Tuesday, January 31, 2012
ACT Today! Hosts Premiere Screening of Documentary on Life of Two Brothers and Family Combating Autism
Monday, January 30, 2012
“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.
“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.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson to Speak at “All Ages & Abilities” Autism/Asperger’s Conference in Anaheim, February 24
“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.”
“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.”
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
"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
Thursday, January 19, 2012
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
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 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
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.
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
Thursday, January 12, 2012
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 Fi, my friend.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Monday, January 9, 2012
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Finds Common Characteristics Among These Teens Who are Likely to DriveThe 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...
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 email@example.com
SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia