Tag Archives: autism

+ Autism Science Moving “Stunningly Fast”

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From an article in USA TODAY by Liz Szabo, we learn that the quest to unravel the mystery of autism has become more urgent.  Autism is more widely diagnosed; today the condition is affecting one in 88 children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Researchers feel that for the first time they are making progress  in understanding the autistic brain.  Thanks to work with real autistic children, scientists are getting a glimpse of what might go wrong in early development, according to researcher Sarah Paterson, developmental psychologist at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

And Kevin Pelphrey, associate professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center, says the latest research gives him hope for therapies, even therapies that can reshape children’s brains.  “Treatment can have effects even very late.  It’s not a lost cause at all.”

Much of the progress is a result of parents who have pushed for funding that is now bearing fruit.

Technological advances in imaging, stem cell research, gene sequencing and computing have opened doors.  Robert Schultz, director of the Center for Autism Research at Children’s Hospital, says that in only a few years, it will be cheaper to sequence an autistic child’s genetic blueprint than to perform an intensive, one-on-one behavioral examination.

Many Problems, Not Just One

Autism is now commonly regarded not as a single condition but as a puzzle with multiple pieces, and none of them appear to fit together to form a recognizable picture.  The condition seems to be a group of related disorders with similar symptoms but different causes.

Thomas Insel, director of the National Institutes of Mental Health, says that if you’re looking at an autistic child’s whole brain, “you would be amazed at how normal their brains look.”  So doctors are zooming in deep.  They’re looking at the “wiring” between brain regions and the spaces between cells, where chemical messages are sent.

Other researchers have “created” brain cells in the lab: they transform ordinary skin from autistic children into stem cells and then coaxing them to morph again into neurons.  This approach allows doctors to examine the microscopic spaces between brain cells, called synapses, the place where chemical messages are sent.

Ricardo Dolmetsch, associate professor of neurobiology at Stanford, says “This is the very beginning of a revolution.”

sole source is Liz Szabo’s article at www.usatoday.com on April 8, 2012.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com.


+ Ohio OCALI Autism Conference November 18-18

Don’t miss the 2011 OCALI Conference, the nation’s premier event in autism, assistive technology and low-incidence disabilities.

Mark your calendar for

  •  November 16-18, 2011
  • Greater Columbus Ohio Convention Center

Highlights include:

  • Wednesday Keynotes Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher, stars of “Wretchers and Jabberers,” sponsored by VizZle
  • Thursday Keynote Dan Habib, director of Including Samuel
  • Tuesday Pre-conference  workshop facilitated by Michelle Garcia Winner (pre-conference workshop available for an additional fee)
  • NEW for 2011! National Autism Leadership Summit
  • New for 2011! UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Summit


  • Free Tuesday evening community expos
  • University Summit sponsored by The University of Toledo and Kentucky Autism Training Center
  • Parents’ Corner hosted by The Autism Society
  • Over 200 sessions by national leaders and scholars
  • An exhibit hall of over 90 leading companies and organizations

Over 2,000 participants from across the nation are anticipated

Visit http://conference.ocali.org/view.php?nav_id=2&utm_source=OCALI+List&utm_campaign=6c1b20aa75-Early_Bird_Registration_102511&utm_medium=email

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Autism Conference in Columbus OH Nov 18-21

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An Autism Conference will be held November 18 – 21 2008  at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.   It is presented by the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI), the Autism Society of America (ASA), and the Network of Autism Training and Technical Assistance Programs (NATTAP). 

Dont miss the “premier international autism conference in training, technical assistance and effective strategies.”

There will be over 1500 participants — including state and national leaders, general and special educators, higher education faculty, related service providers, parents and much more — from across the US and as far away as Bangladesh, Ghana and Australia.

A State Team Forum comprised of teams of state special education directors and other state-level leaders will be featured.

Registration is now open at http://www.nattapconference.org

Contact: Simon Buehrer, Conference/Events Manager, Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI), 5220 N High Street, Columbus OH 43214.  Phone 614-410-0995; FAX 614-410-1090.

Registration is $300/$100 for parents/families of children with autism.

10′ x 10′ exhibit booths start at $700.  Table displays for the Tuesday evening autism EXPO are only $100.  Deadline for exhibitor inclusion in the conference program is Friday October 17, 2008.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Toddlers’ Focus on Mouth Is Predictor of Autism Severity

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Scientists at the Yale School of Medicine found that two-year-olds with autism looked significantly more at the mouths of others, and less at their eyes, than typically developing children.

Eye-tracking technology was used by lead author Warren Jones and his colleagues Ami Klin and Katelin Carr.  They quantified the visual fixations of toddlers as they watched caregivers approach them and engage in typical mother-child interactions, such as playing games like peek-a-boo.

After the first few weeks of life, infants look in the eyes of others, setting socialization processes in motion.  Even after infancy, all through one’s life, the act of looking at the eyes of others is a window on people’s feelings and thoughts.  It is a powerful facilitator in shaping the formation of the social mind and brain.

