A blog about resources for autism and care and treatment.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh Discusses Autism on CBS Boston

ACT Today! Founder/President and world-renowned autism expert Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh discusses autism, diagnosis and effective treatment programs for children with autism and related disorders.

Listen with us below...



ACT Today! Hosts Premiere Screening of Documentary on Life of Two Brothers and Family Combating Autism


ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!), a national organization whose mission is to provide access to care and treatment for children with autism, will host the premiere screening of “My Thiero Boys: A Lifestyle Dealing With Autism” documentary on Saturday, February 25th 2012 at 2pm at the CAP Theater, located at 13752 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, California. The documentary is written and directed by Vana Thiero, a single mother with two sons combating autism. It is hosted by ACT Today! Executive Director Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson, with moderator Shannon Penrod of “Let’s Talk Autism with Shannon & Nancy.”



ACT Today! Executive Director Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson, who is featured in the series, encourages the public to attend the free screening, and offered this praise, "Vana Thiero brings to the screen a frank and honest portrayal of her life mothering 2 sons on the autism spectrum. The monumental obstacles she faces are similar to those faced by all families who struggle finding care and treatment for their children with autism. ACT Today! applauds her for sharing her story with the public, and shedding light on the personal side of the autism epidemic."

“My Thiero Boys: A Lifestyle Dealing With Autism” is the first of a five part series created to help viewers understand the autism culture, the families’ struggles, as well as the educators, advocates, medical professionals and therapists who work to create a quality of life for people who encompass a vast spectrum of developmental delays.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 110 children in America is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), making ASD more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, pediatric cancer and childhood AIDS combined. It is estimated that autism affects 1 in 88 military children. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett Syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger’s Syndrome. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances.

About ACT Today!:
ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and funding to families of children with autism who cannot afford or access the necessary tools their children need to reach their full potential. For more information about ACT Today!, visit: www.act-today.org.



Monday, January 30, 2012

“Touch” Embraces ACT Today!’s Mission to Help Underprivileged Families of Children with Autism



ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!) applauds the FOX network for producing its new television series “Touch.” The show centers on a father, played by Kiefer Sutherland, who discovers his autistic, mute son can actually predict events before they happen. "Touch" airs on Wednesdays at 9/8 Central Standard Time.   
“Kiefer’s character, Martin Bohn, demonstrates the challenges faced by parents of children with autism spectrum disorders who are in financial crisis,” says ACT Today! Executive Director Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson. 

In the series, the character is in danger of losing custody of his son to social services because of the financial challenges he faces. 
“Many of these children are gifted, but due to lack of awareness and proper support these gifts can go unnoticed, much less be nurtured,” adds Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, founder and president of ACT Today! and a world-renown behavior therapist.
 Alspaugh-Jackson says “Touch” underlines ACT Today!’s mission in supporting parents who are not able to access the proper care and treatment their children desperately need.

In the past four years, ACT Today! has distributed nearly $1 million dollars in grants to families of children on the autism spectrum. These grants include aide for social skills programs, behavioral therapy, assistive technology, basic safety equipment, assistance dogs, medical care, and special needs schools.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 110 children in America is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), making ASD more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, pediatric cancer and childhood AIDS combined. It is estimated that autism affects 1 in 88 military children. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett Syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger’s Syndrome. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson to Speak at “All Ages & Abilities” Autism/Asperger’s Conference in Anaheim, February 24

By: Daphne Plump
Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson, Executive Director of ACT Today (Autism Care and Treatment Today!), author, media personality and motivational speaker of autism advocacy will speak to parents about life lessons and how all parents of children with disabilities can become advocates for their child, at the 6th Annual “All Ages & Abilities” Autism/Asperger’s Conference on February 24, 2012 in Anaheim, California.

Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort
Feb 24 - 12:30pm
Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson
PARK C - BALLROOM
1855 South Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim, California 92802


Alspaugh-Jackson will present “Waiting For Wyatt: A Journey Through Autism to Empowerment.”
“My goal is to empower parents by letting them know that they are not alone and their children’s disability is an opportunity to do something great,” says Alspaugh-Jackson. “Life's greatest challenges are nothing more than expeditions of the soul which lead us to become the self-actualized beings we are meant to be.”
Alspaugh-Jackson will share her personal journey from becoming an autism mom with son Wyatt, to becoming a fearless advocate. She will tell her story with honesty and humor, and relate her personal “Steps to Empowerment.” The practical recommendations will help parents face the role of parenting a child with autism with a new confidence and attitude, taking the crisis out of the process and replacing it with passion, fearlessness and possibility.

In a recent television appearance on FOX network’s FOX & Friends, Alspaugh-Jackson urged the community to take a more proactive role in being advocates for children with autism.
“This country has to come together to save a generation of children. With 1 in every100 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder – at the most conservative estimates – I deal with parents everyday who need help. This is a crisis…an epidemic.”

For more information about the “All Ages & Abilities” Autism/Asperger’s Conference, visit: www.autism-conferences.com.

About Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson: Nancy Alspaugh (all-spa)-Jackson is an Emmy-Award winning, former national television producer turned author and activist on the subject of autism awareness. As a motivational speaker, she spoke to sold out audiences around the country. She has been honored with the United Press International Award, the Associated Press Award, the Gabriel Award, the Genesis Award, as well as having been named one of the Hollywood Reporters “Women to Watch.” Alspaugh-Jackson feels her most important assignment came after her adopted son Wyatt was diagnosed with autism at the age of three (Wyatt is now nine). Although Wyatt started displaying signs of autism at the age of two, he was not diagnosed with the disorder until three and a half and did not receive effective treatment until the age of four and a half. She saw an urgent need for families to have somewhere to turn to for advice and assistance when dealing with this devastating disorder. She became the executive director of national non-profit organization ACT Today!, in 2008. Under her stewardship, ACT Today! has distributed over $800,000 in grants nationwide. She has launched the first national campaign for military children with autism, ACT Today! for Military Families.

For more information, visit: www.nancyalspaughjackson.com.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

DEFINING AUTISM

Watch KTLA - Los Angeles this morning at 9am. ACT Today!'s Founder/President Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh and I will discuss the possible change of the definition of autism. It's a live show. Watch on TV. Or,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Research Suggests Birth Weight Plays A Role In Autism Spectrum Disorder

I just read this on Medical News Today...


Although the genetic basis of autism is now well established, a growing body of research also suggests that environmental factors may play a role in this serious developmental disorder affecting nearly one in 100 children. Using a unique study design, a new study suggests that low birth weight is an important environmental factor contributing to the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

"Our study of discordant twins - twin pairs in which only one twin was affected by ASD - found birth weight to be a very strong predictor of autism spectrum disorder," said Northwestern University researcher Molly Losh. Losh, who teaches and conducts research in Northwestern's School of Communication, is lead author of the study that will be published in the journalPsychological Medicine and is now available online.

Prior twin studies have shown that when one identical twin had ASD, the other twin was much more likely to have ASD than not. "Because identical twins share virtually 100 percent of their genes, this is strong evidence for the role of genetics in autism," said Losh. "Yet it is not 100 percent the case that ASD affects both identical twins in a twin pair."

"That only one twin is affected by ASD in some identical twin pairs suggests that environmental factors may play a role either independently or in interaction with autism risk genes," she added. "And because autism is a developmental disorder impacting brain development early on, it suggests that prenatal and perinatal environmental factors may be of particular importance."

The researchers found that lower birth weight more than tripled the risk for autism spectrum disorder in identical twin pairs in which one twin had ASD and the other did not.

To control for shared genetic and environmental factors, the researchers used a co-twin control study design in which the ASD-affected twin served as the case and the unaffected twin served as the control. They found the risk for autism spectrum disorder rose 13 percent for every 100 gram- (3.5 ounce-) decrease in birth weight.

"There's been a great deal of misinformation about the causes of autism - from the 1950s misconception that the distant maternal behavior of what were dubbed "refrigerator mothers" was at fault to the ill-informed myth that vaccines can cause autism," said Losh.

Losh and her colleagues' findings add to a growing body of knowledge about the complex causes of autism and suggest that birth weight could be one of the environmental features that interacts with underlying genetic predisposition to autism.

Losh, who directs Northwestern's Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Laboratory, warned that the findings from twin studies might not extend to singletons, as the prenatal and perinatal conditions for twins and singletons differ in important ways.

The researchers studied a population-based sample of 3,725 same-sex twin pairs that were part of the Swedish Twin Registry's Child and Adolescent Twin Study that was directed by Paul Lichtenstein of Sweden's Karolinska Institute. The discordant twins they studied were pairs in which one twin was more than 400 grams (about 14 ounces) or at least 15 percent heavier at birth than the other.http://www.act-today.org

Monday, January 23, 2012

Autism: Then and Now

IN THE NEWS...

American General Media broadcasting company interviewed me about the state of autism then and now, and what the public can do now to help children with autism.

Listen to the 3-part interview with us. Click here:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

No Link Found Between Prenatal Exposure to Tobacco Smoke and Autism, Swedish Study Finds

I just read this article in the ScienceDaily. What do you think? Share your comments with us.


A large population-based study in Sweden indicates that there is no link between smoking during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children. The study, led by Dr. Brian Lee, an assistant professor at Drexel University and a team of international collaborators, will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and was published online in December.

Researchers have considered a variety of chemical exposures in the environment during pregnancy and early life as possible contributing factors in the development of autism spectrum disorders. Many have considered prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke a possible cause due to known associations with behavioral disorders and obstetric complications. Past studies of maternal smoking and autism have had mixed results.

"We found no evidence that maternal smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of autism spectrum disorders," said Lee, an epidemiologist at Drexel's School of Public Health, who led the research in collaboration with researchers from Sweden's Karolinska Institute and the University of Bristol (Bristol, UK). "Past studies that showed an association were most likely influenced by social and demographic factors such as income and occupation that have associations with both the likelihood of smoking and with the rate of autism spectrum disorders."

In the new study, Lee and colleagues analyzed data from Swedish national and regional registries for a set of 3,958 children with autism spectrum disorders, along with a control set of 38,983 children born during the same period who did not receive an ASD diagnosis. Overall, 19.8 percent of the ASD cases were exposed to maternal smoking during pregnancy, compared to 18.4 percent of control cases. These rates showed an association between maternal smoking and the odds of an autism spectrum disorder, in unadjusted analyses. However, the association disappeared when the analysis was adjusted for sociodemographic factors such as the parents' income level, education, and occupation.

The report helps to reassure mothers who smoked during pregnancy that their behavior wasn't likely responsible for their child's autism, Lee said, and "crosses off another suspect on the list of possible environmental risk factors for ASD." He cautioned, however, that smoking during pregnancy is still unhealthy for mothers and has other known risks for their children.

Lee received his Ph.D. and M.H.S. degrees in Epidemiology from The Johns Hopkins University, and graduated Cum laude with an A.B. in Biological Anthropology from Harvard College. His research interests include the epidemiology of neurological development, maintenance and decline, including prenatal environmental exposures and autism risk; gene-environment interaction; and epidemiological methods including causal inference methodology, data mining and machine learning algorithms.

Lee was recently awarded a 3-year grant from Autism Speaks to study whether early immune system abnormalities are associated with the risk of autism spectrum disorders.

The maternal smoking risk study was funded by a grant from the Stockholm County Council.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

William Henry Joins ACT Today!’s National Campaign to Raise Autism Awareness and Funds on Behalf of Military Children with Autism

American luxury brand William Henry is donating a portion of its profits to the ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment) for Military Families national campaign, now until February 14, 2012.

Luxury toolmaker William Henry will donate 10% of all of its profits to the ACT Today! for Military Families (ATMF) fund now through Valentine’s Day. Sales include William Henry’s luxury pocketknives, money clips, pens, and golf tools.

“We know that military personnel who have children with autism fight a battle on two fronts, one for their country, the other for their child with autism,” says Matthew Conable, chief designer and founder of William Henry. “When we learned of ACT Today!’s national campaign to help military children with autism, William Henry thought this initiative would not only spread autism awareness, but help fulfill ATMF’s mission to provide grants to military children with autism to get the necessary tools they need to reach their highest potential.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 110 children in America is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), making ASD more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, pediatric cancer and childhood AIDS combined. It is estimated that autism affects 1 in 88 military children.


