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RESEARCH

The Most Promising Areas Of Autism Research



      By Jessica Firger CBS News


istockphoto
     
      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.

Genetics
      "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 disorder.
      In the largest-ever autism 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 autism."
      "We're then trying to 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 interaction.

Epigenetics
      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 they're in."
      Research is showing that 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.
+Read more.





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• • •

Autism-Epilepsy Connection Explored In Four Studies

      American Epilepsy Society (AES)
 

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.
     
       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 studies.
      "The presence of epilepsy is 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."
      In a 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 hippocampus.
      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 experimental design."
+Read more.

• • •

Gene 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 results.
      Two studies 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,” he says.
      In the study, published 30 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.
      Brain 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 say.
+Read more.

• • •

No Association Found Between MMR Vaccine and Autism, Even Among Children at Higher Risk




     
infectioncontroltoday.com

      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.
      Anjali 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 Human Services.
+Read more.

• • •

Sperm 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 in autism.
+Read more.

• • •

The Brain And Behavioral Effects Of Early Exposure To Chlorpyrifos

Topic of Next MIND Institute Distinguished Lecture

      From an 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.
      Rauh's 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.

• • •

Study Links Autism With Mothers’ Diabetes



palmbeachpost.com

       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 Association.
      Overall, about 1 percent 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 weeks.
      Authors also found no 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 developing 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.
      The new 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 old.
+Read more.

• • •

Epigenetic 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.
+Read more.

• • •

Autism and Prodigy Share A Common Genetic Link

      Ohio State University

      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.
+Read more.

• • •

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• • •
Is There Such A Thing As 'Pure' Autism? Genetic Analysis Says No

      Elsevier

      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 genetic risk.
+Read more.

• • •

Exploring the ADHD-Autism Link

      University 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.
+Read more.

• • •

TREATMENT

Parent Training Program Helps Reduce Disruptive Behavior of Children With Autism


      The 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.
      Lawrence 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 parent education.
      "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 ASD."
      (doi:10.1001/jama.2015.3150)

• • •

Kids With Autism See Big Benefits From Massage, Study Says

      By Amy Wang, The Oregonian/Oregon Live


In 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)

      A 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 published report.
      The treatment, 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.
      That's because 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.
      More specifically, sensory problems improved by 38 percent and sensitivity to touch and texture improved by 49 percent after five months of treatment.
      Children in the study also 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," she said.
+Read more.

• • •

HEALTH

Vitamin Warning: Too Many Can Give You Cancer





     
mirror.co.uk

      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.
      He 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 vitamins."
      Folic acid supplements are 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%.
      Dr 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.
+Read more.

• • •

EMPLOYMENT

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 job world.
      Valerie Jensen, whose 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.
      Jensen 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.
      "They're here 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 their jobs.
      "It's tragic to lose the 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."

• • •

One In Three Young Adults With Autism Disconnected From Work And School


      Drexel University, Autism Institute

      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 knowledge.


This 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 Institute,

       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 disabilities.
+Read more.

• • •

PUBLIC HEALTH

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 in Washington and Oregon states.




• • •

CARE

Graphic Video Showing Abuse of Autistic Adults Leads To Closure of Group Homes


      
Video




      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 authorities.
      The Orlando Sun Times 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.

• • •

Jurors Urge 7 Years In Prison, Fine For Parents Found Guilty Of Caging Autistic Son



      
stltoday.com

      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.
      The children’s grandmother was watching the Smiths’ son Josiah, then 6, and his five siblings.
      She led officials into the basement where they found Josiah sitting in a urine-and-feces-soaked enclosure held together with zip ties and bungee cords.
      Police were unable to 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 hospital.
      Attorneys for the Smiths declined to comment after the trial.
      Prosecutor Tim 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 said.
+Read more.

• • •

PEOPLE

Two Nonverbal Teens With Autism Prove Friendship Has No Boundaries


       By Taylor Pittman The Huffington Post.




      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 describe.
      Aside from having autism, 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 friendship began.
      “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."
      The 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."
      For 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.

• • •

COMMENTARY

What Neurodiversity Means To Me – By Jonathan Mitchell



     
autismdailynewscast.com




      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.
      Over the 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 disabled.
      I don’t understand these 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.
      It 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 autistic person.
+Read more.




 

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  In This Issue:





RESEARCH

  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

TREATMENT

  Parent Training Program Helps Reduce Disruptive Behavior of Children With Autism

  Kids With Autism See Big Benefits From Massage, Study Says

HEALTH

  Vitamin Warning: Too Many Can Give You Cancer

EMPLOYMENT

  A Movie Theater With a Mission: Employing the Disabled
One In Three Young Adults With Autism Disconnected From Work And School

PUBLIC HEALTH

  California Forced Vaccinations Bill Passes Senate Committee

CARE

  Graphic Video Showing Abuse of Autistic Adults Leads To Closure of Group Homes

  Jurors Urge 7 Years In Prison, Fine For Parents Found Guilty Of Caging Autistic Son

PEOPLE

  Two Nonverbal Teens With Autism Prove Friendship Has No Boundaries

COMMENTARY

  What Neurodiversity Means To Me – By Jonathan Mitchell







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