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RESEARCH

New Study Explores Novel Autism Treatments For Very Young Children


     
ucdmc.ucdavis.edu

      Researchers at the UC Davis MIND Institute and the University of Washington, Seattle, have received Autism Speaks grants to extend their groundbreaking research into novel, high-impact treatments for very young children.
      Sally J. Rogers, UC Davis professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, has received a $765,937 three-year grant as part of Autism Speaks' "Move the Needle" initiative, which seeks to lower the age of autism diagnosis and expand the delivery of high-quality interventions.
       Rogers is conducting the work in collaboration with Annette Estes, research associate professor of speech and hearing science at the Center for Human Development and Disability at the University of Washington, Seattle, who received a similar award.
      The funding supports a new study focused on enhancing the effects of parent-implemented interventions for the very youngest children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), toddlers aged 12-30 months.
      The study, which began earlier this year with the enrollment of participants, is being conducted in parallel at both sites. Building on a previous Autism Speaks study these scientists carried out last fall, it is developing and testing smart phone technology, new approaches to child assessment, and increased support for families, among other innovations, in order to determine the effects of parent-implemented interventions embedded into the families' everyday activities.
      "Our goal is to increase children's learning rates and to facilitate their development of language and social skills," says Rogers. "This project seeks to start as early as possible in making sure that families have all the resources they need to ameliorate the disabilities associated with autism."
      "We know that parent-implemented interventions are a part of the most successful interventions for early ASD," Rogers said. "But we have much to learn about the impact that parent interventions can have on their own. This study's proposed intervention methods have great relevance to autism in low-resource communities across the world, where there may be no one but parents available to help their children."
      Called the Parent and Toddlers with ASD at Home, or PATH, project, its approaches are designed to help parents increase social and communicative learning opportunities for their children within highly enjoyable natural play and care-giving activities.
      Innovations include multi-modal materials to accommodate different adult learning styles, parent self-monitoring using novel internet technologies to enhance data collection, and use of video for parents to show researchers the new learning opportunities they're providing to their children.
      The project holds special relevance for parents of very young children with ASD, who often are informed that their children are diagnosed with ASD without simultaneously receiving effective treatments. Providing them with validated interventions that they can embed within their daily routines provides them with immediate access to effective intervention and to activities that they themselves can carry out.
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• • •

Early Childhood Educators Effectively Screen For Autism
They can be the first line of defense, says a new study.

      events.advanceweb.com



      In a study with national implications, researchers at Children's Specialized Hospital in New Jersey found that in underserved communities using teachers to screen for autism in preschools and day care centers is more effective than the current system that relies solely on parents and pediatricians to identify the disorder.
      The research, which could fundamentally change the way disadvantaged children are screened for autism, was presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, or IMFAR, in Toronto.

      Researchers created community-wide screening programs that used teachers as well as parents to help identify at-risk children. The programs also used culturally sensitive materials distributed in places such as health fairs and screening programs in health clinics. Employing these methods, the study found autism rates of nearly three percent in these underserved communities, significantly higher than the overall New Jersey rate of approximately two per cent.
      "We found that unless we go out into underserved communities we are going to be missing many children who have autism," said lead researcher Dr. Yvette Janvier, developmental/behavioral pediatrician and medical director, Toms River, Children's Specialized Hospital. "This is the first study to look at using teachers in preschools and day care centers to screen for autism."
      Funded by the New Jersey Governor's Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism, the study looked at six New Jersey communities: Newark, Plainfield, Elizabeth, Trenton, New Brunswick and Bridgeton.
      Dr. Janvier noted that current American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend that children be evaluated by their pediatricians at 18 months and 24 months.
      "We had significant concerns these screenings were not happening and parents did not have the resources or ability to identify risk factors or red flag. We decided to go to where the children are - in preschools and day care centers. These teachers spend a lot of time with the children," she said.
      The research by Children's Specialized Hospital involved two studies. The first looked at over 1,000 initial screenings conducted with children attending preschools or daycares in underserved areas. The average age of the children screened was just over four. These were children never diagnosed with autism. They were screened using parent and preschool teacher responses to either the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, known as the M-CHAT, or the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) Six percent continued to screen positive after the interview and needed further evaluation, although 40 percent of them were lost to follow-up because the families moved, did not respond to attempts for follow up or parents did not want to participate. Thirty one of the 56 children who received the full autism research evaluation were subsequently found to have autism - a rate of nearly 3 percent.
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• • •

EDUCATION

Special-Ed Teacher Charged After "Physical Altercation" With Autistic Student


      By Lissa Harris in Upstate NY.
watershedpost.com



Lorna D. Collins-Mihill, 40, of Rensselaer, was arrested as the result of a reported physical altercation with an Autistic student while on board a school bus.



      Lorna Collins-Mihill, a 40-year-old special education teacher at the Coxsackie Elementary School and a resident of Rensselaer, faces charges of child endangerment and harassment after a month-long investigation into an incident on a school bus on May 11.
      According to state police, Collins-Mihill was involved in a "physical altercation" with an 11-year-old autistic student. The student's father contacted state police on May 16, after he learned of the incident.
      The Daily Mail reports that the student involved is severely autistic and non-verbal, and that Collins-Mihill turned herself in: Collins-Mihill was arrested by State Police after turning herself in with her attorney and charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor and second degree harassment, a violation.
      
• • •

NEWS

Kids With Autism Face Health Care Disparities, Study Finds


      By HealthDayHealthDay
     
      Although children with autism spectrum disorders need more health care services, they have less access to specialized care than children with other conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, according to a new study.
      The services used by children with autism are also more costly, the researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia revealed in the report published in the July-September issue of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
      "Across the board, children with autism spectrum disorders used more health care services, including in-patient stays in the hospital, and required more medications," study co-author Nancy Cheak-Zamora, assistant professor of health sciences in the university's School of Health Professions, said in a university news release.
      "Children's insurance companies paid more for services, and parents also paid more, with their out-of-pocket costs often exceeding a thousand dollars per year," she added.
      Autism spectrum disorder is the umbrella term for a group of developmental disorders with similar features, ranging from Asperger's syndrome at the mild end to full-blown autism. In general, it is a complex disability that causes problems with social interaction and communication, and is often marked by obsessive and repetitive behaviors.
      For their investigation, the researchers examined previous studies that calculated the total health care costs paid by the families of children with autism spectrum disorders. In analyzing the information, they found that children with autism, who are at risk for other conditions, such as seizures, sleep disturbances and gastrointestinal problems, paid more for the care they received than other kids with illnesses that required specialized care.
      "Children with autism spectrum disorders need coordinated health care, better access to services and more affordable care," said Cheak-Zamora. "Insurance companies should develop policies that will cover the treatments children with autism spectrum disorders need."
      The study authors concluded that children with autism spectrum disorders should have a "medical home," which is the term for coordinated team care led by a primary care physician.
      "In general, having a medical home helps ensure you have quality health care. It examines how well your health care providers are giving you coordinated care in which the family is truly a partner," explained Cheak-Zamora. "We found that children with autism spectrum disorders have medical homes less often than children with other special health care needs. This is a problem because families without a medical home report experiencing more financial problems and difficulties accessing and utilizing needed medical services."

• • •

New Autism Definitions Said to Reduce Toddlers' Diagnoses by 48%

      A new study has been published, this one by researchers at Louisiana State University, that found a 48% reduction in the number of toddlers with an autism diagnosis using the DSM5 criteria, set to replace the definitions used for autism over the last decade. Can you imagine the number of children who will be denied early intervention services if the DSM5 is adopted?
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• • •

Italian Court Links MMR Vaccine to Autism Victim

MMR: A mother's victory. The vast majority of doctors say there is no link between the triple jab and autism, but could an Italian court case reignite this controversial debate?




  The case of Valentino Bocca age nine from Rimini Italy has reignited the debate over a possible link between the MMR and autism after a judge ruled his disability was provoked by the jab

      By Sue Reid
dailymail.co.uk

      At nine months old, Valentino Bocca was as bright as a button. In a favourite family photo, taken by his father, the baby boy wriggles in his mother’s arms and laughs for the camera.
      His parents look at the precious picture often these days. It is a reminder of their only son before they took him on a sunny morning to the local public health clinic for a routine childhood vaccination.
      Valentino was never the same child after the jab in his arm. He developed autism and, in a landmark judgment, a judge has ruled that his devastating disability was provoked by the inoculation against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
      The judgment in a provincial Italian court challenges the settled view of the majority of the medical profession — and could have profound implications in Britain and across the world.
      Valentino’s parents, Antonella, 44, and Maurizio, 43, have been awarded 140,000, to be paid by Italy’s Ministry of Health and they plan a civil action against the Italian government that may get them 800,000 more.
      ‘But, of course, the money will never bring back the perfect and beautiful child of 15 months that we had before the doctors gave him the inoculation,’ said his mother this week at the family’s small but beautifully designed flat near Rimini in northern Italy.
      ‘We have a different Valentino today. We love him just as much, but our lives will never be the same again.
      ‘He is nine, but cannot speak, and only sings a little to himself. He cannot hold a pencil. He has a special teacher at school to help him and finds it difficult to mix with other children. What the future holds for him, or for us, we do not know.’
      The story of Valentino Bocca is a tragic one. His family have agreed to reveal their identity for the first time as the outcome of their case became public last week. They spoke exclusively to the Mail because they believe other parents all over the world should learn what has happened to their son.
      Autism covers a huge range of developmental disorders which affect a child’s communication, social skills, and ability to lead a normal life.
      Families caring for severely autistic children say their lives are blighted. Care of sufferers and related disorders costs the British state billions of pounds a year.
      The number of autism cases has soared over the past four decades — at the last count researchers found one in 64 British children have some kind of autistic condition — and there has been widespread speculation over the cause of this widespread curse on so many families. In the Eighties, only four in every 10,000 children showed any signs of autism.

• • •

Freezer Failure At Brain Bank Hampers Autism Research

       By Karen Weintraub, Boston Globe


    Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff
Internal investigations are underway at McLean Hospital after a freezer malfunction at a brain bank damaged about one-third of a collection of autism samples.

       A freezer malfunction at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital has severely damaged one-third of the world’s largest collection of autism brain samples, potentially setting back research on the disorder by years, scientists say.
      An official at the renowned brain bank in Belmont discovered that the freezer had shut down in late May, without triggering two alarms. Inside, they found 150 thawed brains that had turned dark from decay; about a third of them were part of a collection of autism brains.
      “This was a priceless collection," said Dr. Francine Benes, director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, where the brains were housed. “You can’t express its value in dollar amounts," said Benes, who is leading one of two internal investigations into the freezer failure.
         The damage to these brains could slow autism research by a decade as the collection is restored, said Carlos Pardo, a neuropathologist and associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University.
      The collection, owned by the advocacy and research organization Autism Speaks, “yields very, very important information that allows us to have a better understanding of what autism is, as well as the contribution of environmental and immune factors," said Pardo, whose 2004 study of brains stored in the bank was the first to find that autism involves the immune system. “The benefit has been great." With that understanding, more effective treatment or prevention becomes possible.
      The McLean freezer, one of 24 in the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, was protected by two separate alarm systems, and staff checked an external thermostat twice a day to ensure that the tissue samples were maintained at about minus-80 degrees Celsius. But on May 31, center Assistant Director George Tejada opened so-called Freezer U and wasn’t greeted by the expected blast of cold air. Though the alarms had not been triggered and the external thermostat read minus-79, the actual temperature was 7 degrees, roughly equivalent to a refrigerator. Based on the condition of the brains, Benes estimates the freezer had turned off three days earlier.
      Benes said the situation is so unusual - the perfect storm of alarm and thermostat failure and the concentration of samples - that she cannot rule out foul play. She said she has not spoken to law enforcement officials, pending the completion of the internal investigation.
      In the interim, she said, McLean will upgrade security in the freezer room, which is under lock and key and watched by a surveillance camera.
      The freezer contained about 150 brain samples from people who had died with a neurological condition such as autism, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease, or a psychiatric one like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

• • •

Mets Exploring ‘Quiet’ Section At Citi Field For Families With Autistic Kids

      newyork.cbslocal.com


 
      (credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
 
      WFAN - Yes, the Mets are exploring the possibility of selling tickets for a “quiet” section at Citi Field.
      The Amazin’s posed the question to their fans in an email survey Wednesday: “The Mets are considering adding a designated ‘quiet’ seating section with lower volume PA announcements and no music or cheerleading. How likely would you be to purchase tickets in that section?"
      It “would apply to a section in the second-deck, left-field seats,” which sell for between $20 and $78 apiece under the team’s dynamic pricing plan, according to the New York Post. The paper quoted a few Mets fans who panned the concept, calling it “stupid,” “boring” and “just not baseball."
      But there’s more to the story.
      The idea is to make Citi Field more welcoming to families with autistic children, the Mets told WFAN’s Boomer & Carton.
      The franchise wanted to know if the interest in such sections extended beyond their autism awareness days, morning show co-host Craig Carton said Thursday morning. The Mets held their 10th annual Autism Awareness Day on May 6, a 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
      “If that’s the sole reason you’re considering it, well, bravo!” said Carton. “You want to allow all kids … to enjoy a baseball game. So why not just say that?"
      When asked about “quiet” sections on Twitter, one fan responded, “I think giving the parents of kids with autism a chance to see a ball game without having major issues is exceptionally noble."
      
• • •

UK Hacking Suspect Will Fight Extradition to US

       By Associated Press

       The lawyer for a British suspect linked to the Lulz Security hacking collective said Friday that she'd fight any moves to have her client tried in an American court.
      A federal indictment filed Tuesday accused the 20-year-old of hacking into sites for the talent competition "The X-Factor," "PBS NewsHour," Sony Pictures and others. The sites were hit at the beginning of a months-long attack spree claimed by LulzSec, whose online exploits focused international attention on the power of so-called "hacktivist" groups.
      Many of those thought to be behind LulzSec have since been arrested — including the alleged ringleader, Hector Xavier Monsegur, whose exposure as an FBI informant shocked many former associates.
      Ryan Cleary, who was detained last year, already faces British charges that he and others hacked the Serious Organized Crime Agency and various U.K. music sites.
      In a statement, attorney Karen Todner said Cleary suffered from Asperger's Syndrome and that any move to extradite him to the U.S. would be "fiercely contested."
      Cleary faces a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted on all U.S. charges.

• • •

MEDIA

Autism Documentary Features UC Davis Mind Institute Founding Families And Experts


     
KVIE

      "Autism: Emerging from the Maze," a new documentary produced by KVIE-TV that explores the daily journeys of families as they seek to understand autism, includes UC Davis MIND Institute experts who are changing the way the disorder is defined and treated.
      The documentary is scheduled to air on channel 6 in the Sacramento market on June 13 at 7 p.m., June 14 at 11:30 p.m., June 15 at 4 p.m. and June 17 at 6 p.m. Visit kvie.org/schedule for additional dates and times. See link below to watch video.
      The 30-minute program highlights Sarah and Chuck Gardner and Rick Rollens, parents of children with autism who launched the MIND Institute, a collaborative center for finding the causes of and new treatments for autism. Research Director David Amaral discusses where that search has led.
      "What really is becoming clear is that children that have autism may have a genetic risk, but they also have to interact with something in the environment," Amaral says in the documentary.
      In addition, Director Leonard Abbeduto addresses the remarkable increase in the prevalence of autism diagnoses; Professor Sally Ozonoff shares insights on early behavioral markers for autism; and Professor Sally Rogers and research scientist Laurie Vismara demonstrate behavioral interventions that can reduce the disability associated with autism.
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  In This Issue:















































RESEARCH
New Study Explores Novel Autism Treatments For Very Young Children

Early Childhood Educators Effectively Screen For Autism

EDUCATION
Special-Ed Teacher Charged After "Physical Altercation" With Autistic Student

NEWS
Kids With Autism Face Health Care Disparities, Study Finds

New Autism Definitions Said to Reduce Toddlers' Diagnoses by 48%

Italian Court Links MMR Vaccine to Autism Victim

Freezer Failure At Brain Bank Hampers Autism Research

Mets Exploring ‘Quiet’ Section At Citi Field For Families With Autistic

UK Hacking Suspect Will Fight Extradition to US

MEDIA
Autism Documentary Features UC Davis Mind Institute Founding Families And Experts









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