The goal of the ATMF fund is to improve awareness of the unique needs of the military family living with autism and provide access to urgently needed treatments and support services. ATMF was established in July 2010. Since its first year of operation, ATMF has provided assistance to over 110 military families through its grant program. Grants funded included assistance with behavioral therapy, medical services, assistive technology, safety equipment, assistance dogs, legal services, therapy equipment, assessments, and other quality of life support.


About William Henry: William Henry is an American luxury brand devoted to the vision of designing and creating superlative functional jewelry. Designer and entrepreneur Matt Conable established the brand in 1997 creating exclusive and award-winning pocketknives. Today’s collections include writing instruments, money clips and golf tools. The seamless integration of classic natural materials, precious metals & gemstones, and state-of-the-art alloys are hallmarks of Williams Henry’s work. The brand creates limited editions only, and no two pieces are ever replicas. For more information about William Henry, visit www.williamhenrystudio.com.


About ACT Today!: ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and funding to families of children with autism who cannot afford or access the necessary tools their children need to reach their full potential. For more information about ACT Today!, visit www.act-today.org.


About ACT Today! for Military Families: ACT Today! for Military Families (ATMF), is a national program of ACT Today!. It was launched in July 2010. ATMF works to improve awareness and delivery of effective autism services, and provides financial assistance to military families to help defray out-of-pocket costs associated with autism treatments, services, and other quality of life programs. For more information about ACT Today! for Military Families, visit www.acttodayformilitaryfamilies.org.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Join Mark Christopher Lawrence for a Night of Laughs

My friend, ACT Today supporter and the host of the 2nd Annual ATMF Run and Family Festival Mark Christopher Lawrence plans to rock The House of Blues this week!

Mark Christopher Lawrence is back with more Comedy at the San Diego The House of Blues. The third production, co-produced by Prayer Dudz, takes to the stage on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 at 7PM.

Hollywood’s Red Carpet again will be rolled out for San Diego, as confirmed Celebrities attend this special night of comedy. General admission available at the box office the night of the show and online. Mark’s shows sell out quickly.


The January lineup includes comics Matin Atrushi, Jimmy Burns, Scott Wood, and San Diego’s own DJ Mikey Beats.


For more information or to purchase tickets please visit: www.houseofblues.com


Friday, January 13, 2012

Everyday Eddie Puts His Fame to Good Use

By TERYL ZARNOW / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

You can't always predict who will end up with fame and fortune.

Eddie Guardado didn't appear especially blessed when he was born in 1970, one of 10 siblings in Stockton where his father had come from Mexico to work the fields.

Article Tab: Ava Guardado plays with her toys at her home in Tustin.
Ava Guardado plays with her toys at her home in Tustin.
ROSE PALMISANO, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
ADVERTISEMENT

WHAT: Eddie Guardado's Stars & Strikes Celebrity Bowling Tournament

WHEN: 5 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 29

WHERE: Bowlmor Lanes, The District in Tustin

TICKETS: Spectator Passes $150. Sponsorships start at $2,500.

INFORMATION: Laura at 818-705-1625

But Eddie admits, "I could always throw the ball."

And he did: As a relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers. He was just 22 when he hit the big leagues and the good life.

But if celebrity is an asset, should you cash it in for a cause?

Eddie and his wife Lisa think so. Their cause is helping children with autism and his Major League connections give them a good chunk of celebrity capital to spend on its behalf.

"Nobody wants to hear about my story," Lisa explains. "I'm not the draw; he's the draw."

Eddie's good fortune gives them the resources and his celebrity gives them the edge. This Tustin couple leverages both for all they're worth.

Eddie, a standout in the record books, can throw with great accuracy.

But as a toddler his third child, Ava, 6, had trouble hitting her milestones.

Her autism story is not unlike many others. She wasn't walking, making eye contact, or waving bye-bye. But she was very particular about lining up her Dora the Explorer books.

"She was just 2 years old," Lisa recalls, "but she did have her routines."

Then came what Lisa calls her "ologist" moment. That would be the visits to the audiologist, neurologist, pathologist and other specialists.

Eddie flew in from Cincinnati for that defining meeting and diagnosis in 2007.

"It was devastating. Lisa broke down," he recalls. "I said we have to stay strong. If we don't, we're not helping Ava one bit."

Helping Ava was, of course, the first priority.

