Monday, June 29, 2009

Lead Babies and Autism: Does Lead Plus Mercury Equal Autism?

Grandview Corners in Surrey BC is the location of a launch for the book Lead Babies by Joanna Cerazy, who has a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership a and Sandra Cottingham M.Sc. and Ph.D. and twenty plus years of classroom experience with regular students and students with special needs.

I have not yet read Lead Babies. The book is reviewed in an article by Alex Browne in the Both educators noticed a rise in developmental problems including attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, autism, delinquency and violence. They conducted research across a variety of research disciplines and concluded that lead was the culprit behind the increases of these developmental problems and disorders:

“We wanted to know what’s going on,” she said. “We started researching various toxins and realized that lead was causing it – that even a low level of lead exposure can cause very serious problems.”

While the toxic effects of lead have been known for years, Lead Babies gathers together the latest research concerning in utero transfer of lead from mother to baby, showing that lead – from a multitude of apparently harmless sources – can pass into the brain and other organs of unborn children.

The Alex Browne article indicates that there is also a section in the book dealing with mercury:

“But there’s a significant increase in the toxic effect of mercury when there is lead in people’s systems. There’s a synergistic effect. It’s a missing piece of the puzzle, one you might not see if you’re only looking at mercury. But lead is such a key piece.”

And lead is pervasive. It is all around us:

The lead industry is still flourishing, Cerazy and Cottingham report. Lead is an important component in many cosmetics, and is a key ingredient in plastics that are required to be bendable, including toys. It can even be found in some kinds of imported candy.

I do intend to read Lead Babies. I will be interested in seeing what the gathered research says about the harmful impact of lead on development. But I will pay particular attention to the section dealing with lead and mercury and their combined or synergistic effects.

Does lead and mercury equal autism? Lead Babies may not answer that question but it is not often that you see any mention of the possible synergistic effects of the many toxins with which we pollute ourselves ... and our children.

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Tell the People and Rulers of Iran that the World is Watching

On twitter and on blog sites Bloggers Unite for a Free Iran today.

Tweet or blog your support today for the freedom seeking people of Iran.

It may not seem like much but each tweet and each blog tells the people AND the rulers of Iran that the world is watching. Hopefully someday the people will rule Iran.

Today I humbly express my support for the people of Iran in their struggle for freedom.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Autism, Vaccines and Public Trust: AMA Votes to Continue Sit Down and Shut Up Approach

The AMA has rejected a proposal by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law that asked the AMA Council on Science and Public Health to review the most recent research on vaccines and autism.

In rejecting any further review the AMA is essentially telling people like Dr. Bernadine Healy, Dr. Julie Gerberding and Dr. Jon Poling that their critiques of the epidemiological study limitations or the desirability of conducting comparative studies of vaccinated and un-vaccinated groups are invalid or unworthy of consideration. In citing the three recent vaccine court decisions rejecting any vaccine-autism link the AMA makes no mention of cases like Banks and Poling where the government settled vaccine autism injury claims in favor of the plaintiffs. In rejecting any further review of a possible vaccine autism link the AMA has shown that it does not have a clue about how to restore public trust in vaccine programs.

The full resolution considered by the AMA proposed that:
  • the AMA reaffirm its support for universal vaccination,
  • asked the AMA Council on Science and Public Health to review the most recent research on vaccines and autism, and
  • urged the association to continue to support research into the etiology and treatment of autism.
The AMA rejected only the second element of the three part resolution. How it would continue support for research into the etiology and treatment of autism while preordaining that the etiology can not include consideration of the possible role of vaccines is beyond me. The AMA is apparently saying that "we don't know the causes of autism but we do know that the causes do not include any of the biological or chemical ingredients injected into your child's bloodstream." Not a very convincing position. Of course I am just a dumb, ignorant parent of a child with autism.

In addition to dismissing the concerns raised by some health care professionals and researchers the AMA is essentially telling the many parents concerned about possible vaccine autism connections that they should sit down, shut up and do as they are told by "the doctors".

The AMA is apparently unaware that the sit down and shut up approach to restoring public confidence in vaccine safety has not worked.

In continuing this approach the AMA has shown it lacks understanding of how to restore public confidence in vaccine safety.

In continuing this approach the AMA is ensuring the continuation of the vaccine-autism war.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Iran's Brutal Military Dictatorship

I am breaking from my usual commentary on autism to express some thoughts about Iran and the brutal suppression of the Iranian people by what is clearly nothing more than a military dictatorship. Even if one's life is affected by autism, as mine is with the severe autism of my youngest son, we still live in a larger world and can not simply ignore profoundly significant events.

I do not profess to be an expert on Iran, far from it. In my limited, ill informed understanding of Iran I had believed that it was a theocratic autocracy, a theocracy, which had begun experimenting with democratic processes. My vague, obviously ill informed, view of Iran has been shattered in recent weeks and days. I do not understand how any religious based government could unleash murders upon their own people. I do not understand how any legitimate government, and certainly not a government which professes to subscribe to one of the world's great religions, could decide to execute people like the beautiful young woman known as Neda, slain, murdered, executed by a cold blooded, cowardly sniper's bullet.

CNN has strengths and weaknesses as a news organization. One of its shining lights is unquestionably Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, whose Sunday afternoon show on CNN focuses on intelligent, well informed discussion of international events with key world figures and analysts. This week Mr. Zakaria was questioned briefly by Wolf Blitzer about the events taking place in Iran. He noted that in the short term the people with the guns and money would probably prevail as they usually do ... in the short term. In the long run this could be the beginning of fundamental change in Iran.

When any government relies on guns alone to maintain control, to the point of executing their own innocent people with snipers' bullets, that government has only one ideology - power at any costs. That to me is the essence of a dictatorship, a military dictatorship. They can claim to worship God if they wish but what such a government really worships is the power of the gun.

Fareed Zakaria knows much more than I do about international affairs and events in Iran. He is probably right about the short term picture in Iran. In the long term though I hope the people of Iran achieve the freedom they are desperately seeking.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Autism Treatment Study Using ABA and TMS - Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

The University of Louisville has received NIH funding to conduct a clinical trial of an autism treatment that combines magnetic stimulation with ABA therapy. My first reaction when I read about magnetic stimulation as a possible autism treatment was to assume it was some wonky swimming with dolphins type of autism "treatment". But the University of Louisville news release provides an interesting explanation for the theory behind magnetic stimulation as a possible autism treatment.

A previous pilot study had shown that "repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), creates an electric current that enhances specific cells’ ability to protect the brain from sensory overload in one region of the brain". The researchers believe this eases sensory overload permitting greater focus on learning. The new study will use a higher frequency, twice the number of sessions and will also utilize ABA therapy.

Obviously TMS is not, at this time, an evidence based treatment for autism. The only way that new treatments can be developed and acquire an evidence based status is through study and experimentation. I assume that with the involvement of the NIH and the University of Louisville all necessary ethical and safety protocols for the participants will be followed. Hopefully the results will indicate a way to help enhance the learning abilities of persons with autism. As I read the press release the study may also disclose more information generally about brain connectivity issues and autism disorders:

NIH to fund U of L clinical trial of autism treatment

EUREKA award recognizes high impact, innovative research

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A promising treatment of autism has earned National Institutes of Health funding for University of Louisville researchers. This award will fund a clinical trial that combines magnetic stimulation with behavior therapy in people with autism. Researchers believe this approach will ease major symptoms of autism, which in turn will help participants focus on therapy to improve social interactions.

“This study, which builds on discoveries made here at UofL in the last five years, offers a new kind of hope for people with autism. It has the potential to change science’s way of thinking about autism treatment,” said Larry Cook, UofL executive vice president for health affairs.

“We have focused on using our new understanding of brain function to treat autism, instead of using medications to remediate its consequences,” explained neuroscientist Manuel Casanova.

The $900,000 NIH award will fund a four-year clinical trial.

Casanova and a team of researchers previously mapped the way tiny strands of brain tissue called cortical cell minicolumns develop and connect. Their research suggests that minicolumn defects interfere with information processing because a lack of “sound-proofing” between minicolumns leads to sensory overload, which magnifies underlying social and communication deficits.

A pilot study confirmed that people with autism have fewer tantrums and repetitive behaviors symptomatic of sensory overload after a low-frequency magnetic field is pulsed around their brains through a coil placed near the scalp. This process, known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), creates an electric current that enhances specific cells’ ability to protect the brain from sensory overload in one region of the brain.

“Neurological and psychological test results and brain activity measurements tell us that TMS helps with the symptoms that people with autism find most distressing,” Casanova said. “We believe that relief will give them the opportunity to learn to be more social adept and emotionally responsive.”

