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RESEARCH

U.S. Researchers Identify Two Autism Strains in Major Breakthrough


Researchers have for the first time identified two biologically different strains of autism in a breakthrough being compared with the discovery of different forms of cancer in the 1960s, The Australian reported Thursday.
      The findings, to be announced at an international autism conference in Perth, Australia, Thursday, are seen as a key step towards understanding the causes of autism and developing effective treatments as well as a cure.
      The findings bring hope that the communication, socialization and other difficulties that autistic children experience can be tackled more easily and earlier.
      Researchers from the University of California Davis's MIND Institute in Sacramento began the Autism Phenome Project in 2006. They have been studying the brain growth, environmental exposure and genetic make-up of 350 children aged between two and 3.5 years, and have so far found two biologically distinct subtypes of autistic brain development.
      One group of children, all boys, had enlarged brains and most had regressed into autism after 18 months of age; another group appeared to have immune systems that were not functioning properly.
      Psychiatry professor David Amaral, who led the MIND Institute's longitudinal study, said the findings could lead to more individualized treatment. "The ultimate goal is when a child comes into the clinic, rather than saying you just have autism, to be able to say you have autism type A, or type B, or type C," Amaral said.
      "And then based on that description, we would know whether there is a different treatment profile that we should recommend to the families.
      "As an example, if a child has an immune form of autism, it may be that what we want to do is manipulate their immune system rather than trying something else that may be related to synaptic functions in the brain."
      Families were currently presented with a vast array of treatments without necessarily knowing which worked, he said.
      Amaral predicted there would be many more biological subtypes of autism identified just as there were many forms of cancer. "If we were trying to cure all cancer at the same time, it would be hopeless," he said. "Well, the same is true for autism. My guess is that there just isn't going to be a single diagnostic marker for autism, there's going to be a whole panel."
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• • •

New Report Shows How Prenatal Vitamins Can Help The Fight Against Autism


     
      By Christine Peake, LA Charity Examiner

      Sadly Autism continues to increase in numbers and is a worry for new parents who anticipate the birth of their new baby. A new insightful study written by Dr. Audra Foster, ND explains the simple step to potentially reduce Autism risk in children. Below are some of the facts and helpful information from this ground breaking study by Dr Foster, ND.
      New Hope for Parents? Autism is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 1 in 110 children in the United States.1 And with no known cause of autism, parents can be left feeling powerless and that there is little more they can do than simply hope it does not affect their family. But a new study could help change that.
      According to a study recently published in the scientific journal Epidemiology, something as simple as mothers taking a prenatal vitamin during the 3 months before pregnancy through the first month of pregnancy could substantially reduce the risk of autism in their child, especially in genetically susceptible individuals.
      Study Details: Participants in this study included children aged 24 to 60 months who were diagnosed as either having autism (288 children), autism spectrum disorder (144 children), or typical development (278 children). Researchers determined whether their mothers consumed vitamins and/or other supplements during the period spanning 3 months before conception through pregnancy and breast-feeding. Using that data, researchers then used statistical analysis to calculate odds ratios for associations between autism and maternal supplement intake.
      According to the results, mothers of children with autism were less likely than mothers of typically developing children to report having taken prenatal vitamins during the periconceptional period (defined as the 3 months before pregnancy through the first month of pregnancy). This association was found to be particularly strong for children with genetic susceptibility for autism, as the combination of genetic susceptibility and no periconceptional prenatal vitamin intake was linked with significantly greater risk for autism than either factor alone.
      Interestingly, the link between prenatal vitamin intake and a lower risk of autism was found to apply only to the periconceptional period. No associations were found for vitamin intake during months 2 through 9 of pregnancy.
      Possible Explanations: Prenatal vitamins contain more iron, folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12 than typical multivitamins, and the researchers speculated that those nutrients might be needed to reduce autism risk. Iron, folate, and other B vitamins are essential for neurodevelopment, and the higher levels of those nutrients in prenatal vitamins could help explain the link this study found between the use of prenatal vitamins and reduced risk of autism....

