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Study Says MMR Vaccine Not Linked to Autism; Some Parents Not Convinced

Since 2001, thousands of parents of autistic children have filed suit and asked for damages through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program at Health and Human Services Administration. They allege that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused their child to develop autism.

Now special masters in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that three families cannot be compensated through this program because there is no scientific evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism.

Despite this and previous court rulings based on similar scientific evidence, a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that about 25 percent of all parents still believe that vaccines cause autism, more than 50 percent worry when their child gets vaccinated, and 11.5 percent have refused at least one vaccine.

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Autism Symptoms Not Detectable Before 6 Months

A new study from the University of California in Davis found that symptoms of autism occur in the latter part of the first year of life, and are not detectable in babies under six months old.

Instead of asking parents about their children's symptoms, a research team led by Professor Sally Ozonoff observed and recorded children's smiles, babbles, and eye contact at ages six, 12, 18, 24, and 36 months old.

"This study tells us that screening for autism early in the first year of life probably is not going to be successful because there is not going to be anything to notice," said Dr. Ozonoff.

This study appeared in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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Delayed Brain Maturation Associated with Autism in Boys

A new research study from the University of Edinburgh found that the part of the brain that responds to touch is formed late in laboratory animals with Fragile X syndrome.

The implication of this study is that people with autism may be hypersensitive to physical contact because certain parts of their brain are late to mature.

"The study has implications for the treatment of autism since the changes in the brains of Fragile X and autistic people are thought to significantly overlap," said Professor Peter Kind, lead author of the study. "Autism is common in people with Fragile X syndrome."

Only males have Fragile X syndrome.

Labels: autism, fragile x syndrome

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Researchers Explore Connection Between Parents' Age, Children's Autism

A University of California, Davis study has found that babies whose mothers are over 40 years old have twice the rate of autism. However, the research team reported that this does not mean that older parents are solely responsible for recent increases in autism cases.

In their report, the researchers noted that while the number of mothers over 40 in California has increased by 300 percent since the 1990s, autism has risen by over 600 percent. Older mothers are less than 5 percent of the population.

The UC study found that babies whose fathers are over 40 have a 59 percent increased risk for autism if their mothers are under 30, but no increased risk if their mothers are over 30 years.

Labels: autism, causes, parents

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Tylenol After Vaccines Linked to Increased Risk of Autism

A University of California, San Diego study found that children who took Tylenol after the administration of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR) had six times the risk for autism.

Dr. S.T. Schultz studied 86 children with autism and 80 control children and found there was no similar risk if the children were given ibuprofen after vaccination.

Many parents of children with autism , blamed mercury in vaccines for their children's conditions; however, this cause has been ruled out by previous studies.

The new study appears in the journal Autism.

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Autism Clusters Linked to Education, Ethnicity, Geography

Having educated parents does not cause autism. However, more cases of autism are diagnosed in areas where parents are older, better educated, and white.

More cases of autism are also diagnosed in communities near regional service centers for people with autism, according to a new study from University of California at Davis.
  • UCD researchers set out to find environmental factors that may cause autism clusters in certain geographic areas.
  • They were unable to find links to pollution or chemical exposure, and they suggest that areas with high rates of autism are probably just places where parents are more likely to obtain a diagnosis for a child.
  • Differences in parents' age, education, and ethnicity could explain autism clusters most of the time.
"These clusters correlated with neighborhoods of higher education or neighborhoods that were near a major treatment center for autism," said senior author Irva Hertz-Picciotto.

The study appeared in the journal Autism Research.

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Parental Training Benefits Autistic Youth

Training parents of autistic children how better to cope with their offspring's difficult behaviors may also help the children improve, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:
  • Researchers from Yale, Indiana, and Ohio State universities as well as the University of Pittsburgh had parents attend 15 or more hour long sessions over a six-month period.
  • Parents learned to use positive reinforcement, teach better communication, and other techniques. Behavioral therapists also came to their homes twice a week.
  • Children of parents enrolled in the program improved more than those children on medication alone.
"Because parents are the agents of change, parent training is less expensive than many other forms of psychosocial interventions," the researchers wrote in their report. "The growing population of children with pervasive developmental disorders makes the availability of effective behavioral interventions an urgent need."

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Kids with ADHD, Autism Benefit from Extra Assistance with Language Comprehension

A paper by Jakob Asberg of the University of Gothenburg advises parents and teachers of children with ADHD or autism to pay particular attention to any problems the children are having with language comprehension.

A Nov. 12 article on the medical news website ScienceDaily provided the following details about Asberg's findings:
The findings in the five studies that comprise [Asberg's] thesis demonstrate that pupils with autism or Asperger's syndrome often have problems with comprehension, in particular with continuous texts such as stories. However, it was common that these children and young people were able to read individual words correctly and with a satisfactory flow, even though there was significant variation within the group in this respect.

"Both reading and spelling words and reading comprehension seem to be difficult for a lot of children with ADHD. It is important that teachers, parents and other professionals are vigilant regarding the occurrence of such difficulties and that the pupils are offered the support to which they are entitled," [Asberg said]

Labels: autism, students, reading, language

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Gov't Report Says One in 100 Kids has Autism

A new government study indicates that one in 100 American children has autism. This is up from the 2007 federal estimate that one in 150 children suffers from this lifelong disorder that impedes communication and social interactions.

Since boys are four times more likely to have the disorder than girls, the new study indicates that one in 58 boys is autistic.

The new estimate is the result of a telephone survey of 78,037 parents by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The figures are more accurate than those in the past because the CDC used a network of 11 sites around the country to gather exact information concerning childrens medical and special education needs.

"[The new study] provides what scientists call convergent validity-- no matter how you shake the bushes, you come up with this 1 percent," said Richard Roy Grinker, an expert on autism at George Washington University.

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Doctors Question Parents' Use of Home Screening Device for Autism

A device that has been marketed as a way to detect autism in children under four years old has some doctors worried.
  • The LENA Language and Autism Screener is a small monitor meant to fit into children's overalls.
  • Children ages two to four years old wear the device and overalls for 12 hours, and then their parents mail the device back to the company for evaluation.
  • The results of the test are based on the child's language ability, which is not always an accurate test for autism.
According to the spokesperson for the manufacturers of the device, parents need to bring the information to a professional, because "it is not a diagnosis, it is a detection."

Parents' reliance on the devices may due to the brevity of many doctor's appointments. Some "well baby" visits last about 10 minutes -- and parents who suspect something is wrong may believe that their pediatrician is not taking the time to address their concerns.

Labels: autism, screening, health_care

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Autism Associated with Early Brain Development

Autism may develop in the last months of the first year of life, and it may involve enlargements of certain areas of the brain, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina.
  • Researchers studied 50 children with autism and 33 children without the disorder.
  • They used brain scans and other tests when the children were ages two and four years old.
  • The children with autism were more likely to have amygdala enlargements.
  • The amygdala is a brain area associated with several functions, including processing faces and emotions.
Amygdala disturbances early in development disrupt the appropriate assignment of emotional significant significance to faces and social interest action, lead author Dr. Matthew W. Mosconi wrote in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Dr. Mosconi and his colleagues plan to keep following the children in this study for several more years.

Labels: autism, brain development

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Autism Impairs Ability to Interpret Body Language

Adults with autism may be unable to see and read body language, according to a new study from Great Britain.

Dr. Anthony Atkinson of the Durham University showed adults with autism spectrum disorder videos of body movements. The videos had no faces or sounds on them. The viewers could not identify emotions such as anger or joy through body language alone, although adults without autism were able to do so.

"We use other's body movements and postures as well as people's faces and voices to gauge their feelings," Dr. Atkinson said. "People with autism are less able to use these cues to make accurate judgments about how others are feeling."

The study and Dr. Atkinson's comments appeared in the journal Neuropsychologia.

Labels: autism, body language, communication

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Autistic Kids Not at Risk for Increased Digestive Problems

Although many parents of autistic children try various diets to alleviate their children's symptoms, a new study from the Mayo Clinic finds that autistic children have about the same number of digestive problems as children without the disorder.
  • Dr. Samar Ibrahim and his colleagues compared 121 autistic children to 242 children without the disorder and found very few statistical differences between the two groups in terms of digestive disorders.

  • The children with autism in the study were more likely to be picky eaters or constipated, but they did not have more diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, bloating, acid reflex disorder or vomiting.

  • Many parents of autistic children try nutritional supplements and anti-fungus medications as well as diets that restrict chemical preservatives and colorings, gluten, sugar and other ingredients.
This study appeared in the journal Pediatrics.

Labels: autism, research, health

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Autism Often Undiagnosed, British Researcher Says

A study from the United Kingdom found that autism may be much more common and under-diagnosed than has been previously thought.

Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen concluded that for every three children who are diagnosed with autism, another two also have it but are undiagnosed:
  • Dr. Baron-Cohen and his colleagues surveyed more than 11,700 parents of children living in Cambridge, Great Britain, using the Childhood Autism Screen Test and other tools.
  • The group had 41 cases of children with diagnosed autism.However, another eleven children met the criteria.
  • This means the true prevalence of autism may be closer to one in 64 children, although the undiagnosed children most likely have mild symptoms.
This study appeared in the British Journal of Medicine.

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Teen Uses Horses to Teach Calming Techniques to Kids with ADHD

Danielle Herb is 15 years old. She's also a business owner and CEO. Her company, Drop Your Reins, teaches self-calming techniques to children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as well as young people with certain types of autism.
Drop Your Reins is a revolutionary company geared toward helping parents to transition their ADD/ADHD and autistic kids off prescription medication. Danielle Herb, a 15-year-old entrepreneur, developed the program with the help of her mom, Marianne St. Clair. (Source: Huliq News)
Danielle and Marianne co-teach the program, working not only with the kids, but with their parents. The mother/daughter teaching team also helps students understand the importance of diet and nutrition and the role allergies can play in ADHD and autism.

Drop Your Reins is one of many programs that employs equine-assisted education to help young people with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions.

Labels: autism, equine-therapy, Attention_Deficit_Hyperactivity_Disorder

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Small Study Says Some Kids Can Overcome Autism

A small study that was funded by the National Institute of Health indicates that between 10 and 20 percent of children with autism can recover from it.

Dr. Deborah Fein of the University of Connecticut studied 20 children who had been diagnosed with autism before age five years, but who no longer met the criteria by age seven or so.
  • The children tended to have above-average IQs and suffered only mild symptoms when diagnosed.
  • They recovered by undergoing intensive behavioral therapy that took between thirty and forty hours per week.
  • About three-fourths of them still had other problems such as nervous tics, attention deficit disorder, and phobias.
Dr. Fein and her colleagues will perform MRIs on the children who recovered to determine if physical changes occurred in their brains.

Previous studies found that between three and 25 percent of autistic kids can recover. However, Dr. Fein cautioned that recovery is "not a realistic expectation for the majority of kids."

During the upcoming summer months, children with Asperger Syndrome, high-fuctioning autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities, and related conditions may benefit from attending a summer camp for exceptional children.

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MRIs Find Brain Abnormalities in Autistic Kids

Toddlers with autism show enlarged amygdala, a portion of the brain that processes faces and emotions, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Matthew Mosconi and his colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to scan the brains of 50 children with autistic spectrum disorders and 30 children without the the disorders. All the children were between the ages of two and four.

"Alterations of the amygdala may be associated with the core deficits of autism," Dr. Mosconi said in the May issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

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MRI Used in Babies to Diagnose Autism

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are experimenting with MRI scans in infants in an effort to find a way to diagnose autism earlier.

"We're just terrible at identifying them at six months, even 12 months," said Dr. Kelly Botteron, child psychiatrist. "We really need something more like a laboratory test."

She and others are testing siblings of autistic children because they are at higher risk for the condition. This study will be ongoing for five years.

If treatment starts early, children have a better chance of functioning at higher levels. Autism is diagnosed every 20 minutes in the United States, and affects one in 150 children. The condition affects communication skills and social interaction, and involves repetitive behaviors.

Labels: autism, screening, testing

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Can Robots Evaluate Emotions of Autistic Kids?

Researchers at Vanderbilt University are experimenting with using robots to monitor the emotional states of autistic children.

Professors Wendy Stone and Nilanjan Sarkar believe that robots could eventually help these children learn social skills. Children with autism spectrum disorder - which affects about one in 150 children - have difficulties "reading" other people and communicating with them.

Stone and Sarkar connect children ages 13 to 16 years old to battery sensors that measure their heart rates, temperatures, and muscle and skin responses. Information from the robots indicates when a child is becoming upset. Since each child responds differently to certain stimuli, this information must be individualized. For example, one child may avoid eye contact and start to tantrum if someone stares at him too often. The idea is to program the robot to help the child modulate his response to upsetting stimuli.

So far the robots are as accurate as trained therapists in predicting behaviors.

These studies appear in the journals International Journal of Human Computer Studies and IEEE Transactions on Robotics.

Labels: autism, emotions, robots

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Prenatal Autism Test Nears Completion

Scientists are making progress in the effort to develop a prenatal test for autism.

Previous research studies have found higher levels of the male hormone testosterone in the fluids of babies who are born with autism, thereby opening the way to a prenatal test for the disorder. Autism now affects one in 150 American children, with symptoms ranging from severe mental incapacity to mild social impairments.

Though the test promises to provide significant insights into fetal wellness, the procedure is not without it critics.

Autism expert Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, a professor at Cambridge University, believes that terminating pregnancies based on such prenatal testing could lead to fewer people being born who are gifted in mathematics. Baron-Cohen explained that autism becomes more common at the extremes of math excellence.

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Autism Associated with Genetics, First-Borns, Older Parents

Two new studies have shed some additional light on the genetic basis of autism.

Autism, a developmental disorder that affects one in 150 American children, could be similar to Down Syndrome in that the risk for developing the disorder increases with the age of the parents when the child is born.

  • The first study, which was led by Dr. Maureen Durkin of the University of Wisconsin, analyzed data on 300,000 U.S. births and 1,200 cases of autism. Dr. Durkin's team found an increased risk of autism among older parents and first-borns.

    The autism risk was found to increase by 20 percent for every ten year's increase in parental ages. The ages of the mother and father both mattered.

    First-born children were also at increased risk, perhaps because some families stop having children after they find out their first child has special needs. Dr. Durkin also speculated that first-born children might be exposed to more toxins from their mothers' bodies, which can put them at a higher risk for autism.

    If a mother is over 35 and a father over 40, their first-born is at triple the risk for autism.
  • The second study was from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. John Constantino, M.D., and his colleagues identified two regions of DNA associated with autism.

    Dr. Constantino believes that the genetic basis of autism is complex, with many genes and genetic variations contributing to the syndrome.

    "Genetic factors tend to interact with one another," he said. "One gene might increase risk by 10 percent, but two genes in proper combination increases it by ten-fold."
Dr. Constantino's study appeared in Biological Psychiatry.

Labels: autism, parents, genetics

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Utah May Require Insurance to Pay for Autism Treatments

A Utah woman whose son recovered from autism is working to change laws in her state so that all autistic preschoolers can receive similar treatments. Leeann Whiffen's son, Clay, underwent two years of "applied behavior therapy" as a toddler, costing her about $30,000 a year. Mrs. Whiffen mortgaged her home and used credit cards to pay for it.

William Jensen, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah, supports the measure. He said that studies show that 30% to 40% of higher functioning autistic children who receive at least two years of such therapy are "indistinguishable from normal children ten years down the line."

"They are probably still autistic, but they've made such dramatic gain that you cannot distinguish them from other kids," he said. He acknowledged that it is impossible to predict which children will benefit from early childhood treatments.

State Senator Howard Stephenson will sponsor the bill requiring insurance companies to pay for the therapy with a cap of $30,000 per year. The bill is called "Clay's Law."

Labels: autism, treatment, insurance

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Autism Slows Down Sound Processing

Autistic children may process sounds more slowly than normal children, which partially explains why they have problems in communication.

"Twenty milliseconds does not sound like much," said lead researcher Dr. Timothy Roberts of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "But it means that these kids are on the 'el" (in the word elephant) while the rest of the world is on the 'phant.'"

He and his colleagues used magnetoencephalography to measure 64 autistic children ages 6 to 15, and found a delay of one-fiftieth of a second in sound processing compared to a control group of children without the disorder.

"Since we speak about four syllables a second," Dr. Roberts said, "the autistic brain, being slower to process syllables, could easily get to the point of being overloaded." He presented his report to the Radiological Society of North America, noting that the new technique could prove valuable as a screening method for young children.

Autism has the symptoms of poor communication, repetitive behaviors, and avoidance of physical contact with other people. It affects one in 150 children.

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Autism Slows Ability to Process Sounds

Autistic children may process sounds more slowly than normal children, which partially explains why they have problems related to communication.

"Twenty milliseconds does not sound like much," said lead researcher Dr. Timothy Roberts of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "But it means that these kids are on the 'el" [in the word elephant] while the rest of the world is on the 'phant.'"

Roberts and his colleagues, who used magnetoencephalography to measure 64 autistic children ages six to 15, found a delay of one-fiftieth of a second in sound processing compared to a control group of children without the disorder.

"Since we speak about four syllables a second," Roberts said, "the autistic brain, being slower to process syllables, could easily get to the point of being overloaded." He presented his report to the Radiological Society of North America, noting that the new technique could prove valuable as a screening method for young children.

Symptoms of autism include poor communication, repetitive behaviors, and avoidance of physical contact with other people. The disorder is believed to affect one in 150 children.

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Fertility Treatments, Epilepsy Drug May Raise Risk of Autism

Two new studies of autism link the disorder with taking a certain drug for epilepsy during pregnancy, or having fertility treatments.

The first study was from the Liverpool and Manchester Neurodevelopment Group in Great Britain. Researchers looked at 632 children with no family histories of autism. The 64 children whose mothers took valprodate during pregnancy had seven times the rate of autism.

Children exposed to epilepsy drugs other than valprodate were not at increased risk.

Previous studies have linked taking valprodate during pregnancy to birth defects such as spinal bifida and heart problems.

The second study, which took place at the University of California, involved 4,000 mothers and children from birth to age six. The risk for autism was four times greater among couples who had undergone treatments for fertility. In addition, these couples were 40 percent more likely to have children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities, or serious sight and hearing problems.

Labels: autism, epilepsy

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Families With Autistic Children Likely to Struggle Financially

A new government study - the first to look at the impact of autism on a family's finances - found that having an autistic child causes severe financial strain, partly because parents often quit their jobs to care for their child and partly because these children often need multiple treatments such as behavioral therapy, speech therapy, and medications.

The study, which appeared in the December 2008 issue of the journal Pediatrics, compared the expenses of parents with autistic children to those with children who had other special needs. Those with autistic children were three times more likely to quit their jobs or reduce their hours at work to care for children, and they were spending more on their child's health care. They were also more likely than parents of other special-needs children to have financial difficulties.

