Monday, March 31, 2008

Will World Autism Awareness Day Raise Autism Awareness or Create Autism Confusion?

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. Hopefully the UN declaration will have the effect of creating real awareness of Autism Disorder and the related Pervasive Developmental Disorders. The prospects of that happening are slim though. It is much more likely that more confusion about autism will be created by the large media organizations such as CNN that dominate world protrayal of autism.

The biggest obstacle to generating real autism awareness will be big business, the big business of maintaining ratings for a large news organization like CNN. To generate media attention CNN will provide feel good stories. CNN will, yet again, interview Amanda Baggs, a "voice of autism" largely created by past CNN promotion. Ms Baggs is a very intellligent and articulate person in her late 20's diagnosed with a pervasive developmental disorder as an adult. She was able to speak throughout her youth and adolescence, had friends and even attended Simon's Rock College for gifted young people. Ms Baggs was previously diagnosed with a variety of other disorders and, prior to meeting an autistic person, and subsequently obtaining her own autism diagnosis, she wrote elequently on topics like schizophrenia, TLE, elves and fairies.

Now, CNN hangs on her every typewritten word, as a true "voice of autism". Ms Baggs story bears no resemblance to that of my son who has very little oral communication ability or to the many autistic people I have met in 10 years of autism advocacy. I am not saying Ms Baggs is not autistic, she has a medical diagnosis, but her autism is the only one I have ever heard of where a person who can communicate orally thoughout her life becomes unable to communicate orally as an adult.

CNN will show other remarkable stories of autistic persons who, thought to be "retarded" ,have become able to communciate through typewriters, technology and Facilitated Communication. What they will probably not do is visit the autistic persons living in residential care facilities because they can not live on their own or visit those autistic people who can not, and, unlike Ms Baggs, never could communicate orally or by any other means. The middle aged lady in the New York residential care facility who could not tell the world that she was being abused by staff because she could not communicate at all, the children and adults who hurt themselves seriously.

CNN will probably not tell the world that the Facilitated Communication they help promote with their feel good stories has been discredited by serious responsibile agencies which have reviewed FC and found that the "communication" is often a reflection of the facilitator's thoughts not the autistic person. (When an autistic person uses technology without a facilitator it is properly described as Augmented Communication not Facilitated Communication). Nor will CNN be likely to mention the recent case in Michigan that saw false sex abuse charges dropped after a family had been ripped asunder and suffered as a result of communications, purportedly from their autistic daughter, which appeared to have been influenced by the "Facilitator."

Will CNN help bust autism myths and raise real autism awareness or will it simply continue to create new myths and create more confusion? We should have a better idea on April 3, 2008.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Not Goin' Back CD Launch By Cathy Hutch

Last night I attended the Not Goin' Back CD Launch by Cathy Hutch at the Musiplex in Fredericton. Cathy has a tremendous voice and she gave it her all on every song, leading off with Not Goin' Back a song that she hopes will inspire people, even one person would be worth it, to make healthier life choices.

Above Cathy poses with BJ McKelvie before they both poured their hearts into I'm In Here the song for autism that is a hit on YouTube with 9,914 views as I type these words. And it is receiving play on radio stations around the world. In the bottom picture Autism Society New Brunswick vice president Lana Thompson helps out at the door.

Cathy also spoke about her personal connection to autism. She has a profoundly autistic adult daughter who is living in a residential care home in New Brunswick.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

8 Year Old Autistic Boy Charged for Biting Teacher

According to the Tifton Gazette an 8 year old non verbal autistic boy at Horizon Academy in Tifton, Georgia has been charged with assault after he bit his teacher. The teacher claims to have been walking by the student, engaged in regular teaching duties, when he reached up and bit her on top of her right arm. (This seems a little strange if the boy was seated how was he able to reach up and bite her on top of her arm while she walked by?).

I am amazed that an 8 year old non verbal autistic boy was charged with assault in this case. Many severely autistic children bite themselves and others. It is sometimes a part of their neurological disorder. The boy might well have been overwhelmed by his placement in a classroom with other students and might have needed instruction in a quieter less stimulating environment.

On the basis of the facts reported in the Tifton Gazette .... it would not appear they know all that much about autism in Tifton, Georgia.

Run the Dream Autism Update March 29

VOCM in Newfoundland reports that Run the Dream runner Jonathan Howard, who is running across Canada for autism, stopped in Come By Chance Newfoundland yesterday, and is expected to attend church services in Clarendon Sunday morning, March 30.

Autism and the Media - CNN's Shameful Non-Coverage of Severely Autistic People

CNN is continuing its shameful treatment of persons with severe Autism Disorder. If your only knowledge of autism was garnered from viewing CNN broadcasts or blogs you might think that autism is not a disorder, that every autistic person finds a way to communicate and that all autistic persons live happily ever after. You would not know that many persons with severe Autism Disorder, not Aspergers, not PDD-NOS, but Autism Disorder with profound developmental delays, require constant care and supervision. Some live their lives in residential and institutional care facilities. Some are assaulted in their residential facilities and lack the communication ability to express themselves to others. You would not know these things because CNN does not cover the "feel bad" autism stories, only the "feel good" autism stories.

CNN is a news organization and one would think that between interviews with Amanda Baggs they would find time to MENTION the fact that there are many seriously autistic persons who live desperate lives. They might, for example, cover the story of the middle aged autistic woman in a New York residential care facility who was physically abused and assaulted by attendants but lacked any means of telling anyone because she could not speak, write or type to tell what was happening to her. The situation came to light only after another attendant brought it to light and it was confirmed by video cameras in the facility. CNN might also tell the stories of autistic people who hurt themselves seriously by biting and head banging or those who simply wander off sometimes found safe and sound .... sometimes not.

CNN could tell you these stories but it won't because they are not "feel good" stories. Such stories are not as good for the ratings as the feel good stories. CNN would prefer to tell you, several times in fact, the story of Amanada Baggs an autistic persons diagnosed as an adult who types as a means of communication. CNN does not mention that Ms Baggs, before her autism diagnosis, and by her own voluminous internet writings, spoke to others, used speech to communicate, had friends, and attended Simon's Rock College for gifted young people. CNN does not give that full picture because it wouldn't make such a great feel good story. It makes for a much better story line to go along with the pretense that this person is non-verbal and communicates via technology.

At least CNN has started to feature autism stories other than Amanda Baggs of late. But once again it goes for the ratings oriented feel good stories. In Autistic poet gives rare glimpse into mystery illness CNN tells the tale of Tito Mukhopadhyay a non verbal Texas man previously thought to be retarded who can type and even write poetry. It is a genuinely heart warming story and I am happy for Mr. Mukhopadhyay and his family. And I do acknowledge that CNN does pay lip service to other more severe autism realities in this story ... with one line:

Whatever autism is, its symptoms range from a mild form to rendering individuals dependent on others for life.