In this trial, patients will receive a higher frequency of magnetic stimulation and more than twice the number of sessions administered in the pilot study. This treatment will be paired for the first time with applied behavior analysis (ABA) to help participants learn and practice socially appropriate methods of relating to other people.

This study also makes use of new understanding about the brain’s innate connectivity. The brain of a person with an autism spectrum disorder is structured to make short, local connections between minicolumns as it processes information. The TMS treatment focuses on cells in specific regions of the brain and then relies on the cells’ connectivity to communicate the change to other regions.

“This connectivity allows us to train other regions of the autistic brain to manage the noise that causes sensory overload without sacrificing the talents that result from the natural brain structure,” Casanova said.

The National Institutes of Health’s EUREKA (Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration) program funds researchers who are testing exceptionally novel, unconventional research that could yield an extremely high impact on research.

Researchers are targeting children from the Louisville metropolitan area for this trial. Parents who want to inquire about the study should call 502-852-0404.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Characterizing ABA Treatment for Autism as Experimental is Arbitrary and Capricious

Anti-ABA activists at the Universite de Montreal and elsewhere in Canada and the US will probably be upset over the news that Blue Cross has settled a lawsuit brought in Michigan reimbursing parents of autistic children for the costs they paid out for ABA treatment for their autistic children.

As indicated by Jon Hood on the Autism News, Blue Cross had initially defended the suit on the basis that ABA was experimental and therefore not required to be provided under their health insurance policies. Lawyers for the parent plaintiffs in the case "argued that characterizing ABA as experimental was arbitrary, capricious, and possibly even illegal."

Some choice remarks from the article at the Autism News:

"Blue Cross acknowledged in a 2005 draft policy that ABA is anything but controversial. That draft explicitly noted that ABA is “currently the most thoroughly researched treatment modality for early intervention approaches to autism spectrum disorders and is the standard of care recommended by” a number of professional organizations, including the Association for Science in Autism Treatment.

Additionally, as the draft pointed out, the earlier the treatment is applied, the better the child’s prognosis for a normal and productive life.

During a court deposition, Dr. Calmaze Dudley, Blue Cross’s medical director, said that he would “probably” employ the therapy if he had a child with autism.

Fortunately for Canadian autistic children the same American studies and reviewing agencies referred to in the Autism News report have provided the foundation for much of the successful parental advocacy for ABA coverage that has occurred in some Canadian provinces.

Unfortunately the Canadian government still refuses to get involved in helping autistic children across Canada. While the Canadian Institutes of Health Research have no qualms about funding the recent study proving that high functioning autistics are up to 40 percent faster at Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices (RSPM) problem-solving than non-autistics it doesn't spend a single dime to ensure that autistic children in Canada receive the ABA treatment that even American commercial health insurance providers acknowledge is the the most thoroughly researched treatment modality for early intervention approaches to autism spectrum disorders.

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Does Exclusion of Low Functioning Autistics from Autism Research Distort Public Understanding of Autism Disorders?

Why are Low Functioning Autistic persons excluded from autism research as in the recent study purporting to show that autistics solve some problems faster than non-autistic persons? To me it seems like "cherry picking" the participants as Roger Kulp called it in a comment about the Soulières Mottron Dawson study:

"could someone remind me what they mean by "additional neurological condition"? Seizures? Nonverbal learning disabilities? Sterotypy or self mutilation? Developmental delay ?You don't have to be low functioning,you just have to be a nonaspie to be excluded from a lot of these studies.

By cherry picking your subjects like this,you can exclude and distort all you want.

In both the articles about this study,and the ones about the 2007 study,they make a point of saying that at least 40-50 % of all "autistics" are not learning disabled,and imply we should focus on the ones that don't.There is an obvious neurodiversity/aspie bias in the media."

Roger's comment suggests that the exclusion of low functioning autistic persons from autism research might be done, intentionally, to misrepresent the nature of autism. In essence Aspergers is substituted for "autism". The many low functioning persons with Autistic Disorder can now be considered to have separate co-morbid conditions which are not really part of true "Aspie" autism.

The exclusion of low functioning autistic persons from autism research is followed by their exclusion from research press releases and from the public understanding of autism. Perhaps that is the ultimate goal of researchers Soulières, Mottron, and Dawson when they cherry pick participants for their "autism" research.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Autistics Faster at Problem Solving? Low Functioning Autism Subjects Excluded from Soulières Mottron Dawson Study

The mainstream media is buzzing about a study by lead author Isabelle Soulières, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University who completed an experiment at the Université de Montréal which, according to a U de M press release, purports to find that "autistics are up to 40 percent faster at problem-solving than non-autistics".

