Monday, May 25, 2009

Ernie Els: I Want to Find the Cause of Autism

Ernie Els, one of the world's top golfers, is building an autism research center in Florida to help his son Ben. Check out this story from The Times of London. 

"People will remember me as a major champion," Els said. "But hopefully when I'm forgotten as a player, I'd also like to be remembered as somebody who took this autism research and did something with it. I think I have a lot of time left. The rest of my life, I'll be fighting this thing."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Growing Old With Autism

Karl Taro Greenfeld's latest piece "Growing Old With Autism, " an op-ed in Sunday's edition of The New York Times, once again drives home the point which the media has not quite grasped -- that autism does not just affect children. There is a critical need for additional funding for services for adults on the autism spectrum, including day programs, employment training programs (yes, actually some individuals on the spectrum are employable and thrive in positions that require repetitive and what may seem mundane tasks), residential services, socialization and recreation programs, just to name a few. Share your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

N.J. League Gets Special Field for Children with Special Needs

If you're a baseball fan like me, or even if you're not a fan, you'll still enjoy this wonderful story from the Asbury Park Press.

WALL, N.J. — After traveling outside of the township to bring their 12-year-old daughter to recreational baseball games, Jeff and Michele Domenick decided to start a baseball league for special-needs children right in their hometown.

Three years later, the league of 30 children now plays at its very own Challenger League field, a baseball field specially designed for the special needs of its players.

"It's their home location now. It's special for them and the field is adjacent to the regular South Wall Little League fields. They just feel like a part of the program," Jeff Domenick said.

The township Recreation Department began planning for a field like this six years ago, and things really started moving when the Domenicks started their league. The township worked with volunteer landscaping and construction companies last fall to build the field, but work came to a standstill due to a lack of funds. After the department received a grant for $15,000, all of the planning came together and the field was opened six weeks later.

Autism Gene Is Discovered

LOS ANGELES (AP)-- In what one scientist called the most powerful study of autism to date, researchers have discovered that the presence of a certain form of a gene can increase a child's risk of developing autism.

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, said they have isolated a trend among the DNA of 1,046 members of families with at least two sons affected by autism, who share a common variant or subtle change of a gene.

Nearly 40 percent of the general population carries this variant, but not all develop autism, which is why it's important to consider other factors, such as how other genes interact, as well as the environment.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Growing Old with Autism

Karl Taro Greenfeld's piece in this week's Time magazine provides insight not only in the struggles his family faced in raising his brother Noah, who has autism, but also what life is like today for his 42-year-old sibling.

Greenfeld writes, "Despite the successful marketing of the affliction by activists and interest groups, autism is not a childhood condition. It is nondegenerative and nonterminal: the boys and girls grow up. For all the interventions and therapies and the restrictive diets and innovative treatments, the majority of very low-functioning autistics like Noah will require intensive support throughout their lives. If recent estimates of prevalence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are accurate, then 1 in 150 of today's children is autistic. That means we are in for a vast number of adult autistics — most better adjusted than Noah, some as bad off — who will be a burden to parents, siblings and, eventually, society.

"We are largely unprepared to deal with this crisis. Autism funding and research, so far, have predominantly focused on children."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Learning with Autism

Autism affects 1 in 94 boys. Parents of children with autism are faced with many challenges, including deciding on a plan for their child's education. Some parents are looking at inclusive education as an option, which pairs typically developing children with autistic children. One teacher mentions the major switch in thinking is usually children prepare for going into a class, but in this situation, the class must prepare for the child with autism. This is a great article from the Washington Times that discusses how important inclusive education can be for children on the spectrum.

Cleveland Non-Profit Invests in a Franchise of Its Own

What a great concept. Hope it works out for everyone!
Cleveland -- In today’s economy, more and more shoppers are hunting for bargains, and retail outlets like dollar stores can provide some low cost options to help homeowners extend their budgets. One Cleveland, Ohio dollar store is filling this niche, but with a twist. Not only can area residents shop at the new Just-A-Buck dollar store located in Parma, a Cleveland suburb, but they can do some good, too!
A new Just-A-Buck store in the Midtown Shopping Center in Parma, owned and operated by S.A.W., Inc., the nonprofit partner of the Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities, recently opened and employs 15 workers who have mental retardation and other developmental disabilities, a store manager and two assistant managers. The workers with MR/DD will handle stocking and receiving, cleaning, check-out and bagging.

Helping Adults with Autism

Nice to see the media focusing on adults who are on the autism spectrum. So much coverage has focused on young children. There are many adults out there with autism, who are working in productive jobs, living in the community and leading good lives.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Missouri Governor to Push Autism Bill

There has been the ongoing discussion of how families with children who have autism are able to afford services and treatment. Now more than ever before, politicians are taking note of the statistics like 1 in 150 children are born with Autism, and realizing something must be done for these families in order to create some type of relief. Missouri's Governor, Jay Nixon, is working on legislation that would require insurance companies to include autism services and treatment in their coverage policies. The General Assembly has a deadline of this Friday at 6 p.m. to pass legislation.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Assembly Members Rip Plan to Shut Special-Needs Schools

TRENTON, N.J. -- As more than 50 parents and teachers staged a protest nearby, members of the New Jersey state Assembly Budget Committee earlier this week pressed Children and Families Commissioner Kimberly Ricketts to explain her decision to phase out 18 state-run special education schools over the next 13 months.
Ricketts said she chose to close the schools and transfer as many as 560 children into their local or county school districts because enrollment has declined from about 1,200 from more than a decade ago. Operating these schools also no longer fulfills the department's "core mission" of child protection, she added.
Some lawmakers criticized Ricketts for rushing the closures before a clear transition plan was developed.
These special schools and their highly skilled teachers welcomed children local school districts have rejected, said Jocelyn Reyes of Elizabeth, whose son, Jonathan, attends the school in Essex County. "They have had many successes with them. Now they are being thanked for their services by getting kicked to the curb as if this dedication didn't matter," Reyes said.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Toddler Brain Differences Linked to Autism

The size of a specific part of the brain may help experts pinpoint when autism could first develop, University of North Carolina researchers report.

The amygdala helps individuals process faces and emotions.

Using MRI brain scans, researchers found that the area of the brain called the amygdala was, on average, 13 percent larger in young children with autism, compared with control group of children without autism. In the study, published in the latest Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers scanned 50 toddlers with autism and 33 children without autism at age 2 and again at age 4. The study adjusted for age, sex and IQ.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Recession Hits Children's Organization

This is one of those rare opportunities where I'd like to feature a story from CBS-TV's The Early Show Saturday edition which focused on our organization -- the YAI/NIPD Network -- and how our preschools are giving hope and opportunity to children on the autism spectrum and their families. Check it out