Now if only CNN will actually do a feature on the lives of those autistic persons who CAN NOT communicate by keyboard or otherwise and who live their lives dependent on others. Maybe some day CNN will have an Anderson Cooper Katrina moment, cease with the "great job, Brownie" coverage of autism and show the world the harsh realities of life for those with serious Autism Disorder. Mr. Cooper has been part of the Amanda Baggs autism feel good spin so it probably won't come from him this time but maybe some younger journalist, a real journalist at CNN, will feel it is time to stop misleading the world about autism and show the whole range of autism realities. Real autism acceptance means accepting the harsher autism realities faced by many persons with Autism Disorder and their families.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Autism, Vaccines and A Shot in the Dark by Cornelia Read

I am not a member of either camp in the mercury /thimerosal/vaccines cause autism war . While I do not promote the vaccine autism theory I have never ruled vaccines, mercury or thimerosal as possible causes or contributing factors, along with other environmental factors, to the startling increases in autism. Nor do I subscribe to the easy assumptions promoted by the Neurodiversity faithful that the entirety of these increases is due to changing diagnostic definitions and criteria of autism, greater societal awareness and other social factors although I accept that these factors undoubtedly explain part of the increase.

The amazing research being conducted on the genetic bases of autism does not rule out environmental causes. Genetic conditions may create predispositions toward autism without being wholly explanatory of the development of autism. The fact that identical twins can have one autistic and one non-autistic twins suggests that external or environmental factors are also involved.

Nothing divides the autism world nearly as much as the mercury wars. Although I recognize the dangers posed by under vaccination of children and do not subscribe myself to the thimerosal causes autism theories I still try to keep an open mind and read new information as it emerges. Usually I try to read, to the best of my ability, and with the aid of professional interpretation, the new scientific literature on the subject. Most internet commentary is simply a rehash of fixed points of view and of questionable value no matter which camp it originates with but there are exceptions.

Writer Cornelia Read has written a blog comment called A Shot in the Dark at The Naked Truth about Literature and Life where she is one of the authors who "wrestle with the naked truth about literature and life". I recommend to anyone interested in autism who still has an open mind about the subject to read Ms Read's blog comment. It is well written and covers a lot of interesting ground, including the tobacco industry/cancer cover up, the "refrigerator moms theory of autism causation", the Simpsonwood conference, the rebuttal to the AAP provided by Dr. Michael Wagnitz father of an autistic child and a toxicologist, and the Polling case. Ms Read's comment is well written and thought provoking ....... if you are still open to thinking about this issue.

Run the Dream - Jonathan Howard Runs Across Canada for Autism


Jonathan Howard's Run The Dream Campaign is Targeted to Raise
$2.5 Million for Autism

On March 25, 2008, in St. John's NL, Jonathan Howard dipped his shoe into the Atlantic Ocean, signifying the beginning of an eight month solo run across Canada, finishing in Victoria, BC on or about November 21.

The run will cover approximately 9000km, crossing 10 provinces and more than 650 communities across the country. The campaign, with the inspirational name Run The Dream, is targeted to raise $2.5 million to benefit children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.

In partnership with Autism Society Canada, Jonathan is proud to dedicate his run to the cause and to children everywhere, "I want children to dream like anything's possible," says Jonathan. "This run is my way of telling children and their parents to never stop dreaming." Working together, Autism SocietyCanada and Run The Dream will raise awareness about ASDs. "Children, youth and adults with ASDs and their families from coast-to-coast will be watching and cheering Jonathan on as he Runs the Dream! " says Kathleen A. Provost, CFRE- Executive Director, Autism Society Canada.

Day one of the run included a visit to St. John's City Hall, Mile Zero of the Trans Canada Highway , a rally with students at Memorial University and an official launch with the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador at the Elaine Dobbin Centre. From St. John's, Jonathan will continue to crossNewfoundland toward the town of Holyrood.

"We the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, no strangers to chasing the dream, will be with Jonathan, in spirit, every step of the way," says Joyce Churchill President of Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador .

Coinciding with Jonathan's run is the first annual United Nations World Autism Awareness Day taking place on April 2. He will be near Gander NL into the 9th day of his run at that time.

Kicking off the campaign was a launch party on March 20 in Jonathan's home town, Mississauga, ON. Events and fundraising opportunities are scheduled throughout the eight-month campaign in cities across the county. You can log on to for more information or to make a donation.

Jonathan Howard, 24, McMaster University alumnus, and accomplished athlete developed the Run The Dream campaign to help raise awareness of the challenges faced by children with ASD and their families. Jonathan appreciates the groundswell of support that has already formed behind his effort and would particularly like to acknowledge the contributions of the sponsors (listed below) of Run The Dream.

# # #

For more information or to schedule an interview with Jonathan Howard please contact Alex Bittner at:, 888-507-5885 ext. 4.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Raun Kaufman Spews Offensive Unfounded Anti-ABA Rhetoric

I guess business can't be that good at the Autism Treatment Center of America. Raun Kaufman, the CEO of the ATCA has released an anti-ABA diatribe, Stop Trying to Turn Our Children Into Robots, that perpetuates falsehoods about ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis, the most evidence supported intervention known to assist autistic children and youths. Mr. Kaufman repeats incorrect, unfounded stereotypes about ABA turning autistic children into robots. He goes completely off the deep end and insults parents, like me, who have seen ABA help our children by comparing ABA intervention for autistic children to dog training.

My message for Mr. Kaufman, as the father of a profoundly autistic boy who has received the benefits of ABA based intervention, is simple - you don't know what you are talking about Mr. Kaufman.

I have several blogs on this site where I reference my son waiting in anticipation for the arrival of his ABA therapist. Conor enjoys his ABA therapy and it has helped us communicate with him and vice versa. It has helped Conor, despite his severe deficits, learn a range of bathroom skills and safety skills. Conor has learned basic reading, printing and math skills .. by ABA instruction. And he enjoys it asking for his ABA therapists by name and long after they have moved on. I have numerous pictures of Conor on this blog site. He is a happy, fun kid to be with and he is far from being the "robot" or "dog" that Mr. Kaufman rudely insinuates.

What Mr. Kaufman does not say in his diatribe is what the American Academy of Pediatrics has confirmed, consistent with previous reports by the MADSEC Autism Task Force, state agencies in New York and California and the office of the US Surgeon General that:

The effectiveness of ABA-based intervention in
ASDs has been well documented through 5 decades of
research by using single-subject methodology21,25,27,28 and
in controlled studies of comprehensive early intensive
behavioral intervention programs in university and
community settings.29–40 Children who receive early intensive
behavioral treatment have been shown to make
substantial, sustained gains in IQ, language, academic
performance, and adaptive behavior as well as some
measures of social behavior, and their outcomes have
been significantly better than those of children in control

The AAP report makes no mention of Mr. Kaufman's Son-Rise program. The MADSEC Report 1999-2000 did mention it though. After confirming the studies supporting the effectiveness of ABA intervention for autistic children the MADSEC Autism Task Force Report stated that:

According to Levy (1998), the Son-Rise Program does not guarantee results. The approach is
based upon “. . .becoming a student of the child’s world, observing, learning, assisting and
supporting the child’s flowering in a loving and non-judgmental environment” (Levy, 1998).
The Son-Rise Program does not seek to provide the child with information, or to teach the child to master predetermined skills. Instead, the program views the child’s current level of
performance as being the best that the child can do; if the child could do better, he would (eg, if the child could follow instructions, he would). The Son-Rise program emphasizes total
acceptance of the child, and encourages him to become a more motivated and participating
individual (Levy, 1998).

- MADSEC Autism Task Force Report p. 54

With respect to the scientific evidence, or lack thereof, in respect of the various autism interventions the MADSEC report stated in respect of Greenspan's Floor Time and Son-Rise:

• Without scientific evaluation of any kind:
Greenspan’s DIR/”Floor Time,” Son-Rise.

- MADSEC Autism Task Force Report p.6

And also:

There have been no studies of the Son-Rise Program’s effectiveness. Researchers should
consider investigation using research protocols. Professionals considering Son-Rise should
portray the method as without scientific evaluation of any kind,

- MADSEC Autism Task Force Report, p. 54

Mr. Kaufmann and the Autism Treatment Center of America would probably do better in promoting their product if they looked into the possibility of having independent, objective, studies conducted of their program and published in peer reviewed journals instead of perpetuating false stereotypes about ABA and insulting parents and family members who fight so hard to help their autistic children with ABA; demonstrated by decades of research as effective at helping autistic children learn and develop.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Autism Society Canada Celebrates World Autism Awareness Day with Call to Action

Autism Society Canada Celebrates World Autism Awareness Day

with Call to Action

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire – March 25, 2008)

On December 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 62/139 World Autism Awareness Day, by unanimous consent, encouraging UN Member States to take measures to raise world-wide awareness about autism and to promote early diagnosis, early intervention and necessary services for individuals with ASD and their families. The resolution designates April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day - a UN Day to be observed every year starting in 2008.

Autism Society Canada (ASC) joins other organizations around the world in welcoming this opportunity to celebrate the unique strengths of our Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) community and to bring world attention to the critical and complex needs of individuals and families living with autism.

ASC’s President, Christine Dade applauds the UN for this important recognition and also pays tribute to our strong autism community in Canada… “…The ASD community in Canada includes thousands of diverse individuals with many unique abilities and talents - at Autism Society Canada we are very honoured to work with an Advisory Committee of Adults with ASDs from across the country who share their experience and advise our Board on adult needs and issues. We would also like to mark this special day by paying tribute to our provincial and territorial network of committed parents and family members living with autism who have developed truly exceptional skills, knowledge and perseverance while working to support their loved-ones in the face of so many barriers. Individuals with ASDs and their families are an inspiration to all Canadians”.

Incidence of autism is now as high as 1/150 with rates appearing to be increasing across the globe. Based on data collected from North America, Western Europe and Japan, it is conservatively estimated that 35 million people worldwide have autism. ASD usually presents lifelong challenges for those diagnosed, for their family members and for society as a whole. Over 200,000 Canadian children, youth and adults are affected by ASD and many have very complex needs. These figures do not account for the millions of parents, other family members, caregivers, employers, teachers, researchers, professionals, and others who are also deeply affected, emotionally, socially and financially by an alarming inequity in available treatment, services, and funding for ASD.

Autism Society Canada has been working for over thirty years to promote a comprehensive federal National Autism Spectrum Disorder Strategy – we feel national action and commitment on ASD is absolutely vital in order to bring equal access to targeted health and social services for all Canadians with ASDs. There are currently glaring gaps in the availability of fully funded treatment and services for children, youth and adults with ASD. The lifespan needs facing our community in Canada and around the globe are complex and the treatment, service and accommodation needs across the ASD spectrum are multi-faceted.

All of us in the ASD Community – persons with ASD, parents and other family members, health care professionals, educators and researchers are joining together to ensure that autism finds its rightful place in the health, education and social services systems – we envision a Canada that sets an example as world leader, with a progressive, comprehensive response to autism…a Canada where individuals with ASDs are enabled to reach their full potential.

On this landmark World Autism Awareness Day we call on our federal leaders to take up the UN’s global challenge to act quickly to ensure the rights of some of our most unique and vulnerable citizens.

Autism Society Canada is a nationally incorporated charity founded in 1976. ASC is a federation of Canada-wide provincial and territorial autism societies whose collective memberships represent a very large community of individuals affected by ASD and their families in Canada. ASC is committed to advocacy, public education, information and referral, and the support of its provincial and territorial autism societies.

For more information please contact:

Lynn Andrews, Director of Communications, Autism Society Canada:

Spring WILL Come and So Will A National Autism Strategy

This has been a tough winter but these flowers won't back down. They are fighting for spring and it will arrive. Those of us who are fighting for a National Autism Strategy can not back done either. We must continue to fight. If we do we will have a National Autism Strategy as surely as spring follows winter, even a tough winter. Even Stephen Harper and Tony Clement can not stop the arrival of a REAL National Autism Strategy.

Email, write, fax or call your Member of Parliament and let him/her know that you want a National Autism Strategy. Let them know that if they want your vote and family members who support a National Autism Strategy they will do what it takes to give Canadians a REAL National Autism Strategy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Autism and Tasers

Tasers can kill.

They do not always kill but they can kill. And they are painful. They are not used solely to protect police officers from serious threats. They are often used simply because a person is "non-compliant" with police officer commands. Lax standards for use of tasers has resulted in over use and placing of people at risk of serious pain and even death. Of particular concern for me, as the father of a 12 year old boy with Autism Disorder with profound developmental delays, is that tasers, in New Brunswick, as well as elsewhere, are used against persons with mental disorders including autism disorder.

