Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Research Links Autism to Environment

Autism among U.S. children has reached epidemic proportion. And it's getting worse by the year.
Since the '70's, there has been a 60-fold increase in American children with autism. Currently one in every 100 U.S. children and one in every 58 boys are being diagnosed with autism. That's over 2.6 percent of all male children in America. The number of autistic children expected to reach adulthood in the next 10 years along with their caregivers will exceed the population of Rhode Island and cost an estimated $27 billion in additional care beyond the almost $60 billion being spent on current autism-related costs.
Under the specter of an autism epidemic sweeping America, Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) convened hearings last week on the "State of Research on Potential Environmental Health Factors with Autism." The result?
Experts agree that the primary explanation for the dramatic increase in autism is toxic environmental exposure and gene-environment interactions. New research shows that even low-dose, multiple toxic and infectious exposures may be a key factor to the onset of autism.

Film's Success Spurs Hope in Autism Community

A raft of Emmys for an HBO movie about Temple Grandin has heartened advocates for autism awareness, who say the Colorado Statue University professor's example gives parents hope their autistic children won't be condemned to a life in the shadows.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dating with Autism

Laura Schumaker's guest post from Lisa Belkin's New York Times' Motherlode blog:

I took my son 23-year-old son, Matthew, who has autism, on a weekend trip to Spokane, Wash. — a quick flight from our home in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a trip he had been obsessing about for over a year. Matthew has been fixated on visiting every state in the United States since childhood, and after studying his atlas, he figured we could hit Washington, Idaho and Montana all in a day with time for lunch at a place that served french fries and pizza.
The trouble started when we arrived at our hotel in Spokane and asked for a restaurant recommendation.
When I planned the trip to Washington, I could never have known that the hotel that I had picked was also the hotel that a team of female college lacrosse players had chosen and that they would be bouncing through the lobby in bikinis.

A Night to Shine for 'Temple Grandin'

HBO's critically acclaimed "Temple Grandin" told the remarkable real-life story of the bestselling author and groundbreaking agricultural scientist who struggled early in life to learn to cope with autism before the disease was widely known.
On Sunday, the biopic, which had to overcome what was widely perceived in the industry as challenging subject matter to make its way to the screen, claimed five Emmy prizes, including outstanding made for TV movie.
Attired in red and black rodeo gear, Grandin herself became a palpable presence at the ceremony, at one point, rising and excitedly swinging her hand lasso style from the audience.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Commentary: Brightness Amid Bleak Autism Media Coverage

Interesting piece by Anne Dachel Media Editor of Age of Autism. However, I think that any coverage of autism - provided it's accurate and has accountability - is a positive because it's putting the issue in front of society and hopefully will lead to greater acceptance, rather than stigma.

Mainstream press coverage of autism has been so overwhelmingly bad for so long that I have no expectations when I scan the news. Newspapers and TV stations will casually announce that one percent of children have autism. The public is left to deal with the frightening admission that no one knows what causes autism so there’s no way to prevent it. And there’s no cure for autism.
The message in the media is that if you’re unfortunate enough to be the parent of an affected child, there’s little medical science can do. If you’re planning to have a baby, you’ll just have to take your chances. Most parents still hear the same thing from doctors that I did 16 years when my son was finally diagnosed at age seven.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Gloomy Employment Picture

The government's first detailed look at disabled workers' employment shows they are far more likely than the overall work force to be older, working part-time or jobless.
The average unemployment rate for disabled workers was 14.5% last year, the Labor Department said Wednesday, well above the 9% rate for those without disabilities. By the Labor Department's count, there were roughly 27 million Americans 16 years or older with a disability last year.
The employment situation doesn't appear to have improved this year: The unemployment rate for those with disabilities had risen to 16.4% as of July.

Siblings on the Frontlines for People with Disabilities

Great piece by Cheryl Wills, longtime anchor/reporter at NY1 News, on Huffington Post.

My brother Clarence has autism. He is 41, I am 43. Many years before the influential National Alliance on Mental Illness formed in 1979, and before Mental Health America launched its powerful online community this summer, it was left to sisters and brothers of those with disabilities to put up our dukes and protect our defenseless loved ones from bullies and discrimination.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Employment Rate Unchanged Since ADA Passed

The United State Department of Labor reported earlier this month that the national unemployment rate for July 2010 was 9.5 percent, about the same rate as June.
When you look at the finer details, though, things are better for some people, worse for others.
The unemployment rate for white people was 8.6 percent. For African American people it was 15.6 percent and for Hispanic people, 12.1. Unemployment among teenagers was at 26.1 percent. This is all to say that, depending on where you are sitting, 9.5 percent might look pretty good.
How about a 79 percent unemployment rate? A recent survey from the National Organization on Disability reported, "Of all working-age people with disabilities, only 21% say that they are employed, compared to 59% of people without disabilities."
The survey also states that little progress has been made in the area of employment or other quality of life indicators for people with disabilities in the 20 years since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Special Olympics Bars Student With Special Needs From Basketball Squad

CHICAGO -- Jenny Youngwith and her parents were excited when Special Olympics arrived at West Chicago Community High School offering after-school sports programs for students with special needs.
The 17-year-old with developmental disabilities, who fatigues easily because of a respiratory problem, wanted to play on the school's Special Olympics basketball team. She would get to wear the school's blue and white Wildcats uniform in games against other schools and be in the yearbook and on the Web site. She would feel included, which for any teen — especially a special-needs student — is a big deal.
The Carol Stream girl signed up and, with her service dog, began practicing with the team. But just before the first game in 2009, Special Olympics told her parents that Youngwith could not play.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NY Autism Advocates Split on Insurance Bill

ALBANY, N.Y. - Legislation that would require health insurers to cover screening, diagnosis and lifetime treatment of autism spectrum disorders has reached Gov. David Paterson's desk, but it falls short with some advocacy groups.
The bill, approved unanimously by the Senate and Assembly, would require the state Department of Health to identify treatment and therapy options that are evidence-based, peer-reviewed and clinically proven. Regulations specifying what will be covered would have to be drafted within a year, in consultation with insurance companies and mental health and disabilities experts. Insurers could review individual coverage to confirm it's medically necessary.

Autism Therapy Pioneer Dies

O. Ivar Lovaas, a psychologist who developed one of the most widely used therapies for children with autism, and in doing so helped change the treatment and the public perception of the condition, died on Aug. 2 in Lancaster, Calif. He was 83.

A Partnership To Employ People With Disabilities

HAMILTON, N.J. — Advocates of people with developmental disabilities celebrated a victory last week when Gov. Chris Christie signed a law striking offensive terms like "mentally retarded" from state legislation.
But local advocates are heralding another victory here in Hamilton.
Last week, the township council voted in favor of contracting with the Arc Mercer to provide custodial services to the township. Nine adults with varying developmental disabilities will take on the task of cleaning township buildings like the municipal building, department of public works buildings and the senior center, among others.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bellingham music program an outlet for creativity

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Jim Monroe sits at Three Trees Coffeehouse, microphone in hand as he waits for cues from singer and guitarist Jon Dalgarn.

At his urging, Monroe and two others on stage sing, croon or hum along to upbeat favorites, sending strains of "Stir it Up," by Bob Marley, and "The Tide is High" by Blondie, among other songs, floating out of the space in downtown Bellingham.

Monroe, of Bellingham, is among the local members of Out of the Ashes, a music program for people with developmental disabilities that Dalgarn started in Bellingham this spring.

The idea is to give those with developmental disabilities an outlet for creativity, a way out of their shells, a voice they didn't have before.

He's a different guy up there," said his mother, Maureen Monroe, 53. "He's been through so much with medical stuff. He's on a lot of medication that makes him rather fatigued. But when he's on the stage, you would not know that."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tech hopes to develop early warning tools, and treatments, for autism

Researchers at Georgia Tech hope to create an inexpensive, computerized early warning system for young children who have autism.

