Friday, March 22, 2013

Study: Women Abused As Kids More Likely To Have Children With Autism

Women who reported physical, emotional, or sexual abuse when they were young were more likely to have a child with autism compared to women who were not abused. The more severely the women were abused, the higher their chances of having a child with autism; compared to women who weren’t abused, those who endured the most serious mistreatment were 60% as likely to have an autistic child. Because it’s possible that a mother’s exposure to abuse as a child could also lead her to engage in behaviors associated with harming the fetus — such as smoking, drinking during pregnancy, using drugs, being overweight, having preterm labor or giving birth to a premature or low birth weight baby — the scientists also calculated how much these factors contributed to the risk of ASD in the next generation. To their surprise, these conditions explained only 7% of the heightened risk among the abused women. That meant that abuse was exerting more lasting effects on the women’s bodies that were translating into an increased risk of autism in their children.

Read more:


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

1 in 50 School Kids Has Autism, CDC Says

A government survey of parents says 1 in 50 U.S. schoolchildren has autism, surpassing another federal estimate for the disorder. Health officials say the new number doesn't mean autism is occurring more often. But it does suggest that doctors are diagnosing autism more frequently, especially in children with milder problems. The earlier government estimate of 1 in 88 comes from a study that many consider more rigorous. It looks at medical and school records instead of relying on parents. For decades, autism meant kids with severe language, intellectual and social impairments and unusual, repetitious behaviors. But the definition has gradually expanded and now includes milder, related conditions. The new estimate released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would mean at least 1 million children have autism. The number is important — government officials look at how common each illness or disorder is when weighing how to spend limited public health funds. It's also controversial.

 Read more here. 


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Anti-bullying Toolkit

Top Ten Facts Parents, Educators and Students Need to Know: 1. The Facts - Students with disabilities are much more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers.2. Bullying affects a student's ability to learn.3. The Definition - bullying based on a student's disability may be considered harassment.4. The Federal Laws - disability harassment is a civil rights issue.5. The State Laws - students with disabilities have legal rights when they are a target of bullying.6. The adult response is important.7. The Resources - students with disabilities have resources that are specifically designed for their situation.8. The Power of Bystanders - more than 50% of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes.9. The importance of self-advocacy.10. You are not alone. Together with our partners, we just released a Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit, full of resources and information specifically tailored to parents, educators, and students dealing with bullying and children with special needs.

Click here to read the Toolkit!


The Effects of Birth Order and Birth Interval on the Phenotypic Expression of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The results indicated that females were more severely impacted by ASD than males, especially first affected siblings. When first and second affected siblings were compared, significant declines in nonverbal and verbal IQ scores were observed. In addition, SRS results demonstrated a significant increase in autism severity between first and second affected siblings consistent with an overall decline in function as indicated by the IQ data. These results remained significant after controlling for the age and sex of the siblings. Surprisingly, the SRS scores were found to only be significant when the age difference between siblings was less than 2 years. These results suggest that some cases of ASD are influenced by a dosage effect involving unknown epigenetic, environmental, and/or immunological factors.

 Read more here. 


Archived Webinar on Autism Interventions (archived)

This video is the second in a series of webinars on topics of interest to the autism community. It captures the webinar presented by Dr. Raphael Bernier, an autism researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, in which he presents an overview of the wide variety of autism treatments in use, and the evidence that we have (or don't have) regarding the effectiveness of these treatments. In addition to his research into autism genetics and neurobiology, Dr. Bernier is involved in a nationwide network in the United States that is establishing treatment standards for individuals on the spectrum.

View the webinar here. 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Want To Say - video

'I Want to Say' is a 27-minute documentary short, produced by Goodby Silverstein & Partners and production company Bodega, that tells the story of Hacking Autism, a newly adopted Autism Speaks initiative devoted to unlocking the voices of children with autism through technology.The film sprang from the desire to share the true stories of hope of six children with autism who communicated for the first time through the use of touch technology. It highlights the growing prevalence of autism (recently reported to affect 1 in 88), the parents' emotional struggle to communicate with their children, and the hope and promise that came with introducing assistive technology to the autism community.I Want to Say chronicles the lives of several children from the Hope Technology School in Palo Alto, an inclusive school with both typical and special-needs students working together. Students and teachers here, sparked the discovery that touch technology can empower those with autism to communicate with their families after years of silence and even tell their parents they love them for the first time. The film also features Temple Grandin, a hero in the autism community.

 View it here. 


Peekaboo clue to autism in young children

UK scientists studying a group of four- to six-month-old babies who were at a "family risk" of autism because of their older siblings' diagnosis found they showed different brain responses compared to a group of babies at low risk. Published in the medical journal Proceedings Of The Royal Society, the study found at-risk babies showed less specialised brain responses when viewing socially engaging videos and listening to vocal sounds such as laughter. The scientists rigged the babies up to a near-infrared spectroscopy headset to measure brain activity. The babies were initially shown a random collection of pictures of trucks and cars to get a baseline reading. They were then shown a series of videos designed to elicit a social response featuring female actors moving their eyes from side to side, expressing emotion and playing games like peekaboo and incy wincy spider. The study found the brain activity in both the high-risk and low-risk groups did not differ on the baseline measures. However when it came to the visual and auditory stimuli the at-risk infants showed a different and diminished response to the cues.

 Read more here. 


Helping Autism With High Tech

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a number of companies displayed new technologies not specifically designed for people with autism, but whose advanced capabilities could be applied to help treat people with these special needs. These include: Big Bird's Words : Many parents of children with autism struggle with basic activities such as going to the grocery store. With Big Bird's Words, parents load a list of grocery items into the smartphone-compatible iPhone app, where their child then learns word identification during the grocery visit. Many individuals with autism have difficulty in less-structured environments such as grocery stores. With this application, families can create a formal structure by integrating their child into the grocery shopping experience, which will enhance vocabulary and transforms difficult daily tasks into something fun and interactive.

 Read more here.


Thursday, March 7, 2013


Welcome to the Resources section of the VCU-ACE website! The world of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is constantly evolving and autism is anything but simple to navigate. Because of the complexity of ASD, we have divided our resources into eleven different sections. ASD never impacts just one part of life, and it is more than just something with which young children struggle. Autism is pervasive. It impacts every facet of life throughout the entire lifespan, from infancy to adulthood. While there are indeed many challenges for the individual with ASD, no matter their age or ability there are also strategies that can help the individual cope with what can seem like a very chaotic world. There are strategies to help the individual communicate more effectively or to develop and strengthen relationships. There are educational strategies to help the student succeed in the classroom and reach his or her potential. There is support we can provide to adults with ASD in the modern workforce that will help them find meaningful careers. There are things we can do to help this chaotic world seem a little less chaotic. All of us at the VCU Autism Center for Excellence truly believe there are ways to improve the quality of life for every individual with ASD. Throughout the Resources section, you will find web links, guides, factsheets, agency information, trainings, videos, and research articles to help you support individuals with ASD. We offer the following sections for families, educators, providers, professionals, community members, and of course, the individual with ASD: Autism Spectrum DisorderWhat does it mean and where do I start? Screening and DiagnosisHow is a child screened or diagnosed with ASD? Evidence-Based PracticesWhat does it mean and how can it help the individual with ASD? CommunicationWhat is it, why is it important, and what tools are available to help? Early InterventionWhat is it and what can it do for the very young child with ASD? FamiliesWhat supports are there to help families raising a child with ASD? Eligibility and the School Aged ChildWhat is eligibility and how can I help the student with ASD? Adolescence and ASDWhat are the needs and supports for the adolescent with ASD? Adults with ASDHow does Autism impact adulthood and what can I do to support the adult with ASD? Technology and ASDHow can technology help the individual with ASD? Smartphone Technology and ASDWhat's new in Smartphone Technology and how can it help the individual with ASD?

see here:


Screening and Diagnosis

Diagnosis for a child with ASD begins with concerns brought up by parents, educators, or medical staff; which often produce a referral to a developmental pediatrician, neurologist, psychologist, or other specialist. These individuals can perform a diagnostic evaluation to make an accurate determination. The evaluation can be done independently or may include a team of professionals. In many cases, conditions that might cause similar delays are ruled out through genetic tests, MRI's, and other blood tests. If you have any questions or concerns about your child's development, or if you are an adolescent or an adult that has heard about autism and has more questions, the best course of action is to speak with your pediatrician or family practitioner. A candid discussion about delays in communication and social or behavioral challenges will help determine if any further evaluation or assessments are necessary. For those facing a new diagnosis or working with newly diagnosed families or individuals, we encourage you to read through the links on this page and through our entire Resources section. The resources in this section are designed to help you understand the red flags or warning signs of ASD, when and how individuals should be screened for evaluation, and how an individual may be diagnosed with ASD.

 Find some great information here. 


The Autism Spectrum | Books for Kids, Parents, and Teachers

Here’s a sampling of titles for students who have been diagnosed on the spectrum as well as their teachers and families, intended to broaden understanding of diverse individual needs and highlight the enormous potential for achievement. For Children and TeensIn Barbara Cain’s novel, Autism, The Invisible Cord: A Sibling’s Diary (Magination Press, 2013; Gr 5 Up), 14-year-old Jenny loves her younger brother Ezra and is the first to come to his defense whenever anyone treats him unkindly, but she also knows that living with an autistic sibling has its challenges. Written in first-person diary entries, Jenny’s story takes readers through a school year of ups and downs, both hers and Ezra’s. Along the way, she describes her brother as a toddler, his speech therapy sessions, and tension that develops among family members about his behavior, as well as her own growth as a sister and independent young adult. Chock-full of incidental information about autism, this is an appealing coming-of-age narrative told by a sensitive, self-aware young woman. Resources for AdultsTemple Grandin, a vocal advocate and designer of humane animal treatment systems, who also happens to be autistic, has recently caught the public’s attention, in part because of an award-winning HBO biopic based on her book Thinking in Pictures (Vintage, 2010). In her latest title, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum(HMH, 2013), Grandin and co-author Richard Panek look at the science of autism developed by studying functional MRIs of the brain, including Grandin’s, and genetic research. The authors infuse the text with an obvious passion for scientific inquiry, making complex theories and data accessible to general readers. Grandin offers a strong case for increased investigation of sensory problems related to autism and examines the validity and role of self-reporting to aid research. She also urges extreme caution about labeling, which tends to limit individual achievement. She writes, “By cultivating the autistic mind on a brain-by-brain, strength-by-strength basis, we can reconceive autistic teens and adults in jobs and internships not as ‘charity cases’ but as valuable, even essential, contributors to society.”
 Find more suggestions here.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How Guinea Pigs Could Help Autistic Children

As any dog walker knows, it's easy — unavoidable, even — to strike up conversations with strangers when accompanied by a canine friend. Smaller animals like rabbits and turtles can also lubricate social interactions. Given this effect, Maggie O'Haire, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Queensland, wondered if animals could also help children with autism spectrum disordersconnect with other people. As it turns out, they can. In a study described in the latest PLOS ONE, O'Haire and her colleagues introduced two guinea pigs into 15 different classrooms and looked at how the presence of these furry creatures affected the interactions of autistic children with adults and non-autistic kids. The researchers found that autistic children were significantly more talkative and cheerful in the presence of guinea pigs than in the presence of toys. The children were also more likely to look at faces, make physical contact, and interact with other children and adults. O'Haire has several theories as to why animals might have this effect.

 Read more here. 


Archived Webinars - Prevention, Intervention, Post-Vention: What to do After the Meltdown (archived webinar)

Many students with ASD exhibit interfering behaviors to effectively and efficiently navigate their environment. These interfering behaviors should not be confused with the primary characteristic,unusual patterns of behavior, used to identify students with ASD. Screaming, throwing or hitting are not due to having ASD!