Some people with autism disorders, including my son, have limited understanding of language. They can also become overwhelmed by overstimulation and excitement. All the ingredients necessary for a tasering if an autistic person is suffering from a meltdown in the presence of a police officer.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture in commenting on its periodic report of Portugal stated that Taser use constitutes a form of torture:


Following its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Portugal ... The Committee was worried that the use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use.

(Bold highlighting added - HLD)

Young people with autism disorders have been tasered to calm them down. In November 2005 in Florida a 15 year old Autistic youth was tasered after he was already down on the ground, handcuffed, with his legs tied, with four police officers on his back. The boy , although 15 functions at the level of a 6 year old. He was 5' 8", and 225 pounds but at the point the boy was tasered it is difficult to see how he could have been an actual threat to the four attending police officers.

In a November 2007 incident in California a 15 year old Autistic youth was Tasered after being approached by police and running across a roadway causing two cars to swerve. He was then tasered and handcuffed for his safety. The boy's mother contends the boy would have complied with the police instructions if he had not felt threatened.

Autistic youths here in New Brunswick have also been subjected to Taser force by police. In Connecting the Dots New Brunswick Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate Bernard Richard examined the criminalization of youth with mental disabilities in New Brunswick. One of the examples he used was that of Nichlas ( a pseudonym) a youth with Aspergers:

It was very clear from an early age that Nicholas had difficulty with over-stimulation. He became quickly aggressive if too much was going on around him. He’s been known to react strongly to people talking to him and to thinking they were shouting when, in fact,they were not. He was also hypersensitive to tags on his clothes. He had a fixation about singing “O Canada” at any time of the day or night. He would memorize the phone book and license plate numbers, particularly of police cars and fire engines. He obsessed over details about machines and inventions and over certain words, like “Rubbermaid.” He was very bright in reading and writing. Specialists recommended a specific approach with Nicholas: having a predictable routine, having a quiet place to go to wind down when he felt too much stimulation (“graceful exits”), breaking up his day so he could get less stimulation and more control, and reviewing rules and expectations before moving on to a new activity, because he cannot deal well with sudden changes.

Nicholas ultimately ended up in a an FCS (Family and Community Services) group home. There he ended up being tasered, on two occasions, by police:

A series of placements in FCS group homes, at home with his parents, at the Child and
Adolescent Psychiatric Unit of the Moncton Hospital, and at NBYC (even frequent
moves within NBYC) began for Nicholas. Twice the police “tasered” him. (Police use a
taser gun to immobilize an individual. The gun releases two barbed fish hooks that shoot
thousands of volts into the body.)

Mr. Richard's report is careful to point out the challenges faced by staff in the group home. He also highlights the lack of adequate placements and help for autistic youths like Nicholas. As a result of his behavior and arrests Nicholas ended up in jail on different occasions where he was repeatedly sexually abused by a guard who later pled guilty and was sentence for those abuses.

In the United States recently there have been two more incidents of deaths of persons shortly after they were Tasered. On March 20, 2008, a 17 year old Charlotte, North Carolina youth died after being Tasered by police at the grocery store where he worked. In Florida on March 21, 2008, a 41-year-old man, who wandered through traffic and violently resisted arrest, died after officers stunned him with a Taser.

Police officers perform vitally necessary services in society and they often face dangerous conditions in performing those services. But that in no way justifies distortion by anyone, including police, about the dangers of Taser use. The false belief that Tasers are harmless or cannot kill has resulted in overuse of Tasers. They are NOT used just to protect police officers or the public. University students being Tasered in a library, a man being Tasered for refusing to sign a speeding ticket,and a visitor to Canada being Tasered and dying shortly thereafter.

Autistic people are sometimes challenged in understanding language and even where they do can sometimes become over reactive to excitement and stimulation. They are inherently vulnerable to being Tasered for "non-compliance". In New Brunswick "Nicholas", a youth with Aspergers, was Tasered on two occasions.

I do not want to see my profoundly autistic son, now 12 and growing, shot with a Taser at any point. I can fully understand any person with a family member shot with a Taser pursuing every legal recourse against the officers in question and public decision makers who could permit this to occur, elsewhere or here in New Brunswick; including pursuing complaints to the United Nations which has already indicated that Taser use is a form of torture.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

As Autistic Population Ages Are We Ready?

The increase in the numbers of people with autism disorders is heading toward a new and critical phase - adulthood. Like everyone, as they enter adulthood, the needs of people with autism will change. The 1990's witnessed startling increases in autism disorder diagnoses which are now estimated by the CDC to affect 1 in 150 people and 1 in 98 males. There are those who offer their opinions that the incredible increases in autism diagnoses are purely reflective of changing diagnostic definitions and societal awareness but other than the diagnostic definition changes there is little solid evidence on which to base their opinions.

A change in definitions of autism disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of he American in the early 90's, widely applied by the late 90's undoubtedly accounts for a significant part of that increase. It is possible also that increased awareness has contributed as well although that is not as clear. Awareness of many disorders and conditions has increased as a result of the rapidly changing technology of communication. Information is more easily and rapidly shared today then at any time in history. There is no obvious reason why greater awareness would increase autism diagnoses more than other neurological or behavioral disorders. In the meantime the boom in numbers of autistic persons is beginning to require that serious attention be paid to the needs for persons with autism in higher education, jobs and residential care for the more severely autistic.

Janet Zimmerman examines these issues in "As autistic children age, society faces challenges"on the Press-Enterprise, The article mentions several ways in which college and job challenges are being addressed and speaks to the reality of residential care for severely autistic adults but provides little, other than a parents' hope, on how those serious residential challenges will be met:

"Brandon Woolsey is severely autistic and functions at a first-grade level. He needs one-on-one care, which is rare in the adult day care programs currently available, she said. He also wouldn't do well in a workshop setting because the noise and number of people would overwhelm him, Woolsey said.

But Brandon is good with his hands and does well outside, so Woolsey and her friend are hoping to start a ranch where Brandon and a few other autistic men could live and work in a structured environment tending a garden and horses.

"I said my son is always going to live with me, but the reality is he can't unless we outlive our kids," Woolsey said. "As he got older, I started thinking about what's fair to him as a young man. He deserves to be as independent as possible."

The highest functioning people with autism, with some personalized help, will be able to go to college, hold jobs and live independently.

Those with severe autism may need residential care, day programs and transportation -- all more costly to the system than children being cared for by their families."

Are we, as a society, ready to deal with the tremendous challenges facing us as our autistic population ages? In New Brunswick, unfortunately, we have not yet made a serious effort to meet those challenges.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Autistic Man With 8 Year Old Mental Capacity Missing In LA Area

Police in the Los Angeles area are asking for public help in finding a 20 year old autistic man, with the mental capacity of an 8 year old, who has gone missing:

Police are asking for the public's help to find a missing 20-year-old Sylmar man with autism.