The socially-isolating affliction is frightening for parents, but it can be treated. And that treatment can be more effective with early intervention, project members said.

Children, on average, are not screened by an autism expert until age 4, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants be screened at 18 months of age.

"The problem is," said Gregory Abowd, a computer professor at Tech and one of the team leaders, "we don't have any way to effectively do that across the entire population."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Disabled cyclist aided many charities

Kevin Degen refused to let obstacles stop him from helping others.

Paralyzed on his right side from cerebral palsy and using one arm and leg, the avid cyclist used a specially built three-wheeler to compete in races nationwide, raising thousands of dollars for charities. Last month, during a lengthy route for a National Multiple Sclerosis Society cycling event, Mr. Degen fell, cracked his helmet and suffered road rash. Despite concerns, he kept going.

He said, 'Get me another helmet.' ... He got patched up, and he was on his way," said Elana Sullivan, president of the society's Michigan chapter. "He seemed to tackle everything in life like that. ... I've never seen a guy who had more tenacity. You could not stop him."

Mr. Degen died on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010. He was 52.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Adults with developmental disabilities find fulfillment in pottery program

Members of Programs for Exceptional People gathered Thursday for pottery class, rolling and pounding balls of clay into sheets that would later go over a mold. They'll add a design, fire it in the kiln and then paint on a glaze. Over the next several classes, each of the six members will have created their own piece.

PEP, a nonprofit organization that hosts programs and services for adults with developmental disabilities in southern Beaufort County, instituted the class for a variety of reasons to help its members. The process of creating pottery can help with sensory skills and concentration, boost creativity and improve hand-eye coordination.In addition, it also might make the members some money.

Part of the goal of PEP is to promote employment and independent living among its members. Down the hall from the pottery class Thursday at the PEP offices on Hilton Head Island other members stuffed envelopes containing a newsletter for a private community.

"It's important for us to show that adults with special needs can contribute to the community," Watson said.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Local Girl with Down-Syndrome Featured in Times Square

NEW YORK, NY - RYLEE MARIE LAMB of LAFAYETTE, LA, will appear in lights on Broadway on Saturday, September 25, as part of the National Down Syndrome Society's video production to demonstrate that people with Down syndrome can be successfully included in community activities, education and employment.

The photo of RYLEE, who has Down syndrome, was selected from over 1,000 entries in the NDSS worldwide call for photos. Approximately 225 photographs will appear in a video production to be shown on the larger-than-life MTV plasma screen, located in the heart of Times Square.

The Times Square video production kicks off National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, which includes the 2010 Buddy Walk®. This year, walks will be held in more than 275 cities across the country, as well as many international walks. For information about National Down Syndrome Awareness Month or the NDSS Buddy Walk®, visit www.ndss.org or call 800-221-4602.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Mexico Case Prompts Police Training To Increase Awareness of Disabilities

FARMINGTON, N.M. (KRQE) - Branded with a swastika and marked with hate speech, a young man from Navajo escaped his accused captors and walked to a Farmington convenience store for help back in April. But when officers arrived to talk to him there was some confusion.
"We are concerned they didn’t recognize the handicap soon enough," Deputy Chief Kyle Westall told KRQE News 13 shortly after the attack in May.
The department said at first the officers thought the victim was drunk. Eventually they realized the 22-year-old was not drunk; he was mentally challenged.
"It brought a deficiency to light in our agency," Sgt. Robert Perez said.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day Program For Those With Severe Autism

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Tommy Ney, 21, rolled an exercise ball back and forth to his caregiver, Ed Calvin, on a recent Thursday afternoon at a physical therapy room.
While it seemed so simple, the action brought a smile to the face of Tommy's mother, Christy Ney, of Overland.
"I didn't know what we'd do when Tommy graduated from SSD's Neuwoehner School this spring," Ney said. "He has severe autism, and his behaviors are too disruptive for him to be in a sheltered workshop or other day programs. But MAAP will give him a stimulating environment and consistency."

