Posts Tagged ‘ Autism ’

Chili’s Cancels Autism Fundraiser Amid Controversy

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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1 in 68 Children Has Autism, CDC Reports

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report stating that 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on records from 11 different states that evaluated the health and educational records of 8 year olds. This is a 30 percent increase from the 1 in 88 statistic that was released just two years ago. More from CNN.com:

Children with autism continue to be overwhelmingly male. According to the new report, the CDC estimates 1 in 42 boys have autism, 4.5 times as many as girls (1 in 189).”We look at all of the characteristics of autism,” says Coleen Boyle, the director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“So we look at the age in which they’re identified. We look at their earliest diagnosis. We look at co-occuring conditions that these children might have, other developmental disabilities, whether or not they have intellectual disability, so essentially their IQ.”

The largest increase was seen in children who have average or above-average intellectual ability, according to the CDC. The study found nearly half of children with an autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability — an IQ above 85 — compared with one-third of children a decade ago.

The report is not designed to say why more children are being diagnosed with autism, Boyle says. But she believes increased awareness in identifying and diagnosing children contributes to the higher numbers.

More than 5,300 children are represented in the data contained in the new report, she says.

“We comb through records. We accumulate all that information and then each one of those records is reviewed by a specialist to make sure that that child meets our autism case definition,” says Boyle. The definition of autism is unchanged from the 2012 report.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that children are still being diagnosed late. According to the report, the average age of diagnosis is still over age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed by age 2.

The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the better their chances of overcoming the difficulties that come with the disorder.

Help your child track his progress in school

Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective

Image via Shutterstock.  

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Autism Can Start in Mother’s Second Trimester

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

In a new report published by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that some of the influences that cause autism may start during pregnancy. In the study, the brains of autistic children showed differences in certain regions that normally develop in the second trimester of pregnancy. Additional reporting from TIME.com:

Working with autopsy brains of 11 children with autism and 11 children without the disorder who were between the ages of two and 15 years, the scientists focused on 25 genes responsible for specific nerve cell types in the outer layer for the brain, what’s known as the cortex.

“The outcome was fascinating,” says Ed Lein, one of the co-authors of the paper and an investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. “The regions seemed to correspond to the functional symptoms of autism.”

They found that genes that coded for certain excitatory neurons, for example, were not expressed as robustly as they should have been. And these cell disruptions were often in exactly the areas that correlate with autism symptoms – parts of the brain responsible for functions such as communication and interpreting social cues.

In 10 of the 11 autism brains, the researchers found patches of abnormal gene expression, which they discovered in only one of the 11 control samples. And Lein says the disruption may actually be more widespread than he and his colleagues could document, since they only analyzed tiny pieces of the cortex.

The changes very likely occur prenatally, said Lein, a developmental neurobiologist, since these parts of the cortex are generally laid down in the second trimester. That suggests that at least some of autism’s origins may emerge in the womb. But how these factors interact with other, environmental contributors isn’t known yet.

It’s also unclear whether the autistic brains were deficient in the cells that expressed the genes in question, or whether the cells were there but not functioning properly. Figuring that out could lead to new potential treatments or even reversing the changes. “In principle, this could lead to earlier diagnosis and allow us to take advantage of normal parts of the cortex to rewire the brain with appropriate early behavioral interventions,” says Lein.

Some studies already suggest that such behavior therapies, if begun early enough, can change the brains of autistic children to become more similar to those of normal children. What the current study confirms is that it’s never too early to start.

Are you pregnant? Keep track of your medical records in one place. 

Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism

Image via Shutterstock

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Pollution, Autism Linked in Study

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Environmental toxins like air pollution may play a role in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at levels that dwarf the extent to which pollution contributes to birth defects.  More from Time.com:

Several studies have shown a link between air pollution and autism, but a new study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology is one of the largest to put the two together.

Researchers studied insurance claims from around 100 million people in the U.S., and used congenital malformations in boys as an indictor for parental exposure to environmental toxins. “Autism appears to be strongly correlated with rate of congenital malformations of the genitals in males across the country. This gives an indicator of environmental load and the effect is surprisingly strong,” study author Andrey Rzhetsky from the University of Chicago said in a statement.

Every 1% increase in malformations corresponded to a 283% increase in autism in the same county.

Image: Pollution, via Shutterstock

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Kristin Cavallari Comes Out as Anti-Vaccine

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Kristin Cavallari, a former reality TV star who is expecting her second son, has gone public with her decision to refrain from vaccinating her children, saying she’s “read too many books” about autism and citing “some scary statistics.”  Time.com reports:

Former reality star Kristin Cavallari admitted to not vaccinating her son, and not planning to do so, in a Fox Business interview on Thursday. On Friday, she defended her position on “Fox & Friends,” adding that it was not something she planned to come out publicly on, but it just came up in the interview.

“Listen, to each their own,” Cavallari, pregnant with her second son, said. “I understand both sides of it. I’ve ready too many books about autism and there’s some scary statistics out there. It’s our personal choice, and, you know, if you’re really concerned about your kid get them vaccinated.”

The idea that vaccines cause autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has long been debunked by science, though it persists in part because of celebrities like Cavallari and, more famously, Jenny McCarthy, who perpetuate the link in interviews and public appearances.  Meanwhile, diseases that are preventable through vaccination, like measles and whooping cough, are cropping up again in communities across the country.

A recent study found that efforts to educate the public about the benefits of vaccines are not very effective, especially when parents have already formed negative opinions about the safety of vaccination.

Image: Kristin Cavallari, via s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

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