Daniel Robert Logan has been missing for two days, according to his family. Logan, who police say has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, was last seen Wednesday at his residence on Cobalt Street.

The police say Logan is also unlikely to ask anyone for assistance. He knows his name, birth date and address, but does not remember his telephone number.

Logan is described as 6 feet tall, 160 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes, and probably at this point sporting facial hair. He was last seen wearing a gray shirt, blue jeans and black slip-on shoes.

Anyone with information regarding his whereabouts was asked to contact
Missing Person's Unit at (213) 485-5381 or 1-877-LAWFULL.


Hopefully this young man will be found safe and sound. Neurodiversity ideologues who argue incessantly on the internet, appear in endless media interviews, lobby political bodies and courts and purport to speak for all autistic people, should explain how they have anything in common with low functioning autistic people like this missing young man. Of course, they refuse to acknowledge, reality and common sense notwithstanding, the existence of any low functioning distinctions amongst persons with autism.

After all, how could high functioning autistic people like Michelle Dawson (researcher, anti-ABA activist, intervenor in Court proceedings, former postal worker) and Amanda Baggs (former student at Simon's Rock College for gifted youths) garner so much attention for themselves, and purport to speak for all autistic persons, if the media realized that their disorders are so different from those of lower functioning autistic persons like the 20 year old man with autism disorder and an 8 year old mental capacity in this report?

As the father of a 12 year old son with Autism Disorder and profound developmental delays I have lived through similar experiences to those being experienced by Daniel Robert Logan's family although not for such an extended period. Some autistic persons who go missing are in fact found safe. I hope this is again the case for Mr. Logan and his family.

17 Year Old Dies After Being Tasered

A teenager died after police used a Taser on him inside a grocery store in northeast Charlotte.Charlotte-Mecklenburg police homicide detectives said they will investigate why police used the Taser on 17-year-old Darryl Turner Thursday afternoon.

The police forces who repeat TASER company propaganda that Tasers don't kill should explain how a 17 year old could die after being shot with a Taser.

It is offensive to common sense to suggest that Tasers did not cause or contribute directly to the deaths of more than 300 people who have died after being Tasered.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Autism and Vaccines - Measles Outbreak in San Diego

The ugly side of the autism and vaccines debate is showing its dangerous face in the San Diego area where 12 children have fallen ill with measles. 3 of the children are too young to have received the measles vaccine but 9 were children whose parents refused to let them be inoculated against the measles. Some parents believe that vaccines are connected to increases in autism rates. The belief is not supported by the scientific and medical communities which maintain that the evidence in support of a vaccine autism connection does not exist. The New York Times News Service reports:

"Measles, almost wholly eradicated in the United States through vaccines, can cause pneumonia and brain swelling, which in rare cases can lead to death. "


In 1991, less than 1 percent of children in the states with personal-belief exemptions went without vaccines based on the exemption; by 2004, the most recent year for which data are available, the percentage had increased to 2.54 percent, said Saad B. Omer, an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Canada's Sham Autism Symposium Failure and the Need for a REAL National Autism Strategy

The National Autism Symposium was supposed to be a key plank in the Harper government's otherwise pathetically weak National Autism Strategy. The symposium was initially postponed when the Harper government and the directors of the CIHR got word that actual, honest to goodness, parent autism advocates were being put forward as autism society representatives. Scared at the prospect that parents would voice the need for federal funding of Applied Behavior Analysis for autistic children in Canada the Harper government and the politically sensitive directors of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research postponed the symposium and rescheduled it for November 7 - 9 in Toronto. This time the CIHR took no chances and determined for themselves and without the names of persons who would allegedly "represent" the provincial autism community. Apparently the CIHR is as weak on democratic principles as it is in its understanding of autism and autism treatments.

In New Brunswick the Autism Society New Brunswick was not asked for the name of a representative to send to the symposium. In fact the ASNB was not even consulted about the names of persons they might wish to have represent New Brunswick's autism community. Some persons in New Brunswick were consulted and I know for a fact that my name was put forward but rejected by the CIHR political leadership. It seems clear that the CIHR wanted to avoid any outspoken advocates of evidence based interventions for autistic children.

There was no list of guest speakers or specific subjects published in advance of the "National" Autism Symposium. Unfortunately, even after the symposium there has been very little in the way of actual substantive information about the symposium made available to the Canadian public. Here is the only summary of the National Autism Symposium that I have been able to find as published on the CIHR web site by Dr. Rémi Quirion, OC, PhD, FRSC, CQ, Scientific Director of the CIHR's Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA):

National Autism Research Symposium

Toronto, November 8-9, 2007

CIHR had been tasked by the Hon. Tony Clement, Minister of Health, with organizing this event and CIHR-INMHA, with assistance from CIHR-IHDCYH, took the lead. The symposium was part of a series of initiatives on autism announced by Minister Clement in November 2006. The other commitments included exploring the establishment of a research chair focusing on effective treatment and intervention for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs); launching a consultation process on the feasibility of developing an ASD surveillance program through the Public Health Agency of Canada; creating a dedicated page on the Health Canada web site focused on ASD; and designating the Health Policy Branch of Health Canada as the ASD lead for actions related to ASD at the federal government level.

The symposium brought together 95 attendees including researchers, health professionals, educators, service providers, family members and persons with autism, as well as community organizations and government representatives. All the provinces and two territories (Northwest Territories and the Yukon) were represented. The goals of the symposium were to inform participants about the current state of knowledge on autism, to further the dissemination of ideas and to assist the research community in planning for research.

The opening evening session featured presentations from a person with autism (Daniel Share-Strom), a parent (Jennifer Overton) and a prominent researcher in the field (Dr. Susan Bryson, Dalhousie). On the second day, after introductory comments from the Health Minister, twelve leading Canadian researchers in the field of autism discussed the latest findings, with brief question and answer periods. Symposium participants then broke into six groups to discuss specific issues relevant to autism research. Each group suggested three key ideas to help inform research and presented these to the symposium as a whole. Every participant then had an opportunity to provide written feedback on these ideas and the symposium closed with some general comments from the floor.

Feedback from the symposium was very positive, with many participants appreciative of the opportunity to meet with individuals from different sectors and many expressing a wish to make this kind of meeting a regular event. For further information on this meeting, please contact Barb Beckett at {}[]

After bragging about Health Minister Tony Clements weak National Autism Strategy Dr. Quirion then stated in the summary that the goals of the symposium included "to inform participants about the current state of knowledge on autism, to further the dissemination of ideas and to assist the research community in planning for research." The summary itself sets out no description of the current state of knowledge on autism and, to my knowledge, no ideas have been disseminated. Judging by Dr. Quirion's objectives it appears that the National Autism Symposium was a failure.