No Evidence For Using Antidepressants to Treat Autism

Children and adults with autism spectrum disorders have trouble with communication and social interaction. There are no drugs specifically approved to treat these problems, although antidepressants are sometimes recommended. But a new analysis finds no evidence that they help people with autism and some signs that they may cause harm in children.

Parents Struggling with Autism

DALLAS -- Her day might begin at 2 or 3 in the morning, when her 9-year-old autistic daughter, Ashlyn, wakes up next to her. And from that moment on, Jackie Polvado's life is a full-out sprint.
"Ashlyn still sleeps with me because it's the only way we can get any sleep. But I've been up day and night, like when my daughter was up for 48 hours, screaming," said Polvado.
"It's exhausting, and there's no end in sight."

Study: Babies May Show Signs of Autism

Signs of autism may show up in babies as young as 1 month old, a new study shows.
But the tip-offs are not the usual red flags, such as a lack of eye contact or smiling, the researchers noted.
Instead, they found babies who needed neonatal intensive care and were later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder were more likely to have abnormal muscle tone and differences in their visual processing than babies who went on to develop normally after time in the neonatal intensive care unit

Eyeing Respect for People with Disabilities

People with disabilities deserve respect. So look them in the eye.
That is the message behind a "Look Me in the Eye" campaign, organized by the Oregon Supported Living Program and Full Access, which launches Tuesday.
"We're encouraging people to go out on a limb of discomfort and open their arms to people who have for so many years experienced such grave injustices," organizer Gretchen Dubie said.

Independent Administrator Appointed in D.C. Lawsuit

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a long-sought concession, the District has agreed to the appointment of an independent administrator to bring the city into compliance with court orders in a decades-old class-action lawsuit over the care of hundreds of people with developmental disabilities.
D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles had resisted such a move, saying that it was tantamount to a court takeover and that it would prolong the 34-year-old lawsuit while the Fenty administration was aggressively seeking to end the case and other long-running class actions.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Students With Autism Face School Stress

SAN BERNADINO, Calif. -- When a teenager spends the better part of each day fighting off panic attacks and desperately trying to understand the world around them, it comes as little surprise they might need more than a few sick days.
Heather Stephens said her high-functioning autistic son will begin seventh grade this week and she fears the new school year will only exacerbate his burgeoning health problems. Last year, he missed about 40 days of school because the stress stemming from his autism manifested itself in physical illness.
"When he gets stressed, he toe walks and hand flaps," Stephens said. "He will repeat the same things and gets very loud. When he gets under major amounts of stress, he'll vomit."
Dr. Gregory Aaen, a pediatric neurologist at Loma Linda University Medical Center, said it is not uncommon for children with autism to experience stress to the point of physical illness.

Read more: http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_15713518#ixzz0w6vse6cQ

Retired Military Families Not Eligible for Autism Treatment Benefit

When Zachary Berge was diagnosed with autism shortly after his second birthday, he couldn't speak a word. He often threw tantrums because he couldn't express himself.
His parents turned to "applied behavioral analysis," widely known as ABA therapy and recognized by the medical community as one of the most effective autism treatments for children.
But ABA therapy doesn't come cheap, and it has cost the Berge family of Crestview, Fla., nearly $56,000 — a hefty bill they've had to pay out of pocket because the treatment isn't covered by the family's health plan, a program for active and retired military families known as Tricare.
A supplemental benefits program available under Tricare offers families of active-duty members as much as $36,000 a year each to cover the cost of the therapy and other autism treatments. But the Berges are not eligible for that program because Zach's father, Kenneth Berge, retired from the Air Force in 2006.