The press release states that the study participants "were asked to complete patterns in the Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices (RSPM) – a test that measures hypothesis-testing, problem-solving and learning skills". An image from the test is provided in the U de M press release:

The U de M press release, which by definition is intended for consumption by media outlets, for dissemination to the general public, refers to "autistics" and "autism" but not once to the specific diagnoses of the participants or to their functioning level. The study report itself, which requires purchase by non-subscribers and takes more effort to locate than the press release, also refers generally to autism and autistics. The study even uses those terms to refer to footnoted articles which in their titles specify that the subject of the article is high functioning "autistics".

The study report, and the press release, insist on referring to "autistics " and "autism" as though the study referred to all persons with autism disorders. It is clear from the characteristics of the participants as identified in the study itself however that they were all High Functioning Autistics. Low Functioning Autistics were excluded from the study:

TABLE I. Participant characteristics

Based on the IQ information provided in the study report there were no persons with Low Functioning Autistic Disorder included in this study. It seems strange that a study which includes Dr. Laurent Mottron as a co-author would not specify their functioning level -Low Functioning Autism or High Functioning Autism. Dr. Mottron has published many study reports over the years in which he took great care to identify the participants as Low Functioning or High Functioning, Autistic Disorder, Aspergers and, in some cases, Autistic Savants. His studies focused almost exclusively on persons with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism as any check on Google Scholar can confirm. This paper does make it clear that persons with Aspergers were excluded from the study but offers no mention of the exclusion of persons with Low Functioning Autistic Disorder below the 100 IQ range. (The paper does not actually refer to the specific diagnosis of Autistic Disorder referring instead to "autism").

Dr. Mottron has tended to exclude low functioning autism subjects from his studies but he has in the past made it clear that his study participants were high functioning. This study by Dr. Mottron and his colleagues again focuses on high functioning autistic persons but obscures that fact for general media and public consumption.

Perhaps someday Dr. Mottron will cease excluding low functioning autistic subjects from his studies.

In the meantime it is difficult to see why a study which excludes low functioning autism subjects should be used to make broad statements about the abilities of autistic persons on all points of the autism spectrum of disorders.

In the meantime I humbly suggest that the U de M press release be modified to read:

" high functioning autistics are up to 40 percent faster at Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices (RSPM) problem-solving than non-autistics".

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Friday, June 19, 2009

FDA Warns of Possible Autism and Depakote Link

The Dow Jones Newswire today reports an FDA warning of a possible link between autism and Depakote, a drug used to treat seizures, migraines and bipolar manic episodes:

In a review of Depakote, the agency said it identified six reports of developmental delay in children that were not related to birth defects, including two cases of autism in one family. However, the agency said, "other factors such as genetic and environmental factors may have played a role, especially in the two sibling cases coded as autism."

Agency staff said birth defects are well described in the drug label, but said developmental delays and learning disabilities are not mentioned.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book Review of a Flawed and Mean Spirited Autism Book

Book reviews are not where I would expect to find a good understanding of autism spectrum disorders or the quirky neurodiversity anti-cure ideology which demonizes parents seeking to help their children but there are always exceptions. A review by Professor Guy Dove of Wendy Lawson's Book Concepts of Normality The Autistic and Typical Spectrum is one such exception. Mr Dove is a Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Departments of Philosophy and Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Louisville and his review of Lawson's book is balanced, objective and informative. It sees some merit in the principle author's view of autism as natural variation but also summarizes vary succinctly some of the flaws. Somewhat surprisingly Professor Dover points out the nastiness of two contributing neurodiversity writers in the book including ... no surprise here ... the "joy of autism" neurodiversity blogger Estee Klar (Wolfond).

