Sunday, April 30, 2006

Autism Fact of the Day

Autism fact of the day


Autism Linked To Poor Communication Between Brain Areas
10 Apr 2006


Poor communication between brain areas may explain why people with autism do not interact well with other people, say researchers from the University of London.

Weak links between brain areas could mean that people with Autism do not benefit from social situations as well as other people.

You can read about this study in the journal NEUROIMAGE.

The study compared brain scans of 32 people. 16 of the people had an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) while the other 16 did not. The 16 people with ASD had above-average IQs.

The 32 people had to look at images on a screen. Two were images of houses, the other two were images of faces. They then had to think hard and decide whether the houses were identical and whether the faces were identical.

The researchers found that there was a clear difference in brain activity between the two groups. When the group without ASD looked at faces, their brain activity increased significantly (compared to when they were looking at houses). For the group with ASD, however, there was no difference in brain activity when they were looking at houses or faces.

In other words:
Both groups' brains reacted to houses in the same way. Not the case when presented with faces.

Dr. G Bird, study leader, said "The standard view of social problems in ASD is that there is a problem in the part of the brain that processes faces. Our research suggests that this is not the real problem - it seems to be that paying attention to faces doesn't lead to the normal increase in brain activity. This is because the face-processing areas of the brain are not well connected to those parts of the brain that control attention - such as the frontal and parietal regions. We all know that it is harder to pick a face out of a busy crowd, for instance, but when we do find the right face and pay attention to it, we are easily able to tune-out all the other distractions and focus on that one face. It seems that, for people with ASD, paying attention to a face is much harder to do and doesn't have the same effect."

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today

article URL

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Birthday boys!

Yesterday, my little boys turned 5! It seems like so long ago that we were watching them through the safety of their NICU beds.

We had a blast at their party today. We went bowling and had a great time. The kids had a lot of fun and it was one of the easiest parties I've done for them. We had 13 kids, ours included, and in our alotted 2 hours, got 1 full game of bowling in for everyone, plus cake and presents! I'll post some pics, too. A great time was had by

I continue to have no voice. I wonder when it will come back?.....

For a water update: They are turning it off Monday 8am but said it should be back on by 2 pm. I may have to go buy some more pitchers just to make sure we have enough water. I've also been told to fill the bathtub with water and use that for "flushing." I think I'll take that advice, lol.

We will also have to be parking on the street starting Monday....they are doing concrete work and tearing our driveway out. Not sure what they're gonna do, since they did concrete work here last summer. Our driveway doesn't really need anything done to, I'll be parking across the street Sunday night, since it's no parking on Mondays on the north side of our street. It will really stink if I have to park a block away. Not that I can't use the exercise, but that I have to drag 3 kids with me plus all of their stuff. Thank goodness they don't have school until Friday! I do sort of wish they had waited another week that way all the Gannon students would be gone, or at least most of them, and we would have ample parking to chose from. I suppose as the week goes on, parking will be more available as the students leave.

Ok, I'm off to put together more annoying toys.....I mean their birthday toys.....LOL

But first...the pics :)

Yes, in case you're wondering, that's me in the pink shirt....

Autism Fact of the Day

Something to think about. We should all be thankful for the anomaly that is ASD everytime we turn on our computers and log on to the internet.

Aware adults with autism and their parents are often angry about autism. They may ask why nature or God created such horrible conditions as autism, manic depression, and schizophrenia. However, if the genes that caused these conditions were eliminated there might be a terrible price to pay. It is possible that persons with bits of these traits are more creative, or possibly even geniuses… If science eliminated these genes, maybe the whole world would be taken over by accountants."

- Temple Grandin, quoted in 'An Anthropologist on Mars' p.292, by Oliver Sacks

Autism didn't prevent Temple Grandin living a full life, completing a Ph.D in animal science and becoming an accomplished author and researcher. When actor Dustin Hoffman researched his role in the movie "Rain Man," he came to her for advice.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What's up with the water company?

They stuck a note in our door yesterday saying they were turning off the water at 8am today to do repairs and improvements. So, I got up early to take a shower and finish dishes in the sink, disgruntled that I couldn't do any laundry. 7:30 am and they pulled a digger up in front of our house. Not long after, one of their service vans/trucks pulled up behind it. THey sat there for an hour and then drove away. Now, an hour later I'm wondering what the heck is up? Guess I'm gonna have to call and find out. I filled 3 pitchers with water this morning knowing I would need some to clean up and brush teeth before the kids go to dentist this afternoon. Now I'm thinking I wasted water! Oh, well. I'm off to find out what's up......

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Autism Fact of the Day

Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome are truly an interesting population. Gifted individuals with Asperger's Syndrome are even more fascinating--and confusing. Children with this disability are sometimes described as "little professors who can't understand social cues." (Safran, 2001, p. 1) They are highly verbal, have obsessive interests in certain subjects, have exceptional memories, usually have above average IQ's, are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli and experience social isolation. (Neihart, 2000). Gifted individuals can manifest these behaviors as well. However, even though children with Asperger's Syndrome manifest behaviors that are very similar to gifted children, upon closer examination, the motivation for the behaviors is quite different. For example, both gifted children and children with Asperger's Syndrome are highly verbal. Both populations usually have extremely advanced vocabularies and love to talk about their interests. The difference is that children with Asperger's are very literal and have a difficult time with abstract thought. This is not the case with the gifted child. The child with Asperger's will memorize a vast number of facts and parrot them back. The gifted child on the other hand, understands the concepts behind the words.

This excerpt was taken from the article, Which is It? Asperger's Syndrome or Giftedness: Defining the Differences, by Cindy Little in the Winter 2002 issue of Gifted Child Today

Just for fun... Did Einstein have Asperger's Syndrome?

At the age of 2, when presented with his new baby sister Maja, he responded with "where are the wheels?"

He wasn't social nor was he athletic

He didn't do well in school

He had quite a bit more patience and determination than others. Other children would build houses of cards up to 4 stories while young Albert would methodically build his house up to 14 stories. "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

What do you think?

It's official!

Add my very-soon-to-be 5 yr olds to the list of registered Kindergarteners!

It only took me about 45 min to register them both, thank goodness! But, I have to turn their physical forms in next week. They also require a dental exam , but that's ok, since the boys have their bi-annual visit tomorrow

I must say driving up to the school, I was scared to death! My heart was racing, my stomach was churning, it was awful!

Anyway......I was a little taken-aback by how cold the entrances were. They apparently gate the stairwells at night, since I saw one of those retractable gates folded into the wall on my way back out to my car. Fortunately, the hallways didn't seem that way. They were bright and cheerful. "Our" school is considered and inner-city school, so I'm curious to learn how good their education is. I have been told the city schools are bad, but we really have no choice, kwim? I'll take my chances.

Anyway, Now that it's over with, I don't have to think about it anymore! At least until I have to go buy uniforms!

*Something else I was stunned by was that they actually asked me if I wanted them in the same class or separate classes. I had been so worried that they didn't give me a choice. So, I was very happily stunned they asked me! I was all prepared for a fight, too, lol. Guess I'll save my fightin' words for another day, ;)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Been a long time

K, so I've been gone for 10 days and haven't posted anything other than "Happy Easter" and the Autism Awareness posts. Here's my catch-up post, lol. Well, it'll be pretty brief.

Easter was great. It was great to see my grandma again. I know she recognized me, but she doesn't know anyone's names anymore (last summer, she knew my name). I also am not sure she knows me from my sister. She kept asking my BIL if my 3 boys were his. She also zoned out a lot. I can't say for sure how much time she has left, but I think she's got awhile. But, I'm glad that I was there because I'm not sure she will be able to remember me the next time I get to see her...

Other than that, not much else is new. I'll update some more tomorrow. Gotta get some sleep. I've got to register the twins for kindergarten! YIKES!

Monday, April 24, 2006

by Jim Sinclair

This article was published in the "Our Voice," the newsletter of Autism Network International, Volume 1, Number 3, 1993. It is an outline of the presentation I (Jim Sinclair) gave at the 1993 International Conference on Autism in Toronto, and is addressed primarily to parents.

Parents often report that learning their child is autistic was the most traumatic thing that ever happened to them. Non-autistic people see autism as a great tragedy, and parents experience continuing disappointment and grief at all stages of the child's and family's life cycle.
But this grief does not stem from the child's autism in itself. It is grief over the loss of the normal child the parents had hoped and expected to have. Parents' attitudes and expectations, and the discrepancies between what parents expect of children at a particular age and their own child's actual development, cause more stress and anguish than the practical complexities of life with an autistic person.
Some amount of grief is natural as parents adjust to the fact that an event and a relationship they've been looking forward to isn't going to materialize. But this grief over a fantasized normal child needs to be separated from the parents' perceptions of the child they do have: the autistic child who needs the support of adult caretakers and who can form very meaningful relationships with those caretakers if given the opportunity. Continuing focus on the child's autism as a source of grief is damaging for both the parents and the child, and precludes the development of an accepting and authentic relationship between them. For their own sake and for the sake of their children, I urge parents to make radical changes in their perceptions of what autism means.

