Posts Tagged ‘autism’

Play, puppets can help kids with autism learn social skills, understand concepts

September 18, 2011

Imaginative play can help children with autism and other disabilities understand concepts and relate information into meaningful contexts.

Role play and playing with puppets can facilitate creativity and spontaneity in kids on the autism spectrum.  By enabling students to take part in scenarios that help them understand how the world works, imaginative and symbolic play can help students who think in concrete terms understand abstract concepts and relationships.

Because children with autism often have a difficult time learning concepts and ideas, it is believed that acting out situations using puppets, toys, and other three-dimensional objects can lead to greater spontaneity, less scripting, and ultimately a more meaningful social experience.  It is believed that reciprocal social interactions and the use of spontaneous, meaningful language can also be enhanced through the use of imaginative and symbolic play.

To read the rest of my article on, click here.

New CDC medical diagnosis code expected to help prevent autism wandering

July 26, 2011

A medical diagnosis code for wandering was announced by the Centers for Disease Control last Tuesday, a move intended to prevent wandering among people with autism and other disorders and diseases. The code will go into effect October 1 and will be identified as “wandering in conditions classified elsewhere” (V40.31). The code was announced at the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee meeting in Bethesda, MD, and was welcomed by autism advocates. Although the code is not specifically linked to autism or any other disorder or disease, it is hoped that the code will improve safety for those vulnerable to wandering, which include those with autism, cognitive disabilities, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Wandering and subsequent drownings are leading causes of death for children with autism, who are often prone to wandering, fascinated by water, and unaware of danger.  Many of these children are also impulsive and nonverbal.  In 2010, at least nine children with autism died in the U.S. after wandering, all of them by drowning. The trend has continued in 2011, with multiple incidents of deaths due to wandering. For each death, there are countless near-misses of mostly young children with autism who wander from homes and schools.

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Studies: Environmental factors during pregnancy can affect likelihood of having a child with autism

July 14, 2011

Two recent studies in the Archives of General Psychiatry show that environmental factors play a major role in the development of autism. The findings are significant because for decades, the mainstream medical establishment has steadfastly maintained that the causes of autism are primarily genetic.  However, some experts, and many parents, have known for years that the causes of autism are largely environmental.

In fact, autism is believed by many to be caused by a genetic susceptibility followed by an environmental trigger or triggers. The rate of autism has increased tenfold in the past 15 years, a rise that cannot be solely attributed to factors such as changes in diagnostic criteria.

In the first study, researchers examined 192 pairs of identical and fraternal twins from California. Each pair had at least one twin with autism.  The study showed that environmental, or non-genetic factors in the womb, may significantly influence whether a child develops autism.

The study showed that when one identical twin had autism, his or her twin only had autism about two-thirds of the time, a figure lower than expected, since identical twins have the same DNA.

Meanwhile, fraternal twins in the study both had autism about one-fourth of the time, which was higher than anticipated, because fraternal twins are no more likely to have similar DNA than any other siblings, yet they share the same womb at the same time.

In a smaller study, antidepressant use by pregnant mothers during the year before giving birth, especially during the first trimester, was found to lead to an increased risk of having children with autism. Exposure to SSRIs including Prozac, Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa, and Paxil in the womb increased the risk of autism 2.2-fold.

Some language on government websites about the safety of certain drugs is shockingly, recklessly contradictory.

For example, the National Institute of Mental Health states on its website, “Research has shown that antidepressants, especially SSRIs, are safe during pregnancy.”

Two lines later, the NIMH says, “However, antidepressant medications do cross the placental barrier and may reach the fetus. Some research suggests the use of SSRIs during pregnancy is associated with miscarriage or birth defects, but other studies do not support this.  Studies have also found that fetuses exposed to SSRIs during the third trimester may be born with ‘withdrawal’ symptoms such as breathing problems, jitteriness, irritability, trouble feeding, or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).”

To read the rest of my article on, click here.

Antidepressants during pregnancy may increase risk of autism

July 7, 2011

Antidepressants during pregnancy may increase the risk of autism, according to a new study. See the article on   SSRIs including Prozac, Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa, and Paxil have been linked to an increased risk of autism.

Scientists say chemicals are linked to increase in autism, Safe Chemicals Act proposed

June 9, 2011

Decades ago the medical establishment insisted autism resulted in the coldness of the mother.  Obviously that was 180 degrees wrong.

Just a few years ago they insisted autism was almost all genetic.  That was largely wrong because autism is very much environmental.

Now, as autism continues to increase, those in the scientific establishment are finally admitting that environmental causes play a major role.

Some scientists, parents, and advocates have been ahead of the curve for many years, insisting that toxic chemicals and other pollutants are major factors in autism.  Some of those experts spoke Tuesday on a conference call.

Some of the suspected culprits are endocrine disruptors such as brominated flame retardants, pesticides, BPA and phthalates. Mercury and lead are also known neurotoxins.

Many of these chemicals are ubiquitous in household products and even toys, and unfortunately, most people don’t know about it. The law that is supposed to provide protection against dangerous chemicals is 35 years old and has virtually no restrictions on chemicals, which don’t need to be tested before going to market.

To read my article on, about this, click here.

Here are some of my related articles:

Scientists say rise in autism may be linked to toxic chemicals in environment

Toxic chemicals found in baby products; some may be linked to autism

Toxic Chemicals Safety Act to be on 2011 Congressional legislative agenda

Health advocates rally at Capitol for chemical safety bill; some chemicals linked to autism, cancer

Landrigan calls for more research into pesticides, toxic chemicals, environmental causes of autism

Congress: CDC misled public about Washington, D.C. lead in water crisis, lead was toxic for some

Autism advocate Lyn Redwood discusses mercury vaccine controversy, chelation, treatment and recovery

CDC: 15,000 Washington, D.C. homes may have dangerous levels of lead in water

Interview with Dan Olmsted, Mark Blaxill: ‘Age of Autism-Mercury, Medicine, and a Manmade Epidemic’

Jennifer VanDerHorst-Larson on vaccines, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, treatments for son with autism

Toxic chemicals found in baby products; brominated flame retardants may be linked to autism

May 19, 2011

new study shows that 80 percent of products tested made for infants and toddlers contained toxic chemical flame retardants that can have harmful effects on health.  The products include items made with polyurethane foam such as car seats, mattresses, and changing pads.  Of the 80 samples in the study that contained flame retardants, 79 were either brominated or chlorinated.

Brominated flame retardants, or those based in the chemical element bromine, have been implicated as potential risk factors in autism spectrum disorders, cancer, and other health problems. Studies on brominated flame retardants have shown adverse developmental effects on animals.

Brominated flame retardants have increased in household products over the last 30 years because they make them less flammable. However, the toxins from these chemicals can leach from the products into the environment and accumulate in the body.  Fetuses and babies are especially susceptible to toxic chemicals.

To read the rest of my article on, click here.

Interview with autism advocate Sheila Medlam about son Mason and wandering

April 23, 2011

On July 27, 2010, 5-year old Mason Medlam, a non-verbal boy with autism, wandered from his home in Colwich, Kansas and drowned in a pond despite numerous safety precautions.  Click here to read an interview with Mason’s mother Sheila.

Mason was one of at least nine children with autism in the U.S. who died after wandering in 2010, all from drowning.  So far in 2011, three children with autism in the U.S. have drowned after wandering. On March 30, a child with autism in Victoria, Australia died after being struck by a train.  On April 3, a child with autism in Quebec, Canada went missing after wandering and has not been found.

In the eight months since her son Mason’s death, Sheila Medlam has been raising awareness of autism wandering.  She has established the Mason Allen Medlam Foundation for Autism Safety and collected more than 100,000 signatures to propose a “Mason Alert” program. The Mason Alert would consist of an alert that would be triggered when a child with autism goes missing, and a registry of children with autism and other disabilities at risk for wandering.

Please click here to read the interview with Sheila Medlam on

Preventing autism wandering: tracking devices, medical diagnostic code, Amber Alert proposed

April 22, 2011

Children with autism are often prone to wandering, fascinated by water, and unaware of danger.  Many of these children are also impulsive and nonverbal. This combination of characteristics can be fatal.

In 2010, at least nine children with autism died in the U.S. after wandering, all of them by drowning.  Already in 2011, at least three children with autism have drowned in the U.S. after wandering.  On March 30, a child with autism in Victoria, Australia died after being struck by a train.  He wandered from home.  On April 3, a child with autism in Quebec, Canada went missing after wandering and has not been found. The search has focused on a river.

“It’s just terrible to watch it happen over and over again. We relive the loss of Mason each time,” said Sheila Medlam, whose 5-year old son Mason drowned in a pond after wandering away from his house in Colwich, Kansas July 27, 2010.

In an interview with, Medlam talked about the life of her son Mason, the joy he brought her and her family, his tragic death, and efforts to raise awareness to prevent future wandering fatalities.

For more on wandering and autism, read the rest of my article on here.

‘Wretches and Jabberers’ documentary playing in 40 cities in April for Autism Awareness Month

April 3, 2011

Wretches and Jabberers: And Stories from the Road is a powerful, moving documentary that follows two men with autism as they travel the world, visiting friends with autism and changing attitudes about disabilities along the way.

The potentially groundbreaking film opens in 40 cities in April to commemorate National Autism Awareness Month.

Many people with autism have extremely limited verbal skills or no speech whatsoever.  It has long been assumed by the general public, and even by many parents, educators, and caretakers that scant speech equals low intelligence.

In Wretches and Jabberers, the movie’s protagonists dispel this myth.  The two men and the four friends they visit show the world that they are in fact exceedingly intelligent, eloquent in their writings, and charmingly funny.  Like Helen Keller before them, the “wretches” in the movie are pioneers, blazing trails for others to follow.  The message of the movie is to show the world that there are others like them who are vastly underestimated and whose potential is untapped.  It is a message of hope.

The film follows Tracy Thresher, 42, and Larry Bissonnette, 52, both from Vermont, as they travel to Sri Lanka, Japan, and Finland to visit friends during their globetrotting tour who, like them, type independently to communicate.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Gerardine Wurzburg directed the feature documentary.

Thresher, Bissonnette, and the friends they visit can all type independently.  But they first learned to communicate using supported typing (click here for an article about that technique).

The soundtrack was written by J. Ralph, with songs performed by a star-studded group of artists including Judy Collins, Ben Harper, Scarlett Johansson, Nic Jones, Norah Jones, Carly Simon, Stephen Stills, and Bob Weir.

Click here to read the rest of my Wretches and Jabberers article on

Exercises can help children with autism improve focus, balance, motor skills

March 18, 2011

Exercises and yoga poses can help children with autism and other developmental disabilities gain confidence, develop better coordination, and improve motor skills.

Improvements in balance and motor skills often go hand in hand with progress made in cognitive function and academic achievement.  Exercising and playing sports also gets more oxygen to the brain, helps kids stay in shape, improves sleep habits, and can improve relaxation and decrease aggressive behaviors.

For children with autism, copying a facilitator’s actions can lead to improvements in the ability to imitate, which is often lacking in kids on the spectrum.

To read the rest of my article on, click here.

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