While Dove finds some merit in what Lawson has to say about viewing autism as part of the natural variation of humanity he suggests that she takes the position too far, relying on unsupported generalizations, ignoring the very real medical challenges of autism and ignoring the various subtypes of autism. His sharpest criticism though is with the lack of empathy shown towards parents seeking biomedical and behavioral treatments for their autistic children. While Lawson demonstrates this lack of empathy the two guest writers Dinah Murray and Estee Klar (Wolfond) are stated to be more pronounced in their hostility and Professor Dove provides some direct quotes to illustrate their nastiness towards parents seeking to cure their autistic children:

"The guest authors, on the other hand, seem openly hostile to such parents. Murray sarcastically remarks, "Some Others [members of the typical population] weep and moan and deplore their autistic child's existence; they wallow in self-pity and congratulate each other on how Truly Dreadful it all is." This statement illegitimately paints a diverse group of people with a broad brush and seems to be little more than a mean-spirited attempt to silence critics. Klar-Wolfond is not much better. In her discussion of the admittedly questionable practice of using scientifically unsupported biomedical therapies, she offers the following rhetorical question, "And to make them what? -- better at maths, quicker on the sports field, or well-mannered?" This is doubly insulting to parents of children who have tried such therapies. First, it belittles their concern. The suggestion is that parents are merely trying to get their children to "act normal" when in fact they are often trying to ameliorate severe challenges with respect to communication and social interaction as well as other difficulties including debilitating anxiety, painful gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, and even violent behavior. Second, it denigrates their reasoning. Many parents who try such therapies agonize over their decision. Although some of these therapies have potentially harmful side effects, most do not. When Klar-Wolfond lumps together treatments as diverse as supplements and detoxification therapies, she is being both misleading and unfair."

Mean spirited? Misleading and unfair? Standard fare from autism's anti-treatment, anti-cure ideologues.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Autism Severity

The DSM V committees drafting revisions to the manual are considering distinguishing between autism disorders based on severity or level of functioning. Some autism "self" advocates have long complained about distinguishing between functioning levels of autism disorders based on functioning labels - HFA, high functioning autism, or LFA, low functioning autism. Some object to the division of autism disorders according to severity.

The DSM-IV already implicitly recognizes these differences by specifying with respect to Aspergers Disorder that:

D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years).

E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

Language, cognitive development, age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction and childhood curiosity about the environment are all basic elements of functioning in the "environment" .... in the real world. By definition persons with Aspergers Disorder diagnoses do not lack these important elements of real life functioning ability. The criteria for Autistic Disorder by contrast is based in part on the presence of some or all of these components of real life functioning. The persons who suffer from Autistic Disorder are by definition more severely affected by autism deficits than persons with Aspergers Disorder.

My son Conor is severely autistic. That is a fact of life with which we have to deal every minute of every day. He does not possess the communication skills or understanding of the world displayed by Michelle Dawson, Amanda Baggs or Ari Ne'eman. These people can communicate with the world and demonstrate intellectual skills and understanding of the world far beyond what can be imagined for my son. It is silly, just plain silly, and nothing more than that, to pretend that there are not significant differences in functioning levels and understanding between these three examples of high functioning autistic persons who have spent much time in front of television cameras articulating their views of autism disorders and the world and my 13 year old son who reads Dr. Seuss and can not, for his own safety, be left unattended.

As I understand from the Internet Ms Baggs was either at, or about to enter, a college for gifted youth at a similar age. Ms Dawson is a person who, in addition to being an excellent letter carrier in the very challenging world of Canada Post, was able to become an autism researcher, make representation to the Supreme Court of Canada (where she opposed government provision of ABA treatment to autistic children) and to a Canadian Senate committee examining autism treatment and funding issues. Ari Ne'eman is the head of an organization based in Washington DC who regularly appears before cameras, and meets with political and public bodies, declaring on behalf of all autistic persons, including presumably my son and other autistic persons like Jake Crosby and Jonathan Mitchell, that "they", autistics, do not want to be cured.

As a parent of a much more severely affected son with autistic disorder I am tired of the silly attempts to deny the obvious differences between those who can function well like Dawson and Ne'eman and those like my son who require 24 hour supervision. I have visited adult autistic persons living in psychiatric facilities in New Brunswick who can not function in the real world AT ALL let alone make representations to judicial, political and legal institutions or engage in autism research or advocacy.

My son can not speak to the world. But Ari Ne'eman, Amanda Baggs and Michelle Dawson do not speak for him. They do not share his realities. They are not affected by autistic disorder as he is and they show no real awareness of the very real differences between his reality and theirs in their sweeping generalizations about autism and what "autistics" want.

The DSM V committee attempt to distinguish between levels of autism severity or functioning is a step in the right direction. Look for a determined effort from Mr Ne'eman, Ms Baggs and Ms Dawson, and their followers, to oppose that direction. After all, if the obvious differences between high functioning persons with autism and those, like my son, who do not enjoy their gifts, are expressly acknowledged, the self appointed "self" advocates ability to speak on behalf of those much less fortunate autistic persons would be seriously diminished in the eyes of the public and more importantly in the eyes of reporters from the CBC, CNN, the New Yorker Magazine and Newsweek who cater to their wishes.

Focusing on differences in autism severity would, however, bring needed attention to the challenges faced by the severely autistic some of who currently live out their lives in institutions. A couple of years ago a middle aged autistic woman in New York was regularly abused by staff but could not communicate with the world to tell of the abuse. The matter came to light because of a conscientious staff member and video recordings which captured some of the abuse. The plight of that woman, her life challenges and realities, are much different that those of the high functioning autistic media stars who barely acknowledge the existence of the severely autistic and do not display any understanding of their realities.

If the DSM V does differentiate between autism disorders based on functioning levels, or severity levels, it will be a much needed step toward helping those severely autistic who can not speak for themselves. It will help to ensure that their needs, so different than those of media trotting, high functioning "self" advocates will be met. It will be a much needed step in the right direction.

It is time for the low functioning, severely autistic, to be acknowledged and their needs addressed.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Autism Progress Limited to Children in New Brunswick ...... So Far

I have written often of the great progress we have made in New Brunswick in helping autistic children. Our small province is literally a world leader in providing government funded pre-school autism intervention across our jurisdiction by trained autism support workers and clinical supervisors at autism agencies which did not exist just a few years ago.

Our neighborhood schools provide for the education of autistic children in a variety of settings in the mainstream classroom for some autistic children who function well in the classroom, and smaller locations for those, like my son, who do not. Teacher assistants and resource teachers continue to receive Autism Intervention Training from the University of New Brunswick College of Extended Learning which has been externally reviewed by, and received high praise from, renowned autism expert Dr. Eric Larsson.

New Brunswick's autism service delivery model for our autistic school children and pre-schoolers is not perfect. Much work remains to be done for autistic children, continued improvement in delivery of services for them is necessary, but the basics are in place. The same can not be said for autistic adults.

Some autistic adults can function in independent environments. Some autistic adults, and older youths, live in group homes in the community and can be comfortable and cared in those settings. But for others, more severely affected by the deficits of their autism disorders life is different.

Some of New Brunswick's autistic adults and older youths have lived on the grounds of correctional facilities and on hospital wards. Some have been sent outside of the province to live far from family. Others live at the psychiatric hospital in Campbellton, at present a necessary refuge for those who are too severely affected by autism to live in group homes.

New Brunswick is badly in need of a multi-level autism specific residential care facility for autistic people in Fredericton. Fredericton has the other resources: the Stan Cassidy centre which currently provides tertiary level pediatric care for autistic children with serious health and personal safety issues, the UNB Psychology Department which has been involved with providing some of the expertise which has helped this province, the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program which has been the backbone of the school and pre-school programs. These resources could all provide a real synergy of support for a multi-level care facility for autistic persons in Fredericton, one which could provide decent residential care and treatment for New Brunswick's autistic adults and which would be centrally located.

The world is living through difficult economic times and New Brunswick is no exception. Tough decisions are being made by government. It will not be easy to move ahead with the creation of a multi-level care facility at this time but I remain optimistic that such a facility can be established in New Brunswick.

Parents, professionals and politicians here have all contributed in the past to help autistic children in New Brunswick. Now we must move ahead with a commitment to help New Brunswick's autistic adults.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

US Regulators FDA and EPA Cover Up Chemical Dangers

Warning: Chemicals in the packaging, surfaces or contents of many products may cause long-term health effects, including cancers of the breast, brain and testicles; lowered sperm counts, early puberty and other reproductive system defects; diabetes; attention deficit disorder, asthma and autism. A decade ago, the government promised to test these chemicals. It still hasn't.

Chemical Fallout: A Journal Sentinel Watchdog Report

Autism is certainly not the only possible negative consequence of the untested chemicals which surround us and lurk inside each of us. Anyone interested in getting up to speed quickly on these common dangerous products and how protective agencies such as the FDA and the EPA failed their responsibilities and subordinated their roles to the companies that manufactured and profited from these harmful materials should consult the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel On Line Series, Chemical Fallout, which has been published over the past year and a half.

In a recent entry published May 16, 2009 the JSOnline reports direct evidence of the degree to which the FDA worked hand in hand with the chemical industry lobbyists and failed to protect the public:

"As federal regulators hold fast to their claim that a chemical in baby bottles is safe, e-mails obtained by the Journal Sentinel show that they relied on chemical industry lobbyists to examine bisphenol A's risks, track legislation to ban it and even monitor press coverage.

In one instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's deputy director sought information from the BPA industry's chief lobbyist to discredit a Japanese study that found it caused miscarriages in workers who were exposed to it. This was before government scientists even had a chance to review the study.

"I'd like to get information together that our chemists could look at to determine if there are problems with that data in advance of possibly reviewing the study," Mitchell Cheeseman, deputy director of the FDA's center for food safety and applied nutrition, said in an e-mail seeking advice from Steven Hentges, executive director of the trade association's BPA group.

The FDA relied on two studies - both paid for by chemical makers - to form the framework of its draft review declaring BPA to be safe.

The Journal Sentinel reported last year that the trade group wrote entire sections of that draft. But the revelations contained in these e-mails show a pattern of preferential treatment over the past nine years that was not afforded to independent scientists."

If anyone thinks there is no such thing as conspiracies they should read the JSOnline series and think again. Dangerous chemicals inhabit our bodies and the bodies of our children. And regulatory agencies in the US have worked with the chemical industry lobbyists to prevent the public from knowing of these dangers.

Following are links to articles in the JSOnline Series Chemical Fallout:

Bill would ban BPA in baby products

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

The 85% Problem: Autism Disorders and DNA Damaged Sperm In Our Chemical Society

Are autism disorders, and other neurological developmental disorders, caused by DNA damaged sperm?

Concerned heart is a blogger who authors several blogs dealing with paternal age and dramatic increases in a number of disorders including autism, ADHD and schizophrenia. She posts many articles linking paternal age with declining sperm quality and increased rates of disorders including autism, ADHD and schizophrenia.

The CBC documentary The Disappearing Male reports the impact on males of our chemical based society including declining sperm quality. On the accompanying CBC web site page Factsheet: Male Infertility are some of the startling facts from that documentary:
  • The average sperm count of a North American college student today is less than half of what it was 50 years ago.
  • The quality of sperm is declining. Eighty-five per cent of the sperm produced by a healthy male is DNA-damaged.
  • The chemical industry has developed more than 90,000 man-made chemicals in the last sixty years. Eighty-five percent of them have never undergone testing for their impact on the human body.
85%? If autism is related to declining sperm quality as suggested by dramatically higher rates of autism amongst children of fathers over 35 at the time of conception and if 85% of sperm is damaged, even amongst college age males, from chemical exposures, is it any wonder that we are seeing increases in autism, adhd, learning disabilities, Tourett's syndrome, cerebral palsy and dyslexia as reported by the CBC?

With 85% of sperm being DNA damaged is the human species already damaged beyond repair?

If we allow the conditions that result in such incredibly high rates of DNA damaged sperm to continue unchecked will humanity as we know it continue to exist?

Autistic children are not just "natural variations". They may quite literally be the canaries in the coal mine of our chemical society.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Pittsburgh In 7 .... As Predicted!

Pittsburgh in 7 as predicted on May 28, 2009:

Stanley Cup Prediction: Out With The Old, In With The New, Pittsburgh in 7

OK, enough tasteless bragging but with my pitiful history of sports predictions I had to put this one up.

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The Disappearing Male: A Very Disturbing CBC Documentary

Last evening I watched a very disturbing documentary on CBC about the harmful impact on children, particularly male children, of common chemicals. It is a documentary that I believe everyone should view. As summarized on the CBC website at The Disappearing Male:

"The last few decades have seen steady and dramatic increases in the incidence of boys and young men suffering from genital deformities, low sperm count, sperm abnormalities and testicular cancer.

At the same time, boys are now far more at risk of suffering from ADHD, autism, Tourette's syndrome, cerebral palsy, and dyslexia.

The Disappearing Male takes a close and disturbing look at what many doctors and researchers now suspect are responsible for many of these problems: a class of common chemicals that are ubiquitous in our world.

Found in everything from shampoo, sunglasses, meat and dairy products, carpet, cosmetics and baby bottles, they are called "hormone mimicking" or "endocrine disrupting" chemicals and they may be starting to damage the most basic building blocks of human development."

