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Kind of Autism No One Talks About This

Like most parents of children with autism, I have been reading about the family in California who is being sued by several families in their neighborhood. The lawsuit contends that their child is a public nuisance because of his behaviors that his parents failed to fix.

One of the plaintiffs in this case stated “This is not about autism. This is about public safety.”

But he is wrong. This is absolutely about autism. It’s just not about the autism people hear about.

The media shows us all of the feel-good stories, like the child with autism who gets to be the manager of the high school basketball team, or the boy with autism who goes to the prom with the beautiful girl, or the girl with autism who is voted onto the homecoming court. We light it up blue every April and pat ourselves on the back for being so aware.

But we aren’t aware.

Because for every boy with autism who manages his high school basketball team, there are 20 boys with autism who smear feces. And for every girl with autism who gets to be on the homecoming court, there are 30 girls with autism who pull out their hair and bite their arms until they bleed. And for every boy with autism who gets to go the prom, there are 50 boys with autism who hit and kick and bite and hurt other people.

This is the autism that no one talks about. This is the autism that no one wants to see.

We aren’t aware.

One of the plaintiffs said “We’re not upset about him being autistic. We are concerned and upset about his violence (toward) our children.”

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There is no way to be upset by this child’s behaviors and not be upset about autism.

Autism and behaviors go hand-in-hand. Why? The behaviors are communication. Individuals with autism often can’t communicate in a way that typically functioning people can understand. So they do things to get their needs met. And often the things they do are scary and violent.

We aren’t aware.

My son, who is the same age as the child in this story, was extremely aggressive when he was younger. He did all of the things that the child involved in this lawsuit did. My son ran after other children on the playground just to push them down. He hit. He kicked. He bit. He pulled hair. And I never knew what was coming. For the longest time, I would flinch when he ran up to me…I didn’t know whether he was going to hug me or hit me. Can you imagine, as a mom, what that’s like? To flinch when your child runs to you?

We aren’t aware.

Because I didn’t know what my son was going to do to other children, we stopped going to the park. We stopped going to the Mommy and Me class at the library. We started going to the grocery store at 6:00 a.m. when most people weren’t around. He didn’t go to daycare but had a sitter at home so he wouldn’t be around other kids in a daycare setting. I essentially isolated him in order to keep other people safe. Can you imagine what it’s like to be a mom and not be able to take your child to the park? Or have your child attend birthday parties? Or have play dates?

We aren’t aware.

Because of my need to isolate my son, I also isolated myself too. I watched from my window as other moms in the neighborhood sat in their camp chairs and chatted while their children played. I couldn’t join them because my son couldn’t be around the other kids. Once a mom asked if my son could come to their house and play with her son. Can you imagine what it was like to feel so excited and then feel so ashamed when, after explaining my son’s issues to her so she would be aware, that invitation was rescinded?

We aren’t aware. Not at all.

But we can be. We can open our eyes and understand that autism isn’t all about the high functioning child who is “quirky” but OK to be around. Autism isn’t all about the six-year-old who can play Piano Man better than Billy Joel. Autism can be hard. Autism can be sad. Autism can be messy. Autism can be violent. Autism can be isolating.

Once we become really aware, lawsuits like this won’t happen. Why? Because instead of putting blue lights on our front porches, we will go outside with our kids and we will help them play together…typically functioning kids and kids with autism. We will get to know our neighbors and we will embrace the children with behaviors and embrace their parents along with them.

We will learn what things trigger our child’s classmate who has autism so that we can help the children interact while avoiding things that will cause aggression. We will be a true village, including those who can model appropriate behaviors and those who are trying so hard to learn them. We will work on teaching our children not to hit and how to avoid being hit.

The parents involved in this lawsuit, on both sides, need to do more. More education, more understanding, more inclusion and more involvement.

Now tell me, is autism the real public nuisance?

We can become aware … if we really want to.

This post originally appeared on huffingtonpost.com

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Autistic Boy Brought Home Birthday Invitation, Mom Shocked By Its Powerful Words.

Timothy was diagnosed with nonverbal autism when he was only two years old. As a result, every noise, distraction and emotional stimuli is multiplied ten fold. Though the now 7-year-old Timothy is well liked in school, his condition meant he was forced to turn down one too many birthday party invitations.