• • •

Poorer Movement Skills at Seven Months in Children at Risk of Autism, Study Finds

      ScienceDaily — Poorer movement skills detected as early as 7 months old are observed in children at a higher risk of developing Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) than children in the general population. These are the findings of a study being presented on 7th September 2011 at the British Psychological Society's Developmental Section Conference in Newcastle.
      The study was carried out by a team led by Dr. Elisabeth Hill at Goldsmiths (University of London), Dr. Hayley Leonard (Goldsmiths) and the British Autism Study of Infant Siblings (BASIS) based at Birkbeck University of London. The researchers examined infants with a diagnosed older sibling with ASD. Siblings are known to share a higher risk of developing the disorder.
      The researchers assessed the infants using a longitudinal follow-up design at 7, 14, and 24 months. Two groups of infants participated in the study: (1) 54 infants at-risk of a diagnosis of ASD based on a sibling diagnosis and (2) 50 low-risk infants without a diagnosed sibling. The infants were assessed on a range of standardised measures of motor skills. Parent reports were also documented.
      Statistical analyses revealed that the at-risk group had significantly poorer motor skills than the low-risk group detected as early as 7 months old. Both gross motor skills such as the ability to hold up the head/roll over/walk and fine motor skills such as grasping and manipulating small objects were found to be poorer in the group of children at-risk for the disorder. This poorer motor ability was still evident at the 24 month assessment stage..
      Dr. Hayley Leonard, the presenter of the study findings at the conference said "These data are extremely important because even if the at-risk infants do not go on to be diagnosed with ASD, research suggests that poorer motor development could have a negative impact on their language, social and cognitive development over time. This poorer motor development could impact on their development of social skills, school achievement and longer-term employment outcomes."

• • •

MIND Institute Researcher Receives Grant To Study Palliative Drug For Fragile X Syndrome


      From an organization announcement.

      Researchers at the UC Davis MIND Institute have received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a pilot study of whether sertraline, also known by the brand name Zoloft, can be useful in relieving anxiety in very young children diagnosed with fragile X syndrome.
      The study will be led by Randi Hagerman, medical director of the UC Davis MIND Institute and one of the world's leading experts on fragile X syndrome, the foremost cause of intellectual disability in the United States and the most common single-gene cause of autism. The grant is for nearly $300,000.
      "Our clinical experience and preliminary data shows that the early use of sertraline, which increases serotonin levels at the synapses, helps with the development of language and alleviates anxiety and behavior problems in children with fragile X syndrome," said Hagerman, who is a professor of pediatrics.
      Children diagnosed with fragile X syndrome frequently experience severe anxiety, sensory integration deficits, language delays and attention problems. These symptoms usually emerge at around 2 years of age.
      Hagerman and her colleagues will recruit 20 children per year for three years for a randomized, case-controlled, clinical trial of the efficacy of sertraline for treating fragile X syndrome.
      The study participants, who must be between 2 and 6 years of age, will receive low doses of sertraline for six months, with weekly telephone calls to families to document any side effects and to facilitate dose adjustment, if needed.
      After the conclusion of the six-month clinical trial, researchers will use a variety of tests to measure the alleviation of anxiety and behavior problems in study participants. Hagerman said that if the results of the study are promising she anticipates that it will be extended to children with autistic disorder, as well.

• • •

PUBLIC HEALTH

Court Revises Stance on Vaccine's Autism 'Link'


      By Jeff D. Gorman

      (CN) - A Georgia family cannot pursue claims that a vaccine made their son autistic, the state Supreme Court ruled after the federal justices vacated its opinion earlier this year.
      Marcelo and Carolyn Ferrari had sued American Home Products over a booster shot containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. They claimed the medication had caused their son, Stefano, to develop autism.
      The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the drugmaker, which does business as Wyeth, SmithKline Beecham, GlaxoSmithKline and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, but the state appeals division reversed.
      At the Georgia Supreme Court, the justices affirmed, holding that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act of 1986 did not pre-empt design-defect claims.
      But that decision unraveled when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Bruesewitz v. Wyeth in February.
      In that case, the justices threw out a lawsuit of a Pittsburgh couple whose 6-month-old daughter developed a seizure disorder after being vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Baby Hannah began to experience seizures within 24 hours of the vaccination and had over 100 episodes during the next month.
      Later that month, the justices vacated the Ferraris' case in light of Bruesewitz. Wyeth had claimed that drugmakers are immune from claims over childhood vaccines since the need to stamp out disease is great. The company also firmly disputed the speculation that vaccines cause autism.
      "While allegations of this sort have swept through the media and the internet, every reputable scientific body and governmental agency that has studied the question - including the FDA and CDC - has rejected any linkage between vaccines and autism," according to Wyeth's petition to the high court.
      Justice George Carley of the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the Ferrari case and sent it back to the appeals court for further proceedings.