I invite you to look at our autism, and look at your grief, from our perspective:
Autism is not an appendage
Autism isn't something a person has, or a "shell" that a person is trapped inside. There's no normal child hidden behind the autism. Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colors every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion, and encounter, every aspect of existence. It is not possible to separate the autism from the person--and if it were possible, the person you'd have left would not be the same person you started with.
This is important, so take a moment to consider it: Autism is a way of being. It is not possible to separate the person from the autism.

Therefore, when parents say,

"I wish my child did not have autism,"
what they're really saying is,
"I wish the autistic child I have did not exist, and I had a different (non-autistic) child instead."
Read that again. This is what we hear when you mourn over our existence. This is what we hear when you pray for a cure. This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces.
Autism is not an impenetrable wall
You try to relate to your autistic child, and the child doesn't respond. He doesn't see you; you can't reach her; there's no getting through. That's the hardest thing to deal with, isn't it? The only thing is, it isn't true.
Look at it again: You try to relate as parent to child, using your own understanding of normal children, your own feelings about parenthood, your own experiences and intuitions about relationships. And the child doesn't respond in any way you can recognize as being part of that system.

That does not mean the child is incapable of relating at all. It only means you're assuming a shared system, a shared understanding of signals and meanings, that the child in fact does not share. It's as if you tried to have an intimate conversation with someone who has no comprehension of your language. Of course the person won't understand what you're talking about, won't respond in the way you expect, and may well find the whole interaction confusing and unpleasant.

It takes more work to communicate with someone whose native language isn't the same as yours. And autism goes deeper than language and culture; autistic people are "foreigners" in any society. You're going to have to give up your assumptions about shared meanings. You're going to have to learn to back up to levels more basic than you've probably thought about before, to translate, and to check to make sure your translations are understood. You're going to have to give up the certainty that comes of being on your own familiar territory, of knowing you're in charge, and let your child teach you a little of her language, guide you a little way into his world.
And the outcome, if you succeed, still will not be a normal parent-child relationship. Your autistic child may learn to talk, may attend regular classes in school, may go to college, drive a car, live independently, have a career--but will never relate to you as other children relate to their parents. Or your autistic child may never speak, may graduate from a self-contained special education classroom to a sheltered activity program or a residential facility, may need lifelong full-time care and supervision--but is not completely beyond your reach. The ways we relate are different. Push for the things your expectations tell you are normal, and you'll find frustration, disappointment, resentment, maybe even rage and hatred. Approach respectfully, without preconceptions, and with openness to learning new things, and you'll find a world you could never have imagined.

Yes, that takes more work than relating to a non-autistic person. But it can be done--unless non-autistic people are far more limited than we are in their capacity to relate. We spend our entire lives doing it. Each of us who does learn to talk to you, each of us who manages to function at all in your society, each of us who manages to reach out and make a connection with you, is operating in alien territory, making contact with alien beings. We spend our entire lives doing this. And then you tell us that we can't relate.

Autism is not death
Granted, autism isn't what most parents expect or look forward to when they anticipate the arrival of a child. What they expect is a child who will be like them, who will share their world and relate to them without requiring intensive on-the-job training in alien contact. Even if their child has some disability other than autism, parents expect to be able to relate to that child on the terms that seem normal to them; and in most cases, even allowing for the limitations of various disabilities, it is possible to form the kind of bond the parents had been looking forward to.
But not when the child is autistic. Much of the grieving parents do is over the non-occurrence of the expected relationship with an expected normal child. This grief is very real, and it needs to be expected and worked through so people can get on with their lives--

but it has nothing to do with autism.

What it comes down to is that you expected something that was tremendously important to you, and you looked forward to it with great joy and excitement, and maybe for a while you thought you actually had it--and then, perhaps gradually, perhaps abruptly, you had to recognize that the thing you looked forward to hasn't happened. It isn't going to happen. No matter how many other, normal children you have, nothing will change the fact that this time, the child you waited and hoped and planned and dreamed for didn't arrive.

This is the same thing that parents experience when a child is stillborn, or when they have their baby to hold for a short time, only to have it die in infancy. It isn't about autism, it's about shattered expectations. I suggest that the best place to address these issues is not in organizations devoted to autism, but in parental bereavement counseling and support groups. In those settings parents learn to come to terms with their loss--not to forget about it, but to let it be in the past, where the grief doesn't hit them in the face every waking moment of their lives. They learn to accept that their child is gone, forever, and won't be coming back. Most importantly, they learn not to take out their grief for the lost child on their surviving children. This is of critical importance when one of those surviving children arrived at the same time the child being mourned for died.
You didn't lose a child to autism. You lost a child because the child you waited for never came into existence. That isn't the fault of the autistic child who does exist, and it shouldn't be our burden. We need and deserve families who can see us and value us for ourselves, not families whose vision of us is obscured by the ghosts of children who never lived. Grieve if you must, for your own lost dreams. But don't mourn for us. We are alive. We are real. And we're here waiting for you.

This is what I think autism societies should be about: not mourning for what never was, but exploration of what is. We need you. We need your help and your understanding. Your world is not very open to us, and we won't make it without your strong support. Yes, there is tragedy that comes with autism: not because of what we are, but because of the things that happen to us. Be sad about that, if you want to be sad about something. Better than being sad about it, though, get mad about it--and then do something about it. The tragedy is not that we're here, but that your world has no place for us to be. How can it be otherwise, as long as our own parents are still grieving over having brought us into the world?

Take a look at your autistic child sometime, and take a moment to tell yourself who that child is not. Think to yourself: "This is not my child that I expected and planned for. This is not the child I waited for through all those months of pregnancy and all those hours of labor. This is not the child I made all those plans to share all those experiences with. That child never came. This is not that child." Then go do whatever grieving you have to do--away from the autistic child--and start learning to let go.
After you've started that letting go, come back and look at your autistic child again, and say to yourself: "This is not my child that I expected and planned for. This is an alien child who landed in my life by accident. I don't know who this child is or what it will become. But I know it's a child, stranded in an alien world, without parents of its own kind to care for it. It needs someone to care for it, to teach it, to interpret and to advocate for it. And because this alien child happened to drop into my life, that job is mine if I want it."
If that prospect excites you, then come join us, in strength and determination, in hope and in joy. The adventure of a lifetime is ahead of you.

Autism Fact of the Day

"Theory of Mind" Impairment and "Mind Blindness"

When trying to modify and alter or modify the behaviours of a person with Asperger Syndrome, it is imperative to consider the "Theory of Mind" Impairment. Theory of Mind can be explained as one's ability to be able to consider and understand other people's

thoughts and feelings, as this skill plays a major role in our interaction with others. For the person with Asperger Syndrome, this skill is severely impeded, resulting in the following difficulties:-

Inability to predict the possible behaviours of others, which can lead to the person with Asperger Syndrome developing a sense of insecurity and a resultant avoidance of people;

Not being able to comprehend the intentions of those around him, nor understanding the motivations of their actions;

A lack of understanding concerning their own emotions or the emotions of others. This can manifest as a lack of empathy, which is often not accepted or understood by the people within their social circle;

Poor comprehension of how one's behaviour affects how others feel and think about you. This can lead to a lack of motivation to please and a lack of conscience;

Minimal understanding/concern regarding what people know or want to know and a defective ability to detect or react to their audience's level of interest This can result in either, the person with Asperger Syndrome speaking endlessly on a subject providing excessive detail, or else providing minimal background material, but just launching into a complex verbal account of a subject that the audience has no knowledge of, or interest in;

Minimal understanding as to why their focus of attention must change, whether it be in a conversation or in a classroom setting etc. For instance, if the person with Asperger Syndrome is concentrating on a specific task or talking to you on a chosen topic and you want to move on to another task, or alter the topic of conversation;

Due to the impediment in the area of social interaction, there is often a lack of understanding as regards the need to "take turns" in conversation and allowing others to talk without interruption, or the need to take takes turns in the playground etc;

Inadequate understanding of the action of "pretending" and an inability to separate fact from fiction, or the ability to be deceitful, is often present.

All of the above, adversely affect the person's ability to establish and maintain friendships. These areas of impediment also affect their ability to benefit from daily life, learning and teaching.

