About Autism News and Views

Autism News and Views will provide regular updates on news about Autism. In addition, we have provided important links to a wide variety of web sites that will provide you with information on Education, Health, Safety, Advocacy, Service Providers and much more. Use Autism News and Views as your source for the best information on the Autism Spectrum.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Imitation Is The Sincerest Form of Flattery; B.J., The Therapy Dog; $26.5 Million Grant for Autism Research; Best Higher Education Programs for Students with Autism; Holiday Gift Guide: Books About Autism

"It was ability that mattered, not disability, which is a word I'm not crazy about using."---Marlee Matlin

"Imitation Is The Sincerest Form of Flattery"

There's a lot of truth to that famous quote. A recent study out of Michigan State University appears to show that teaching children with autism to imitate others may improve their social skills. Researchers have long known that imitation is a critically important development skill. It enables children to interact and learn from one another in meaningful ways. This particular study analyzed children with autism ages 27 months to 47 months. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

B.J.: The Therapy Dog

Children with autism at the Madison Elementary School in Davenport, IA, have a really cool friend. His name is Buddy Junior or B.J. for short. He just so happens to be a 6-year old golden retriever. B.J. is also a therapy dog. The children's interaction with B.J. is an important life-skills learning experience.  Teacher James Cook said, "These guys are practicing their social and communication skills...The interaction is good for them."

B.J. has been visiting the school since he was 1 year old. "There have been times when the children have been tired and having meltdowns, and it kind of helps when B.J. walks in. It distracts them and the behaviors will stop," said Cook.
Quad-City Times

For more information on therapy dogs for autism, visit Autism Service Dogs of America at http://autismservicedogsofamerica.com/ and 4 Paws for Ability at http://www.4pawsforability.org/

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Are We Underestimating The Potential Of Children With Autism?; Another Source of Information on Autism; The 10 Commandments of Parenting; Suggested Christmas Gifts for Your Child; News You Can Use

"The limits placed on people with autism are those placed on them by others." Jerry Komar, Editor Autism News and Views

Are We Underestimating the Potential of Children with Autism?

That's a question that's being asked more often. A recent piece in Scientific American {"The Hidden Potential of Autistic Kids"} suggests we are.

Rose Eveleth, the author of the piece, points out researchers are beginning to rethink what the potential of children with autism really is. Their conclusion is worthy of additional study. We might actually be underestimating the overall abilities of children with autism (note: many of us in the field, including parents, have believed this for some time). For example, many researchers now believe the data we've been using for decades is faulty. In addition, it appears intelligence testing of children with autism may be one of the reasons. In fact, different tests of intelligence report very different pictures of their potential. The article recounts the experience of Laurent Mottron, a psychiatrist at the University of Montreal. In addition to Mottron's research, he summarizes his own experience growing up with two brothers with autism.

You can access the rest of this study at www.scientificamerican.com/

Another Great Source of Information on Autism

You don't have to look further than The Spectrum Times for another great source of information on autism. All you need to do is visit http://spectrumtimes.blogspot.com/. Do yourself a favor, visit the site today.

The 10 Commandments of Parenting: Moses Missed These

Autism Support Network presented "The 10 Commandments of Parenting A Child With Autism." They include:

  • You Shall Seek Out Therapists. Specifically, seek out Occupational/Speech/Physical therapists and ABA consultants.
  • You Shall Find A Support Group.
  • You Shall Engage in Floor Activities.
  • You Shall Play With Various Weird Textures.
  • You Shall Establish At Least Two Appropriate Toys To Play With.
  • You Shall Limit Your Communication To Two or Three Phrases.
  • You Shall Include Structure At Home.
  • You Shall Hold Hands While Walking in Public Places.
  • You Shall Establish A Play Date (with other children). It's important to ensure your child engages with other peers.
  • You Shall Believe That All Things Are Possible and Never Lose Hope.
Start today. We recognize some of these are easier said than done (as are the real 10 Commandments). Start with a few now and work your way through each one. The outcomes just might surprise you.

Suggested Christmas Gifts For Your Child 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tips On Overcoming Bullying; Self-Advocacy Booklet Now Available; Learn The Warning Signs of Dyslexia; Christmas Gifts For Children With Autism

"The only limits are, as always, those of vision."---James Broughton

Tips On Overcoming Bullying

The National Autistic Society reports that over 40% of children are bullied in school. Some studies report significantly higher rates, some as high as 90%. With such high rates, what are parents and teachers to do? The National Autistic Society recommends the following strategies:

  • Help Your Child Tell Someone. Telling someone can be a challenge for a child with autism especially if they have difficulty expressing their feelings and emotions. Nevertheless, it's vitally important your child know he/she can talk to someone (write it down if they are non-verbal). If the bullying is not reported, it will continue.
  • Buddy Up.  Find out if your child's school has a buddy system where he/she can buddy up with a friend or friends. Ask the friends to "hang around" with your child throughout the day. We commonly refer to it as, "I got your back." It can work well in school settings as well.
  • Make A Plan For Break Time. Make sure your school offers structured activities for your child during break times such as recess. These times are always supervised by teachers.
  • Practice Talking To Your Child About Bullies. Teach your child how to respond to bullies. This could include, but not be limited to, teaching about body language and eye contact.
  • Keep In Touch With Your Child's School and Teachers. Find out if your school has a special help line that you can call to get helpful information.
  • Access Other Resources: For example, you can call the Autism Helpline at 1-800-328-8476 (Autism Resource Center).
  • Also, understand there are generally three types of bullying. They include verbal, physical and psychological bullying. It's important you observe your child to gauge his/her emotional responses to any problems occurring at school. In other words, read those emotional signals.
  • Become An Advocate  by raising awareness about bullying especially if your school does not have any plans in place to deal with this problem.  Many schools do a good job, but there is still a lot that needs to be done within school settings to deal with this problem correctly and in an timely fashion.
Self Advocacy Booklet Now Available

A Self Advocacy Booklet for adults on the autism spectrum is now available. This booklet was developed by a group of adults with autism. It's designed to help communicate wishes and needs. You can access this booklet at http://www.autism.org.uk/.

Do You Know The Warning Signs of Dyslexia?

Education.com reported on spotting these warning signs of Dyslexia. They include:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So Your 17 Year Old Son With Aspergers Wants to Drive a Car; Applied Behavior Analysis to be Covered by Insurance in NY State; Airway Abnormalities May Point To Autism; Those 7 Important Things Every Parent Should Know; Parents You Have Legal Rights

"I may have been born different and misunderstood from birth, but I know there is a place for me, somewhere in the universe."---Alyson Bradley

Learning To Drive A Car

Your 17 year old son with Aspergers wants to learn how to drive a car. Where do you start?

Learning to drive, as every driver knows, takes a unique set of skills. The demands of learning to drive with someone with Aspergers take on added dimension. The sensory demands alone make learning to drive a challenge for any young person. As someone who has faced this issue on the professional level, allow me to offer some suggestions:

  • Bring the issue up to your child's interdisciplinary team. Your child will need to be assessed by the team. The IDT's assessment should include, but not be limited to, fine and gross motor skills, a hearing assessment, and a visual assessment. In other words, the team should determine if your child has the ability to drive a vehicle.
  • If the IDT determines your child is ready to take driving lessons, it's time to find a qualified driving instructor or driving school. Check to see if your school offers driver's training (I would discourage any family member to try to teach driving. Leave this to the professionals).
  • Apply for a driver's permit, depending on the state in which you reside.
  • It's important the driving instructor or school know about Aspergers even if you have to teach them (unless, of course, you are fortunate to find an instructor or school that specializes in teaching people with Aspergers). For example, the instructor will also need to be told that more driving practice will be needed. The instructor will need to be told to break down the teaching modules into smaller modules. In other words, more step-by-step teaching is essential. You should accompany your child in the vehicle throughout the driver's training.
  • After your child completes driver's training, I would strongly suggest you return to the IDT team with the results of the training. Allow the team to assess the training. Just as important,  the driving instructor should attend this meeting to answer any questions team members might have.
  • Good luck with the driver's test. Remember, it's a written test as well as a road test.

NY State Mandates Insurance Coverage For Autism

On Nov. 1, 2011, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill authorizing insurance companies to cover Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in the treatment for children with autism. New York State becomes the 29th state to mandate such insurance coverage.

The law takes effect November 1, 2012. ABA treatment will be covered up to $45,000.00 a year regardless of age.

Airway Abnormalities And Autism

Dr. Barbara Stewart, a pediatric pulmonologist at Nemours Children's Clinic in Pensacola, Florida, reported the finding of abnormalities in the airways of children with autism. Instead of the usual random, asymmetrical branches in the airway, she found "doubled up" symmetrical branches in children with autism. In addition, the branches were smaller. She found this condition in all 43 children with autism in her research. None of the 300 children without autism had this condition. At this early date in the study, researchers do not know what to make of this condition. But they do now know that autism must be treated as a "whole-body" phenomena. ---USA Today

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Autism And The Brain; Tablets As Teaching Tools; Autism and Diabetes: Perhaps a Link? Autism Diagnoses Growing By 10-17% Annually; Making Halloween Fun For Children With Autism

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude."---Scott Hamilton

Autism and The Brain: New Research Findings

A recent research study by UCLA found that connections in the brain responsible for language and social skills grow much more slowly in boys with autism than in children who do not have autism.

Their findings appeared in the journal, Human Brain Mapping. Slower growth in the brain of a child with autism appears to occur in the most critical period of brain development. This may have an impact on social interactions, refining emotional skills and establishing the important personal identity. A total of 13 boys with autism were studied. The control group involved seven boys who did not have autism. Researchers found the white-matter brain connections between brain regions important for language and social skills were growing much slower in the boys with autism.

The study has implications for the use of alternative neuroscience techniques to identify the source of white-matter impairment. Any findings could lead to better interventions in the future. In addition, interventions in education may require a different approach.

Tablets As Teaching Tools For Children With Autism

This evening, 60 Minutes, ran a piece on the potential of tablet computers in better developing communication for children with autism. A University of Toronto study in association with the Beverley School in Toronto, will try to determine how effective IPads can be with students with autism. The mother of Josua Hood, one of the students in the study, said, "The day he started using the {IPad}, it blew me away. I wouldn't have known he preferred Coke to Pepsi. He's part of the community...and communication is the essence of being human."

Could Autism and Diabetes Be Linked?

Rice University is suggesting a possible link between diabetes and autism. In Frontiers of Cellular Endocrinology showed that both "Diabetes 2 and autism have a common underlying mechanism of impaired glucose tolerance."

Michael Stern, a biochemist at Rice, said, "When I read that the incidence of autism is increasing , it seemed reasonable that each increase could have the same ultimate cause---the increase in hyperinsulinemia in the general population."---Mediplacements: Medical News

Monday, October 10, 2011

Drexel's Autism Public Health Research Institute: To Study Environmental Exposure; Some Great Resources Found Via Facebook

"I do not suffer from autism, but I do suffer from the way you treat me."---Tyler Durdin

Straight From The Headlines: "Digging Furiously For Autism Answers." Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 9, 2011.

"Most of the local talent is at the Center for Autism Research at Children's Hospital (in Philadelphia), which in less than four years has grown into a powerhouse with more than 100 researches and staff running two dozen studies..."

"Drexel {University} is jumping in with a much smaller but ambitious Autism Public Health Research Institute, which is poised to lead in some other areas, beginning with environmental exposure. The long neglected field has suddenly become a priority as evidence builds that genes alone do not explain the disorder..."

"The goal is to figure out what flips the genetic switch that puts some infants on a path to autism. Only then can scientists begin to understand how the brain changes and what can prevent it, discover treatments, and devise cost-effective ways to teach hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren..."

"'Autism is like a snowflake,'" said Robert Schultz, director of the center at Children's. It's core attributes---mainly an inability to engage in normal interaction---are enough to define it. But the severity, symptoms, and timing of each case are different. So huge research samples are needed to discover what they have in common...'"

"'Autism was definitely something that we felt CHOP should be leading the world in" said Tom Curran, deputy scientific director.'"

The Center's goal is to have 10,000 volunteers take part in the research. To date, 1,500 have already signed up.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

CARA Passed; Impact of Facebook on Autism Advocacy; School Community Tool Kit

"I am different. Not less."---Temple Grandin


As many of you may already know, Congress passed The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011( CARA) this week. It now goes to Pres. Obama for his signature. Folks---this is what advocacy is all about.


In the last several months, I've come to the conclusion Facebook has a generally positive impact on autism advocacy. Even though there are countless resources online for autism related issues and concerns--- like this very blog--- Facebook magnifies those resources a thousand fold. I am constantly amazed and thrilled at the information the general population shares regarding autism on their Facebook autism pages. Just as important, the comments added by the general population add to this enormous tapestry of relevant and useful information. We can only look forward to what the future holds with this technology and the evolving technology around the corner for continued autism advocacy.
(Note: you can access my Facebook page to the right of this post. Also visit the many resources we have available on this blog).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Breaking News: House Passes CARA; Top Ten Terrific Traits of People with Autism; Taking the Mystery Out of IEP's

"...History suggests that many individuals whom we would today diagnose as autistic---some severely so---contributed profoundly to our art, our math, our science and our literature."---Morton Gernsbacher, parent of a child with Autism.
(I would also add they've contributed to our overall culture in very positive ways)---Editor


The House of Representatives passed The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA). This legislation authorizes $693 million in funding for three additional fiscal years. A personal thank you to all who contacted their representatives advocating for the extending of this very important legislation. Kudos to all!

Autism Support Network ran a terrific piece recently entitled, "Top 10 Terrific Traits Of Autistic People." In short, these traits include, but are not limited to, the following (note: I only use "people first" language, so the text will not always match that of ASN):

  • People with Autism Rarely Lie
  • People on the Autism Spectrum Live in the Moment
  • People with Autism Rarely Judge Others
  • People with Autism Are Passionate
  • People with Autism Are Not Tied To Social Expectations
  • People with Autism Have Terrific Memories
  • People with Autism Are Less Materialistic
  • People with Autism Play Fewer Head Games
  • People with Autism Have Fewer Hidden Agendas
  • People with Autism Open New Doors for Neurotypicals

Allow me a moment to add two more terrific traits to this list.
  • People with Autism Are Very Smart and---just as important--- Very Cool!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Education Issue For Teachers, Parents and Other Persons Interested in Autism. A Few Words About Emergency Preparedness

"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's not possible to separate the autism from the person."---Jim Sinclair.

In this issue, I will report on some of the many educational resources available for teachers, parents and others interested in this information.  Access to all of these resources and more are available on this blog under, "Education."

The Autism Education Network (http://www.autismeducation.net/):

This web site offers FREE information about special education rights as well as information about treatment options and education methods. Its primary mission is to provide information and training to families and professionals regarding best practices in autism treatment. This site also includes personal stories from families in dealing with autism.

Educate Autism (http://www.educateautism.com/):

Educate autism is dedicated to helping those with children with autism by providing FREE teaching materials, a variety of tutorials and more to help make your own teaching aids. This site also provides information on Applied Behavior Analysis and behavior principles.

Autism Inspiration (http://autisminspiration.com/):

This resource is dedicated to providing you with a wide variety of resources including lesson plans, games, group activities, sensory integration ideas, forums and other valuable tools and information.

Sample content includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Classroom Aids such as Social Thinking and its impact on academics.
  • Family/Group Activities
  • Math Skills
  • Motor Skills
  • Parent Corner
  • Reading Skills
  • and More.
Access to member content in this site requires a $14.95 monthly subscription.

Autism 4 Teachers (http://www.autism4teachers.com/):

Four elementary school teachers found this web site in 2004. They provide information in communication, inclusion, curriculum support, behavior support, parent support, visual supports and a host of additional supports.

Autism Buddy (http://autismbuddy.com/):

This website provides user-friendly, high quality printables and resources for teachers and parents. These include flash cards, puzzles, games, booklets, activities, social-skills activities, lessons and worksheets, information E-books and much more.

TinSnips (http://tinsnips.org/):

TinSnips is a special education resource that strives to share a variety of specialized teaching tools, techniques, worksheets and activities.

TinSnips also provides links to information, organizations, techniques and strategies especially for teaching students on the Autism Spectrum.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Breaking News: Higher Risk For Siblings

The University of California-Davis released a study this week that shows the risk of younger siblings of children with autism have a higher risk of developing autism than first thought. Previous studies showed a risk of 10%. This study reports a risk of almost 20%. This means younger siblings have a risk of autism about 20 times greater than children in the general population.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kudos to Jim Cantore; Autism Service Dogs; Act Today for Military Families with Autism; Autism Awareness Among Law Enforcement Personnel; Conference News

"What my children have to deal with on a daily basis is by far more difficult than anything I will ever come in contact with," Jim Cantore--of the Weather Channel-- on his two children with Fragile X after describing his bouts with some furious and dangerous weather over the years.

"A child who connects to a dog connects to the world."

That's the motto for a unique organization known as Autism Service Dogs of America. Their mission is clear and concise: "To make a positive impact on the lives of children living with autism---and their families---by providing exceptionally well trained service dogs." ASDA, a private, non-profit,  was founded in 2002 by Priscilla Taylor, a former special education teacher. You can learn more about ASDA at http://autismservicedogsofamerica.com/. We've also linked to ASDA on this blog.

Act Today For Military Families With Autism wants us to know that one out of 88 children of military families has an autism diagnosis. Their mission is "to raise awareness and provide treatment services to families that cannot afford the treatments and services their children require." Please visit their web site and consider a donation (http://www.acttodayformilitaryfamilies.org/). Do it today!

It's not unusual for law enforcement personnel to encounter someone with autism. If the police officer is not familiar with recognizing some of the behaviors of individuals with autism, potential conflict may result. This is largely due to the police officer's misunderstanding of these behaviors. Fortunately many police departments across the country have been trained in avoiding undue conflict and the risks associated with intervention. Many of these programs teach police officers how to recognize individuals with autism. This recognition may include, but not be limited to, the following:
  • Understanding the individual may not respond well to police commands.
  • Understanding the individual may have some medical issues or concerns that give the appearance to the officer of being on illegal drugs.
  • Understanding the individual may be non-verbal.
  • Understanding the individual may exhibit behaviors such as aggression, self-abuse, pacing and yelling.
In most programs, police officers are also trained in how to respond to an individual with autism who is exhibiting such behaviors.  For example, they are taught to talk in short phrases; allow for delays in response; avoiding responses that may appear threatening to the individual with autism; avoiding touching the individual suddenly and to turn off sirens and flashlights, if possible (the police officer's safety is also of paramount importance).

If your community does not have such police awareness programs, it's vitally important to contact them to start one. Such programs can ensure the safety of both the individual with autism and the police.
(SourceS: Dennis Debbaubt, Police and Autism and Gateways Community Services, Nashua, N.H.).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Humanity of Autism; Military Children with Autism; Conference News & Upcoming Events

"Autism itself is not the enemy...the barriers to development that are included with autism are the enemy...These things are not part of who a child is...they are barriers to who the child is meant to be..." Frank Klein, an individual with autism.

I've had the pleasure of supporting and serving individuals with autism and developmental disabilities for over 35 years. In all that time, I've learned a significant lesson: individuals with autism and developmental disabilities are no different than anyone else--only the specifics differ. Allow me to explain.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Parents: We Can Help You-- Now; Review of the Literature & More Puzzle Pieces Are Starting To Fit

"The difference between high-functioning and low-functioning is that high-functioning means your deficits are ignored, and low-functioning means your assets are ignored." Laura Tisoncik.

Information For Parents:

I often get emails from parents asking me for help, information and resources.
As a result, I would like to alert all parents to the plethora of information on this blog devoted to resources and information for parents. For example, in addition to the many resources, providers and schools listed, there's a special section entitled, "Resources 4 Parents."