Recently, however, he got a birthday invite with a special note attached that brought his mom, Tricia, to tears. She took to Facebook to express her disbelief and gratitude.

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The note read: [My son] Carter sat beside Timothy at school and he always talks about him (: I really hope he can come. We are renting a bounce castle that we can attach a small bounce slide at the bottom. We will also have water balloons & water guns. Maybe Timothy can come earlier in the day if it would be too much with the whole class. Let me know so we can make it work.

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Tricia couldn’t believe the beautiful way that Carter’s mom had considered her son.

“Yes, I was shocked that someone would take not only the time to write the note but to be considerate enough to include him with all of his difficulties. It was a wonderful moment … We parents of the ‘specials’ know only too well the hurts our kids feel when they are left out of the social gatherings relative to childhood. Organized sports, play dates, sleepovers, and yes – the dreaded birthday parties,” she says. “I want only one thing for our kids – for all kids really, and that is inclusion. All they want is to feel included and accepted for who and what they are – that different is okay … it’s just different.”

For Carter’s mom, inviting Timothy didn’t require a second thought.

“Carter had always talked about him, so I didn’t think twice when he wanted him at the party,” Peikos says. “The only question was, ‘How could we make it work so that Timothy could come and have a great time just like anyone else?’ He came early. He went right into the bounce castle with Carter and they had a great time.” Peikos says she never realized just how important those simple words, “Let’s make it work,” would be. “These few words allowed Tricia and I to develop an amazing friendship. I love knowing that one note gave her the ability to go on another day as she continues life with Timothy.”

Image result for autistic boy brought home birthday invitation mom shocked by its powerful words

Share this sweet moment with your friends today!

source;http://www.inspiremore.com

 

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Awesome UK Teacher Inspires A Student With Autism

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As a leader in the special education, we know and understand the needs of students with cognitive, learning and behavioral disabilities. However, their attempts to be “normal” often turn out to be unsuccessful, painful, and difficult. For instance, what would happen if a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder decided to sit for one of the “normal” exams? Some might be able to pass with flying colors, some might struggle but succeed, and some, might fail. The Mighty has recently published an article, written by Jordan Davidson, telling the story of a boy with Autism who tried to pass a standardized test, and his teacher, who definitely “saved the day.”

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Brave 11-year-old Ben Twist at Lansbury Bridge School and Sports College decided to take a standardized test for a high school placement. Unfortunately, Ben, who is an autistic child, did not pass the exam. In Ben’s defense, these tests are really tough, even without Autism. What happened afterward is much more interesting. His teacher, Mrs Clarkson, wrote a special letter to congratulate the boy on his achievements. Clarkson, who is indeed amazing, also listed Ben’s qualities, skills and talents because, according to her, “these tests only measure a little bit of you and your abilities.” She couldn’t be more right.

Students With Autism Show Strengths in Different Ways

 

“I am writing to you to congratulate you on your attitude and success in completing your end of key stage SATs.

Gil, Lynn, Angela, Steph and Anne have worked so well with you this year and you have made some fabulous progress. I have written to you and your parents to tell you the results of the tests.

A very important piece of information I want you to understand is that these tests only measure a little bit of you and your abilities. They are important and you have done so well but Ben Twist is made up of many other skills and talents that we at Lansbury Bridge see and measure in other ways.
Other talents you have that these test do not measure include:

• Your artistic talents
• Your ability to work in a team
• Your growing independence
• Your kindness
• Your ability to express your opinion
• Your abilities in sport
• Your ability to make and keep friends
• Your ability to discuss and evaluate your own progress
• Your design and building talents
• Your musical ability

We are so pleased that all of these different talents and abilities make you the special person you are and these are all of the things we measure to reassure us that you are always making progress and continuing to develop as a lovely bright young man.

Well done Ben, we are very proud of you.