In all fairness to the timid, politically sensitive, bureaucrats at the CIHR the American Academy of Pediatrics stole their thunder by releasing on October 29, 2007, just eight days before the CIHR "facilitated" autism symposium, two landmark reports on autism. In one of those reports, Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders the AAP stated that:

The effectiveness of ABA-based intervention in ASDs has been well documented through 5 decades of research by using single-subject methodology21,25,27,28 and in controlled studies of comprehensive early intensive behavioral intervention programs in university and
community settings.29–40 Children who receive early intensive behavioral treatment have been shown to make substantial, sustained gains in IQ, language, academic performance, and adaptive behavior as well as some measures of social behavior, and their outcomes have
been significantly better than those of children in control groups.31–40

The significance of this report on the effectiveness of ABA and its impact on the Tony Clement/CIHR sham autism symposium can not be overstated. Released just eight days prior to the sham symposium put on by Minister Clement and the CIHR bureaucrats the report undermined one of the real goals of the symposium - to present ABA as merely one treatment option amongst a host of such options. The AAP review updated previous credible American reviews of the Autism treatment research literature including the New York state and California reviews, the US Surgeon General review and the MADSEC Autism Task Force Report 1999-2000 all of which endorsed ABA as, to date, the only autism intervention with a solid evidentiary bases in support of its effectiveness in helping autistic children. This result ran directly contrary to the hopes of Minister Clement and his staged autism symposium; a symposium so obviously contrived to suit the political agenda of the Harper-Clement government that no substantive report of the "ideas to be disseminated" about autism has yet been "disseminated". The CIHR people are apparently too ashamed of their sham symposium to issue a detailed report of its proceedings, which would undoubtedly stand in direct contradiction to the much more credible AAP report.

It is long past time that the Canadian autism community stopped putting up with such contrived nonsense and demanded a real National Autism Strategy; one which would see our federal government help autistic children wherever they live in Canada.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Autism and The Dangers of Facilitated Communication

In Part two: Sex abuse case against Oakland couple was legal horror show Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press reports on the dropping of sex abuse charges against a Michigan couple accused of sexually abusing their teenage autistic daughter. The case was based on allegations allegedly typed by the daughter with the assistance of an aide. Ultimately professionals who became involved with the case testified that there were signs that the girl was being subtly directed or influenced by the aide in typing her allegations. Charges were dropped. Before that point arrived however the mother had been placed on an electronic tether, the father had been jailed and the girl and her brother were sent to live in foster homes for over 100 days.

During the trial the girl was unable to type responsive answers to 17 question asked of her during the trial as shown in these questions and answers:

Q: What color is your sweater?


Q: What are you holding in your hand right now?

A: I AM 14

As the Free Press article reports Facilitated Communication had been rejected by researchers and in court proceedings:

Spurred by a flurry of cases in which autistic children using FC accused seemingly trustworthy adults of sexually molesting them, researchers began conducting double-blind experiments. In trial after trial, experimenters demonstrated that typed messages were actually being directed -- albeit unconsciously -- by the facilitators themselves.

Alan Zwiebel is a New York civil rights lawyer whose legal crusade against FC culminated in a celebrated 1997 case in which a federal jury awarded $750,000 to a New York couple who'd lost custody of their retarded daughter. Jurors concluded officials knew or should have known the girl's facilitated allegations of abuse were bogus.

Zwiebel professed astonishment when I told him that Oakland County prosecutors had relied on FC evidence to bring criminal charges against the West Bloomfield girl's parents.

"Facilitated communication? My God -- I though we stuck a stake through its heart in 1997," he said.

Since his 11-year-old federal case, Zwiebel said, "there's been a bright-line rule that facilitated communication is unreliable, period."

Mr. Zweibel's assessment of Facilitated Communication was consistent with the MADSEC Autism Task Force Report 1999-2000 which concluded that:

Accumulated peer-reviewed, empirically-based research studies have not supported the
effectiveness of facilitated communication. Equally important, the research has substantiated
the potential for great harm (Foxx, 1995; Margolin, 1994, Myers, 1994). Researchers may
consider further investigation using research protocols, with particular care to protect subjects and their families against harm. It is not recommended that professionals consider the use of facilitated communication.

In Oakland County Michigan a family has suffered from the ignorance of local officials about the unreliability and dangers of facilitated communication. The Detroit Free Press, in reporting this story, is doing a service to all persons with autism, their families and carers who might be harmed by this unreliable and dangerous autism intervention.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Autism and Brain Connections - Contactin 4 Gene Disruption Implicated in 2.5 Per Cent Of Autism Cases

A study led by Dr. Eli Hatchwell of Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York has found that disruption of a gene called contactin 4 prevents the brain from making proper networks. Two copies of the gene are required for proper functioning but some children have either three copies or one copy. Dr. Hatchwell estimates that contactin 4 gene disruption may be involved in as many as 2.5 percent of autism cases:

"Generally the mistake that people make is they are looking for one unifying cause for autism, and there is no such thing and there never will be," Hatchwell said in a telephone interview.


"Autism is a syndrome. These individuals have all been grouped together as having the same thing. There will be many, many dozens if not hundreds of different causes," he said.

Contactin 4 is involved in the development of axons, which are the long strings that connect one neuron to another. Other disruptions of this gene are known to cause developmental delay and mental retardation.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Autism Tragedy In Tasmania, Australia


ROGER LAW, Secretary of ATAC, (Action For Tasmanian Autistic Children) said today that the tragedy at Clifton Beach highlighted the total lack of services for Autistic children in Tasmania, and the lack of qualified and knowledgeable professional help for families with autistic children.

Mr Law said that on Friday afternoon, he and the missing boy's mother had been with the Commissioner for Children and had raised with him the appropriateness of housing two seriously disturbed autistic children, who did not like each other, in the same unit.
Mr Law queried why only one carer was left to look after these two very seriously disturbed autistic children, neither of whom had the capacity for language. Mr Law said he understands that the normal practice was for two carers to be rostered when both boys were present in the unit. He questioned whether this was a case of budget considerations getting in the way of best practice for vulnerable children in care?