In this section, parents will find parent and family friendly web sites such as Child Parent Autism Cafe, practical ways to help manage and plan daily living with autism. Parent 2 Parent USA which offers emotional and informational support for parents of children with special needs. Another very useful web site is Families for Early Autism Treatment. FEAT, as it's well known, provides best outcome Education, Advocacy and Support for the Northern California Autism Community. Any parent will find useful information on this outstanding web site. Parents Helping Parents offers a multitude of services for families and children with special needs. Autism Inspiration is an online resource for parents and teachers of children with autism.

The bottom line is Autism News and Views can assist parents in finding answers to their questions. It can also assist parents in finding appropriate services. I suggest parents spend some time and navigate Autism News and Views. I'm confident it can be a valuable resource to all of you.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Impressive Diversity in Autism Services, Supports and Resources; New Study: Genetic Mutations & Autism; Latinos and Autism

"...research demonstrates that autistic traits are distributed into the non-autistic population; some people have more of them, some have fewer. History suggests that many individuals whom we would diagnose today as autistic--some severely so--contributed profoundly to our art, our math, our science, and our literature."--Morton Gernsbacher, parent of a child with autism.

In doing extensive research on the resources found on this blog,  I'm often amazed and impressed with the diversity in services, supports and advocacy. Some examples:

  • 4 Paws for Ability: This is an organization that provides service dogs to individuals with disabilities world-wide. These dogs enrich their lives. In addition, they provide companionship and help promote independent living. www.4pawsforability.org/
  • Athletes Helping Athletes: Their mission is to connect local special needs athletes with mainstream student athletes in the spirit of friendship for their mutual benefit and inspiration. www.athleteshelpingathletesinc.com/
  • Autism Siblings: This is a charity that helps the siblings of children with autism including adults. www.autismsiblings.org/
  • Bullies2Buddies: The mission of Bullies2Buddies is dedicated to reducing bullying and agression by teaching wisdom. Their overall mission is to reduce hostility and promote peace in schools, the workplace, home and wherever people have to co-exist. www.bullies2buddies.com/
  • Kid Power: They are a charitable educational non-profit that helps people create cultures of caring, respect and safety for all. They offer a variety of workshops in personal safety. www.kidpower.org/
  • Grandparent Autism Network:  GAN informs grandparents about autism, and the medical, educational, legal and social issues that affect their families. www.ganinfo.org/
  • Parent 2 Parent: Parent 2 Parent programs across the country provide emotional and informational support to families who have children with special needs. They do this by matching parents seeking support with an experienced and trained "support parent." www.p2pusa.org/
  • Tin Snips: This is a special education resource that strives to share a variety of specialized teaching tools, techniques, worksheets and activities with teachers of students who have autistic spectrum disorders and related developmental disabilities. www.tinsnips.org/
  • The Fathers Network: Their mission is to celebrate and support fathers and families with special health care needs and developmental disabilities. www.fathersnetwork.org/
  • Mom Fighting Autism: This is an online support group for families who have children with autism. They also provide teleseminars where experts speak on autism and answer questions for 2 hours from participants. www.momsfightingautism.com/

Monday, May 23, 2011

Help For Military Families; Toolkit for Clinicians; Summer Fun Helps Improve Social Performance

Editorial Note:

Autism News and Views has been publishing for about two months now. And I'm very proud of the product and our service. We've received an exceptionally good response. I want everyone to know that Autism News and Views provides the best information on autism resources that one can find right now on the internet. If you're a parent, we have links to many of the best resources for you including a whole host of providers and schools. These include, but are not limited to, sites such as Parent to Parent, Parent Education Network, Moms Fighting Autism, Child Parent Autism Cafe, and many more. If you're in the profession of serving individuals with autism, you don't have to go much further than navigating and exploring this page for important information. Almost anything you need on autism, you will find here. The same goes for researches, students and medical personnel. And if you happen to be someone who is looking for employment in this profession, many of the providers linked here are looking for good employees. In other words, you can start you job search with Autism News and Views. I ask all of you to consider this publication your on-line virtual consultant. Please mark it to your "favorites," visit often and share. You'll find your entire library devoted to the autism spectrum right here.

Thanks for your time.

Jerry Komar, M.Ed.

"...people with AS and their families are not alone and can help one another as well as be helped by people who make the effort to understand their difference. And that AS is not just about needing help; it is also about being given the space to be different. In the right environment, people with AS can make remarkably valuable contributions."--Simon Baron-Choen, Ph.D.

With Memorial Day almost upon us, I wanted to take the opportunity to list some of the web sites that help military families who have children with autism.
  • American Military Families Autism Support {AMFAS} is by military families and for military families. They provide information, support, news and many other options for military families dealing with autism. http://update.amfas.org/
  • Operation Autism: A Resource Guide For Military Families is a web-based resource specifically designed to support military families that have children with autism. The web site also provides information on autism and military health care, educating children with autism and additional important resources. I've personally took some time to navigate this site, and it offers a lot of good information. www.operationautismonline.org/
  • Act Today (Autism Care and Treatment Today) For Military Families is a national non-profit whose mission is to raise awareness and provide treatment services to families that cannot afford the treatments and services their children require. www.acttodayformilitaryfamilies.org/
Summer Fun Has A Great Outcome:

A recent treatment program at Canisius College found that "...an innovate multi-component summer social development program to be effective in improving social performance of children with high-functioning autism." The program lasted 5 weeks. 35 children, ages 7-12 years, participated in the clinical trial. 18 children were randomly assigned to receive the summer program and 18 to a wait-list control condition. Treatments included direct instruction, modeling, role-playing and performance feedback. The general findings suggest "that children in the treatment group improved significantly in their understanding of what social skills to use in a range of social situations..." {Source: Institute for Autism Research at Canisius College, Christopher Lopata, PsyD and Marcus Thomeer, PhD}

Sunday, May 15, 2011

African-American Children With Autism; News For Siblings; Year-Round Recreation Now Available; The Value of Music

"It is important to emphasize the enormous range of autism spectrum disorders and the many differences that exist between children on the spectrum. It is important that we not lose sight of the individual in our search to treat autism...The goal is to help children enter adulthood with capacities for social and personal self-sufficiency." Fred R. Volkmar, M.Ed., Yale University School of Medicine.

Did you know that African-American children are frequently diagnosed too late? In addition, African-American children are also misdiagnosed too often. That's why it's with great pleasure we put a spotlight on three organizations devoted to African-American individuals with autism.

  • African American Autism Support Services of Arizona was founded "to connect, support, educate and equip the African American community in becoming involved in the advocacy, education and research efforts pertaining to Autism and the Autism Spectrum locally and nationally." (from their Mission Statement). Anyone interested can contact them at:  http://www.africanamericanautismofaz.org/.
  • The Color of Autism Foundation, located in Mableton, GA, is committed in raising autism awareness in minorities. They point out correctly that not only are African American children with autism misdiagnosed more frequently, but there are very few clinical studies involving African American children with autism. We urge you also support this foundation. They can be reached at: http://www.thecolorofautism.org/
  • Autism in Black focuses on the cultural, medical, and educational issues facing African American children with autism. Visit them at: http://www.autisminblack.com/
In 2010, Washington University School of Medicine published, "Brief Report: Under-repesentation of African Americans in autism genetic research: A rationale for inclusion of subjects representing diverse family structures." They reported, "African American children with autism are seriously under-respresented in existing genetic registries and biomedical research studies of autism...Comprehensive efforts-including expansion of eligibility to families of diverse structure--are warranted to facilitate the inclusion of African American children in biomedical research." (NIH)

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Study Finds Higher Rates of Autism; Bullying: How To Respond?; Actors for Autism

"I didn't get to where I am today by not being autistic."--Larry Arnold

A new study out of South Korea suggests that 1 in 38 children have traits of autism. This finding is higher than previous estimates of 1 in about 100. The researches do not believe South Korea has higher rates of autism. They believe that autism often goes undiagnosed in many countries. The study was published this week in the Jounral of Psychiatry. 55,000 school children were screened, ages 7-12, in one district in South Korea. It must be pointed out that only two-thirds of mainstream children participated in the study. The study took five years to complete.
Note: I would be cautious of this study at this point. We would need to see if other studies show the same or similar outcomes.

In my last post, I remarked that we've made great strides in human dignity in terms of serving and supporting individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. However, we have a long way to go. And one of those areas that needs attention is the bullying of children with autism and developmental disabilities, especially in our schools.  A study out of Massachusetts in 2009 found that 9 in 10 children with autism have been victims of bullying in school. The study surveyed 400 parents of children with autism. "Children with autism spectrum disorder are especially vulnerable targets because of the nature of their disability, " said Julia Landau, director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children. So how do we attack this problem? One way is to legally start addressing the problems in the child's IEP. This will give the power of law behind our advocacy. It will also give the child the tools and skills he or she needs handle those children who bully (after all, the reality is teachers, administrators and parents can't be everywhere).While I'm sure many school administrations and faculties have started programs regarding bullying; they must also start creating climates of acceptance of individuals with special needs at their schools. This can be done by initiating social curriculums which would teach children how to recognize bullying as well as how to react to bullies. And it is imperative that administrators, teachers, students and parents respond promptly to any reports of bullying. Those events should be documented on incident reports so timely "after action" responses are completed and appropriate actions are taken. This is a problem that can be solved if we all treat it more seriously.

4 Your Bookshelf:
  • Since We're Friends: An Autism Picture Book by Lisa Jo Rudy. This book offers practical ideas for supporting friendships.
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord. This is a book for families with children with autism. It's a great book for siblings. Great conversation starter.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Importance of Art Therapy, Biomedical Treatments, First 100 Days Kit, Non-English Resources for Autism, Autism Resource for Military Families

"I see people with Asperger's Syndrome as a bright thread in the rich tapestry of life."

Short Note From The Editor:

I've had the honor of serving and supporting individuals with autism and developmental disabilities for almost 40 years now. I came into the profession at the tail end of deinstitutionalization and the beginning of community support services. As I've been doing research for this blog, I've been impressed by all of the services, supports, resources and information available on autism. Just as important, I've been impressed by the great strides that have been made in human dignity. We still have more work to do. But one thing is certain: this is a profession that should hold its head high---it's done a remarkable job in a very short period of time.

Art and Autism:

For those of us familiar with supporting and serving individuals with autism, it's apparent people with autism exhibit a high degree of creative ability as well as excellence in many areas.  It's one of the many reasons why art therapy helps people with autism be more creative. It also helps individuals address some of the other difficulties such as the emotional expressions of frustration and anger. Art therapy, like academics, requires individualized attention. It's imperative to find the right kind of art therapy for each individual. In short, this means developing a plan of treatment  specific to an individual. Art therapists usually set goals to target the following areas:
Tony Attwood.

  • Imagination/Abstract Thinking Deficits
  • Sensory Regulation and Integration
  • Emotions/Self-Expression
  • Developmental Growth
  • Recreation/Leisure Skills
  • Visual-Spacial Deficits
For more information on art therapy, visit http://arttherapyandaustim.com/

4 Your Bookshelf: 
  • The Art of Autism: Shattering Myths about People Living on the Autism Spectrum by Debbi Hosseini.
  • Reaching the Child with Autism through Art: Creative Activities that Improve Sensory, Social and Language Skills by Toni Flowers.
  • The Girl Who Spoke with Pictures by Eileen Miller.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Study: Early Disagnosis Is The Key, Riding and Walking 4 Autism, Dental Tool Kit

"Our purpose was to help her, not to fix her. Our purpose was not to create a whole new child, it was to let her be herself--because she's a wonderful child." {Mother of a young girl with autism}

Key Study and Findings:

A new report published in the Journal of Pediatrics clearly demonstrates the importance of early screening tests for autism. The old adage, "the earlier, the better," is shown to be true once again when it comes to detecting signs pointing to autism in children as young as 1 year of age. The findings and implications of this study include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Pediatricians need to start systematic screening of all children at routine well-baby checkups. Few do it now. (A 24 item checklist is now available online from Autism Speaks).
  • The study shows it's possible to get reliable test results from children as young as 18-24 months. Currently, the average age of an autism diagnosis is 5.
  • Most children are eligible for screening services in most states.
  • The screening test used accurately diagnosed about 75% of the children.
(USA Today also reported on this study)

Strong Suggestion from the editor of Autism News and Views: Advocate medical schools do a better job in the teaching of screening techniques for autism in children as young as 1.

Spotlight On Upcoming Events:
  • Bridges Ride For Autism. This charity bike ride for autism is set for Sunday, July 17, 2011. Starting time will be 8 AM. Don't have a bike? No problem. There will also be a 5k walk over the Brooklyn Bridge starting at 8:30 AM. The event will begin at the South Street Seaport. Check-In time will be 7 AM. Registration information is available at: www.bridgesrideforautism.com/
  • Autism 5K Walk/ Run on Saturday, May 21, 2001. The event will be held at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, MN. Contact: info@autism5k.org.
  • Step Up For Autism Walk on Sunday, June 26, 2011. The event will take place at the Naperville Riverwalk in Naperville, Ill. Contact #: 630.355.6533. Registration begins at 10:30 A.M.
  • North Dakota Autism Center is sponsoring A Walk For Autism on Saturday, May 14, 2011. The event will be in West Fargo, ND.  Registration starts at 9 A.M. Contact 701.277.8844 for more details.
  • Contact Autism Speaks for a listing of all of the Walk Now For Autism Speaks events scheduled around the country.
Upcoming Conference News:
  • Milestone's 9th Annual Autism/Aspergers Conference. Tuesday, June 21, 2011. 8:30 A.M. - 5 PM. Mayfield Hgts., Ohio. Contact #: 216.464.7600

Monday, April 25, 2011

Summertime Safety Tips, Siblings and Autism, Jobs 4 Autism, Research You Can Use, Risks of Wandering and Elopement

"I never set out to be weird. It was always other people who called me weird."--Frank Zappa

Summer will arrive very soon, and there are preparations that need to be made to ensure children are safe. This takes on added significance with individuals with autism. Take a few minutes to review the following safety tips when going on vacation or summer camp:
  • Make sure each child and young adult carries the proper identification. Many states issue wearable ID cards.
  • Keep important information about the individual handy, i.e. home address, addresses of closest relatives, the name and address of the family physician, type of medications the person is using,  the person's diet,  medical issues, etc.
  • Teach individuals with autism how to swim. Your local YMCA can help with lessons. Drowning is the leading cause of death among children with autism (Source:National Autism Association).
  • If the individual has a tendency to wander, there is technology available to help locate missing persons, i.e. Project Lifesaver, local law enforcement. If you plan on attending a family event, make sure some member of the family is appointed to look out for the individual(s) with autism (See recent study below re: risks of wandering and elopement)
  • If the individual goes to camp ensure camp counselors have been trained in First Aid and CPR. They should also have training in working with people with autism and developmental disabilities.
  • Don't forget the sunscreen!
Quick Recommendation: Visit Autism Hangout.com. It's an online community and a great source of news, discussion forums, resources and much, much more. We've linked to it under "Advocacy."

Key Studies and Findings:

The Interactive Autism Network (IAN) released a report recently that shows that half of children with autism wander and elope. The behavior appears to peak at about age four. Dr. Paul Law, director of the IAN project, said, "This survey is the first research effort to scientifically validate that elopement is a critical safety issue for the autism community." Elopement puts individuals at risk. For example, the study found 2 in 3 parents reported their children had a close call with a traffic injury.  32% of parents reported a close call with possible drowning.  In addition, elopement also has a significant effect on families. The report found 40% of parents had suffered sleep disruption due to fear of elopment. Some of the reasons parents attributed to wandering included children enjoying exploration; heading off to a favorite location; escaping demands and escaping sensory discomfort.

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently reported on interesting findings regarding siblings of children with autism. Dr. John Constantino, MD said, "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's very possible both children are affected to some degree by genes that contribute to autism." He also noted that siblings of children with autism have sub-clinical traits of autism, for some reason, they do not develop autism. In short, the findings provide a greater insight into the inheritance patterns of autism and its associated traits (Source: American Journal of Psychiatry).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Key Finding Re: Co-Morbidity of Autism + Epilepsy; Common Genetic Cause of Autism and Epilepsy Found; For Parents of Individuals With Autism--What Supports Are Available To Them And Where Are They?; Transitioning To Adulthood Tool Kit

"I do not suffer from autism, but I do suffer from the way you treat me."  Tyler Durdin

  • Autism Speaks, in conjunction with Miami Children's Hospital, is reporting new research that shows mortality rate is increased in persons with autism who also have epilepsy. Data from the Journal of Child Neurology concluded that when epilepsy and autism occurred together, the mortality rates increased by more than 800%. Dr. Robert Tuchman, of Miami Children's Hospital, said "The study highlights the importance of early identification of epilepsy in children with autism and of autism in children with epilepsy." Dr. Clara Lajonchere, VP of Clinical Programs at Autism Speaks, also cautioned, "Sudden, unexpected or unexplained death in autism is often, but not always related to epilepsy, and we need to use caution when interpreting this data." Dr. Lajonchere added that the findings are important in understanding the risk factors that contribute to early death in individuals with autism.
  • The CHUM Research Centre in Montreal reported they've identified a new gene that predisposes people to both autism and epilepsy. According to neurologist, Dr. Patrick Cossette, he reported "the results show for the first time the role of SYN 1 gene in autism, in addition to epilepsy, and strengthen the hypothesis that a deregulation of the function of the synapse because of this mutation is the cause of both diseases."
  • Parents of children and adults who have autism face formidable challenges. These challenges include, but are not limited to, finding appropriate resources and supports, frustration due to financial hardship, difficulty in balancing work life with caregiving and feelings of isolation. So what are these parents to do? The good news is there are a multitude of services available if you know whom to contact (Studies have shown that most urban areas provide good access to services and supports). Depending on what state you live in, it's always good to start with that state's department that provides that information. In some states, it could be the county. However, there is also another good place to start. Contact the admission's office of the nearest service provider and/or agency that provides services to individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. In my long experience in this profession, I've found admission's personnel exceedingly knowledgeable, and they can assist you in navigating through the bureaucracy. In addition, there are a number of advocacy groups that assist parents in finding appropriate services and supports. We've linked to many of those groups on our web site under "Advocacy" and "Resources 4 parents."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Medications Fall Short, Catch This New Film, Decoding Autism, Tool Kit, New Autism Center To Open

I want to take a moment to thank all those who visited the blog after its launch last week. The number of visits for the initial release was a pleasant surprise. Since the launch, we listed additional links to be able to serve you better. Again, thank you very much.

  • In the current issue of Pediatrics, researchers reported that medications are of little help to most children with autism. Although many treatments for autism fall short, behavioral therapy continues to be the most effective.
  • In last week's edition, we reported on several films that focused on autism. This month another film opened entitled, Wretches & Jabberers. It's a buddy/trip movie about two individuals who are trying to change public perceptions of autism. The director of the film is Gerardine Wurzburg, who directed the 1992 film, Educating Peter, a film about people with Down Syndrome.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New Blog on the Block--Autism News and Views

Today we are launching our new blog entitled, Autism News and Views. We hope you will find the information informative and useful. If you like what you see here, we are asking that you kindly spread the news about this blog to parents, educators, researchers, clinicians and anyone else interested in improving the lives of those individuals affected by autism.We invite you to share your thoughts and comments with us.
  • "It seems that for success in science or art, a dash of autism is essential."--Hans Asperger

  • Researchers at the University of Montreal's Centre for Excellence in Pervasive Development Disorders found that individuals with autism focus more of their brain resources in the areas of the brain associated with visual detection and identification. On the other hand, they appear to have less activity in the areas used to plan and control thoughts and action.{Source: Human Brain Mapping, April 4, 2001}