Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
The Chili’s restaurant chain cancelled a national Autism Awareness Month fundraising event intended to raise funds for autism research after parents criticized the target organization’s stance on the relationship between vaccines and the developmental disorder. More from The Boston Globe:
For the event, the nationwide restaurant chain of more than 1,200 locations promised to donate 10 percent of its “qualified” sales that day to the National Autism Association.
Although it seemed like the perfect way to feel good about those baby back ribs, some customers got smart about the fine print and looked into this do-good marketing campaign. It turns out, the money was going toward an organization that continues to support the medically debunked link between autism and vaccines.
Here is the particular statement of issue on the National Autism Awareness website (although specialists in this field take issue with a few of the “causes” listed on this page):
“The National Autism Association believes: Vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.”
Chili’s regularly hosts Give Back Events, but this month, customer feedback started to steamroll Chili’s social media channels, starting as early as April 1. Hundreds of people took to Twitter and Facebook, criticizing Chili’s for aligning with an organization that continues to perpetuate a theory the medical community has previously debunked.
Image: Chili’s logo, via Chilis.com
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Monday, April 29th, 2013
An autistic 8-year-old boy from Georgia has found companionship and therapeutic help in the form of Xena, a rescued dog who survived unspeakable abuse but survived to bring hope and healing to one family. More from Today.com:
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It’s not that Jonny can’t talk. He knows how to speak, and he can read with proficiency. But autism left him closed off and isolated. Most of his social interactions result in painful awkwardness; unfamiliar situations can trigger terror, tantrums or both. Seeking comfort and predictability, he’d embrace solitary activities; on a typical day after school, he’d spend hours playing with marbles in silence.
Then, about two months ago, everything changed. Jonny forged a connection so unlikely that people familiar with it describe it as a miracle. His new confidante brings out the best in him — his playfulness, his cute singing voice, his verbal assessments of everything he sees and experiences.
Jonny connected with a dog.
“He is non-stop chatter now!” Jonny’s mother, Linda Hickey, 44, told TODAY.com. “He has so much to say about his math, about what he did in P.E.
“He is the happiest child that I’ve ever seen him be in eight years.”
Jonny’s transformation begins with the miracle that the dog survived to meet Jonny at all.
Mere months before she bounded into Jonny’s world, the pup was brought to the DeKalb County Animal Services’ shelter in Georgia after she collapsed in someone’s yard. When staff members saw her, they recoiled in shock.
“I’ve been doing rescue probably for about 12 years, and I had never seen a dog that young in that sort of condition,” said Chrissy Kaczynski, who works for Animal Services and is a founding member of the rescue group Friends of DeKalb Animals. “I brought her home with me and I didn’t think she’d make it through the night.”
But with fluids, nutritional supplements and an urgent vet visit, the puppy began to perk up.
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Pregnant women who use an anti-epilepsy drug called valproate have babies that are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new study published in the April 24 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. More from CBS News:
“This is an important risk factor and one that can be avoided or at least the risk reduced in women who don’t need to take this and can take another drug,” Dr. Kimford Meador, a professor of neurology at Emory University in Atlanta, said to Businessweek. Meador wrote an accompanying editorial published in the same journal issue. “This is the strongest evidence to date that there is a link between fetal exposure and childhood autism or autism spectrum disorder.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that 1 in 50 school age children may have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASDs are a group of developmental brain disorders that affect social, communication and behavioral development. The disorders can range in severity from people with milder symptoms — called Asperger syndrome — to those with autistic disorder or “classic” autism.
Researchers looked at 665,615 babies born in Denmark between 1996 and 2006. The children were followed for an average of 8.8 years. Out of the group, 5,437 were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and 2,067 were diagnosed with childhood autism specifically.
The researchers found that mothers of 2,644 children took anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy, with 508 specifically taking valproate. They determined that valproate was linked to an absolute risk of 4.42 percent for an ASD and 2.5 percent for childhood autism.
For women who had epilepsy who did not take valproate, the absolute risk of having a child with an ASD was 2.44 percent, with 1.2 percent receiving a diagnosis of childhood autism.
In January 2013, a British study of 415 children also linked autism to mothers taking valproate. Those results were published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
“Women for whom valproate is a treatment option should discuss the risks and benefits of this drug with their doctor prior to pregnancy, to ensure that their health and that of the potential child is optimized,” Rebecca Bromley, a clinical psychologist and research associate at the University of Liverpool who led the British study, told HealthDay.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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Monday, April 15th, 2013
A new smartphone app that could help doctors diagnose autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by uploading videos of children’s behaviors to a website is in development. The app is intended to help streamline the diagnostic process, in line with research that shows that earlier diagnosis–and intervention–leads to more successful outcomes in autistic kids. A shortage of specialists can delay proper diagnosis by as long as six months, the app’s developers say. More from USA Today:
To help with the problem, the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, a Phoenix-based autism research nonprofit, is developing a smartphone application that specialists would use to diagnose autism based on videos of children’s behavior uploaded onto a website.
The app, the Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment, could shorten the diagnostic process so children can get treatment earlier, especially in rural communities where skilled specialists are difficult to find….
Parents still would have to arrange follow-up treatment and care with specialists, and there would be an unknown cost for the app-based diagnosis.
The autism center, which is funding the app development with a $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, is collaborating with Behavior Imaging Solutions, a Boise, Idaho, medical-technology company, and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Christopher Smith, the autism center’s vice president and director of research, said that testing will begin this summer with a few families and that the app will potentially be available as early as 2014.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the community to find new ways to at least help lower and help reduce the disparity of health care in this country,” said Andy Shih, senior vice president of scientific affairs at Autism Speaks, one of the world’s largest autism-advocacy organizations.
Image: Doctor using smartphone, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
A rising number of schoolchildren are receiving diagnoses of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), new data from the National Center for Health Statistics has found, but the findings don’t necessarily reflect a rise in the prevalence of autism. Two percent of U.S. schoolkids, or about 1 million children, report having received autism diagnoses. More from NBC News:
It’s a large increase since the last report but experts stress it doesn’t necessarily mean more children are developing autism.
Instead, the numbers suggests that more children are being diagnosed as they get older – probably because of many factors, including increased awareness and more services both to diagnose children and help them, the researchers said.
“Our findings suggest that the increase in prevalence may be due to increased recognition of autism spectrum disorders in recent years, especially when the symptoms were mild,” Stephen Blumberg of the National Center for Health Statistics, which published the report, said in a telephone interview.
“Parents are more aware. Professionals are more aware. There may be more access to diagnostic services.”
Autism describes a range of conditions and disorders – some of which a few years ago were not even recognized as conditions. It can range from the very mild social awkwardness seen in some cases of Asperger’s syndrome, to severe and debilitating symptoms that prevent children from interacting in a normal way, prevent learning and often require medication. Some children with autism were classified as mentally retarded in years past, while others struggled quietly with no idea they could benefit from therapy.
Parents should not worry that something new has been happening to kids, says Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is monitoring autism in several ways. “We don’t want them to be frightened by the numbers. We want them to recognize that there are things they can do that make a difference in their child’s life,” she said.
Image: School girl, via Shutterstock
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