Roger said he had no criticism of the Carer involved, who was known to him, and whom he had trusted to give respite for his own autistic grandson. He was a strong gentle giant of a man whom it appears was placed in an impossible situation by his employer and who [apparently] gave his own life trying to protect a seriously disabled child.
'His family is now another family thrown into tragedy by the lack of understanding of autism so prevalent in the government departments responsible for caring for these children.'
Mr Law called on the Government to immediately come to the aid of the family of the missing boy. as they are in shock and crisis.
'This tragedy would not have happened if the family were not in emergency accommodation awaiting placement with the Housing Department. It was normal practice for the son to stay with his family on Friday and Saturdays, but this was not possible because of the accommodation problem this week.'
Roger said that the boy's mother had tried desperately for seven months to get help in her own home to help her keep the boy, who was experiencing a total breakdown, with his family. When government services refused to give the aid she needed to keep her other children safe, she had no option but to leave her son with the authorities.
'What role did the neglect of these Government Services over an extended period of time play in this tragedy?' he asked.
The Coroner has already been asked to assess the role that lack of appropriate Government Services played in the death of another autistic youth last year.
'And now it appears to have happened again,' he said.
'Government Services do not learn.,' Mr Law said. 'Even now there is another tragedy waiting to happen. A very ill single mother with a severely autistic child is in crisis. ATAC had been able to obtain a government funded program for her son, and significant improvement was being made. The funding for this program has been withdrawn in an attempt to force her to place her son into school. This was in spite of warnings from a world-recognized expert that all the child's gains will be lost and that he will break down if returned to normal schooling.

'So we have a seriously ill mother having complex seizures on a daily basis with a seriously disabled son who is being refused help in her home by Government Services. And these Government Services are supposed to be helping disabled children and their families. This is another tragedy just waiting to happen!'
Mr Law instanced a case where the mother of another autistic child in care got funding from legal aid for her child to be examined and tested by an interstate expert in Autism Spectrum Disorder to get an alternative assessment of what was required for her child , and the Department refused to release the child for testing!
Roger went on to say that ATAC had just received a copy of the Californian Health Department's 'Guidelines for Best Practice in the Diagnosis of Autism', and that Tasmanian practices failed on all of the recommended best practice guidelines.
Mr Law said that there is a pressing need for a full independent enquiry into the services for people Autism in this State. He said that such was the paucity of Services in this State that international experts and interstate experts will need to be brought in to advise on changing the care of autistic children in this state,
ROGER CAN BE CONTACTED ON O3 6286 1316, MOB 04004271500
web site for ATAC:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Autism and Stimming - Conor Shows How It Is Done

The photos above are of Conor relaxing with Dad this morning at the Second Cup, Kings Place, Fredericton, one of our favorite weekend haunts. The staff have seen him there with Dad for the past several years. They know he has autism disorder. They know him as Conor. They have seen Conor laughing and enjoying himself. They have seen him melt down on occasion. Conor has always been very welcome at the Second Cup.

In the photos above, in sequence from top to bottom, Conor is seen stimming with a straw, his favorite stim object. In the bottom picture the straw is moving so fast you can barely see it in the photo. If you look at the basket behind Conor in the first 3 photos you will clearly see a red ribbon hanging down the side of the basket. If you look at the bottom pic you will see an object in front of the basket, slightly obscuring the red ribbon, Conor's straw, moving so fast it is barely discernible.

For Conor stimming is not a way of communicating with his environment. It is not a special autistic language. It is what he does.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Low Functioning Autism, Laurent Mottron and Common Sense

Dr. Laurent Mottron is an icon of sorts of the Neurodiversity movement. A prominent autism researcher who has published voluminously if somewhat narrowly on autism subjects (tending to focus primarily on autistic savants, Aspergers syndrome and High Functioning Autistic persons) he has nonetheless lent his high functioning autism expertise to advocate in Canada against government funding of ABA treatment for autistic children whether they are low functioning or not. Together with anti-ABA activist Michelle Dawson, the good Dr. Mottron is one half of the Quirks and Quarks duo that has made representation to the Supreme Court of Canada (Auton case, Mottron filed an affidavit in support of Dawson's request for intervenor status), the Canadian Senate committee studying autism treatment and financing in Canada and numerous media interviews about the views of "autistics". His views about low functioning and high functioning autism though appear to have escaped examination by his Neurodiversity admirers who mock use of terms such as low functioning or high functioning autism.

Dr. Mottron's anti-ABA advocacy, his articles designed to show hidden and perhaps superior intelligence of autistic persons, and his collaboration with Michelle Dawson, have made him a darling of the Neurodiversity movement as in the following comments by Neurodiversity blogger Autism Diva:

"Autism Diva must say though, that the real heart breaker of Fracophone 'oh-TEEZM" researchers is LauRENT MotTRON. (sigh, sigh) Mottron is at the Hopital des Rivieres des Prairies (?) and Fombonne is at McGill with Szatmari. (not so cute, not French)

Autism Diva met Dr. Mottron a year and a half ago. He doesn't have pretty hair like Fombonne, but he's the best homme in autism research, English speaking or French."

Yet despite his intellectual, and other, appeal to the Neurodiversity movement Dr. Mottron has acknowledged throughout the course of his research career that there are important distinctions to be drawn between low functioning autism and higher functioning autism, Aspergers and autistic savants. At least he has made those distinctions in many of his research articles. Any search of Google Scholar with the terms "autism" and "Mottron" will turn up numerous summaries mentioning function level distinctions of the autistic subjects of his studies. (The good Dr. Mottron has tended to focus his studies on higher functioning autistic subjects. It is not clear if any of his findings have been questioned as to whether they would apply to lower functioning autistic persons). Here are but a few examples where Dr. Mottron has used the high functioning label to characterize his autistic subjects:

… and Global Processing of Music in High-functioning Persons with Autism: Beyond Central Coherence? - all 9 versions »
L Mottron, I Peretz, E Ménard - The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied …, 2000 -
... enhanced pitch processing is highly compatible with the exceptional pitch-processing
abilities exhibited by musical savants with autism (Mottron, Peretz, et al ...
Cited by 86 - Related Articles - Web Search

Do high functioning persons with autism present superior spatial abilities? - all 5 versions »
MJ Caron, L Mottron, C Rainville, S Chouinard - Neuropsychologia, 2004 - Elsevier
... for participants with autism exhibiting atypical gain in cued recall condition
relatively to free recall condition ([Bennetto et al., 1996 and Mottron et al ...
Cited by 24 - Related Articles - Web Search

Face perception in high-functioning autistic adults: evidence for superior processing of face parts, … - all 2 versions »
A Lahaie, L Mottron, M Arguin, C Berthiaume, B … - Neuropsychology, 2006 -
... Lahaie A, Mottron L, Arguin M, Berthiaume C, Jemel B, Saumier D. Hopital
Riviere-des-Prairies, Montreal, PQ, Canada. Configural processing in autism was ...
Cited by 14 - Related Articles - Web Search

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
February 15, 2003, Vol. 15, No. 2, Pages 226-235
Posted Online March 13, 2006.
Enhanced Pitch Sensitivity in Individuals with Autism: A Signal Detection Analysis
These findings confirm that pitch processing is enhanced in “high-functioning” autism. Superior performance in pitch discrimination and categorization extends previous findings of enhanced visual performance to the auditory domain. Thus, and as predicted by the enhanced perceptual functioning model for peaks of ability in autism (Mottron & Burack, 2001), autistic individuals outperform typically developing population in a variety of low-level perceptual tasks.