Model Hopes to Make Waves for Autism Awareness

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Known as the pretty face behind Abercrombie & Fitch and Armani marketing campaigns, Ford model Lane Carlson will this week promote a different kind of cause: autism awareness.
As part of a fund-raising event called Sea Paddle NYC, a 28-mile paddle race around New York City, Mr. Carlson looks to help raise $250,000 to benefit autism awareness and research groups, such as Autism Family Services of New Jersey, Autism Speaks and Surfers Healing, a volunteer group that facilitates surfing adventures for autistic children.Sea Paddle NYC is hosted by environmental advocacy group Surfers' Environmental Alliance.
On Aug. 13, Mr. Carlson and about 200 other paddlers will head north up the Hudson River, across the Harlem River and south down the East River, culminating at the South Street Seaport where there will be a charity poker benefit.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dream Comes to Life on Stage

COHOES, N.Y. -- I am ... Lauren.
The woman projects in a strong, clear voice.
I see family.
I smell flowers.
I hear a storm.
I touch my hair.
I feel happy.
I am ... cool!
She shoots her fists into the air, and her face lights up with joy so unrestrained it's as if a thousand butterflies have been released.
Wearing her Albany Legends T-shirt and Center for Disability Services ID card around her neck, Lauren Williams is the coolest person on Earth. And Desirea Taylor is the proudest, and James Vanne II the happiest, and Veronica Herrera the prettiest.
They take turns declaring this during a rousing rehearsal last week for "I Am ..." at Cohoes Music Hall. And next week, Wednesday through Friday, they'll declare it to the world when the "C-R Center Stars" make their performance debut.
This acting troupe came from the adult day program at the Center for Disability Services, and since November, the budding actors, aged 22 to 61, have worked with Tony Rivera, vice president and managing director of C-R Productions at the music hall, preparing for this.

Autism Isn't Everything

WICHITA, Kan. -- Temple Grandin has written nine books and more than 400 articles on animal welfare and human potential. She is a doctor of animal science, a professor at Colorado State University and one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people.
She prefers fresh fruit to juice, loves satiric comedy and does 100 sit-ups every night.
Oh, and she has autism.
"I have a problem with autism being a primary identity," Grandin told a crowd of about 50 children, parents and educators at Heartspring. "I consider myself a college professor first, someone with autism second."

Autism Treatment Pioneer Dies

Ole Ivar Lovaas, a UCLA psychology professor who pioneered one of the standard treatments for autism, died Monday night at a hospital in Lancaster. He was 83.
He had been recovering from surgery for a broken hip and developed an infection, according to a family member. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a few years ago.
Lovaas' 1987 paper, "Behavioral Treatment and Normal Educational and Intellectual Functioning in Young Autistic Children," showed for the first time that intensive one-to-one therapy early in life could eliminate symptoms of the disorder in some cases.

Overcoming Obstacles to Employment

EAST PEORIA, Ill. — Most parents worry about what awaits their children once they complete high school.
Joe Steffy, a Kansas resident who has Down syndrome and other problems, was told by officials at his high school that his future was dim. But his parents didn't simply accept that. They helped him start up a popcorn business that today brings in decent revenue and gives Joe a meaningful life.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Researchers Find Predictors of Autism in Infants

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Certain behaviors seen in infants as young as 1-month-old may be predictors of autism spectrum disorders, according to new research by scientists at the Institute for Basic Research and Developmental Disabilities, Willowbrook.
IBR director Dr. W. Ted Brown said the findings -- published Monday in the online journal Pediatrics and set to appear in next month’s print issue -- could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention.
"Some of these clues will help us understand the causes of ASD and help identify children who may need earlier intervention," he said. "The earlier the intervention, the better, is what we always say."

Children on Spectrum Enjoying Camp

CLEARWATER,Fla. – Kids and teens splash and play in the pool as they happily enjoy another day at camp.
The previous day they had gone sailing. Mondays they ride horses. Normal kid stuff. But for these 15 campers and their parents, this camp is special. Camp COAST is specifically for children ages 5 through 9 who are on the autism spectrum.

Parents Object to Proposed Early Intervention Changes in Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Parents of children with developmental disabilities made an emotional plea to stop changes to early intervention services being proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
"In our kids' cases, good early education changes, even saves their lives," said Jessica Meehan, a mother from Portland, during a public hearing on the proposed changes. "Please do not affect these changes, please do not reduce the rates paid to already stretched providers and please do not leave our children by the roadside."