The Yale scientists found that the amount of time toddlers spent focused on the eyes predicted their level of social disability.  The less they focused on the eyes, the more severly disabled they were.

These results may offer a useful biomarker for quantifying the presence and severity of autism early in life, and make it possible to screen infants for autism.  The findings could aid research on the neurobiology and genetics of autism, work that is dependent on quantifiable markers of syndrome expression.

Jones, a research scientist from the Yale School of Medicine Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program and the Yale Child Study Center, says

“The findings offer hope that these novel methods will enable the detection of vulnerabilities for autism in infancy.  We hope this technology can be used to detect and measure signs of an emerging social disability, potentially improving a child’s outcome.  Earlier intervention would capitalize on the neuroplasticity of the developing brain in infancy.

Ami Klin, Jones’s collaborator, says they are now using this technology in a large prospective study of the younger siblings of children with autism, who are at greater risk of also developing the condition. 

Following at-risk babies on a monthly basis from the time they are born, researchers hope to trace the origins of social engagement in human infants and detect the first signs of derailment from the normative path.

Jones and Klin are also engaged in parallel studies aimed at identifying the mechnisms underlying abnormal visual fixation in infants with autism.

The working hypothesis is that these children’s increased fixation on mouths points to a predisposition to seek physical, rather than social contingencies in their surrounding world. 

The thought is that they focus on the physical synchronicity between lip movements and speech sounds, rather than on the social-affective context of the entreating eye-gaze of others.  According to Jones, “These children may be seeing faces in terms of their physical attributes alone, watching a face without necessarily experiencing it as an engaging partner sharing in a social interaction.”

source: “Science Daily” online article on 9/27/08.  www.sciencedaily.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Traveling With an Autistic Child

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An article from CNN.com/travel, by Eileen Ogintz,  gives some tips for traveling with an autistic child.  Everyone knows traveling with children can be stressful and full of sudden surprises, but when the child is on the autism spectrum, the problems are magnified.

The news, recently, of a mother and child ordered to deplane from an American Eagle flight because her 2-year-old was causing problems has brought the subject to public attention.

The situation caused an uproar in the blogosphere.

Airlines suggest (see “Planning Tips” below)  that parents traveling with special needs children alert the airlines ahead of time, to prepare the crew in advance.  Delta Airlines is going a step further: they are developing special travel recommendations for families traveling with a “developmentally disabled”  person.  The guidelines, prepared with Atlanta’s Marcus Institute for Development and Learning, will soon be available on Delta’s Web site (www.delta.com).

Autism is now the fastest growing developmental disability, diagnosed in 1 in 150 births.  It impacts more than a million Americans, according to the Autism Society of America (www.autism-society.org).   The majority of those affected are under 21.

The executive vice president at the advocacy organization Autism Speaks, Peter Bell, is the father of an autistic son.

He says some families don’t go anywhere, not even out to dinner, for fear of a situation like the one that happened on the airline.  Others opt not to let autism rule their lives.  The Bells have successfulkly traveled national parks, cross-country car trips, theme parks, ski resorts (where many offer terrific adaptive programs) and even managed a trip to Hawaii.

“It takes extra time and practice,” he says, and isn’t often relaxing, but he encourages parents to try — and the rest of us to be more sympathetic.

Lennon Gunn’s mom sees that wherever the six-year-old autistic boy goes, he has his beloved wooden spatula in his hand.  As a matter of fact, she carries spares.  “It starts the dialogue,” she says.  “I’m not afraid to explain.”  Shannon Gunn works with parents of newly diagnosed children at the Village of Hope Center for Autism in San Antonio Texas.  She tells anyone who asks that Lennon is autistic, and that his spatula helps him feel more comfortable on unfamiliar turf.

Katherine Revell, whose 6-year-old son has autism, says she hands out wallet-sized cards (from the Autism Society of America) which explain the disability to everyone including airport security screeners.

More and more options are emerging for these special families.  Disney World is so accommodating that the Autism Society of America just brought 2,00 people to Orlando.  Other theme parks, including SeaWorld and Busch Gardens have similar programs.

Resorts like Club Med and cruise lines like Norwegian, Carnival and Disney also try to be more inclusive in their organized activities.

Adaptive Sports Camps are offering special camps and programming that enables these kids and their parents to get out and try activities — even white-water rafting — that would be otherwise impossible.  The Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte, Colorado (www.adaptivesports.org) has special High Adventure Weekends for families with children with autism.  The National Ability Center in Park City Utah (www.DiscoverNAC.org) offers several week-long day damps in the summer.

The National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park Colorado www.nscd.org), as well as Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports (www.vermontadaptive.org), also offer programs and activities for such families.


  • Preparation is the best defense.  Call ahead and inform the airline, hotel, resort and cruise line of your child’s condition and ask what special accommodations are available.  Ask, if you need a fridge or inside room, etc.  Bring your child’s own sheets, if that will make him more comfortable.
  • Select an environment your child can handle.
  • Talk online with other parents who have been there, done that.  Simply Google the destination and “kids with autism” and you likely can connect with a local parents’ group.
  • Book low season on a cruise or at a resort like Club Med so there will be fewer children and the staff will have more time to devote to yours.
  • Travel by car if you think flying will be too difficult.  Opt to stay someplace where you can eat some of your meals in your room.
  • Be forthright about the situation with those you meet.
  • Develop “social stories” complete with pictures that explain to your child exactly what you will be doing and where you are going.
  • Whatever happens, stay calm.

source : This is adapted from Eileen Ogintz’s article found at www.cnn.com on 8/4/08.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Dogs Work “Magic” on Kids With Autism

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This article was on the CNN Web site on7/18/08.   “It’s the magic of dogs,” says Karen Shirk, of Xenia OH. 

That’s how Karen Shirk explains the ability of service dogs to help children suffering from autism.

“I’m sure there’s some sort of scientific explanation,” she says. “But I call it magic.”

Since 1998, through her nonprofit 4 Paws for Ability, Shirk has helped partner service dogs with people with a wide range of disabilities.

It was Shirk’s own challenge in getting a service dog that led her to start 4 Paws.

In the late 1980s, while employed as a social worker in the field of mental retardation and autism, Shirk suddenly went into respiratory arrest. She was hospitalized off and on until 1992, when she was finally diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disease.

Confined to a wheelchair and reliant on a respirator, Shirk set out to get a service dog so she could be more independent — but agencies turned her down, saying she was too disabled for a dog to make a difference in her life.

Frustrated, Shirk eventually decided to obtain a dog on her own. She found Ben, a black German shepherd puppy that, with the help of a trainer, became her service dog. With Ben by her side, Shirk regained a sense of optimism and control over her life.

“He gave me a reason to get up in the morning,” Shirk remembers. “I went from existing to living.”

Knowing there must be others like her, Shirk started 4 Paws in her apartment to help people who’ve been told they’re ineligible to get a service dog.

“We don’t discriminate against anyone who has a need,” she says.

Since many agencies have age restrictions, she now specializes in providing dogs to children. The dogs help kids with a variety of issues, from mobility problems to seizures, but from the start Shirk wanted to find ways to assist children with autism.

“I knew [autistic children] connected to animals,” she remembers. “I knew that service dogs would be able to help.”

She developed a program to train autism assistance dogs, and of the 319 dogs she’s placed since 1998, nearly 70 percent have been partnered with autistic children.

“The biggest problem that’s faced by families that have children with autism is isolation. They actually quit going out because they can’t keep their child safe,” says Shirk.

Shirk’s service dogs are taught a variety of methods to help keep kids with autism safe. Since many children tend to wander away and get lost, 4 Paws uses a technique called “tethering,” where the kids are tethered to their dogs while in public.

The parent — who always holds the leash — ultimately remains in control of both the dog and the child. Many dogs are even trained to track children who stray from home by following their scent.

Shirk says service dogs also give autistic children valuable emotional support. They’re taught to intervene when a child is frustrated, reducing tantrums commonly known as “meltdowns.” But Shirk believes one of the most important benefits is that the dogs are companions to kids who are often isolated.

“For our children with autism, their dog might be the only friend that they have.”

Shirk’s 4 Paws for Ability requires that families raise $12,000, on average, to pay for their service dog. Each dog is trained for the child’s specific needs, and the entire process takes between nine and 18 months.

In the end, families come to Ohio to meet their dogs and receive training. For Shirk, seeing the kids bond with their dogs makes her efforts worthwhile.

“I love to see their faces and know that I was a part of that,” Shirk says. “It makes me feel good.”

source: CNN online at www.CNN.com    on 7/18/08.  See a previous post as well. 
tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Vanderbilt Starts Autism Helpline

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The Nashville Business Journal reports:

Vanderbilt University has launched Vanderbilt Autism Clinic, a single helpline staffed by an autism expert.

In her role as Family Services Coordinator Sarah Zombek can make referrals for to autism services to families and professionals through the service.

Zombek held a similar position at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital in an autism clinic with a national reputation for family-centered care.

The Vanderbilt Autism Clinic is a gateway to a range of Vanderbilt clinical and research programs and resources, as well as those in the community, state and region.

It serves families, caregivers, clinicians, educators and others looking for a single, reliable source to find the help needed.

Available resources include autism-specialized diagnostic, medical, early intervention, educational, behavioral, and counseling services for children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorders..

To contact the Vanderbilt Autism Clinic, call 322-7565 (local), toll-free (877) ASD-VUMC (273-8862), or e-mail autismclinic@vanderbilt.edu.

source: www.nashville.bizjournals.com on 7/2/08

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com