And so began the therapies: speech, occupational, behavioral, handwriting. Today Ava is mainstreamed at a private school she attends with a full-time aide.

She still has significant issues, particularly speech, but she comprehends instructions and writes her name and numbers. Her parents credit early intervention.

"If we didn't have her team," Eddie says, "Ava wouldn't be this far."

Autism humbles all parents.

When Ava was 3, and picked Target to throw a tantrum, Lisa eventually sat on the ground next to her.

"I let her have her moment ... People looked at me like: Control your kid ... I thought: You have no idea."

The Guardados couldn't help but think about other families with similar needs but less good fortune. They had always felt a responsibility to support good causes, but it's different when a cause becomes personal.

"Nothing was ever true to my heart," Lisa says. "I wasn't driven."

Now she is.

In 2008 they established the Eddie Guardado Foundation, hoping to help families get the therapies and treatments for autism they couldn't otherwise afford. In 2011, the foundation merged with Tarzana-based ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today) which has a similar purpose.

As board members, they noticed many families were asking for iPads. Lisa counted the applications and said: We'll just do this.

So the Guardado Foundation donated $27,000 to buy iPads for other families.

Eddie says they deliberately aren't focused on finding a cure for autism:

"These kids can't wait 10 years for the research. We have to use what works now ... the earlier the better."

As a celebrity, he's using what works.

Eddie explains that when you get to the big leagues and start to make a bit of money — and you see what the established players do — you begin to realize the potential of your success.

"I was 22 years old and I thought that maybe someday we could help out people. It's a good feeling, but it's also the right thing to do ... But when it (a cause) hits home ... you think about it a lot more."

Now the Guardados work it, raising awareness and fundraising for their foundation by asking for a little help from their friends.

They are organizing a Stars & Strikes celebrity bowling tournament Jan. 29. It will include baseball heavy hitters Garret Anderson, Adrian Beltre, Eric Chavez, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Michael Young, among others.

"They come because they are baseball friends," Eddie says.

Lisa points out: "Then they know Eddie will come to their event."

It's like selling candy bars for your child's team at the office, but on a higher level. If you're an ordinary person, Eddie says, it's a lot harder to get the big sponsors, much less the right phone numbers in order to invite the big names.

"The people we ask are good ball players and good human beings."

It helps to know whom you're asking.

"What kind of person are they? They could be well known, but at your bowling event they could be an idiot."

•••

To support their cause, the Guardados are willing to barter some of their privacy: making the rounds of talk shows and allowing media like me into their home.

"You have to take advantage," Lisa says. "You have to have some kind of hook or an angle."

They also don't feel a need to shelter their daughter, an impish girl with her daddy's smile.

"I want everyone to see Ava. She is who she is. It's not a big secret," Lisa says.

In a way, you could say the Guardados are shameless about getting what they want.

Eddie says simply: "We want to put hope into people's hearts."

He retired as a player in 2009, and says his job now is driving car pools. His kids just think of him as Dad. But in baseball circles, as an All-Star, Guardado's durable arm earned him a nickname: "Everyday Eddie."

Everyday? Maybe.

Ordinary? Hardly.

Contact the writer: For information visit www.act-today.org.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Semper Fi, Warrior Mom!


Life is full of interesting connections. We never know where our past, present and future will intersect.

Four years ago I received an email from my dear friend Pamela Browne, Senior Producer at The Fox News Network, who I once worked with in another life -- before autism changed my course -- when I was a television producer.

Pamela forwarded me an email from Oliver North (yes, THE Colonel Oliver North!), host of the Fox show "War Stories", which told of the hardships and challenges of military families with children with autism. Col. North knew this from a Marine wife, autism mom and warrior named Karen Driscoll, who is married to Colonel Jerome Driscoll. Colonel North was embedded with the troops under Col. Driscoll's command while covering the Gulf War.

I learned how children in the military have a higher incident of autism, a far less amount of the recommended treatment, often inaccessible, and have the added stress of multiple moves and often a parent deployed.

My dad was a Marine. My son has autism. Our nation's heroes, our country's most vulnerable children, getting the short end of the stick. This did not seem right to me.