Company Marks Employment Milestone

I know where I'll be stopping next time I'm in the area. Hope you will too!

BOSTON - VERC Enterprises, an independent chain of gasoline stations and convenience stores throughout the region, has achieved a milestone that the company is exceedingly proud of. VERC Enterprises has reached its goal of having a workforce made up of 15% disabled/challenged individuals within their stores.

Leo Vercollone, CEO of VERC Enterprises, said that his company has long believed in the value of reaching out to individuals who have physical or mental disabilities or challenges, and that the stores that his company owns and manage have many employment opportunities for those workers. “We have been going in this direction for a while. For a few years, we were at 10% and thought we could do better, so we set a company goal of 15% and we have achieved it this year.”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Louisiana Braces For Deinstitutionalization

PINEVILLE, La. -- Some of them have lived in the cottages of Pinecrest most of their adult lives, with caregivers they trust and routines they've come to rely on and live by, with medicine and medical personnel nearby.
But many of the almost 500 residents at Pinecrest Supports and Services Center, a state institution for the mentally disabled here, will be moved elsewhere within the next year -- some to "community homes," others to bigger private-sector facilities, still others back home, with state financial assistance.
It's a transitional move by Louisiana and Gov. Bobby Jindal to cut per-patient costs, and to provide services to more people who need the help.
It's a disruption to longtime residents that is opposed strongly by some of the residents' family members.

Affluence and Autism: Cause and Effect?

Have you seen this new University of Wisconsin study that correlates an increased prevalence of autism with greater household affluence?
This isn't the first study to reach that conclusion. But what does it mean? Many researchers dismiss research like this by saying wealthier people have more resources to get an autism diagnosis. They say more educated people are more likely to pick up subtle differences in their kids. And perhaps they're right.
Does that account for all the difference?
The incidence of autism combined with intellectual disability is not strongly (1.3 to 1) correlated with affluence. It's only the less severe forms of autism that are more common in wealthier homes. Is that because autism combined with ID is obvious, but the less severe condition is not?
Maybe . . . but maybe not . . .

Families Urge Environmental Research

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Mary and Steve Moen fought for years to get their son Max, now 10, the help he needed to deal with the behavioral and social problems he exhibited as a child with autism.
They went for numerous evaluations and sought out some of the best specialists in the field, enduring sometimes year-long waits for consultations. Their persistence paid off; Max attended a special autism program to help him function better socially and control his behavior better, and now he attends a mainstream school and performs well academically, behaviorally and socially.
Still, the underlying cause of Max's autism remains a mystery -- a situation his parents hope to change.
Moen shared her son's story in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Children's Health subcommittee Tuesday. The subcommittee met to get a status report on research into the links between environmental factors and developmental disorders like autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Autism Rate Soars In Texas

AUSTIN, Texas -- As the number of children believed to be autistic has skyrocketed in Texas and worldwide, much of the public debate has focused on the reasons for the rapid increase. But after a decade in which when the state has seen a four-fold spike in diagnoses of the condition — to nearly 30,000 — the more pressing questions for policymakers are how to best educate afflicted students and how to pay for it.
During the last legislative session, State Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, introduced legislation to expand the availability of special education training to Texas teachers, influenced, in part, by the growing number of students with autism. The bill included a small stipend for participation to encourage additional training, but, after passing unanimously in the Senate, it bill died in the House.
Now some lawmakers are exploring the idea of building charter schools for special ed students and integrating them into existing campuses. They’re looking, in particular, at a New York City charter school for autistic children that is located inside a public school.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

'Autistic' vs. 'Person With Autism'

SILVER SPRING, Md. — When I write here, I use the words "person with autism" and "autistic person" pretty interchangeably. Every once in a while this column gets a comment telling me that I should use "person first" language, meaning I shouldn't use the word "autistic" to describe a person.
Because I've heard this criticism more than once, I feel it necessary to tell you that I not only use the word "autistic" intentionally, but thoughtfully and with purpose.