Best Wishes,
Mrs Clarkson”

Lets Continue Inspiring Autistic Students

It’s wonderful to see that some teachers appreciate and value skills other than the “typical” ones: kindness, ability to make friends, musical and artistic ability, are incredibly important in life and may benefit Ben more than arithmetic. This attitude is crucial especially if you work with students with special needs. The education system in general should focus more on the individual approach rather than treat all students as a whole. This is the only way a teacher can find the “special” thing in a student and therefore spur their willingness to develop this ability. Last but not least, teachers should inspire their students. If knowledge is the seed, motivation is the soil, the water and the sun. As for Mrs Clarkson, we can surely nominate her as a Teacher of the Year, with the hope to have more nominees in the remaining months of the year.

source;www.stanfield.com

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A 7-Year-Old Autistic Girl’s Beautiful Letter To Her Mother

A series of letters written between a seven-year-old autistic girl and her mother has captured the hearts of thousands after being uploaded to Facebook.

A series of letters written between a seven-year-old autistic girl and her mother has captured the hearts of thousands after being uploaded to Facebook.

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The post has been shared over a thousand times, and was written while Cadence, who has autism, sat beneath her teacher’s desk, which is a “safe space” for her.

In the notes, Cadence asks her mother if her autism “makes her bad.”

In the notes, Cadence asks her mother if her autism "makes her bad."

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When asked why she would think that, Cadence references the many “grownups” who say it’s hard to be a parent when your child has autism.

She finished off the note by writing about her desire to not hurt anyone.
“I don’t like hurting people. I don’t like being scared. I would be scared in a jail room. I was born [with] autism but that doesn’t mean I was born bad.”

Cadence’s mother, Angela, told BuzzFeed News the letter acted as a reminder that the way adults talk about children affects them more than we consider.

Cadence's mother, Angela, told BuzzFeed News the letter acted as a reminder that the way adults talk about children affects them more than we consider.

“The burden of responsibility for enabling all children to feel safe, accepted and loved, rests with us, the ‘grown-ups’ – and sometimes we need reminding that we don’t always do a good job of it,” she said.

Cadence’s response led to Angela crying “happy tears,” touched by what her daughter had said.

                             

“There have, on a handful of occasions, been scenarios where grown ups who are either not familiar with her challenges, or not tolerant of how she experiences the world, have behaved and responded poorly to her,” said Angela. “The negative impact on Cadence of these incidents have been very clear.”

Angela runs a Facebook page called “I am Cadence” that focuses on the idea that every child is innately special in their own way.

“Perhaps it is through the sharing of individuality over ‘fitting in,’ of encouraging curiosity and discussion over ‘gossip’, of promoting the right to child hood innocence over grown up perceptions – that it might just be possible, in some small way, to impact the world – one story at a time.”

source;www.buzzfeed.com

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My Son Has the Kind of Autism No One Talks About This Part 3-Term Life

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Like most parents of children with autism, I have been reading about the family in California who is being sued by several families in their neighborhood. The lawsuitcontends that their child is a public nuisance because of his behaviors that his parents failed to fix.

One of the plaintiffs in this case stated “This is not about autism. This is about public safety.”

But he is wrong. This is absolutely about autism. It’s just not about the autism people hear about.

The media shows us all of the feel-good stories, like the child with autism who gets to be the manager of the high school basketball team, or the boy with autism who goes to the prom with the beautiful girl, or the girl with autism who is voted onto the homecoming court. We light it up blue every April and pat ourselves on the back for being so aware.

But we aren’t aware.

Because for every boy with autism who manages his high school basketball team, there are 20 boys with autism who smear feces. And for every girl with autism who gets to be on the homecoming court, there are 30 girls with autism who pull out their hair and bite their arms until they bleed. And for every boy with autism who gets to go the prom, there are 50 boys with autism who hit and kick and bite and hurt other people.

This is the autism that no one talks about. This is the autism that no one wants to see.

We aren’t aware.

One of the plaintiffs said “We’re not upset about him being autistic. We are concerned and upset about his violence (toward) our children.”

There is no way to be upset by this child’s behaviors and not be upset about autism.

Autism and behaviors go hand-in-hand. Why? The behaviors are communication. Individuals with autism often can’t communicate in a way that typically functioning people can understand. So they do things to get their needs met. And often the things they do are scary and violent.

My Son Has the Kind of Autism No One Talks About — Part 2

We aren’t aware.