The video can be viewed on the CBC web site:

The Disappearing Male: Trailer

The Disappearing Male: Entire Documentary

As stated, I found this documentary very disturbing and I offer no other comment than to suggest that everyone view this documentary.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Baron Cohen on Autism Causes: Autism Must Involve Environmental as Well as Genetic Factors

This autism causes quote of the day is dedicated to my Neurodiversity blogger friends at lbrb and It is part of a polite email exchange between Dr. Baron Cohen and Anne Dachel at Age of Autism:

I completely agree that autism must involve both environmental as well as genetic factors (a point that nowadays hardly contentious).

Dr. Simon Baron Cohen, Age of Autism, Dr. Baron Cohen Responds

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Montreal Gazette Speaks Up For Autistic Children

With few exceptions the mainstream media coverage of autism disorders has been abysmal. Even now many in the MSM can do little more than engage in a feeding frenzy over Oprah Winfrey's presentation of health issues including autism disorders. Seldom is concern for how to actually help autistic children or adults reflected in the popular press. Seldom are straightforward facts such as the long proven efficacy of ABA in helping autistic children overcome, in whole or in part, their autistic deficits been mentioned in the MSM. Yesterday the Montreal Gazette spoke up for autistic children and did it well.

In Autistic children deserve better the Gazette argued that the Quebec government of Liberal Premier Jean Charest should amend a piece of legislation, Bill 21, dealing with changes to various legislative rules in the field of mental health and human relations by permitting psychologists specially trained in autism to diagnose and treat persons with autism. Here in New Brunswick psychologists already diagnose and treat autism disorders. In making this argument the Gazette also pointed out that The American Academy of Pediatrics states that "the intensive treatment, known as Applied Behavioral Analysis, is now of "well-documented" effectiveness as a medical treatment" a point seldom made by the mainstream media.

The Montreal Gazette has spoken up, with wisdom and clarity, on behalf of autistic children in Quebec. Hopefully the learned autism journalists at Canada's CBC can take time out from their love affair with Michelle Dawson, Dr. Laurent Mottron and the anti-autism treatment Neurodiversity movement and do the same.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Autistic Disorder and School Inclusion for Conor

In New Brunswick proponents of an extreme version of mainstream classroom inclusion have dominated our education system for the past 30 years. The mainstream classroom inclusion for all approach is based on an inflexible and erroneous belief that all children, regardless of their personal condition, regardless of whether they have serious learning disabilities or neurological disorders, benefit from total mainstream classroom inclusion. Change has happened over the last 5-6 years as some autistic children, including my son Conor, have been permitted to learn in an area more suitable for them personally but still be included in a neighborhood school.

On Friday I met with Conor's resource team at Nashwaaksis Middle School to review the past year and plan for next year. It has been a terrific year for Conor on many fronts. He does receive his primary instruction including ABA in a small room with an autism trained (UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training Program) teacher assistant. But he also visits common areas of the school such as the library, the lunch room, the gym and the pool. He is recognized by other students some of whom have approached him on several occasions to say hello as he arrives at school with Mom or Dad.

On the side bar of this blog site are video clips from last year and this year showing Conor in the gym doing activities with the teacher assistant Brad Daniels. There are many other kids in the gym (I took care not to record the other children) but you can hear them in some of the videos. In these clips Conor is still not involved directly with the other students but he is around them.

Friday one of the resource team members who has been at the pool with Conor mentioned that he joins with the other kids in the pool on occasion. Conor will get up on one of the water rafts with the other kids pulling it around the shallow end, an activity we also do with him when we visit the pool. (She also gave me a snapshot she took of Conor preparing to leave the diving board, above)

Real school inclusion should be flexible as it has been for Conor the past few years. If an autistic child needs a quieter setting in which to learn, for ABA instruction, to avoid over stimulation, then they should be educated in a setting that accommodates that need. This does not mean that the child has to be isolated all day. The hallways and common areas can still be visited for identified purposes within the abilities of that child at that time. And the visits should be observed carefully to make sure the child is not overstressed.

For Conor a flexible approach to school inclusion, not mainstream classroom inclusion, has been very successful and beneficial for him.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Beautiful Hot Day For A Trail Walk

Another beautiful clear day for a trail walk but very hot when we went out at mid day. Conor and Dad were both feeling the heat near the end of our 2 hour hike.

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