Author Michael Kogan and his colleagues at the U.S. Maternal and Child Care Bureau used survey data collected on over 40,000 children with special needs.

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects more than 500,000 American children. The symptoms can range from relatively mild problems in communication and social interaction to a debilitating syndrome that includes severe mental retardation.

Labels: autism, money, expenses

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Some Parents of Autistic Children Trying Unproven 'Chelation' Treatments

Many parents of autistic children are turning to chelation, which is the removal of metals from the body. The unproven theory is that metals such as mercury and lead can accumulate to toxic levels and cause symptoms of autism. Those undergoing chelation take drugs such as Dimercaptosuccinic Acid (DMSA) and editate calcium disodium.

So far, three children have died during chelation, including one five-year-old autistic boy.

Dr. Susan Swedo, director of the National Institute of Health's autism research, has proposed a study of the effects of chelation on autism. She wants to recruit 120 autistic children and give half of them chelation drugs and the other half placebos. This study has not been approved yet for safety reasons.

According to figures from the Interactive Autism Network at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, more than two percent of parents have tried chelation. This would translate to 3,000 children undergoing chelation at any given time.

Autism is a developmental disorder that occurs in about one out of every 150 children. The symptoms involve difficulties in communication and social interaction, sometimes characterized by repetitive behaviors. Symptoms can be mild to severe. Parents are often frustrated by the slow pace of autism research, and most have tried one or more of 300 untested, alternative treatments like chelation.

"If they hear about a new treatment, they feel the need to try it," said Dr. Paul Law, Director of Medical Informatics at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. "Anything that has a chance of benefiting their child - they're willing to give it a shot."

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Mom of Autistic Child Opens School for Special Needs Students in England

Suzanne Buckner's son, Freddie, has several learning challenges, including autism. His outbursts at school were so severe that he was barred from attending. Buckner was offered several other options, but felt no area program could handle children like her son, so she started a school of her own.
"Ms Gillies - a resourceful businesswoman - has been given the go-ahead to open a unique school for up to 10 children facing similar challenges to Freddie's. Freddies Reading, based in South Street, is the first of a planned nationwide chain of Special Educational Needs schools being set up by Ms. Gillies."
The school will provide education for children ages five to eleven who have needs including ADHD, behavioral disorders, and emotional issues. An estimated 58,000 children in England and Wales have violent tendencies that prevent them from attending regular schools. Source: Reading Evening Post (UK)

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Study Says MMR Vaccine Does Not Cause Autism

The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine does not raise a child's risk for autism, according to a major new study published in the journal Public Library of Science.

Researchers from Columbia School of Public Health, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Trinity College Dublin investigated the implications of a 1998 British study. That study found that children who had measles RNA in their gastro-intestinal tracts (GIs) were more likely to be autistic and to have GI problems.

The new study compared tissue biopsies from the GI tracts of children with autism and GI problems with those of children who had no developmental delays but who were undergoing biopsies for GI problems.

One of every 25 in the autistic group and one in 13 in the control group showed slight levels of measles RNA.

"This was a rigorous analysis," said Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of the School of Public Health Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "We found no evidence that gastrointestinal pathology consistently preceded autism, and we found that the MMR did not consistently precede either autism or GI pathology."

Rick Rollens, a father of an autistic child, said that the study does not exonerate the role of all vaccines. Mr. Rollens is a founder of the M.I.N.D. (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute at the University of California.

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University of Texas Studying Effects of Diet on Autistic Kids

Scientists at the University of Texas Health Center in Houston are trying to find out if autistic children benefit from a gluten-free, dairy-free diet.

The gluten-free diet is particularly difficult to follow because it eliminates common ingredients such as wheat, rye, barley, and most grains, as well as foods containing starch, most flavorings, emulsifiers, and stabilizers. The dairy-free diet cuts out all dairy foods, even those with milk as an ingredient.

Many parents of autistic children have told their doctors that the diet improved their children's symptoms and well-being, but this is among the first scientific studies.

The Texas researchers enrolled 38 autistic children ages 3 to 9 in a gluten-free, dairy free diet program. Half the children are receiving a placebo, and the other half are using gluten and milk powder. Stay tuned for the results.

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Mom Starts Awareness Event

Lynda Kovalcheck's son has autism. Because of his disability, even a simple trip to the grocery store can become a major event if something causes a meltdown. The disapproving and judging stares from others are enough to cause Kovalcheck to want to stay at home.
"But Kovalcheck doesn't think her son should have to stay at home just because he's misunderstood. So she came up with a solution: She's made it her mission to make sure more people understand families with disabilities."
She's putting her mission into practice by helping organize a Disability Awareness Night at the Merced Civic Center in Merced, California. The six moms who organized the event have kids with various disabilities, from autism to ADHD. They will share their stories in hopes of raising both awareness and empathy. Source: Merced Sun-Star

Labels: autism, awareness, disabilities

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Parents of Autistic Kids More Likely to Have Psychiatric Problems

A new study from the University of North Carolina links psychiatric problems to having children with autism.

Mothers with histories of depression and personality disorders, and parents of both sexes who had been hospitalized for psychiatric disorders or who had schizophrenia, had twice the risk of having a child with autism.

Researchers used the records of 1,237 children diagnosed with autism before age 10, along with the records of 31,000 children as their controls. This study appears in Pediatrics.

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Labels: autism, mental_health, genetics

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Experts Want Insurance Companies to Pay for Early Treatment for Autism

One of the foremost experts on autism is urging parents to have their babies screened for the disorder as early as possible, and to start treatment in children as young as 14 months.

Autism can be detected before age two, yet the average age of diagnosis is four and a half, according to Dr. Patricia Wright, a specialist at the Hawaii Department of Child and Adolescent Health.

Dr. Wright says that early intervention may be the best hope for autistic children, who now number almost one in 150. Such treatment costs as much as $50,000 a year, because it involves about 25 hours a week of one-on-one or one-on-two teaching. However, Dr. Wright says such intervention offers autistic children the best chance of growing up to become productive adults. Insurance coverage is cost-effective, she says, because "they learn independent skills so they don't need continued lifelong support."

Dr. Wright and other experts are asking government agencies and insurance companies to pay for treatment in young children, though outcome-based evidence is scant at this time. However, researchers at the University of Washington are currently studying whether early intervention can prevent the disorder in siblings of children with autism. Their results may determine the fate of early intervention programs.

Looking for a summer program for your autistic child? Located in upstate New York, Camp Huntington offers summer programs for children with special needs, including autism and Asperger's.

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April is Autism Awareness Month

April is "Autism Awareness Month" and April 2 was "World Autism Day," according to Lee Grossman, president of the American Autism Society. The society asked people to buy Autism Awareness bracelets and wear them on April 2.

Over 25 local autism societies hosted "Annual Walks for Hope and Autism Awareness" to raise money for research. Also, "Bounce for Autism" fundraising parties with inflatable playgrounds for children were held in cities all over the country. Volunteers went to Washington in April to lobby for the Combating Autism Act as well as more government funds for autism research.

Autism is a complex brain disorder that can range from mild to extremely severe, impairing communication and the ability to relate to other people. Today one in 150 children are autistic, with four times as many boys diagnosed than girls. The number of people with autism has increased tenfold since 1997, and no one knows why.

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Fever May Temporarily Block Symptoms of Autism in Kids

For years, parents and pediatricians have been telling stories about autistic children who become perfectly normal when they have fevers.

Now a new study from Baltimore Kennedy Kreiger Institute indicates having a fever of at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit may indeed restore an autistic child's abilities to interact and socialize by improving concentration, eye contact, and communication skills.

Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist who worked on the study, believes that fever may restore nerve cell communications in some regions of the brain after he and his colleagues observed thirty autistic children ages 2 to 18 years with fevers. The "fever effect" only appears to work in children.

As many as 1.5 million Americans suffer from autism.

This study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

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Labels: autism, concentration, fever

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Autism Costs the US Economy Over $35 billion Every Year

A new study indicates that every person with autism costs society $3.2 million over his or her lifetime. Autism costs the US economy about $35 billion every year.

The cost is mostly in lost wages and adult care, and not for childhood medical costs and therapy.

Researchers at Harvard University found that in the first five years of life, insurance companies and families spent about $35,000 every year on therapy for an autistic child. While the child is growing up, the disease costs the family about $43,000 annually, mostly in lost parental income. However, the big costs came for adults with autism. Many people with the disorder cannot work and rely on their parents to provide care. The cost of such an arrangement translates to about $52,000 a year.

This study appears in the April issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Learn more about Autism and Asperger's Syndrome at YourLittleProfessor.com.

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Delaying Parenthood Increases Risk for Autism in Children

Parents over 40 years old have a higher chance of having an autistic child, according to a new study by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, CA.

Women over 40 years have a 30 percent greater risk and men over 40 years have a 50 percent greater risk of having a child born with autism than parents ages 25 to 29. The researchers are uncertain why risk increases with age.

Lisa Croen and her colleagues analyzed 132,844 birth records from Kaiser Hospitals in northern California between 1995 and 1999. They adjusted for factors like the parents' educational levels, race and ethnicity before they concluded that parents' ages increases the risk for autism.

This study appears in the April issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

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Labels: autism, aspergers, parents

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British Doc Loses License Over Disproved Autism-Vaccine Claims

A British doctor who was the first to say autism was caused by vaccinations has lost his license to practice medicine in Great Britain.

  • In 1998 Dr. Andrew Wakefield published an article in the prestigious British journal Lancet, in which he described his study that linked a vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella to autism.
  • Ever since then, many parents in Great Britain have refused to have their children vaccinated
  • As a consequence, there are outbreaks of measles in that country every year.
  • Dr. Wakefield's original study had now been discredited.

Dr. Wakefield was found guilty of serious professional misconduct by Britain's General Medical Council.
 

Labels: vaccines, autism

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Urine Test May Detect Autism in Toddlers

Children with autism have subtle metabolic differences that show up in their urine. This means that doctors may someday be able to detect autism by simple urine tests.

  • Researchers at Imperial College London and the University of South Australia compared the urine of 39 children ages three to nine years old who have autism to that of their 28 siblings and 34 children in a control group.
  • They found "clear differences" between the samples of the control group and the children with autism, and "some differences" between samples of children with autism and their siblings.

"We hope that our findings might be the first step toward creating a simple urine test to diagnose autism at a really young age, although this is a long way off," said Dr. Jeremy Nicholson.

The study appears in the Journal of Proteome Research.
 

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Autistic Kids at Increased Risk for Digestive Problems

Two new studies found that children who have autism tend to have digestive problems, but a gluten-free diet will not help them.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University medical Center studied 1185 children ages 2 to 18 years old, who had been diagnosed with autistic symptoms. About 45% had problems such as abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. Children over seven years of age tended to have more such problems. About 70% also had sleep problems, according to the study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting.

The second study was from the University of Texas at Austin, where researchers went through 15 major previous studies published on the relationship between diet and autism. They concluded there is no scientific evidence that gluten-free diets improve an autistic child's behavior, and that such diets can reduce bone thickness.
 

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Major Study Says Autism Intervention Doesn't Improve Symptoms

A certain kind of intervention can improve the way autistic children relate to their parents but does not reduce their symptoms of autism, according to a new study from Great Britain.

Prof. Jonathan Green and his colleagues at the University of Manchester worked with 152 children ages two to four years old and their parents. Parents and children participated in 18 sessions with therapists in which parents learned how to adapt their interactions to their children's impairments.

"On the basis of our findings, we cannot recommend the addition of this intervention to treatment for the purpose of reduction in autism symptoms," said Dr. Green. "The intervention significantly alters parent/child dyadic social communication in ways that are associated with positive child outcomes in longitudinal studies of autism, and likely to be positive for parents themselves."

The study appeared in the British medical journal Lancet.
 

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In-Vitro Fertilization Linked to Increased Rate of Autism

Israeli researchers have found a link between autism and in vitro fertilization.

  • Dr. Ditza Zachar said that 10.5 percent of the 461 children with autism in her study had been conceived by IVF.
  • This rate is 7 percent higher than the general population in Israel.

Dr. Zachar said that her study was not definitive, because many of the mothers of the children in the study were older than average. Older maternal age is a factor that has been linked to autism.
 

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Autistic Youth More Likely to be Picky Eaters

A study of 13,000 British children found that children with autism tend to be picky eaters suffer from allergies. However, they are about the same height and weight as children without the disorder.

  • Parents of autistic children as young as six months old told researchers that their children to longer to eat and refused more new foods.
  • By the time the children with autism were ages four and five years old, 37% of their parents told researchers that they were very choosy eaters -- compared to only 14% of parents of children without the disorder.

"Although children with autism spectrum disorders are more difficult to feed and they eat less variety of food, this is not affecting the nutrients of their diet, their height, weight or BMIs," said Dr. Pauline Emmett of the University of Bristol.  "There doesn't seem to be any major cause for concern."

The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.
 

Labels: autism, eating_disorders

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Program Helps Autistic Students Adjust to College Life

Teenagers with high-functioning autism such as Asperger Syndrome, are usually able to do the academic work required in college. However, most get stuck on other issues involved in going away to college, such as self-care and daily living, money management, social interaction, adjusting to a new environment, and emotional regulation. They often have a naivety about other peoples' motives and an inability to form friendships with new acquaintances, leaving them vulnerable to bullying and sexual abuse.

ACCLAIM, a summer program at Robert Morris University, was designed to help autistic students learn to adjust to being away from home. For the first time this year, ACCLAIM includes a three-week program for students who want to go away to college.

ACCLAIM stands for Autism College and Community Life Acclimation and Intervention Model. The first program was held at the University of Pittsburgh and designed by the Watson Institute, which focuses on special needs children.  Participants are between 16 to 19 years old, and go over topics such as applying to college, handling stress and peers in a new social setting, and so forth.

Dr. Lori Zychowski,  a  designer of the program, said that former participants have provided many anecdotes about how ACLAIM helped them adjust to college environments.
 

Labels: autism, college

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Communication Problems Common Among Parents, Siblings of Autistic Kids

Children with autism disorders have unusual eye movements, but so do some of their parents, according to a new study from the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Professor Matthew Mosconi and his colleagues tested 57 parents or siblings of people with autism syndrome and 40 people unrelated to anyone with autism.

"Family members reported more communication abnormalities and obsessive-compulsive behaviors than the control group," Dr. Mosconi said. "The differences we found were very subtle. These are not the kinds of differences in eye movements that you would ever detect during a conversation with someone."

He said the tests may someday be a factor in identifying the brain systems at work in autism.

This study appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
 

Labels: autism, parenting, communication

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Workbox Program Designed to Help ADHD Students Stay Organized

Whether you homeschool or send your kids out of the house to get their education, organization is key for students with ADD/ADHD. A new trend that is designed to promote organization among autistic homeschooled children can help.

The trend is called Workboxing… The reason the workbox system can work for students with [ADHD] is because each drawer gives the child a clear beginning and end to the task. They open the drawer and remove the assignment, complete it, and move it to another drawer or basket.

Or they can put it back in the same drawer and close the drawer again. They must complete that task before moving on to the next task in the next drawer. [Source: Fort Wayne Homeschooling Examiner]

The benefit of this method is that is keeps the student focused on just one task. Rather than having all his books, notebooks and paperwork out simultaneously, only one assignment is visible at a time. It also keeps ADD/ADHD kids from getting distracted while digging through messy backpacks looking for homework.


 

Labels: autism, students, organization

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Facial Recognition Issues in Infancy May Signal Autism

Infants who do not like to look at faces may be at higher risk for autism, according to a new study from Kennedy Krieger Institute and the University of Delaware.

Researchers studied 25 six-month-old babies whose older siblings have autism syndrome, and compared them with a control group of 25 infants from families with no such medical histories.
The high-risk babies spent less time looking at their caretakers and more time focused on toys.

The author of the study, Rebecca Landa, said a lack of interest in people's faces is "a subtle difference that could easily be overlooked by parents and some professionals."

The study appears in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Labels: autism, symptoms

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Has Prof Discovered Simple Test to Diagnose Autism?

If you give very young children a choice between looking at geometric images or human faces and human activities, children with autism spectrum will prefer the geometric images, according to a new study from the University of California in San Diego.

Professor Karen Pierce said that if a child ages 14 to 42 months old spends more than 69% of the time looking at the geometric images, the chances for autism spectrum are 100% positive. Older children in her study tested in similar ways as younger ones.

According to her study, 40% of the toddlers with autism spectrum spent more time looking at abstract images compared to only 2% of normal children.

This study is considered a breakthrough because testing using images is easy, inexpensive, and non-invasive.

The study appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
 

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Siblings of Autistic Kids May Struggle with Speech Problems

One in five siblings of children with autism have some language delays or speech problems, according to a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"Researchers presume one child is affected and the other is not, but our findings suggest that although one child may have autism, while the other does not, it is very possible that both children are affected to some degree by genes that contribute to autism, "said John Constantino, lead author of the study.

Constantino found that 20% of siblings received a diagnosis of speech problems, and 50% had autistic qualities in their speech.

The study appears in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
 

Labels: autism, special-needs

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Docs Often Downplay Autism, ADHD Symptoms in Girls

A recent review of the medical records of 100 girls found that many had sought treatment for autism or ADHD, but had been ignored – or their symptoms had been downplayed by medical professionals.

“The thesis focuses primarily on 100 girls who, before reaching adulthood, went to the doctor on account of difficulties with social interaction and/or concentration at school or elsewhere… ‘They had also asked for help at an early stage, but hadn’t been given a proper diagnosis.’ [says Svenny Kopp, a doctoral student at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology…]” - Source: University of Gothenburg

A subsequent evaluation found that many of the girls exhibited evidence of either autism or ADHD. Many of those same girls also suffered from anxiety, depression or social behavior disorders. They also struggled in school, were often truant, and avoided sports and other extracurricular activities. Kopp hopes the findings in her thesis will encourage pediatricians and mental health professionals to take autism and ADHD in girls seriously, and offer treatments as soon as possible.


 

 

Labels: autism, diagnosis, girls

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Family Dogs Can Help Autistic Youth

According to of Carleton University's Cosmin Coltea (a developmental psychologist and dog trainer) simply having a pet dog could be therapeutic for children with disorders on the autism spectrum.

Pet dogs, on the other hand, may provide a similar level of emotional and behavioral therapy at a much lower cost.

Coltea told the Ottawa Metro that he had studied 20 families of children with autism -- and he found that families with dogs were more likely to have children with lower stress and fewer behavioral limitations.

In previous research, he reported that nearly half of the studied children with ASDs were strongly attached to their dogs.

Coltea himself has a 10-year-old son, Ryan, who has Asperger's Syndrome, a disorder that experts estimate is shared by 1 in 5,000 American children.
 

Labels: autism

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