Given Dr. Laurent Mottron's persistent use of functioning levels to describe autistic persons in his research it is not clear where the Neurodiversity movement finds its inspiration for its misguided attempts to obscure the distinctions between lower functioning autistic individuals and those like Neurodiversity bloggers who demonstrate great command of language and ability to function in the real world. Parents, including me, who must keep a 24/7 watch on their autistic children for fear that they will, as my son once did, cross a busy street oblivious to the dangers of automobile traffic. are often outraged at such absurd Neurononsense. The story I blogged of autistic 7 year old Samantha in Scotland who inflicts serious injury on herself by beating her head with her hands and other objects surely would be described by anyone with an ounce of common sense as Low Functioning Autistic.

Parents and others who function in the real world can distinguish between the functioning levels of children who are a danger to themselves, or the middle aged woman in a New York residential facility who could not communicate the abuse to which she was being subjected by staff and those who attend colleges for gifted students such as Simon's Rock College or become legal , political and media advocates. In the Neurodiversity world? That is another story.

Autistic Self Injury - The Autism Story CNN Does Not Tell You

CNN has offered a number of features on autism over the past few years. For reasons that remain unknown to many parents of autistic children CNN with all its resources and with its ability to speak to the world has chosen to obsess over Amanda Baggs, an allegedly low functioning autistic person, diagnosed with an autism disorder as a young woman, who amongst other abilities and accomplishments, was able to attend a college for gifted young people, (Simon's Rock College), make friends, and engage educators and professionals in discussion. Meanwhile CNN ignores the plight of millions of autistic people around the globe, including autistic children who hurt themselves quite severely. is not as squeamish as CNN. In Help My Autistic Daughter Before She Kills Herself, the DR tells the story of Samantha, a seven year old Scottish girl who will sometimes beat her head off any solid object within reach. She has broken her own nose and fractured fingers while hitting her head with her own hands. Doctors think it is Samantha's autism which directly causes the self injurious behavior while Samantha's mother believes it is because she is suffering from an undiagnosed medical ailment, possibly a tumor, and pain which she can not understand or communicate. Regardless of which is the more accurate picture in Samantha's case many severely autistic children, are known to injure themself. My own son has engaged in self injurious behavior although nowhere nearly as seriously as Samantha whose parents are fighting to obtain the specialist services including autism specific education that Samantha needs.

The DailyRecord story includes two pictures of Samantha. One picture shows her without apparent injury and the other shows her extremely bruised face. You are unlikely to see such a hard autism reality on Dr. Sanjay Gupta's CNN autism productions but it is a reality that some parents of autistic children must face, and their children must suffer with, if they do not have access to the services of appropriate autism specialists.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Autism Rising In Oregon But Services Are Lacking

Autism is rising in Oregon but services are lacking. KVAL reports Oregon state statistics indicating that autism is up 11 percent compared to last year. Services have not kept stride with the dramatic increase: "Local autism activists said schools lack the training, staffing and specialized programs to serve students with autism."

The situation in Oregon is not unique. Reports of startling increases in autism diagnoses across North America are common. Also common is the failure of many education authorities to come to grips with the challenges of educating autistic school children.

Here in New Brunswick, Canada, we have at least started to address this challenge in a serious and comprehensive manner. The outstanding UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program has, for the past couple of years, been providing autism specific training to Teacher Aides and Resource Teachers working with autistic students. The current government of Liberal Premier Shawn Graham and Education Minister Kelly Lamrock has committed to training 3 more years classes of Teacher Aides and Resource Teachers to work with autistic students, placing New Brunswick ahead of many jurisdictions in North America in making a serious effort to educate all autistic students.

Persons interested in more information about the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program for pre-schoolers or students with autism might wish to contact:

Anne Higgins
Director, Professional
Development Division
University of New Brunswick
College of Extended Learning

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Jayden's World - Living With CDLS

Jayden's World - Living with CDLS blog site, above, and web site, were brought to my attention by Kimmie Bevans, mother of 4 year old Jayden, who has CDLS. Kimmie and Jayden live in New Brunswick. Her mother indicates that some of the symptoms, and challenges, of CDLS are similar to autism although it is much more rare. CDLS, or Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, is described on Jayden's World web site:

Cornelia de Lange Syndrome is an extremely rare congenital syndrome that is also recognized under the name Brachmann-de-Lange Syndrome.CdLS is a very serious disability affecting almost every aspect of an individual's intellectual and physical development.Problem areas include vision,hearing,speech and language development,fine motor skills,motor skills,nutrition and feeding,sleeping habits,behavior,intellectual development,muscle development,and severe complications all of which can range from mild to severe.

Check out Jayden's World blog and web sites; to read Jayden's story and for more links and information about CDLS.

Autism Rising in Oregon

More than 7,000 Oregon students have autism, triple the count 10 years ago and 11 percent higher than just a year ago, the state reported Wednesday."

The Oregonian, March 13, 2008

Neurodiversity believers will automatically state that increases in autism in Oregon are due to changes in the definition, diagnostic criteria , and increased public awareness of autism disorders. They are partly correct in that such factors have occurred. And it is very reasonable to assume that such factors account for some of the increases in Oregon and elsewhere. But it is not reasonable to assume that the startling increases in autism disorder diagnoses is attributable entirely to definition change and social factors.

The belief that these increases are due entirely to changes in how we view autism is a faith based belief unsupported by credible studies or data. It amounts, without evidence, to a rejection of the possibility that environmental factors, not just thimerosal, but any environmental factors, are causing or contributing to the rise, across Canada, the US, and Europe to the startling increases in autism diagnoses. The presence of mercury, lead, aluminum, and a long list of chemicals and plastic components in our drinking water, and our environment generally, are ruled out as possible causes or contributing factors to the rise of autism.

The true believers of the neurodiversity movement are free to cling to their beliefs. I prefer to keep an open mind and, until more study is done, and more information is available, work on the assumption that the very dangerous substances in our environment might be having harmful effects on our children. Increases in autism disorder diagnoses might be one of those harmful consequences of our increasingly toxic environment.