My son, who is the same age as the child in this story, was extremely aggressive when he was younger. He did all of the things that the child involved in this lawsuit did. My son ran after other children on the playground just to push them down. He hit. He kicked. He bit. He pulled hair. And I never knew what was coming. For the longest time, I would flinch when he ran up to me…I didn’t know whether he was going to hug me or hit me. Can you imagine, as a mom, what that’s like? To flinch when your child runs to you?

We aren’t aware.

Because I didn’t know what my son was going to do to other children, we stopped going to the park. We stopped going to the Mommy and Me class at the library. We started going to the grocery store at 6:00 a.m. when most people weren’t around. He didn’t go to daycare but had a sitter at home so he wouldn’t be around other kids in a daycare setting. I essentially isolated him in order to keep other people safe. Can you imagine what it’s like to be a mom and not be able to take your child to the park? Or have your child attend birthday parties? Or have play dates?

We aren’t aware.

Because of my need to isolate my son, I also isolated myself too. I watched from my window as other moms in the neighborhood sat in their camp chairs and chatted while their children played. I couldn’t join them because my son couldn’t be around the other kids. Once a mom asked if my son could come to their house and play with her son. Can you imagine what it was like to feel so excited and then feel so ashamed when, after explaining my son’s issues to her so she would be aware, that invitation was rescinded?

We aren’t aware. Not at all.

But we can be. We can open our eyes and understand that autism isn’t all about the high functioning child who is “quirky” but OK to be around. Autism isn’t all about the six-year-old who can play Piano Man better than Billy Joel. Autism can be hard. Autism can be sad. Autism can be messy. Autism can be violent. Autism can be isolating.

My Son Has the Kind of Autism No One Talks About — Part 2

Once we become really aware, lawsuits like this won’t happen. Why? Because instead of putting blue lights on our front porches, we will go outside with our kids and we will help them play together…typically functioning kids and kids with autism. We will get to know our neighbors and we will embrace the children with behaviors and embrace their parents along with them.

We will learn what things trigger our child’s classmate who has autism so that we can help the children interact while avoiding things that will cause aggression. We will be a true village, including those who can model appropriate behaviors and those who are trying so hard to learn them. We will work on teaching our children not to hit and how to avoid being hit.

The parents involved in this lawsuit, on both sides, need to do more. More education, more understanding, more inclusion and more involvement.

Now tell me, is autism the real public nuisance?

We can become aware … if we really want to.

source;http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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6-year-old girl defends autistic brother with viral letter

When a 6-year-old girl heard another child calling her autistic brother “weird,” she decided she needed to take action.

Her heartfelt, handwritten note to her student body has inspired a movement across the globe.

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Lex Camilleri and her brother, 9-year-old Frank, have always been close. While Lex is the younger of the siblings, she often serves as Frank’s protector, her parents told Today.

“Lex absolutely loves Frank,” Sophie Camilleri, the children’s mother, said. “She’s always by his side … she always looks out for him.”

So when a girl at her school approached her and told her that her big brother was “weird,” she immediately tried to explain to the child that Frank has autism. Her classmate had no idea what that meant, Camilleri told Today.

“The fact is, she has lived and breathed autism for the first six years of her life,” she said. “Ultimately, she was taken aback by the lack of understanding.”

So with a little help from her parents, Lex sat down and wrote a note to present at her next student council meeting.

“My brother has autism and is not weird,” Lex wrote. “I would like it if we could learn about all disabilities in schools so that everybody understands that some people are different, but we should all be treated the same.”

“Im so very proud that Lex has this view and wants to change the way other children view others with disabilities,” she wrote in her caption.

As of Thursday night, the post had been shared more than 36,500 times. Even the National Autistic Society caught wind of Lex’s crusade — praising her for her efforts on its Facebook page and encouraging others to share her note.

“We think there should be much more autism understanding in the classroom which is why (we) are encouraging all schools and nurseries around the country to sign up to our free autism resources,”

With just a few sentences, Lex has touched thousands of people — most of whom are strangers to the 6-year-old.

“Lex, you are miles ahead of the rest and I wish everybody was as forward thinking as you,” wrote one commenter. “My son has Autism and I wish more people (adults as well as children) would ask more questions about it so they can understand the day to day challenges he faces.”

Lex and her family are set to meet with a member of Parliament about implementing disability education in schools across England, Today reported.

Lex’s dad, Jace Camilleri, told Today he couldn’t be more proud of his brave little girl.

“It’s a critical subject,” he said. “So it was fantastic just to see her write it down. It spread like wildfire. We were overwhelmed with pride.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Autism is five times more common in boys than among girls.

source;http://www.gbtribune.com

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Parents Tell Their Kids To Avoid Boy With Autism. Then Mom Writes Viral Letter On Facebook

Being a kid is hard. The world is a new place to you, everything is a novel experience and the entire experience of growing up constantly provides new obstacles to overcome. Although growing up comes with its fair share of valuable lessons, it also comes with its drawbacks. While it’s in every mother’s natural instincts to defend her child, this story is an example of one mom going above and beyond.

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The mom in question is Nicole Duggan, an Irish woman with a three-year-old son with special needs named Riley. More specifically, Duggan’s son is on the autism spectrum and needs just a little extra care and attention. Riley is non-verbal and is easily set off by intense emotional stimuli. Although many kids may be accepting of Riley’s differences, Duggan noticed some hesitancy among the parents in her son’s class. As any thoughtful mom would, Duggan wrote an open letter to all the parents in the class:

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My little boy is just like your child, he loves to dance, he loves to be cuddled, he cries when he falls, and he adores Mickey Mouse. He is however “wired differently.”

The small things we take for granted every day are the hardest things for him to cope with. Different lights, sounds, smells or even the look of something can cause an overload that is too hard for an adult to deal with, let alone my little boy.

To the people that stare at him because he hums, join in with his little singsong, because in his eyes he is singing the best song in the world.

To the mothers that pull their children away from him, you are creating the bullies of the future. Children don’t notice the differences; they just want to play, let them.

To the lady that called him bold in the supermarket, try to look at things from his perspective. An overload of colors and sounds. People whizzing past you. You too would cry your eyes out if you could not tell anyone how you are feeling when it all gets too much.

To the friends that have disappeared, I hope this never knocks on your front door. I would not change my small man for the world and if you cannot understand him and how he works, then you do not deserve to be in his life in the first place.

Children with needs are the bravest, most courageous and most amazing little people in this world. They are fighting battles nobody knows and I guarantee not one adult would make it through half of the obstacles they do. Just because there is not a physical difference does not mean they are simply bold.

So this year I ask you to think before you judge, live a day in my small man’s shoes and you will understand how much of a superhero he really is.

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Above all, Duggan’s story is a reminder that we all view the world differently. All of our experiences are unique and deserve respect. To foster a more welcoming world, we should make pains to be more awake to the struggles of others, especially those who can’t communicate as fluently as we can. While it may be difficult to stretch our patience, it always results in a greater understanding and appreciation of the world around us.

In this case, Duggan’s note is a reminder of a mother’s undying love which we could all use a reminder of. Click below for the full story and remember to slow down and appreciate the wealth of the world we all live in.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

SOURCE;http://thelightmedia.com

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What experts know—and don’t know—about autism and its causes

The prevalence of autism is on the rise, but its causes remain unclear—though there is no evidence to support a link between vaccines and autism

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This much we know for certain about autism: it is being diagnosed with more frequency now than ever before.

According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children in 2012—the most recent year for which data is available—was identified as being on the autism spectrum. That’s up from one in 88 in 2008 and one in 150 in 2002.

Whether that trend is the result of the medical community looking more closely or becoming better at detecting autism, or whether its a sign of something akin to an epidemic, is altogether unclear. In fact, very little about the developmental disorder or its underlying causes is straightforward.

M. Daniele Fallin

Image caption:M. Daniele Fallin

With so many unanswered questions related to an issue that impacts millions, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2013 launched the Wendy Klag Center for Autism & Developmental Disabilities in an effort to build a community of investigators and students to take a closer look at autism.

The Hub recently reached out to M. Daniele Fallin, the center’s director and chair of the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health, for insight on what we know—and what we don’t know—about autism spectrum disorder.

What is autism, and how is it diagnosed?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social and language communication, as well as repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. Children and adults with autism spectrum disorder have a wide range of abilities. Some people cannot speak at all and many have delayed or limited verbal communication. Some are greatly impaired in their cognitive thinking while others are extremely gifted.

Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD—the diagnosis described in the DSM-5—is usually made by a specialist based on observations in multiple situations and interviews with family members or others close to the person.

Do vaccines cause autism?

No, vaccines do not cause autism. Many studies have examined this question and none have shown any evidence for linking autism and vaccines, including the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, vaccines with a mercury-based preservative (thimerosal), or simultaneous receipt of multiple vaccines.

“NO, VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM. MANY STUDIES HAVE EXAMINED THIS QUESTION AND NONE HAVE SHOWN ANY EVIDENCE FOR LINKING AUTISM AND VACCINES.”

M. Daniele Fallin
Director, Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities

This overwhelming evidence has been examined and summarized by multiple professional boards and organizations, including the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. All of have unequivocally discredited any link. The research and energy spent on discrediting anti-vaccination rhetoric takes attention and resources away from what is most important: Figuring out what does cause autism and doing something to prevent it or treat the associated impairments.

A number of years ago, there was a study in The Lancet by Andrew Wakefield that asserted a link between vaccines and autism. Is that study accurate?

No, The Lancet officially retracted the 1998 paper in 2010. Most of the co-authors of his paper had already removed their names from the work. An investigation concluded that Dr. Wakefield intentionally manipulated data to support a connection between MMR vaccines and autism. His medical license, which was issued in Britain, was revoked based on evidence of deliberately falsifying data.

What factors have scientists determined do contribute to autism?

This is such an important question, and we are working hard at finding answers. In recent years, we have made great progress toward understanding the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to autism. We know that children of older parents have an increased autism risk and that boys are four-to-five times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls. We also know that genes play a role, and we’re starting to learn more about biological pathways involved in autism based on clues from rare genetic anomalies found in some individuals with autism.

Environmental factors likely play a role in autism risk as well. Decades ago, children whose pregnant mothers took the drug thalidomide for nausea or valproic acid for seizures were reported to have autistic symptoms. Fortunately, these are no longer in use for pregnancy, but these findings informed our understanding that autism risk may begin as early as in the womb.

We are learning even more about environmental risk factors, primarily exposures occurring during fetal growth. For example, there has been strong evidence implicating exposure to air pollution during pregnancy, as well as exposure to pesticides during pregnancy. Many other chemicals are being investigated by multiple groups around the world to see if they play a role in the development of autism.

Are there any ways to prevent autism?

Because we do not fully understand specific causes of autism, we do not currently know how to prevent it. But there is hope that insights from genetics work and environmental studies will create opportunities to prevent autism or to minimize deficits among those who have autism, through interventions that help individuals maximize their potential.

Is ASD something that happens during infancy or childhood? Or does it happen earlier?

The best scientific evidence right now suggests that ASD may begin as early as in the womb. Findings in brain pathology and imaging, gene expression, and prenatal exposure risk factors all point to in utero development as the critical period. Further, infant research in the first year of life shows behavioral and brain growth differences suggesting that ASD starts very early.

What do I do if I think my child might have ASD?

If you suspect your child has ASD, the best approach is to bring up your concerns with your pediatrician, who can guide you through further assessments if needed and refer you to the appropriate specialists and resources. Additionally, check with your local school district about early childhood developmental evaluations and services. Early-life interventions have been shown make a substantial difference in maximizing a child’s long-term potential.

source;http://hub.jhu.edu

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Brain Scans Show Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Unhappy baby

For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), early diagnosis is critical to allow for possible interventions at a time when the brain is most amenable to change. But that’s been tough to implement for a simple reason: the symptoms of ASD, such as communication difficulties, social deficits, and repetitive behaviors, often do not show up until a child turns 2 or even 3 years old.

Now, an NIH-funded research team has news that may pave the way for earlier detection of ASD. The key is to shift the diagnostic focus from how kids act to how their brains grow. In their brain imaging study, the researchers found that, compared to other children, youngsters with ASD showed unusually rapid brain growth from infancy to age 2. In fact, the growth differences were already evident by their first birthdays, well before autistic behaviors typically emerge.

Autism spectrum disorder includes a range of developmental conditions, such as autism and Asperger syndrome, that are characterized by challenges in social skills and communication. Scientists have long known that teens and adults with ASD have unusually large brain volumes. Researchers, including Heather Hazlett and Joseph Piven of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found more than a decade ago that those differences in brain size emerge by about age 2 [1]. However, no one had ever visually tracked those developmental differences.

In the new study reported in Nature [2], Hazlett, Piven, and their colleagues set out to collect that visual evidence. They examined 106 infants at high risk of ASD, based on an older sibling with that diagnosis. Fifteen of the study’s high-risk infants went on to be diagnosed with ASD at age 2. The study also included another 42 infants with no family history of ASD and a low risk for the disorder. In all groups, the infants were mostly white, had similar birth weights, and comparable family backgrounds.

Each infant underwent detailed behavioral assessments for early signs of ASD, such as trouble babbling or making eye contact, at 6, 12, and 24 months of age. At each visit, the researchers also used a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to capture detailed images of each child’s brain while napping.

Between the first and second scans, or just 6 to 12 months into the study, the MRIs showed something remarkable. There was a significant increase in the surface area of the brains of kids who would later develop ASD compared to other children. By age 2, the brains of these kids were obviously larger. The researchers found that kids whose brains grew the fastest also had the most severe social deficits.

But could these observations be translated into early diagnosis? To begin looking for an answer, the researchers turned to machine learning. They wanted to find out whether a computer could use features captured in those MRI scans, including the surface area and volume of the brain, to predict accurately which kids would develop ASD and which ones wouldn’t. They found that 8 times out of 10, the computer got it right. Importantly, the computer-derived algorithm relied primarily on the changes in brain surface area between the ages of 6 months and 1 year to make those calls .

If the new findings can be confirmed in more children, it may lead to a much-needed new approach to early diagnosis for kids at high risk of ASD. Piven says the findings also highlight that ASD doesn’t occur suddenly and spontaneously, as sometimes incorrectly thought. Rather, the disorder develops over time—beginning in the first year of life or likely earlier—from genetic and environmental influences that the North Carolina team and others are working hard to understand.

Why should the development of a larger brain lead to ASD? We don’t really know yet. Perhaps in the process of molding the brain for optimum function, it’s not just the expansion of neurons and synaptic junctions that matter, but also the “pruning” that allows this complex network—the most complicated structure in the known universe—to achieve maximum efficacy for human abilities and social interactions.The findings also add to evidence from studies in mice that ASD may be related to abnormalities in the progenitor cells that allow the brain to grow [3]. The hope is that, as more is learned about ASD’s underlying biology, researchers will make even greater strides toward improving its diagnosis and discovering entirely new kinds of treatments to help these kids and their parents.

source;http://directorsblog.nih.gov

 

edt-jake_and_mommy

Why I Walk: For my son’s beautiful smile

For Autism Awareness Month, I want to speak out on how much this cause and this diagnosis has affected my family.

5 years ago, I would hear the word autism and picture Doug Flutie’s Son, Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, or the little boy Max on the show Parenthood. Never in a million years would I think my son ‘had it’. I remember watching each of those situations and thinking, wow those poor people and their families. Heck, even 2 years I still… felt bad for them.

This blog post was written by Erin Haney, mom to a son with autism

However, something came over me finally. I don’t know if you call it education, awareness, understanding or acceptance. Maybe it’s all of the above. All I know is, I am no longer afraid of the A word or feel bad for those families. Instead, I smile and thank God we have a program and many programs around this world to enlighten everyone on what autism really is.

We sit in church and I see a young man in his early 20s who follows along in the hymnal and sits next to his mom. He attends to church, gets communion and shakes hands at the sign of peace. With the exception of the moments he self stimulates with his hands in front of his face, you wouldn’t be able to tell that he most likely falls on the spectrum. The kids we encounter at grocery stores or school, may have little noticeable things as well that make them fall on the spectrum.

The beauty of the awareness we all now have, thanks to the World Autism Awareness day and walks and fundraisers, is that these kids are no longer seen as different. We no longer pass judgment on their parents. We accept them. We understand. We don’t feel bad for them. We help them. We understand. We listen. We learn. Most of all, WE LOVE.

My family and I are walking for Jake and all of those AMAZING kids and adults affected by autism on a daily basis.

source;http://www.autismspeaks.org