Karen Driscoll and I connected that day. We talked and vowed to change the situation. A year and a half ago, ACT Today! launched ACT Today! for Military Families, and in that time we have raised awareness with countless media segments and a public service announcement with actor Joe Mantegna. We have put on a successful run and family festival in San Diego.

And most importantly, we have dispersed over one hundred and thirty thousand dollars ($130,167) in grants to needy families fighting two battles -- one for our country and one for their children with autism. The world for military families with autism is a better place because of the passion of Karen Driscoll.

Recently, Karen received a prestigious Achievement Award from the San Diego Military Advisory Council. Click here to read article.

Semper Fidelis is a Marine term that means always faithful, and it is more than a saying, it is a way of life.

As my friend Karen Driscoll often says to me...

Semper Fi, my friend.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

ACT (Autism Care and Treatment) Today Helps San Diego Military Family

KNSD-NBC TV in San Diego featured ACT Today! on the 4pm and 5pm news yesterday! We're so thrilled that military reporter Lea Sutton felt the need to help us spread autism awareness to the community.

Below is the news report on our unique campaign, ACT Today for Military Families, making a difference. Check it out and share your comments with us! Thanks!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Teens, Asperger's and Driving

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia just released a new study that centers on teenagers with Asperger's Syndrome and driving. As a parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder, this is one subject my husband and I think about from time to time.

Read this release from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and share your thoughts with us...

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Finds Common Characteristics Among These Teens Who are Likely to Drive

In the first study to investigate driving as it relates to teens with a high-functioning autism disorder (HFASD), child development and teen driving experts at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies found that two-thirds of teenagers with a high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD) who are of legal driving age in their state are currently driving or plan to drive.

The study is published this month in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

A HFASD is characterized by subtle impairments in social interaction, communication, motor skills and coordination and by a difficulty in regulating emotions. Many of these capabilities come into play when driving.

"Little is known about how HFASDs affect a person's ability to drive safely," explained lead author Patty Huang, M.D., a developmental pediatrician at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). "Over the past decade, the rate of children diagnosed with an HFASD has increased, meaning that more of those kids are now approaching driving age. Car crashes are the number one cause of death for teenagers, so it is important that we understand how HFASDs impact driving and how to develop appropriate educational and evaluation tools."

In a first step to better understand the issue, researchers surveyed almost 300 parents of teens with HFASDs and discovered a few predictive characteristics among those teens who are likely to become drivers, including:

  • At least 17 years old
  • Enrollment in full-time regular education
  • Planning to attend college
  • Having held a paid job outside the home
  • Having a parent who has taught another teen to drive
  • Inclusion of driving-related goals in his or her individualized education plan (IEP)

"It's very common for parents of kids with HFASDs to ask how they should handle learning to drive. Knowing these characteristics can help us prepare anticipatory guidance for families," said Dr. Huang. "In Pennsylvania, it's the law for teens to have a doctor's sign-off before they can get a learner's permit and that makes it easier to address driving-specific concerns. In states that don't have those laws, it's an issue that physicians should be prepared to address with their patients and their parents."

When determining whether a teen with an HFASD is ready to begin driving, researchers say it might be helpful to make an appointment with a specialist, such as an occupational therapist or driving instructor, who may be able to offer guidance on how to break driving lessons down into steps that are easier for teens with an HFASD to digest and put into practice.

"We hope this study will lay the groundwork for future research into improving the ability to assess readiness to drive among teens with autism spectrum," said Dr. Huang.

More information about helping teens with special needs prepare to drive is available at teendriversource.org.

About The Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies:

The Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS) at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) that focuses exclusively on making children and adolescents safer. Through CChIPS, researchers from CHOP, The University of Pennsylvania and The Ohio State University work side by side with industry members to conduct translational research that is practical to industry. This synergistic collaboration between industry and academia creates an ideal environment to generate ideas for new research projects and to leverage shared expertise and resources. The CChIPS method applies the science of biomechanical epidemiology to the analysis of crash-related data. A unique and comprehensive approach, biomechanical epidemiology integrates the principles of engineering, behavioral science, and epidemiology into study designs. For more information, visit www.chop.edu/cchips .

About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking third in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 516-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu

Contact: Dana Mortensen The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Phone: (267) 426-6092 mortensen@email.chop.edu

SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia