Thursday, February 24, 2011

Vocational Rehabilitation Services Received by Youth with Autism: Arethey Associated with an Employment Outcome?

Introduction While youth with autism represent a small percentage of all vocational rehabilitation (VR) closures, the number who closed out of VR more than tripled between 2003 and 2008 (see Institute for Community Inclusion Data Note 26). As increasing numbers of youth with autism are accessing VR services, it is important to understand how they are using these services and the relationship of these services to outcomes and costs. The purpose of this brief is to: Determine differences in services received by youth with autism compared to youth with other disabilities. Identify services that are most closely associated with an employment outcome for youth with autism. Establish if large percentages of the group are receiving these successful services.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brain scans may someday detect autism.

Researchers are hoping that by using a common tool for measuring of brain activity in a new way, they may be one step closer to identifying whether a child is a greater risk for autism.

"We haven't diagnosed autism at this point," says William Bosl, Ph.D., lead author and a research scientist at Children's Hospital Boston. But he says by using an electroencephalogram and new, sophisticated computer programs to analyze the EEGs, he and his co-authors were able to correctly identify with 80% accuracy, which babies were at higher risk for autism and which were not.

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Faulty testosterone cycle may explain male autism bias.

More men than women have autism – now we may know why. Sex hormones regulate a gene linked with the condition, making it more likely that males will accumulate testosterone in the dangerous amounts that are thought to lead to autism. For every female that has autism there are four males. To better understand this sex bias, Valerie Hu at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington DC and colleagues studied a gene implicated in autism called retinoic acid-related orphan receptor-alpha (RORA). This gene controls a molecule that switches many subsequent genes on and off.

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Making Sense of Autistic Spectrum Disorders

You are out for a drive, when a policeman waves you over. He looks at your dashboard, and declares "I see that you have a full tank of gas. I'm giving you a ticket for speeding!" Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Yet, lots of otherwise sensible people make a similar error when they equate the increase in the percent of children with an ASD diagnosis (prevalence) with an increase the rate at which new cases of ASD are occurring (incidence). You have both a gas gauge and a speedometer on your dashboard, but you cannot equate one with the other; the same is true for prevalence and incidence of ASD.
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Craig Nicholls of The Vines copes with autism.

Craig Nicholls (Courtesy: / Sophie Howarth) In the Spring of 2004, an Australian group known as The Vines quickly became one of the hottest bands in the world, topping charts and mentioned in the same breath as bands such as Nirvana. Lead singer/songwriter Craig Nicholls was well-known for his unpredictable behavior and marijuana smoking, as well as his unhealthy burger-only diet. Rude and uncommunicative in interviews, Nicholls was prone to messing up photographs with goofy faces and his wild-eyed, guitar-smashing antics, enthralling a new generation of young music fans. In support of a new album release, The Vines launched a grueling US tour followed by gigs in Japan. Nicholls’ onstage antics grew more out-of-control and dangerous as the tour wore on. He verbally abused the crowd, even kicking at a photographer, smashing her camera. Assault charges followed.Thrown off both Jay Leno and David Letterman for tearing up their sets, no one would book Nicholls. By May 2004, it was all over for The Vines and their great promise was laid to ruins by the seemingly inexcusable behavior of their twenty-seven-year-old frontman.Then fate and a perceptive friend intervened. Having seen his share of crazy rock n´ rollers, the band’s guitar technician felt that Nicholls had an actual neurological problem and hypothesized it was Asperger’s Syndrome. Dr. Tony Attwood, the pre-eminent authority on the subject, was brought in and confirmed the layman’s diagnosis.Nicholls expressed relief at finally being able to make sense of his life. While growing up, his obsessive and reclusive behavior concerned his parents enough that they took him to see a psychologist at age fifteen, but no mention of autism had ever been made.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hidden Light: The Visual Language of an Autistic Photographer

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Autism rate triples among California K-12 students

joe goldberg/Flickr Special education students with autism in California have more than tripled in number since 2002, even as overall special education enrollment has remained relatively flat, according to an analysis of state education data released yesterday. More than 680,000 students – 11 percent of all California public school students – are enrolled in special education. The number of students diagnosed with autism climbed from 17,508 in 2002 to 59,690 in 2010, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health found. Students with autism represented 8.8 percent of all special education enrollment last year, up from 2.6 percent in 2002.

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Autism Prevalence and Precipitation Rates in California, Oregon, andWashington Counties

Objective To investigate empirically the possibility of an environmental trigger for autism among genetically vulnerable children that is positively associated with precipitation. Design We used regression analysis to investigate autism prevalence rates and counts first in relation to mean annual county-level precipitation and then to the amount of precipitation a birth cohort was exposed to when younger than 3 years, controlling for time trend, population size, per capita income, and demographic characteristics. In some models, we included county fixed-effects rather than a full set of covariates. Setting Counties in California, Oregon, and Washington. Participants Children born in California, Oregon, and Washington between 1987 and 1999. Main Exposure County-level precipitation. Main Outcome Measures County-level autism prevalence rates and counts. Results County-level autism prevalence rates and counts among school-aged children were positively associated with a county's mean annual precipitation. Also, the amount of precipitation a birth cohort was exposed to when younger than 3 years was positively associated with subsequent autism prevalence rates and counts in Oregon counties and California counties with a regional developmental services center. Conclusions These results are consistent with the existence of an environmental trigger for autism among genetically vulnerable children that is positively associated with precipitation. Further studies focused on establishing whether such a trigger exists and identifying the specific trigger are warranted.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

New, intensive program working miracles with 5-year-old DominicDiGiallonardo's autism

POLSON - Like a pint-sized presidential candidate, Dominic DiGiallonardo struts his 5-year-old self through the halls of Polson Middle School.

As he roams the corridors encountering staff and students, he confidently greets people by name and stops to shake their hand.

Custodians turn off vacuum cleaners to welcome the youngster, and in return they receive a compliment from the little guy.

"Hi Mike," Dominic says to one member of the cleaning crew. "Good work."

So charming is the blue-eyed boy, a passel of seventh-grade girls stop their lip-gloss applications and locker decorating to smother him with attention.

This is not a rare occurrence, insists the little star's older brother. "The girls really love him," says 12-year-old Danny DiGiallonardo.

As he moves on to greet more people, Dominic's jaunty gait - sometimes on tiptoes, sometimes a wee bounce - shares a remarkable likeness to Winnie the Pooh's friend, Tigger.

There's so much joyful exuberance in this little person, the kindergartner's presence brings smiles to all who encounter him.

Watching as his brother cheerfully chats with the girls, Danny smiles, too.

With a maturity beyond his years, he says quietly, "Dominic used to be a huge challenge. Now I don't even think of him as a kid with autism, as a special ed kid because he's improved so much."
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Scientists Test 'Trust Hormone' For Autism Fight

For decades, parents of children with autism have been searching for a drug or diet to treat the disorder. EnlargeSteven van Soldt/ People with autism have impaired feelings of trust and empathy, and early studies show that the hormone oxytocin could help. Their latest hope is the hormone oxytocin. It's often called the trust hormone or the cuddle hormone. And just to be clear, it has nothing to do with the narcotic oxycontin. But some children with autism are already being treated with oxytocin, even though it's not approved for this purpose.
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