A certain amount of social skills can be "taught" to the person with Asperger Syndrome, but it is highly unlikely that these skills can ever be internalised naturally. Because of the "Mind Blindness" experienced by a person with Asperger Syndrome, the learning of these skills is extremely difficult and stressful, as it is not "factual"; it cannot be seen nor explained on paper. Also, it is difficult for the parents, friends, teachers etc. to teach these skills, which they never had to "learn" themselves.

Autism Fact of the Day

Join the club

Strangers bonded by autism
April 18, 2006

SEVEN YEARS AGO, a doctor looked at my toddler son and immediately recognized autism.

Since then, I've seen it countless times in the halls of the mall, in grocery stores and restaurants. I will notice a child who seems a little bit different. Perhaps he's spinning in circles or avoiding eye contact, flapping his hands or repeating phrases from a movie. Right away, I'll sneak a glance at the mom, recognizing her, even though we've never met.

But Miss Manners hasn't come up with a delicate way to ask, "Is your kid autistic, too?"

And so we pass each other without a word, just a small nod to show our solidarity.

But I want to walk up to that mom and talk to her, because even though she looks nothing like me, somewhere inside we're the same: Mothers who know what it's like to lose a child who's sitting right next to you.

I want to ask her if she ever thought she'd shop for diapers for a 9-year-old. To know if she's ever sobbed as she scrubbed poop out of a carpet, wondering just how her life turned out this way.

If she, too, lies awake at night wondering what it would be like to hold a conversation with her first-born child. I would ask when she stopped speculating about which college her son would attend.

I want to know how she handles the dirty looks and even reprimands from strangers, because her child doesn't behave like the other kids.

We could almost speak another language to each other, using jargon like IEP, EEG, ESY and FAPE. After a while, the letters roll off your tongue so easily that you forget the rest of the world has no idea what you mean.

But this mom would know. She would know that single word with six letters can change your entire life.

I want to tell her that I, too, go years in between dates with my husband, because it's too hard to find a baby sitter. That I've been a mother for nine years, but my family has taken only one vacation. Our time, energy and money all go elsewhere.

I want to talk about how my husband and I decided not to have any more kids, not because we don't want a bigger family, but because after having two kids with autism, the genetic odds just don't seem to be in our favor.

Mostly, I want to know if she ever noticed the moment autism stopped being a tragedy and simply became a fact of life.

Of course, this mom and I are not exactly alike. In fact, besides autism, we might have nothing else in common.

That's the reality of autism: It can strike in just about any family.

As parents of children with autism, we cross all races and nationalities. We're rich and poor, single parents and married couples, conservatives and liberals. Some of us are shy; others are loud.

Just about anyone can be inducted into our club. In 20 minutes, there will be a new initiation.

That's how often a parent hears "Your child has autism."

This year, doctors will say that 24,000 times.

That's a lot of parents who know just what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Autism Fact of the Day ~ Asperger's

Asperger's Disorder is not widely recognized by the public or by health care providers. What does it mean to have Asperger's Disorder? Do they have severe AD/HD, mild autism, learning disabilities, or are they just "nerds?"
For years, psychiatrists have debated how to classify and subdivide the category of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Pervasive Developmental Disorder is a category that contains several specific diagnoses. Individuals with PDD have problems with the social interaction and often show delays in several other areas. These other areas may include language, coordination, imaginative activities, and intellectual functioning. The degree of severity can vary tremendously in the various forms of PDD. Autism is one of the more severe forms of PDD. An individual with Autism has marked difficulty relating to other human beings. He or she frequently has delayed or absent speech and may be mentally retarded. Asperger's Disorder is on the milder end of PDD. Individuals with Asperger's generally have normal intelligence and normal early language acquisition. However, they show difficulties with social interactions and non-verbal communications. They may also show perseverative or repetitive behaviors.

The Young Child: A preschool aged child might show difficulty understanding the basics of social interaction. He or she may have difficulty picking up social cues. He may want friends but be unable to make or keep any friends.

Elementary School Aged Child: One often hears the phrase, "poor pragmatic language skills." This means that the individual cannot use the right tone and volume of speech. He may stand too close or make poor eye contact. He may have trouble understanding age-appropriate humor and slang expressions. Many are clumsy and have visual-perceptual difficulties. Learning difficulties, subtle or severe, are common. The child may become fixated on a particular topic and bore others with frequent or repetitive talk even when the other children have given clear signals that they are no longer interested in the topic. Some have difficulties tolerating changes in their daily routine. Change must be introduced gradually.

The Adolescent: This may be the most difficult time for an individual with Asperger's Disorder. Those with milder forms of the disorder may first come to treatment when they are in middle school. In adolescence, social demands become more complex. Subtle social nuances become important. Some may show an increase in oppositional or aggressive behavior. Individuals with Asperger's have difficulty understanding which of their peers might want to be a friend. A socially marginal boy might try to date the most popular girl in his class. He will probably experience rejection. He is unaware that some other girl might accept his invitation. Because of his social naivete, he may not realize when someone is trying to take advantage of him. He can be especially vulnerable to manipulation and peer pressure.

Adulthood: There is less information on Asperger's Disorder in adulthood. Some individuals with mild Asperger's Disorder are able to learn to compensate. They become indistinguishable form everyone else. They marry, hold a job and have children. Other individuals live an isolated existence with continuing severe difficulties in social and occupational functioning. Individuals with Asperger's often do well in jobs that require technical skill but little social finesse. Some do well with predictable repetitive work. Others relish the challenge of intricate technical problem solving. I knew a man, now deceased, who had many of the characteristics of Asperger's Disorder. He lived with his mother and had few social contacts. When he visited relatives, he did not seem to understand how to integrate himself into their household routine. When the relatives would explain the situation to him, he was able to accept it. However, he was unable to generalize this to similar situations. Although he was a psychologist, his work involved technical advisory work, not face-to-face clinical sessions.

Associated Difficulties: Asperger's Disorder may be associated with learning difficulties and attention deficit disorder. Indeed, many children and adolescents with Asperger's have previously been diagnosed with AD/HD instead of Asperger's. Individuals with AD/HD may have difficulty with social interaction, but the primary difficulties are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. In individuals with Asperger's, the social awkwardness is a greater concern. As individuals with Asperger's enter adolescence, they become acutely aware of their differences. This may lead to depression and anxiety. The depression, if not treated, may persist into adulthood.

Treatment for Asperger's Disorder:

Medications: There is no one specific medication for Asperger's syndrome. Some are on no medication. In other cases, we treat specific target symptoms. One might use a stimulant for inattention and hyperactivity. An SSRI such as Paxil, Prozac or Zoloft might help with obsessions or perseveration. The SSRIs can also help associated depression and anxiety. In individuals with stereotyped movements, agitation and idiosyncratic thinking, we may use a low dose antipsychotic such as risperidone.

Social Skills Training: This is one of the most important facets of treatment for all age groups. I often tell parents and teachers that the individual needs to learn body language as an adult learns a foreign language. The individual with Asperger's must learn concrete rules for eye contact, social distance and the use of slang. Global empathy is difficult, but they can learn to look for specific signs that indicate another individual's emotional state. Social skills are often best practiced in a small group setting. Such groups serve more than one function. They give people a chance to learn and practice concrete rules of interpersonal engagement. They may also be a way for the participant to meet others like himself. Individuals with Asperger's do best in groups with similar individuals. If the group consists of street-wise, antisocial peers, the Asperger's individual may retreat into himself or be dominated by the other members.

Educational Interventions: Because Asperger's covers a wide range of ability levels the school must individualize programming for each student with Asperger's Disorder. Teachers need to be aware that the student may mumble or refuse to look him in the eye. Teachers should notify the student in advance about changers in the school routine. The student may need to have a safe place where he can retreat if he becomes over stimulated. It may be difficult to program for a very bright student with greater deficits. In one case, a student attended gifted classes but also had an aide to help her with interpersonal issues. That student is now in college. Children with Asperger's are often socially naive. They may not do well in an Emotionally Disturbed class if most of the other students are aggressive, street-wise and manipulative. I have seen some do well when placed with other students with pervasive developmental disorders. Some do well in a regular classroom with extra support. This extra help might include an instructional assistant, resource room or extra training for the primary teacher.

Psychotherapy: Individuals with Asperger's Disorder may have trouble with a therapist who insists that they make an early intense emotional contact. The therapist may need to proceed slowly and avoid more emotional intensity than the patient can handle. Concrete, behavioral techniques often work best. Play therapy can be helpful in several circumstances. The therapist may use it to teach way of interaction. The therapist may also use play to lower emotional tension if the therapist senses that a more direct conversation is too threatening. However, play should not be an end in itself. Patients with Asperger's often need direct, concrete instruction on social interaction. Adults and children may do well in group therapy. Support groups can also be helpful.