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• • •

TREATMENT

Battle Lines Solidify Over Bid To Distinguish Food, Supplements



Durbin says FDA oversight bill is about protecting consumers, but industry advocates say it would mean greater burden, costs

      By Julie Deardorff, Tribune 

      Lazy Larry dietary supplements look and taste like fudge brownies. They contain some of the same ingredients, including flour, trans fats, sugar and oil. And until recently they could be found among the snack foods in convenience stores.
      But the brown "relaxation" treats contain melatonin, a neurohormone often used as a sleep aid. There is no safety data on its use in conventional foods, but animal studies on melatonin have raised red flags over potential adverse effects, including blood glucose problems and cardiovascular, eye and reproductive issues.
      Citing health risks from products that blur the line dividing supplements from food and beverages, lawmakers are pushing for tighter regulation of vitamins, herbs, weight-loss products and other dietary supplements.
      The U.S. also is overwhelmed by potentially dangerous imported ingredients from Asia, said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., whose recently introduced Dietary Supplement Labeling Act of 2011 would increase labeling requirements and require companies to register their products. "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has neither the power nor the resources to monitor what's going on in the industry," he said in an interview.
      The supplement industry, however, is up in arms over the prospect of stronger FDA oversight and additional rules governing the use of new dietary ingredients. The real problem, it contends, is that the agency is not enforcing regulations already on the books. Additional requirements would raise the cost of supplements, burden manufacturers, limit availability and infringe on a consumer's "personal freedom," representatives say.
      "People want to have some modicum of autonomy when it comes to the question of what they can put into their body and what they can do for their own health," said attorney Marc Ullman, chairman of the legal advisory council for the Natural Products Foundation. "They really resent intervention by the nanny state and want to be allowed to make judgments for themselves."
      But do consumers have enough reliable information to make smart decisions about the products they buy? Unlike drugs, which need pre-market approval, dietary supplements are not approved by the FDA for safety or efficacy before they hit store shelves. Labels must be truthful, but the FDA does not review them in advance.
      The FDA can go after a company only if it can prove a supplement is dangerous. Even then it can be difficult to get the products out of circulation.
      When Harvard Medical School researchers surveyed a group of immigrant women, for example, they found that nearly a quarter of them had used Pai You Guo, a weight-loss supplement from China that the FDA recalled in 2009 because it contained a dangerous mix of banned pharmaceutical substances. Many still were using it and had not heard of the ban.
      "The FDA is hamstrung by ineffectual laws governing supplements, placing consumers in the line of fire," said study co-author Danny McCormick, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
      Since the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, or DSHEA, was passed in 1994, the number of dietary supplements has surged from 4,000 to an estimated 50,000 to 75,000. Because companies don't need to register individual products, the FDA doesn't know exactly how many supplements are being sold.
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• • •

EDUCATION

Structured Homeschooling Gets an A+


      ScienceDaily — "There's no place like home," an iconic line uttered by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, might apply to learning the ABC's, math and other core subjects. A new study from Concordia University and Mount Allison University has found that homeschooling -- as long as it's structured or follows a curriculum -- can provide kids with an academic edge.
      "Structured homeschooling may offer opportunities for academic performance beyond those typically experienced in public schools," says first author Sandra Martin-Chang, a professor in the Concordia Department of Education, noting this is among the first nonpartisan studies to investigate home education versus public schooling.
      Published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, the investigation compared 74 children living in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick: 37 who were homeschooled versus 37 who attended public schools. Participants were between 5 and 10 years old and each child was asked to complete standardized tests, under supervision of the research team, to assess their reading, writing, arithmetic skills, etc.
      "Although public school children we assessed were performing at or above expected levels for their ages, children who received structured homeschooling had superior test results compared to their peers: From a half-grade advantage in math to 2.2 grade levels in reading," says Martin-Chang. "This advantage may be explained by several factors including smaller class sizes, more individualized instruction, or more academic time spent on core subjects such as reading and writing."
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• • •

PEOPLE

Elation Greets Discovery Of Missing Autistic Boy, 8, In Forest


Joshua Robb endured hard rains and cold weather overnight near Lake Arrowhead after he ran away from school. He was in 'pretty good shape' in a rugged ravine more than a mile from the campus.


   Patricia Calcott hugs Ron Robb after their son, Joshua, was found in the San Bernardino National Forest. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

      By Kurt Streeter, Los Angeles Times 

      First came the footprint. Then a series of them. Then a boy's rain-soaked striped shirt laid out on a log. By Tuesday afternoon, a four-member search team, one of dozens scoping the thickly forested San Bernardino National Forest, had the boy — alive, though tired and hungry.
      "Thank you … you saved me," the boy said in a low voice.
      Joshua Robb, an autistic 8-year-old who had been missing for more than 24 hours after running away from his elementary school in Twin Peaks, was found in "pretty good shape" in a rugged ravine 1 1/2 miles from the school, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department officials said. The boy, who "was basically boxed in," said Capt. Tony Nicassio, was airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he was listed in good condition.
      "He's drinking water ... eating ... it's elation ... relief," Lt. Rick Ells said. "He seems in pretty good shape."
      More than 60 sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers had spread out across the forest near Lake Arrowhead on Tuesday morning in a frantic search for Joshua, who had squeezed through a fence at Grandview Elementary in Twin Peaks around 11 a.m. Monday. At least one school staff member had given chase but couldn't catch the boy.
      The search team members said that after finding the shirt, they heard Joshua's voice, mumbling, in the distance. Then they saw him.
      "He was just standing there; I think he was coming to us," said Justin Wheaton, a volunteer with the San Bernardino Mountain Search and Rescue Team.
      Joshua was shirtless, had some scratches and was extremely tired, yet had somehow managed to survive the hard rains, lightning and cold weather that pushed through Lake Arrowhead overnight.
      "He didn't say a whole lot at first, just hugs," Wheaton said.
      And then came the thank you in a low voice.
      Joshua's parents, Ron Robb and Patricia Calcott, hugged and cried when their son was found, calling it "a true miracle," although they acknowledged they were stunned by Joshua's words because he is usually shy and rarely speaks, Robb said.
      "We are in total shock because he doesn't talk a lot," he said of the boy thanking his rescuers. "We didn't think this was something he would know how to say or comprehend."
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• • •

Losing The Safety Net: Adults With Autism
      By Laura LeBlanc pbs.org



      It’s been 68 years since the first case of autism was diagnosed. For decades it was considered a rare disorder but in a single generation, autism has become one of the most common developmental disabilities, affecting an estimated 1.5 million Americans. With so many children diagnosed in the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of them will reach adulthood over the next decade. Their needs will swamp the already financially strained state services. At least 10 states have already cut funding for some of those very services, increasing the burden on families.
+ See video here.

• • •

NEWS

Autism Bill Passed by U.S. Senate Committee


      By Nirvi Shah edweek.org

      A bill that could keep research about autism and other programs related to the condition going cleared a U.S. Senate committee last week.
      The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act extends for three years legislation originally passed in 2006. Without a renewal, the law expires at the end of this month.
      Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., cosponsor of the renewal bill, said the original law led to:
      • the discovery of improved methods for autism screening,
      • the identification of several autism susceptibility genes,
      • the development of clinical guidelines and new treatments for medical conditions commonly associated with autism,
      • the creation of interventions for children with autism, and
      • training in and dissemination of best practices in screening, diagnosis and treatment, The other sponsors are Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.
      The Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee passed the bill last week.
      An average of about 1 in 110 American children have an autism spectrum disorder. The bill proposes $231 million in spending on autism-related research over three years, preserving spending levels set in the original law.
      A number of organizations support the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and the Autism Society, and Autism Speaks. But the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and other groups oppose the proposal because of its focus on children and the small devotion of resources to individuals diagnosed with autism.

• • •

EVENTS

Free Evening Workshops Featuring Top Speakers Kick Off Fall Autism Conference in Las Vegas


      Join ARI Thursday and Friday, October 13 & 14th, for our free Evening Workshops - options include lectures for parents, caregivers, and clinicians. Already registered and want to add a workshop? Use the link in your registration confirmation to add these free events.

      Thursday Evening Workshops:
      • Help us Get Some Sleep!" - Melissa Olive, PhD, BCBA-D and Dan Rossignol, MD, FAAFP
      • Technology & ASD - Traci Sutton, CCC-SLP
      • Nutritional Supplements for ASD: What To Do First and Symptom-Specific Recommendations - Dana Godbout Laake, RDH, MS, LDN

      Friday Evening Workshops:
      • A Panel of Adults on the Spectrum, Talking about their Childhood - Charles Joiner, MD, PhD, Judy Endow, MSW, Robyn Heffelfinger
      • Addressing Challenging Behaviors: Strategies for Tantrumming, Aggression, Self-Injury, and Food Refusal - Melissa Olive, PhD, BCBA-D
      • The Role of Environmental Toxins in the ASD Epidemic: Protecting our Children - Anju Usman, MD
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  In This Issue:




















































RESEARCH
U.S. Researchers Identify Two Autism Strains in Major Breakthrough

New Report Shows How Prenatal Vitamins Can Help The Fight Against Autism

Poorer Movement Skills at Seven Months in Children at Risk of Autism, Study Finds

MIND Institute Researcher Receives Grant To Study Palliative Drug For Fragile X Syndrome

PUBLIC HEALTH

Court Revises Stance on Vaccine's Autism 'Link'

TREATMENT
Battle Lines Solidify Over Bid To Distinguish Food, Supplements

EDUCATION
Structured Homeschooling Gets an A+

PEOPLE
Elation Greets Discovery Of Missing Autistic Boy, 8, In Forest

Losing The Safety Net: Adults With Autism

NEWS
Autism Bill Passed by U.S. Senate Committee

EVENTS
Free Evening Workshops Featuring Top Speakers Kick Off Fall Autism Conference in Las Vegas






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