Oftentimes, the term “meltdown” is used to describe a temporary event that appears to come “out of nowhere”. The meltdown appears as a moment where the person has lost control of their ability to cope or regulate their behavior. Difficulty regulating during the peak of a meltdown is usually due to a series of unfortunate events that happened throughout the day, and the fifth unfortunate event was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back.’

This presentation is the first part to the two-part series on management strategies for after the meltdown. Kathy Morris will discuss practical strategies to use throughout the meltdown cycle. Morris will explain preventative techniques and intervention strategies to teach coping skills to the student with ASD prior to the meltdown.

What to do after a meltdown part 1

What to do after a meltdown part 2


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Auti-sim lets you experience the horror of sensory overload Creatorwants to help players gain empathy and understanding of autisticchildren.

You stand in a dirt field under a beautiful blue sky. A few meters away, a group of kids are shrieking and playing happily on a jungle gym. As you walk forward, though, you notice the kids are actually faceless statues, staring blankly back at you. Their shrieking gets almost deafeningly loud as you approach, layered on top of monotone schoolyard rhymes and songs. The idyllic visuals start to get fuzzy, too, like the world is caught between reality and the static on a dead analog TV station. Your only relief is to quickly retreat back to the safety of your starting place.

It might sound like a new horror game, but the experience above actually describes Auti-sim, a small but thought-provoking first-person indie game about hypersensitivity in autistic children. The game was recently created by a team of three during Vancouver's Hacking Health weekend hackathon. Besides being one of the creepiest indie "short subjects" you'll play this year, the game also gives players a brief glimpse into what it's like for the millions of autistic children suffering from sensory overload issues.

"I wasn't really aiming to simulate what hypersensitivity actually is," team lead Taylan Kadayifcioglu (who goes by Taylan Kay) told Ars. "My goal was to elicit the same kind of reaction from a neurotypical person. So the goal was basically to irritate the hell out of your senses."

Read more here.


Monday, March 4, 2013

California Special Education autism counts, ages 3-5 over the pastdecade

The California Department of Developmental Services data, once called “the gold standard” for autism epidemiology by those promoting the vaccine-autism link, shows that autism rates are higher today for kids who did not receive thimerosal containing vaccines compared to those who did. As noted previously, thimerosal was removed from vaccines nationwide, phasing out production by 2001. California passed a law prohiting the administration of vaccines with thimerosal in pregnant women and children under 3 from 2006 onwards. So, kids 3-5 in 2012 did not receive thimerosal from vaccines. And there are more kids in the Autism special ed category in 2012 than in any year previously. The trend is a relatlively smooth increase over time. It is very clear that these data do not in any way indicate a drop in the increase in autism special ed rates with the removal of thimerosal. Read more here.


Optimal outcome in individuals with a history of autism

Background: Although autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are generally considered lifelong disabilities, literature suggests that a minority of individuals with an ASD will lose the diagnosis. However, the existence of this phenomenon, as well as its frequency and interpretation, is still controversial: were they misdiagnosed initially, is this a rare event, did they lose the full diagnosis, but still suffer significant social and communication impairments or did they lose all symptoms of ASD and function socially within the normal range? Methods:  The present study documents a group of these optimal outcome individuals (OO group, n = 34) by comparing their functioning on standardized measures to age, sex, and nonverbal IQ matched individuals with high-functioning autism (HFA group, n = 44) or typical development (TD group, n = 34). For this study, ‘optimal outcome’ requires losing all symptoms of ASD in addition to the diagnosis, and functioning within the nonautistic range of social interaction and communication. Domains explored include language, face recognition, socialization, communication, and autism symptoms. Results:  Optimal outcome and TD groups’ mean scores did not differ on socialization, communication, face recognition, or most language subscales, although three OO individuals showed below-average scores on face recognition. Early in their development, the OO group displayed milder symptoms than the HFA group in the social domain, but had equally severe difficulties with communication and repetitive behaviors. Conclusions:  Although possible deficits in more subtle aspects of social interaction or cognition are not ruled out, the results substantiate the possibility of OO from autism spectrum disorders and demonstrate an overall level of functioning within normal limits for this group.