Study: Some Traits of Autism Inherited

WASHINGTON — Close relatives of people with autism often have subtle differences in the way they move their eyes, researchers said on Monday in a finding that might help doctors better diagnose and treat the condition.
The differences would not be noticeable in everyday life but they strongly suggest that many components of autism are inherited, the University of Illinois at Chicago team said.
"What we hope these tests do is to identify subgroups of individuals or subgroups of families that have some sort of risk for autism," Matthew Mosconi, who worked on the study, said in a telephone interview.

Fragile X Clinical Trials Show Promise

For 25 years, Brenda Finucane has helped families cope with developmental disabilities in her role as a genetic counselor at Elwyn Training & Research Institute in Middletown.
However, she feels especially close to those living with fragile X syndrome, a group of genetic disorders that can affect individuals in a variety of ways.
"It's the most common inherited form of intellectual disabilities, and it’s in all populations," said Finucane. "It's estimated that one in every 3,600 males and one in 6,000 females are affected by the syndrome."
July 24, Finucane got what she considers possibly the best news of her professional life. Clinical trials of a medication in which six Elwyn clients participated have produced promising results.
"This is huge. This is actually working toward correcting the brain chemistry," the 52-year-old Upper Providence resident said.

School Provides Life Lessons

TINTON FALLS, N.J. — The party was held to celebrate Bastille Day, France's national holiday. But for the students who threw the party, every part of planning the gathering was a lesson in life.
The tasks to host the luncheon — setting up, making food, handling money, personal interaction with guests, and cleaning up — are all part of a larger vocational training program at the Arc of Monmouth-affiliated Dorothy B. Hersh High School, meant to strengthen social and job skills.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Firm Opens Door to Workers With Disabilities

PEMBROKE, Mass. — John Burgess stocks the coolers, dutifully arranging the newly arrived soda and juice bottles in their respective shelves. Meanwhile, Dawn Crayton cheerfully opens the door to the ladies room, mop in hand. And then Chris Vittorini greets customers with a wide smile as he arrives to help clean the store.
This is a typical Thursday morning in the Mobil shop in Pembroke on the west side of Route 3. Except what’s happening here is anything but typical: Burgess, Crayton and Vittorini all have developmental disabilities.
Finding jobs can be difficult for people with impairments such as severe autism or Down syndrome. But Verc Enterprises has kept an open door for many years. At some point in 2009, more than 10 percent of the company’s work force had some form of developmental disability. By April of this year, that number was up to 15 percent.

School District Takes Isolation Out of Autism

MADISON, Wis. — Garner Moss has autism and when he was finishing fifth grade, his classmates made a video about him, so the new students he would meet in the bigger middle school would know what to expect. His friend Sef Vankan summed up Garner this way: "He puts a little twist in our lives we don’t usually have without him."
People with autism are often socially isolated, but the Madison public schools are nationally known for including children with disabilities in regular classes. Now, as a high school junior, Garner, 17, has added his little twist to many lives.

Mom On Mission to Lift Education Barriers

Sandee Koski said she became an expert on developmental disabilities because she had to.
It was clear early on that her son, Nathan, needed special attention in the classroom and in developing social skills.
She wouldn't say what developmental disabilities he has because she said they don't define who he is — an energetic, determined teenager with a passion for working on automobiles.
"He just is who he is. We support him because of who he is," she said.

Cartoonist Offers Glimpse of His World

Check this out from TheDailyNorwalk.com and be sure to watch the video about Michael Campbell, an intern with autism at The Norwalk Museum.

NORWALK, Conn. -- The interns and volunteers can be counted among the treasures found at The Norwalk Museum. Among them is Michael Campbell. An aspiring cartoonist, Michael hopes to someday have his drawings on display alongside another noted cartoonist from Norwalk, Johnny Gruelle, the creator of Raggedy Ann.