, The
Dr. Louisa Silva's qigong massage treatments for children with
autism, an adult focuses on massaging specific parts of a child's body
with small motions. (Qigong Sensory Treatment Institute)
massage treatment developed for children who have autism can lessen its
severity by a third in the first five months after diagnosis, making
the treatment an effective early intervention, according to a newly
developed by Dr. Louisa Silva, founder of the Oregon-based Qigong
Sensory Training Institute and a visiting professor at Western Oregon
University, was found to be effective for both high- and
low-functioning autistic children.
"That's important because there really are very, very few effective
research-based treatments for low-functioning children," said Silva,
who holds a medical degree from the University of California Los
Angeles as well as a master's degree in public health from the Medical
College of Wisconsin.
most autism treatments require some degree of language and ability to
focus, she said. Her treatment removes those barriers by centering on a
15-minute whole-body massage. The treatment, which she trains parents
to use daily with children under the age of 6, is now the subject of a
two-year replication study to assess its effectiveness.
The first report on the study, published this week in the peer-reviewed
journal Autism Research and Treatment, found that overall autism
severity among the 103 Oregon preschoolers in the study decreased by 32
percent, resulting in improved behavior and language. Autism severity
is assessed by evaluating symptoms against screening tools such as the
Autism Behavior Checklist.
specifically, sensory problems improved by 38 percent and sensitivity
to touch and texture improved by 49 percent after five months of
Children in the
experienced an 18 percent increase in receptive language, Silva said.
Among low-functioning children, a lack of receptive language means
"they don't answer to their name, they don't understand." Among
high-functioning children, she said, "it's that they don't listen -
it's more that they would have a monologue" instead of a conversation.
Parenting stress, a phrase Silva said refers to the difficulty of
parenting autistic children because of their communication and sensory
challenges, improved by 44 percent.
Also notable was an improvement in parent-child bonding and
interactions, Silva said. Despite the fact that many parents of
children with autism are highly engaged, she said, there's still
evidence of bonding problems. "We think that the reason for that is,
there's a problem with the sense of touch and that interferes with the
child's perception of touch and touch is the main means of bonding,"
• • •
Vitamin Warning: Too Many Can Give
Taking extra vitamins “does more harm than good” and increases the risk
of cancer and heart disease, a major study has revealed.
Around 18 million Brits down supplements thinking they are getting a
health boost, but research has found they can have the opposite effect.
Dr Tim Byers – one of the world’s top cancer experts – examined
research papers spanning 30 years.
looked at three widely taken ¬over-the-counter pills and supplements,
vitamin E tablets, beta-carotene and folic acid, and warned against
exceeding the recommended daily amount.
Dr Byers said: “We are not sure why this is happening but evidence
shows that people who take more dietary supplements than needed tend to
have a higher risk of developing cancer.
“When we first tested dietary supplements in animal models we found
that the results were promising.
“Eventually we were able to move on to humans. We studied thousands of
patients for 10 years who were taking dietary supplements and placebos.
“We found that the supplements were actually not beneficial for their
health. In fact, some people actually got more cancer while on the
thought to be taken by more than 230,000 pregnant UK women each year as
it can help prevent spina bifida and other birth defects affecting the
brain and spine.
But one study
examined by Dr Byers’ team found too much increased the chances of
getting cancer by 56%.
The acid –
also known as vitamin – is also taken to cut the risk of heart disease
and polyps in a colon, which lead to cancer.
But the research found too much in supplement form in fact increased
the number of dangerous polyps.
Two trials of beta-carotene
supplements found taking more than the recommended dose increased the
risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease by 20%.
Meanwhile another trial of 35,000 people between 2001 and 2014 in the
States found taking too many vitamin E tablets increased the risk of
developing prostate cancer by 17%.
Byers, associate director for prevention and control at the University
of Colorado Cancer Center, US, began his study after it emerged two
decades ago that people eating more fruit and vegetables were less
likely to get cancer.
He wanted to
see if vitamin supplements – now an estimated £385million market in the
UK – would reduce the threat of the killer disease even further.
• • •
A Movie Theater With a Mission:
Employing the Disabled
By Harry Smith nbcnews.com
A movie theater in Connecticut isn't just showing the latest Hollywood
hits: The Prospector Theater employs mostly disabled people, giving
them valuable work experience and confidence they can succeed in the
sister Hope has Down syndrome, realized disabled individuals needed
jobs and work experience after developing arts programs for them for
many years. When she learned the Ridgefield Playhouse, a movie theater
built in 1939, was slated for demolition, she saw an opportunity.
"We didn't need more trips to the pond, more trips to the zoo. We just
needed meaningful employment," she said.
Only 20 percent of disabled people work, compared to 68 percent of
those who aren't disabled, according to September 2014 numbers from the
Bureau of Labor Statistics.
saved the playhouse from demolition and founded the four-theater
commercial movie house, a nonprofit, in historic Ridgefield. Most of
the more than 80 theater employees are disabled. But they weren't there
just because they have a disability, Jensen said.
because they are a really, really valuable employee," she said.
"We are 'The Prospector' after all," she noted. "And as prospectors I
work with my prospects to find out what their sparkle is."
For Michael Obediah, who has multiple sclerosis, that talent is writing
grant proposals for the theater. He has seen his colleagues prosper in
"It's tragic to lose
intelligence, the ideas, the energy, the spirituality of people who
otherwise would be left to the side," he said. "We're cracking open
this incredible treasure of human potential."
• • •
In Three Young Adults With Autism Disconnected From Work And School
Drexel University, Autism
Summary: Scientists have delved into critical questions about life
outcomes beyond clinical interventions for young people with autism
spectrum disorder. New results show a wide range of experiences and
outcomes of youth on the autism spectrum between high school and their
early 20s, including new safety and risk indicators for young adults
with autism. The report describes the indicators now available and
serves as a call to action to fill the remaining large gaps in
is a graphic overview of what young adults on the autism spectrum did
after high school, according to the indicators used as part of the
National Autism Indicators Report: Transition to Young Adulthood.
Credit: Life Course Outcomes Research Program, A.J. Drexel Autism
Autism does not end when children reach adulthood -- yet most public
awareness, public policy and research about autism focus on the needs
of children. Families, service providers, community leaders and
policymakers still know too little about the experiences and outcomes
of young people on the autism spectrum as they enter their adult lives.
What are their experiences with transition planning, living
arrangements, social participation, employment, postsecondary
education, health and mental health, safety and other domains? Answers
to these and other critical questions, addressing life outcomes beyond
clinical interventions, are the focus of a report issued today from
Drexel University's A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, from its Life Course
Outcomes Research Program. The "National Autism Indicators Report:
Transition into Young Adulthood" is a comprehensive report that
presents new findings about a wide range of experiences and outcomes of
youth on the autism spectrum between high school and their early 20s,
including new safety and risk indicators for young adults with autism.
The report describes the indicators now available and serves as a call
to action to fill the remaining large gaps in knowledge.
"When it comes to understanding how well our nation is helping youth
affected by autism, our situation is like driving a car through the fog
with no dashboard," said Paul Shattuck, PhD, leader of the Life Course
Outcomes Research Program and an associate professor at Drexel. "We
know we're moving, but we do not have many indicators to tell us how
fast we are going, whether we're getting close to our goals, or what
kind of mileage we are getting from the resources fueling our trip."
The report is a collection of indicators that focuses national
attention on outcomes which are almost universally lower for those on
the autism spectrum compared to their peers with other types of
• • •
California Forced Vaccinations
Bill Passes Senate Committee
Action News Now Video
Hundreds of parents showed up at the State Capitol to make their voices
heard regarding SB277. Similar legislation has already failed
Washington and Oregon states.
• • •
Graphic Video Showing Abuse of
Autistic Adults Leads To Closure of Group Homes
Three groups homes owned by Behavioral Support Systems (BSS) in the
Orlando, Florida, area have been shut down due to accusations of
violent and graphic abuse against the residents. The graphic video,
recorded at American Living Incorporated, an Autistic center located in
Orange County, Florida, instigated an investigation into BSS’s
practices and staff behaviors. The graphic nature of the video coerced
quick action by investigators, leading to the closing of the three
locations that are owned by Behavioral Support Systems. As a result,
all employees that work for BSS are under investigation in relation to
the abuse, as well as for failing to report the abuse to the proper
The Orlando Sun
reported on the incident of abuse against the autistic residents of
American Living Incorporated, reporting that the video showed a
22-year-old autistic woman sitting on a couch, defenseless against the
attack and mocking ridicule of her assailants.
The CEO of Behavioral Support Systems, Peter Pearley, stated that he
had no idea such atrocious attacks were taking place within his
facilities and that despite his shock, he expects to move past the
horrific behaviors and make his clients feel safe in their environment,
rather than afraid for their lives.
+Read more, video.
• • •
Urge 7 Years In Prison, Fine For Parents Found Guilty Of Caging
Missouri jurors recommended the maximum sentence — seven years in
prison and a fine — for a couple convicted of keeping their son, who
has autism, in a makeshift cage.
Earlier Friday, Terry and Victoria Smith, formerly of O’Fallon, Mo.,
were each found guilty of child endangerment.
They were out shopping for groceries the night of Dec. 15, 2010, when a
state worker and police arrived at their home to investigate a child
abuse hotline call.
grandmother was watching the Smiths’ son Josiah, then 6, and his five
She led officials into the basement where they found Josiah sitting in
a urine-and-feces-soaked enclosure held together with zip ties and
Police were unable
reach the Smiths for three hours. By the time they returned, police had
used a knife to cut Josiah out of the cage and taken him to the
Attorneys for the
Smiths declined to comment after the trial.
Lohmar said he was pleased with the verdict.
“The jury was loud and clear when they said these parents need to
experience what their son experienced by spending time behind bars,“ he
• • •
Two Nonverbal Teens With Autism
Prove Friendship Has No Boundaries
Because Skyler and Kreed are nonverbal teens with autism, making
friends hasn’t always been easy for them. Now that they have each
other, their friendship is stronger than what any word could ever
Aside from having
14-year-old Skyler has Usher syndrome. He is currently deaf and is
losing his peripheral vision. He also has no effective means to
communicate. Kreed, 17, uses a device to communicate and has multiple
medical conditions including mitochondrial disease, hypothyroidism and
epilepsy. Once Kreed learned Skyler was also nonverbal, their
“We were able to
explain to Kreed that Skyler is deaf and also nonverbal like him,”
Kreed’s mother, Erin Polk, said in an email to The Huffington Post. “He
seemed to understand and ever since then has wanted to be with Skyler
and calls him his best friend."
best friends, who live down the street from each other, hang out just
like typical teenagers. They eat pizza and French fries and watch
movies together. They also give each other a helping hand.autismgrafic.jpg
“Kreed will help Skyler by leading him to places he is afraid to walk
into,” Polk said. “We think his lack of peripheral vision makes it
scary for him in new places, so Kreed will always offer his hand to
help him through those times."
Kreed, his best friend role has given him confidence. According to his
mom, being able to help others helps him as well.
“Skyler has given Kreed way more social confidence by having a friend
he can 100 percent be himself with and finally to be able to actually
help another peer rather than being the person always helped,” she said.
Even though they're nonverbal, the teens communicate in their own way
by giving certain looks or connecting through touch. Kreed doesn’t mind
if Skyler gets close to him or touches him, which seems to fascinate
Skyler. According to Polk's blog, the teens simply want to be around
each other. Because of this, a special moment was captured.
• • •
What Neurodiversity Means To Me –
By Jonathan Mitchell
It is with great difficulty that I write these words. I have to resist
the urge to pick up my pencil and shoelaces and twiddle. This is what I
call the autistic self-stimulatory behavior that I’m compelled to do
for hours on end. I rock back and forth and shake these due to having
an autism spectrum disorder. I’m a fifty-nine year old man who’s never
had a full-fledged girlfriend. I’ve had very few friends. I’ve been
fired from more than twenty jobs and had to retire at an early age. I
attended special education schools for eight years. I was expelled from
a regular school after half a semester. I have very poor fine motor
coordination and can barely handwrite.
Nearly twenty years ago, I read Jim Sinclair’s essay Don’t Mourn For Us
and his other writings. I was shocked to discover that anyone would
believe that autism was nothing less than a serious disorder and would
be opposed to curing it.
years, as the Internet and listservs came into vogue, I read more and
more persons on the spectrum claiming that not only did they not want a
cure but that most persons on the spectrum didn’t. They went further to
claim that with the proper accommodations autistic people would not be
I don’t understand
beliefs. There are others with autism far more severely disabled than
these people and myself. They can’t speak. They engage in
self-injurious behavior. These individuals can’t care for themselves at
all. If an adult over the age of consent does not wish a cure for their
condition that’s fine. I have no problem with that. Unfortunately most
advocates of neurodiversity go further than this. They state that not
only do they not want to be cured, but that no one no matter how severe
their autism is should be cured.
would seem that to any reasonable person these views would be
considered nothing less than being deeply on the fringe of fanciful
thinking. However, this is not the case. As the rate of autism
diagnoses has risen, the neurodiversity movement has risen in
proportion to match these. Members of the neurodiversity movement have
created organizations over the years. These include the Autistic Self
Advocacy Network and the Global and Regional Asperger’s Syndrome
Partnership. They have been allowed to testify before Congress. Five
individuals on the spectrum who oppose a cure have been appointed as
public members to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, the
group that advises the government on autism research and policy.
To date, zero autistics who don’t believe in neurodiversity and wish
for a cure have been appointed. This is in spite of the fact that I
know of one who wishes to be on this committee. So far, his wishes have
been spurned. Alex Plank, another member of neurodiversity on the
spectrum, has been a keynote speaker at the National Conference of the
Autism Society of America. John Elder Robison, another neurodiversity
proponent, served on the scientific advisory board of Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks gave a half a million dollar research grant to
neurodiversity scientist Laurent Mottron. They also financed Alex
Plank’s Autism Talk TV. To the best of my knowledge, they have never
financed any endeavor of an anti-neurodiversity pro-cure, pro-treatment
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