Parents play an important role in helping their child or adolescent. This child or adolescent will require time and extra nurturance. It is important to distinguish between willful disobedience and misunderstanding of social cues. It is also important to sense when the child is entering emotional overload so that one can reduce tension. They may need to prepare the child for changes in the daily routine. One must choose babysitters carefully. Parents may have to take an active role in arranging appropriate play dates for the younger child. Some parents seek out families with similar children. Children with Asperger's often get along with similar playmates. Parents should help teachers understand the world from the child's unique point of view. Parenting an adolescent with Asperger's can be a great challenge. The socially naive adolescent may not be ready for the same degree of freedom as his peers. Often parents can find a slightly older adolescent who can be a mentor. This person can help the adolescent understand how to dress, and how to use the current slang. If the mentor attends the same school, he can often give clues about the cliques in that particular setting.

Adults may benefit from group therapy or individual behavioral therapy. Some speech therapists have experience working with adults on pragmatic language skills. Behavioral coaching, a relatively new type of intervention, can help the adult with Asperger's Disorder organize and prioritize his daily activities. Adults may need medication for associated problems such as depression or anxiety. It is important to understand the needs and desires of that particular adult. Some adults do not need treatment. They may find jobs that fit their areas of strength. They may have smaller social circles, and some idiosyncratic behaviors, but they may still be productive and fulfilled.

original source

Autism Fact of the Day

by Catherine Maurice

A parent, author, and editor of several books on autism and its treatments, Catherine Maurice responds to the letter of invitation for this special autism issue of Leadership Perspectives in Developmental Disabilities.

I have a doctorate in literary criticism, but it does not take an advanced degree to detect a certain level of skepticism in this letter of invitation. These questions seem rather biased against early intensive behavioral intervention (1) and the possibility of recovery from autism. Far from displaying any welcome or enthusiasm for either of these concepts, this letter seems to be inviting attack, from every possible angle.

Are there ethical issues associated with recovery?
What is the economic implication of wide scale recovery attempts?

Just substitute the word "cancer" for "autism" and any "lay person" could detect a slightly subversive note:

Are there ethical issues associated with recovery from cancer?
What is the economic implication of wide scale attempts to recover people from cancer?

It seems to me that these questions amount to little more than a call for ammunition against the rising demand for science-based, effective treatment, which at this moment in time happens to be anchored in the field of applied behavior analysis. Yes, aiming for and achieving recovery from autism is expensive. So is chemotherapy. So is a lifetime of state-supported custodial care. Why would we not attempt to recover anyone from cancer, or autism? No, we cannot guarantee cure or recovery for anyone, but is that sufficient reason to lower the bar? Do we start deciding how many people should have access to science-based treatments for cancer? Do we start deciding how many children should have access to ABA?(2)

Is the concept of recovery a useful term to use?
Is there data to substantiate recovery?

The very form of the questions implies that "recovery from autism" and the data supporting recoveries from autism are issues that are up for debate. The phrasing suggests that the correct answer to both questions is "No, of course not." Again, think of the implications if we asked: "Is the concept of recovery from cancer a useful term to use?" It is only when we already hold an assumption that autism is forever that we question whether the term "recovery" is "a useful term."(3) Perhaps a more neutrally phrased question could have been: "How can we define recovery from autism, and how do we know that it can occur?"

But let's step back, and look at a more serious complication. What is problematic here is not only the implicit skepticism about recovery, but also the confusion, manifest in this letter and in much of the anti-behavioral backlash literature, between the goal of recovery, and the goal of bringing children effective treatment. We need to set both goals for our children, with the understanding that under our present system of knowledge, only some children will achieve the first goal, but all children with autism can and should be offered effective treatment. Furthermore, and again under that present system of knowledge, it is behavioral intervention that has published the most documented success in enabling children to learn. Whether or not recovery happens, behavioral intervention offers more concrete evidence of effectiveness in helping children to learn than any of the dozens of treatment options currently being touted as effective for autism.(4)

This letter uses a term, "recovery treatment procedure." What is that? EIBI is not a "recovery treatment procedure" although it may have that effect on some children. All treatment should be designed to maximize a child's learning potential, to bring him or her as far as we can. Is this letter implying that if you want to aim for recovery, you use EIBI (otherwise called "recovery treatment procedure"), and if you want to aim for something else, you use another kind of therapy? What other therapy would that be, and what data exist to support the effectiveness of that therapy?

No one I know has ever claimed that EIBI will produce recovery in all children. But we do know that intensive behavioral intervention can improve the prognosis for people with autism, and teach them higher levels of communication, social behavior, and independence. Undermining the notion of recovery and then calling early intensive behavioral intervention a "recovery treatment procedure" is another way of dismissing behavioral intervention - "those behaviorists promise recovery to everyone, and we know that can't happen, so don't bother with that nonsense."

Is there evidence to imply that data suggesting recovery is an artifact of subject selection or other variables?

When I showed this question to my husband, he laughed and parodied the classic model of prejudicial questions: "When did you stop beating your wife?" Those of us who are veterans of the autism wars know that this question will not go away, no matter what data are presented, re-presented, or analyzed. It's an easy attack, and one that is constantly repeated. If a child recovers from autism, the old guard is sure to offer one of three possible explanations.

1. He was very high functioning, and therefore "selected" for intensive treatment, apparently by people who have so little concern for ethics that they skew data any which way they can in order to claim success.
2. He was never autistic at all. (Sorry! We didn't mean it!)
3. He was autistic, and still is autistic. Although he looks and acts recovered, he is actually a trained robot, conditioned to respond to certain stimuli - but, deep inside, still autistic.

If my own tone sounds impatient, I apologize. I used to be a lot nicer before I entered autism politics. But, after a dozen years, I no longer know what it will take to convince the people in power that the data are there, have been there for a while, and their job isto pay attention to the data. Moreover, the data do not "suggest" that early intensive ABA is effective in remediating many symptoms of autism, the data demonstrate that gains achieved through such intervention are real, and enduring.(5) There is data not only "suggesting" the possibility of recovery, but also validating it over time.(6) Why is this topic of early intensive behavioral intervention, its value, and its ability to produce recovery in at least some children still "hotly debated" at all? How many more decades will it take for the establishment to accept the evidence that already exists? It is astonishing to me that various special educators and psychologists keep calling for more data to substantiate the value of intensive behavioral intervention, and yet they themselves have produced no data to speak of that validate approaches such as play therapy, therapeutic nurseries, special education and psychotherapy.

When my children were diagnosed, it did not take long to discern that the data supporting early behavioral intervention far surpassed any empirical support for generic, "eclectic," intervention, special education classrooms, therapeutic nurseries or the myriad fads and miracle cures that succeed each other. That data has only increased today. Do we really want to consign autistic children to a lifetime of sorting bottle caps, when we know now that many can learn more than we ever expected them to learn, if we intervene early enough, and care deeply enough to bring them science- based treatment models? With the field of applied behavior analysis producing study after study showing the value of behaviorally based teaching methods for people with autism, how much more debate do we have to engage in, as generations of autistic children founder?

Many parents (7) have become all too aware that special education programs, therapeutic nurseries, play therapy and each successive media-hyped new "breakthrough" for autism have for decades promised appropriate care for our children, and have delivered virtually nothing. Our children do not need parent substitutes. They don't need special education that does not educate. Pseudoscientific "evidence," notwithstanding, they do not need huge doses of vitamins forced into them. They need data driven, research-backed programs specifically tailored to their needs, their learning pace, their strengths and weaknesses. Behavioral intervention does not promise universal recovery. It does promise, if delivered by qualified providers, a better chance that some real learning will take place, and maybe, just maybe, some children will recover.

How do I know some children will recover? Because in addition to the published data referenced in this paper, professionals and parents keep reporting and documenting more and more cases of children recovering, every year since I have been involved in this field. Because I live with two such children. My two youngest - a girl and a boy - were diagnosed with autism when they were about 2 years old. They were diagnosed by psychiatrists, psychologists, pediatric neurologists and speech language pathologists, four out of five of whom used the word "autistic" to describe them. (The fifth used the term "pervasive developmental disorder," one of several useless euphemisms spawned by the ever-more inventive DSM IV-R). Both children received intensive ABA treatment for 2-3 years. By the age of five, both children were documented as normally functioning. (8) As other parents I know are doing today, I held onto every piece of paper documenting my children's symptoms, their deterioration, treatment, re-evaluations, and eventually, their recovery. These pieces of paper were written by people who had no interest in creating sensational miracle stories, no interest in selling "their treatment," their method, or their belief, to anyone.

After I published my book, chronicling all of this, I was hit not only by dismissal from the professional community, but in certain quarters, by outright mockery. OK. Fair enough. I understand that such dramatic improvement is a novel concept, especially for people whose entire careers are built around the notion that they know how to treat autism, and that autism is forever. I understand that if you have built a reputation around your expertise in autism, you are not going to be very receptive to the idea that maybe, just maybe, you may not know what the most effective treatments are, or how to deliver them. I decided, with some weariness, that I probably owed the public some further evidence that my children's recovery was indeed lasting, and real. I asked three of the original diagnosticians (none of them behavior analysts, by the way), to write a follow up paper on my children. (9) To these clinicians and researchers, I provided videotapes, school reports, standardized test reports, and whatever else I could think of that was not just "mommy's opinion."

Still not good enough. From the University of California (10), to Chapel Hill, to the halls of Yale, various "experts" in autism continue to make public statements about my children, whom they have never met. Well, what would it take, I ask myself? Another video? Dinner at my home? Opening our family life more and more to a parade of skeptics whose interests are vested - meaning truly vested both economically and personally - in seeing "residual autism" wherever they want to see it?

I don't think so. I think I have run out of patience with the fact that the merits of EIBI and the reality of recovery are still "hotly debated," and that nothing I say, no evidence that I present or that other families or professionals can present, will ever, can ever convince those who do not want to be convinced.

It's easy to attack ABA by attacking the notion of recovery. So let's just clear that one up, and move on. Recovery exists, and it is real. Last year, my oldest son finished tenth grade, my daughter completed ninth grade, and my son completed seventh grade. All finished the year on the honor roll or high honor roll. (The need to state some facts supersedes the need to be discreet about one's children's academic performance). I'm sorry, but there is no way that I or my husband could possibly "program" these children to succeed in biology, chemistry, advanced placement history, English and American literature, French, physics, algebra, geometry, etc. We couldn't possibly keep up with the homework, for one thing.

None of the children received special assistance or tutoring since they enrolled in regular school in kindergarten. If they had, would that have proved anything? Think about the number of kids labeled ADD, or "learning impaired," who receive extra academic attention or tutoring for one reason or another. It's getting a little tough to define "normal" these days.

So how can we define recovery from autism, if grades and school placement and academic success or failure is not a consistently reliable criterion? Perhaps one helpful concept in thinking about recovery would be the absence of the defining symptomology for autism, especially with respect to communicative abilities and social functioning.

Ah, but what about our children's social functioning? Do they have friends? Yes, they have friends. But how many friends do they have? Well, let's see. How many friends do you have? After a while, the questions become almost absurd. But do they relate to their friends? Can they "put themselves in others' shoes?" Can they think and speak with any abstraction, or originality? My youngest was just elected class representative, my daughter wept with me on September 11th. I would invite some of the most arrogant authorities to my home, so that they could observe the conversations that my kids can have with their friends, except for one tiny problem. I suspect that if those psychologists and psychiatrists and special educators observed the normal teenage behavior that goes on in our house, from self-conscious embarrassment, to joking banter, to arguments about chores, to abstract musings on politics, the response would be the predictable "they were misdiagnosed." Other parents of recovered children report, almost universally, the same reaction.

To me, this is not just a matter of defending my story. If it were, I would have thrown in the towel long ago. It's a matter of watching my friends, mothers and fathers, weeping for their children, knowing that a powerful teaching technology exists, but unable to access it for their child, blocked at every turn by an entrenched and stonewalling establishment. It's hearing yet another mother on the phone, telling me that her three year old is learning more and more, but she cannot get anyone in authority to help her find and pay for an adequate number of treatment hours to ensure that his learning continues. It's knowing that only a handful of good behaviorally-based programs exist in this country, and that, if this academic and professional resistance continues, we will not see any more any time soon.

· What are the barriers to providing recovery intervention?

Money, for one thing, A scarcity of trained providers in behavioral treatment, for another. But professional skepticism and a refusal to accept hard evidence play into which programs get funded and which do not. If a majority those in power dismiss EIBI, of course parents will be hard pressed to find quality intervention programs, and universities will not set up training programs to meet the need. The Federal government looks to academic and professional authorities to inform its decisions. If such authorities pooh-pooh the notion of recovery, and downplay the role of early intensive behavioral intervention, only the wealthy or lucky will access this intervention for their children.

· Are recovery treatment procedures varied or similar in nature?
· What are the critical elements of any recovery treatment attempt?

These are, in fact, good questions, provided we substitute the phrase "Effective, data-based treatments" for "recovery treatment procedures." The Association for Science in Autism Treatment, (11), a group of autism professionals and parents whose children have been diagnosed with autism, is working on compiling and disseminating information on these and similar questions. We believe that there is still much work to be done in defining the critical components of effective behavioral treatment models, and in defining the critical skills and knowledge demanded of a trained and qualified provider. We support the work of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, and we are currently exploring ways of funding, researching and developing a professional training model for graduate students who wish to specialize in ABA and autism treatment. It would be very helpful if the professional community could leave the debate stage behind, and help us in our attempts to bring accurate information to families, and increased access to effective treatment for their children. We face an uphill battle, and we need all the help we can get.

I work with women and men whose children have not recovered, and I count them as my friends and colleagues. Listening to the struggles of my friends, knowing the longing of their hearts, I do pray that one day science will produce an easier, faster, quicker and more effective treatment than that promised through ABA. I hope that current research on neurobiology, immunology and genetics will lead us there. But meanwhile, those parents know, and I know, that there is a difference between being "open-minded" to promising new directions in autism treatment research, and continuing to buy into those myriad treatment options that have had decades to produce substantiating evidence, and have failed to do so. ABA can offer our children a lot. Let's pull together to support it, while at the same time supporting quality research into the complicated causes of and potential cures for autism.

(1) When I refer to behavioral intervention, applied behavior analysis (ABA), or early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI), I mean intervention that employs the principles and methods of behavior analysis, not generic early intervention programs that purport to be "behavioral" but actually employ only a few superficial behavioral techniques.

(2) Jacobson, J.W., Mulick, J.A., & Green, G. (1998). Cost-benefit estimates for early intensive behavioral intervention for young children with autism: General model and single state case. Behavioral Interventions, 13, 201-226. [Offers a well-reasoned analysis of this topic]

(3) The question is illogical as well because the word concept is being used to mean the word term.

(4) Clinical Practive Guidelines: Report of the Recommendations. Autism/Pervasive Developmental Disorders, assessment and Intervention for Young Children, 1999 Publication No. 4215. New York State Department of Health, PO Box 2000, Albany, New York 12220.

(5) For an overview of research on this subject, see:
Green, G. (1996). Early Behavioral Intervention for Autism. What Does Research Tell Us? In C. Maurice, G.Green, and S.C. Luce, (Eds.), Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism: A Manual for Parents and Professionals, Austin, TX. Pro-Ed.
Clinical Practive Guidelines: Report of the Recommendations. Autism/Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Assessment and Intervention for Young Children, 1999 Publication No. 4215. New York State Department of Health, PO Box 2000, Albany, New York 12220.

(6) Lovaas, O.I. (1987). Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 3-9.
McEachin, J.J., Smith, T., & Lovaas, O.I. (1993). Long-term outcome for children with autism who received early intensive behavioral treatment. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 4, 359-372.
Perry, R. Cohen, I., & DeCarlo, R (1995). Case Study: Deterioration, autism, and recovery in two siblings. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 34, 232-237.

(7) I speak with many parents, and have received hundred of letters and phone calls from parents over the years. But I do not speak for all parents; No parent speaks for all parents, just as no professional speaks for all professionals.

(8) Maurice, C. (1993) Let Me Hear Your Voice, A family's triumph over autism. Knopf, New York.

(9) Perry, R., Cohen, I., & DeCarlo, R. (1995) op.cit.

(10) Last year, I sent Dr. Bryna Siegel, of the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute at the University of California, a letter, asking her to comment on repeated parental reports that she has made disparaging comments about my children. My letter was offered to her as a private communication, an opportunity to address her concerns, and mine. Dr. Siegel did not respond to that letter. But personal attacks against my children or me are only part of what I see as a wider problem. What concerns me as well is the sustained attempt on the part of many such "experts" to discredit early intensive behavioral intervention for children with autism, even to the point of serving as expert witnesses for school districts who are fighting parental requests for such intervention. For years, I have been growing increasingly alarmed by the articles and books of such authorities as Shirley Cohen, Gary Mesibov, Ph.D, Stanley Greenspan, Ph.D., B.J. Freeman, Ph.D., Catherine Johnson, and many others. For years, I have been tracking such books and articles, and I have seen dismissive and inaccurate descriptions of early intensive behavioral intervention as well as insistent denials that recovery is possible. In many of these publications, ABA is still painted as child abuse, or little more than some superficial training in skills. Parents who choose ABA for their children are portrayed as delusional, blindly following the hope of recovery and willing to do anything to force children into compliant robotic behavior. Obviously such caricature can only render parental access to effective treatment ever more difficult.

(11) The Association for Science in Autism Treatment. 175 Great Neck Road, Suite 406, Great Neck, N.Y. 11021. Tel: 516 627-8943. Fax: 516 466-4484.

Catherine Maurice, Ph.D. is the author of Let Me Hear Your Voice, a family's triumph over autism (Knopf, 1993); the principal editor of Behavioral Intervention for autism, a manual for parents and professionals (PRO-ED, 1996); and principal editor of Making a Difference, Behavioral Intervention for Autism. (PRO-ED, 2001).

I know this article is long, but the reason I post it is to remind EVERYONE that autism is not a "culture." It also is not a death sentence. There is hope, and recovery DOES happen!!!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen Indeed!


glitter graphics

Happy Easter!


I received this link in an e-mail from someone who has been keeping an eye on my blogs about Autism this month (thanks, Jennifer!). I wanted to pass it along, as it's along the same lines :)
Build-a-bear has created a bear for children's health initiatives. Here is the description from their site:

Build-A-Bear Workshop created Nikki's Bear II - 2nd in a series to honor a young girl who lost her life to cancer. Nikki loved life, children and teddy bears. In her memory we dedicated this bear to fund children's health and wellness initiatives, including pediatric cancer, juvenile diabetes and autism research.

During the month of April a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Nikki's Bear II will be donated to Autism Speaks through the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation.

You can click here to see the bear.

I will also add that there is a Nikki's Bear III. I was unable to lovate the first one, so it may be to late for that.

I will also add that, if you donate $1 to the Build-a-bear Workshop Foundation, you will receive a purple satin heart. Again, from their website:

The money raised from these hearts will be distributed through the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation to organizations that support children and animals. During the month of April when you buy a purple satin heart for a $1 donation per heart the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation will direct the money to Autism Speaks to help advance autism research. Buy one for you and your bear!

You can click here to set to the heart.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


May 5, 2005

(BOSTON, Mass. - Offering a new and exciting direction in the effort to develop a diagnostic test for autism in infancy, scientists from the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute presented new evidence today indicating that components of the immune system and proteins and metabolites found in the blood of children with autism differ substantially from those found in typically developing children.

Investigators at the Institute believe the discovery, announced today at the 4th International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in Boston, could be a major step toward developing a routine blood test that would allow autism to be detected in newborns and treatment or even prevention to be initiated early in life.

Over the last two decades parents, educators, scientists and pediatricians have been alarmed by a dramatic and baffling rise in the prevalence of autism, which now affects as many as 1 in every 166 children. But diagnosing autism, a brain disorder that leaves children in apparent isolation from their families and communities, is currently accomplished through a series of behavioral observations that are not reliable until a child is between 2 and 3-years-old.

"Finding a sensitive and accurate biological marker for autism that can be revealed by a simple blood test would have enormous implications for diagnosing, treating and understanding more about the underlying causes of autism," said David G. Amaral, research director at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and one of the co-authors of the paper presented at IMFAR. "Not being able to detect autism until a child is close to 3-years-old eliminates a valuable window of treatment opportunity during the first few years of life when the brain is undergoing tremendous development."

Amaral along with pediatric neuropsychologist Blythe Corbett and other M.I.N.D. Institute colleagues took blood samples from 70 children with autism who were between 4 and 6 years old and from 35 children of the same age who didn't have the disorder. The samples were then analyzed by a biotech company, SurroMed, LLC, Menlo Park, Calif., which has developed technology that can identify differences in the number and types of immune cells, proteins, peptides and metabolites in small amounts of blood. SurroMed was recently acquired by PPD, Inc., and its biomarker services have been integrated into PPD's discovery and development services and products provided to biopharmaceutical companies.

The study has generated an enormous amount of data and M.I.N.D. Institute researchers say it will take months before all of the information has been fully evaluated. But initial findings clearly demonstrate differences in the immune system, as well as proteins and other metabolites in children with autism:

The antibody producing B cells are increased by 20 percent in the autism group

Natural killer cells are increased by 40 percent

More than 100 proteins demonstrated significant differential expression between the autism and typically developing groups

Other small molecules (metabolites) also show many differences

"This is an important pilot experiment, a proof of principle," said Amaral. "From these results we think it is highly likely that there are differences we can detect in blood samples that will be predictive of the disorder, though we are still some years away from having an actual diagnostic blood test for autism. Scientists have long suspected there were distinct biological components to autism but the technology needed to reveal them has only recently become available."

Future research studies need to be done to confirm the findings in a larger group and with younger children. For example, researchers might take blood samples from newborns and then see if the results predicting autism are later confirmed by a behavioral diagnosis. Other studies would also use bioinformatics approaches to narrow down the number of proteins or metabolites that would need to be assayed to show the strongest link to autism.

"Discovering an early diagnostic test is an important focus of research," said Amaral. "There is a growing view among experts that not all children with autism are 'doomed to autism' at birth. It may be that some children have a vulnerability-such as a genetic abnormality-and that something they encounter after being born, perhaps in their environment, triggers the disorder. Studying the biological signs of autism could lead to new ways to prevent the disorder from ever occurring. And even if it can't be prevented, intervening early in life-ideally shortly after birth-could greatly improve the lifetime outlook for children with autism, particularly those who now respond poorly to therapy initiated when they are three or older."

The UC Davis M.I.N.D. (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute is a unique collaborative center for research into the causes and treatments of autism, bringing together parents, scientists, clinicians and educators. For further information, go to


Immunologists from UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute find clear biological component to perplexing childhood neurological disorder

May 5, 2005

(BOSTON, Mass.) - A new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, M.I.N.D. Institute and the NIEHS Center for Children's Environmental Health demonstrate that children with autism have different immune system responses than children who do not have the disorder. This is important evidence that autism, currently defined primarily by distinct behaviors, may potentially be defined by distinct biologic changes as well.

The study was released at the 4th International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) - a meeting of autism scientists started by Cure Autism Now, the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and the National Alliance for Autism Research to accelerate knowledge of this increasingly common and perplexing disorder. It is estimated that autism now affects 1 in every 166 children.

"Understanding the biology of autism is crucial to developing better ways to diagnose and treat it," said Judy Van de Water, associate professor of rheumatology, allergy and clinical immunology at the UC Davis School of Medicine and the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute. "While impaired communication and social skills are the hallmarks of the disorder, there has not yet been strong scientific evidence that the immune system is implicated as well. We now need to design carefully controlled studies that tell us even more about the way in which a dysfunctional immune system may or may not play a role in the disorder itself."

Van de Water, along with co-investigator of the study Paul Ashwood, assistant professor of medical microbiology and immunology at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, isolated immune cells from blood samples taken from 30 children with autism and 26 typically developing children aged between two and five years of age. The cells from both groups were then exposed to bacterial and viral agents that usually provoke T-cells, B cells and macrophages - primary players in the immune system.

Of the agents tested in the study - tetanus toxoid, lippopolysaccharide derived from E. coli cell walls, a plant lectin known as PHA, and a preparation of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine antigens - the researchers found clear differences in cellular responses between patients and controls following exposure to the bacterial agents and PHA.

In response to bacteria, the researchers saw lower levels of protein molecules called cytokines in the group with autism. Cytokines function as mediators of the immune response, carrying messages between B, T and other immune cells. They also are known to be capable of having profound effects on the central nervous system, including sleep and the fever response. Immune system responses to PHA, in contrast, produced more varied cytokine levels: Higher levels of certain cytokines and lower levels of others.

According to Van de Water and Ashwood, these studies illustrate that under similar circumstances, the cytokine responses elicited by the T-cells, B-cells, and macrophage cell populations following their activation differs markedly in children with autism compared to age-matched children in the general population. Cytokines are known to affect mood and behavior, and while their specific role in the development of autism remains unclear, the potential connection is an intriguing area of research that warrants further investigation.

"This study is part of a larger effort to learn how changes in immune system response may make some children more susceptible to the harmful effects of environmental agents," said Kenneth Olden, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the federal agency that provided funding for the study. "A better understanding of the connection between altered immune response and autism may lead to significant advances in the early detection, prevention and treatment of this complex neurological disorder."

"We would like to take these findings and explore whether, for example, the cytokine differences are specific to certain subsets of patients with autism, such as those with early onset, or those who exhibit signs of autism later during development," Ashwood said. He added that the logical next step is to look directly at specific cell populations that may be responsible for the diverging responses between patients and controls.

This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, Ted Lindsay Foundation and Visceral. The UC Davis M.I.N.D. (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute is a unique collaborative center for research into the causes and treatments of autism, bringing together parents, scientists, clinicians and educators. For further information, go to

Friday, April 14, 2006

Oh, the things kids say!

So, at the rest stop today on the way to my mom's, Ryan asks for some water. Ok, no problem. After explaining that I wasn't buying him a $2 bottle of water from a machine, I got a cup of water from BK. Back at the van, Zach asks for some too, so I start by pouring some into the cup Ryan handed me. Once I was done, i realized it was Zach's cup. So, I handed it to Zach. Ryan became very upset. Apparently, he thought he should get the first cup of water since he's the one that asked me for it first. The following conversation ensues:

Ryan: I don't like you anymore, mommy.

Me: That's ok. You don't have to like me. But I still love you

At this, he stops and thinks for a bit. Once they are all buckled in their seats and I am buckling my seatbelt, the rest of the conversation:

Ryan: Mommy, maybe in a little bit I'll like you again.

Me: Ok, Ryan.

Kids......they come up with the funniest things, don't they?

Autism Fact of the Day

Tony Attwood


What is Asperger's Syndrome?

Dr Hans Asperger, an Austrian paediatrician, originally described Asperger’s Syndrome in 1944. The syndrome has more recently been classified as an autistic spectrum disorder. Children and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have an intellectual capacity within the normal range, but have a distinct profile of abilities that has been apparent since early childhood. The profile of abilities includes the following characteristics:
*A qualitative impairment in social interaction:

Failure to develop friendships that are appropriate to the child’s developmental level.
Impaired use of non-verbal behaviour such as eye gaze, facial expression and body language to regulate a social interaction.
Lack of social and emotional reciprocity and empathy.
Impaired ability to identify social cues and conventions.
*A qualitative impairment in subtle communication skills:

Fluent speech but difficulties with conversation skills and a tendency to be pedantic, have an unusual prosody and to make a literal interpretation.
*Restrictive Interests:

The development of special interests that is unusual in their intensity and focus.
Preference for routine and consistency.
The disorder can also include motor clumsiness and problems with handwriting and being hypersensitive to specific auditory and tactile experiences. There can also be problems with organisational and time management skills and explaining thoughts and ideas using speech. The exact prevalence rates have yet to be determined, but research suggests that it may be as common as one in 250. The aetiology is probably due to factors that affect brain development and not due to emotional deprivation or other psychogenic factors.

The characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome described above are based on the diagnostic criteria and current research and have also been modified as a result of my extensive clinical experience. I would like to provide a personalised description of Asperger’s Syndrome that also incorporates the person’s qualities as well as their difficulties.

From my clinical experience I consider that children and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have a different, not defective, way of thinking. The person usually has a strong desire to seek knowledge, truth and perfection with a different set of priorities than would be expected with other people. There is also a different perception of situations and sensory experiences. The overriding priority may be to solve a problem rather than satisfy the social or emotional needs of others. The person values being creative rather than co-operative. The person with Asperger’s syndrome may perceive errors that are not apparent to others, giving considerable attention to detail, rather than noticing the ‘big picture’. The person is usually renowned for being direct, speaking their mind and being honest and determined and having a strong sense of social justice. The person may actively seek and enjoy solitude, be a loyal friend and have a distinct sense of humour. However, the person with Asperger’s Syndrome can have difficulty with the management and expression of emotions. Children and adults with Asperger’s syndrome may have levels of anxiety, sadness or anger that indicate a secondary mood disorder. There may also be problems expressing the degree of love and affection expected by others. Fortunately, we now have successful psychological treatment programs to help manage and express emotions.

Tony Atwood website

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Passion of the Christ

I must first confess that we bought this movie 2 yrs ago when it first came out. The same day, in fact. But, we hadn't watched it until today. That's right, a movie sitting in our stash for 2 yrs untouched and unwatched. It's not that we didn't want to see it. We obviously did since we bought it. It's more that finding 3 hrs to sit and watch a movie when you know the kids are asleep and won't be waking up and coming downstairs is next to impossible! And, there's really only one time of the year to watch the movie.....Lent. I mean, you can watch it anytime, I suppose, but if it's your first time, it should be during Lent. I'm finding it more meaningful that we watched it during Holy Week....

Anyway, it was fabulous! So much better than I had heard, and I had heard nothing but great things! The reviews couldn't do it justice. I have never seen a more moving, heart-wrenching movie in my life. I admit that I have not read the Gospels like I should have (though I have read other books). Just the bits that we read about during Christmas and Easter, and random other bits. So there were things that I didn't know about/realize until I saw this movie. My heart is still racing. I just can not describe how this movie made me feel. If it weren't 12:30 at night, I'd grab my Bible and read on! Perhaps tomorrow....

Now I'm off to bed to give my mind (and heart) a rest. I half wish I weren't going home for Easter so that I could pick my pastor's brain. Eh, so I'll have to wait a week. That will just give me time to pnder a bit more!


Potty training and a broken window

Here's another layout I did for the font challenge on Scrapbook-bytes. The font (my title) is University Script. I love big, loopy, elegant font's like this!

Ok, so it isn't really good quality...I wonder why....but if you wanna see it, you can click here for a better look...

Now, onto not so fun stuff....

So, Ryan decided to break one of their bedroom windows yesterday morning. Sure hope it doesn't cost us too much to fix. Things are already tight around here, we didn't need that on top of it all. Then to top it off, he was up there last night, when he was supposed to be sleeping, pushing on it.......he was trying to push one of the "V" shaped broken pieces in, toward the screen (or, out, I suppose). I swear, he's an accident waiting to happen! Zach cut his finger slightly on that same piece of glass today. Thank goodness they fixed it today!

Oh, I think this is FINALLY the turn I've been waiting for! Alex has only had 1 accident in the last 3 days and that was Monday morning. He's even been dry through his naps both days! Now that I've said all of this, I've jinxed it, I know, lol. But I think he's finally interested. Maybe it's all the praise, maybe it's the candy. I don't really care, as long as he keeps it up!

And for those of you who think I'm being nad by giving him candy, my kids NEVER get candy, unless it's Halloween or Easter! Infact, this Halloween, I had to throw out last years Halloween candy! That's how seldom they get candy. But, hey! It's a GREAT motivator for potty training!

We went to the zoo with my SAHM group yesterday. That was lots of fun. The boys had a blast. Poor Shannon! Hers were the only girls and they wanted to run with the boys! Well, Lexi did, anyway. My boys inspired one of the others to come out of his shell :) A is not a climber, but after a little prompting and some careful observation, he was climbing with the twins in no time :) Such fun!

Now I'm off to do yet MORE laundry...that never-ending pile....

Sunday, April 09, 2006

$30 closer to my goal!

Thanks to some wonderful people at church, I'm $30 closer to my goal for the March of Dimes Walk America. I am fully committed to meeting my goal and I think I'll be able to do it!

Just wanted to say thanks to all who have donated so far. Now, I'm off to do more laundry!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Another page!

Ok, so I finished another page today. It's pretty simple, but I didn't use anyone else's stuff, so for me it's a big accomplishment! This one was for the SBB font challenge. I just love the fridge magnet font! So much fun can be had with this and I'm sure I'll use it alot! Take a look:

I've had somewhat of a scrapping block lately. I've been doing a lot of tutorials to try to get used to everything I can do in Photoshop. I hope to be able to make my own elements slowly but surely, and eventually my own kits. Maybe I'll be able to get in the SBB store and start selling them ;) Wouldn't that be nice? I want to focus on twin stuff, as that seems to be a hottly requested thing, at least over at SBB.

Well, I'm off to try something else!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Shout-out to my SAHM peeps!

You guys ROCK! Thanks so much for wanting to participate in this with me!

I posted on my SAHM board asking if anyone was doing the March of Dimes walk and if they were, maybe we could walk together. Quite a few were interested, so I changed my individual status to a team status. Now we're the Stay-at-home mom's of Erie! I love you guys!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Who is NOW the disadvantaged sex?

As I was perusing Erie blogs for interesting things to read, I came across a blog that said girls are more disadvantaged than boys are, education wise. Now, I'm not trying to slam this person, but I have a different point of view, with research to back it up.

10 or even 5 years ago, this may have been true. But here's the new research on that topic: boys are falling behind girls in education. We've put a lot of "safeguards" in place for girls to achieve in school. These safeguards were meant to level the playing field. but guess what? They didn't. While girls were being given every advantage and opportunity to succeed, we have neglected the boys. Now, this is what has happened:

"By almost every benchmark, boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind. In elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. High-school boys are losing ground to girls on standardized writing tests. The number of boys who said they didn't like school rose 71 percent between 1980 and 2001, according to a University of Michigan study. Nowhere is the shift more evident than on college campuses. Thirty years ago men represented 58 percent of the undergraduate student body. Now they're a minority at 44 percent. This widening achievement gap, says Margaret Spellings, U.S. secretary of Education, 'has profound implications for the economy, society, families and democracy.'" ~Newsweek

You can read the full article here

That's not enough research for you? Ok, how about this:

"Based on an extensive analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Study (NLS), the High School & Beyond (HSB), and the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), Riordan (1998) concluded there is no evidence for a one-way gender gap favoring males beyond 1992 in public secondary schools. As of 1992, females possess a significant advantage on most central educational outcome indicators. Boys, rather than girls, are now on the short end of the gender gap in many secondary school outcomes." ~ Eric Digest

This is a full blown digest full of research to support this. You can read the digest here.

Do I need to show more? I'm sure you've gotten the gist. I'm not trying to demean girls. I am one! I'm just saying that enough is enough in the "gender war/gap" stuff. In trying to give the edge to girls, we have left the boys in the dust. This is a big reason why I am not sure public school is a great place for our boys. Not to mention the lack of strong, positive male role models. I could go on all night!

If you have boys, I strongly recommend the book "Bringing up boys" by Dr. James Dobson. Fabulous look into what is happening to our boys in todays society.

Ok, I am off my soap box, now :)

Autism Fact of the Day

Autism Fact of the Day

A way to think about autism~by Gary J. Heffner

A Way to Think about Autism
The way we think about a problem determines how we will approach and deal with it. For example, one day Jesus told his disciples that rich people (whom the disciples assumed were blessed by God) would have a very difficult time getting into Heaven because of their love for wealth. The disciples could not understand how anyone would overcome this problem and get to Heaven. Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." Jesus changed their outlook with one sentence.

A more-local example: For most of us, a flat tire would not be a trip-ending problem. We know we have a jack, a spare tire, and the ability to change a tire or at least can get someone else to change it. However, if we have never experienced anything like a flat tire, or have no idea how to change a tire, or do not have the jack or spare tire, or if we have no idea what is wrong with the car, . . . our trip is over! Similarly, if we believe autism is an impossible-to-handle problem or that people with autism cannot learn, our "trip" is over as well. What we believe about autism and the people who have autism will determine the approach we use in teaching them.

What we must believe about a person with autism is that he is a person first, not a "behavior." He is a person with autism, not an "autistic" person. I am not saying this to be "politically correct". It just helps me to see the person before I see the behavior. If I am dealing with a behavior, I will work on getting rid of the behavior or changing the behavior. I will be less friendly and understanding with a "behavior" than I would be to a "person" who happens to be displaying a behavior. Do you see the distinction? We need to see the personality of the individual with autism as separate from the autism. We need to know that even if the autism could be magically removed, the personality of the person would still be there, for better or for worse.

Years ago I trained caseworkers who worked with parents who had abused their children. My message to them, as difficult as it was to put into practice, was to "find something you like about the parents." This message certainly applies to those of us working with persons with autism. Look beyond the behavior to the personality, to the personal qualities, to the "soul" of the person with autism.

We also need to understand that persons with autism are more normal than abnormal. The person with autism has normal feelings and reactions, but may have a very different way of expressing those feelings and reactions. Many persons with autism communicate their emotions through their behavior. The symptoms of autism include behaviors that all of us engage in at one time or another. The difference is one of quality, that is, how often the behavior is performed, how long is the behavior engaged in, and is the behavior performed to the exclusion of other behaviors? The person with autism tends to perform certain behaviors that, in moderation, would be considered normal or typical. The person with autism may lack the ability to use cues around him that tell him whether or not his behavior is socially acceptable. The person with autism may lack the ability or interest to change his behavior to fit social expectations. For example, when I was a kid, I was shy and had a hard time looking people in the eye (one of the symptoms of autism). As a teenager, my first job was a pinsetter in a bowling alley. Since I never had contact with people (only bowling pins and balls), I had no problems with this habit. However, when I got my next job as a counter person at McDonalds, I had to force myself to look people in the eye. The difference between myself and a person with autism (even though we had similar behaviors) is that I could use the cues around me to correct the behavior. I also have a habit of biting my cuticles, however, I can stop myself long enough to complete this article; a person with autism may prefer to bite his cuticles (or other body surfaces) to the exclusion of anything else.

Understanding the need behind the behaviors in autism can help us to teach other ways to meet those needs. For example, a person who bites his hand for hours at a time may have a need for oral or tactile stimulation. It may be that chewing gum or a vigorous arm massage will meet this same need for sensory stimulation but in a more socially acceptable way. Sometimes behaviors in autism are performed to the exclusion of other behaviors because the person is not aware that he has a choice. Teaching other behavior options (that still meet the basic need) gives the person more choices. More choices mean more freedom.

The biggest "handicap" a person with autism may have is our assumption of what the person can and cannot do! We need to raise our expectations for persons with autism, not lower them. Do not allow a persons IQ score to determine what activities you will present to the person (and thereby limit the person). Remember how an IQ score is obtained. An IQ test requires social interaction (strike one for a person with autism), communication (strike two?), and behavior that does not interefere with testing (oops, strike three?). All persons with autism can learn, but they may learn in different ways. This belief helps me to look at what I am doing to support the persons learning, rather than just look at what the person is or is not doing. When we say a person cannot learn, we are actually saying that we cannot teach him!

A case in point: a child I worked with recently was quite violent with me. He would bite, pinch, and hit me whenever I tried to teach him anything. I began to doubt that I could ever help him. However, finally (with God's help) I stumbled upon something that was truly motivating for him, which I could use as a reinforcer for his working. The end result was that he worked for a full twenty minutes each session to earn the reinforcer without any aggression! The young man's behavior was not the problem. My lack of knowledge as to what was truly motivating for him was. That is not to say that another person can be blamed for another person's bad behavior. It merely says that behavior is a two-way street. The person has a part to play (the behavior) as does the teacher or parent (the response).

Thinking about autism in this way has helped me to be a better teacher and trainer. It has helped me to look a little deeper, to look at what I am doing to help or hurt the situation, and to always have high expectations for those persons with autism I work with. It will not cure the autism, but it may help to expand the person's world even just a little bit. And that's a good place to start. Now get out there and do some good!

original source

Dateline NBC targets NASCAR

Let's start by citing what I'm talking about. From ESPN.Com:

NASCAR outraged by 'Dateline' racial story approach: NASCAR said it was "outrageous" that "Dateline NBC" targeted one of its race tracks last weekend for a possible segment on anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. NASCAR said NBC confirmed it was sending Muslim-looking men to a race, along with a camera crew to film fans' reactions. The NBC crew was "apparently on site in Martinsville, Va., walked around and no one bothered them," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Wednesday. "It is outrageous that a news organization of NBC's stature would stoop to the level of going out to create news instead of reporting news," Poston said. "Any legitimate journalist in America should be embarrassed by this stunt. The obvious intent by NBC was to evoke reaction, and we are confident our fans won't take the bait," he said. NASCAR is in the final year of a broadcasting agreement with NBC Sports. "'Dateline' is looking into this story," NBC said in a statement. "We were intrigued by the results of a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll and other articles regarding increasing anti-Muslim sentiments in the United States. "It's very early on in our newsgathering process, but be assured we will be visiting a number of locations across the country and are confident that our reporting team is pursuing this story in a fair manner," it said.(


If you want to illustrate more media absurdity and bias here is a great example. Dateline NBC "planted" Muslim looking Americans at the last NASCAR race in Martinsville VA to see what reaction it would get from its fans. Now, I see this for what it is. NASCAR fans are looked at as Conservative, hillbillies, ignorant rednecks and bigots and I figure Dateline figured it would get the reaction they wanted, by proving the results of a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll and other articles regarding increasing anti-Muslim sentiments in the United States.

I have a couple questions for NBC. First NBC is a huge sponsor and has a contract with NASCAR... NASCAR is one of the HOTTEST and fastests growing sports right now why would you attack and try to discriminate the fans you hope to draw in the second half of the NASCAR season. I have also heard that Brian Williams, of NBC Nightly News, is a HUGE NASCAR Fan.

Plus, we all know why they went to a NASCAR race not the "Mall of Americas" which would have a better make-up of all america... Instead they figured they would get the results they wanted at a NASCAR Race based on their own BIASED view of NASCAR.

As a NASCAR fan, I am quite offended by NBC's viewpoint of us fans. They assume we're uneducated idiots. When in reality, most NASCAR fans are college educated. I mean, look at the drivers....Ryan Newman, a fellow South Bend native and Purdue Grad.has an Engineering degree! I know he's not the only one, either. But, c'mon! To assume we are dense and dim-witted....PLEASE!

What really agrivates me is that NBC did this to be able to prove that what they think about us is true! To be honest, I hope that NASCAR pulls their contract!