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Archive for the 'Autism in the News' Category


Saturday, July 8th, 2006

heroshot_ipod_white.jpgDo you own an IPOD or other MP3 player or do you use ITUNES on your computer? There are now many PODCASTS (i.e. reports or stories that you can listen to on your computer or IPOD) about autism.

Check out our new podcast, from an interview I did with Scott Ryan from Autism Speaks in May.V3020062.jpg

AutismOneRadio is a very good podcast to try out, I like this one a lot because it brings in researchers, professionals, and parents and is done in a very professional yet interesting way. There are several different perspectives and the interviews are done by different people so there is a lot of good variety.

53585.jpgAutism Tales is a good one because it is actually real stories from people with autism and other special needs (or their families or people who worked with them) read by Jonathon Singer.

Bartholomew Cubbins is an interesting one that is kind of like a blog that you can listen to, he expresses his opinions about different things going on in the world of autism.host_photo.jpg

Michael Boll, a father of a child with autism and a former teacher, does Autism Podcast which is pretty interesting. In this one, Michael Boll interviews various people associated with autism such as authors of books, etc. You can check out his website too where you can get all of the podcasts and more information: http://autismpodcast.org/

There are courses that you can purchase by well-known people in the field of autism at Autism Education Online. Courses are up to two and a half hours in length and cost $49.97. If you would like to take multiple courses, the cost for a package of three is $99.97 and a package price for 12 courses is $299.

J3089047.jpgAutism Today also offers audio courses for $24.95 each.

Also, if you are interested in watching online videos about autism, I found this interesting site, Autism TV, which provides links.

My Home Town!

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Jackson High.jpgSo, like many of you, I check on the latest news about autism on a daily basis. I also love to get news about my home town, Jackson, Michigan (that is my high school on the right - Jackson High!). I grew up there and spent 19 years of my life there - it is a smaller town and a really great community,the majority of my family still resides there.

jackson map.gifToday, there was a news story about autism on Google Alerts which captured my attention because it was Jackson and because it is a story that we hear often about how there is an increasing prevalence of autism and parents and schools are fighting hard to come up with solutions. I also found another story from Jackson through leads from this posting about a study that was done by Ursula Bailey-May on social stories.

Here is the story from the Jackson Citizen Patriot:

Class helps parents, autistic kids communicate

Wednesday, June 28, 2006
By Chad Livengood
clivengood@citpat.com — 768-4918

A year ago, Brooke Royal could not communicate with her 4-year-old son Jeffrey. Today, the autistic child turning 5 next month is speaking to his mom instead of screaming.

Royal, a 28-year-old mother of three from Brooklyn, credits a special autistic-impaired class for 4- to 6-year-olds at the Lyle Torrant Center for Jeffrey’s progress.
“It was this class that has allowed us to start communicating with our son,” Royal told the Jackson County Intermediate School District Board.

Starting this fall, the ISD plans to cut Jeffrey’s class time in half from five hours to 21/2 hours a day.

Royal and other parents of autistic children attended the board meeting Tuesday to voice opposition to the plan designed to accommodate a growing autistic population and save money.

Royal told the board that creating two sections for instructor Becky Wilcox to teach will ruin the structure that’s vital to acclimating children to a general education classroom.

“These cuts will send him into regression,” the tearful mother said. “Do whatever you have to do to give our children the education they deserve.” inner_pic1.gif

ISD officials did not respond directly to the parents of the Jackson Autism Support Network who spoke out against the cuts.

“It’s not our practice to make a decision tonight,” Superintendent John Graves said.
Graves said a response would likely be discussed at a July 11 meeting.

The exact cause of autism is the center of debate as the number of cases rises.

In 2000, there were 127 autistic-impaired children in Jackson County.

ISD figures show there were 256 children countywide in 2005.

“It’s an epidemic,” said parent Tracy Snow, who shared her 5-year-old daughter Kaitlyn’s success in Wilcox’s class.

“She finally said, ‘I love you mommy,’ ” Snow said.

Wilcox did not attend the meeting. The Citizen Patriot could not reach her this morning for comment.

The ISD split Wilcox’s class into two morning and afternoon sections to accommodate five more children who are autistic-impaired or have early childhood developmental disabilities children, Special Education Director Richard Rendell said.

ECDD is a less severe designation from AI, requiring just 21/2 hours a day of instruction, per state Board of Education policies.

Carol Miner, president of the autism support network, proposed a volunteer teachers assistant program where parents would give their time to assist teachers and save the ISD money.

On top of $3,000 spent this year to help teachers with supplies budgets, the 63-family group has volunteered to pay for background checks and training for parent volunteers.

Some board members thanked the parents for making their voices heard.

“To hear from all of you is very valuable,” said Robert Moles, ISD vice president.

Mind Reading Computers

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

autism.jpgResearchers are now working on technology to read the emotions of others by analyzing facial expressions. Although some people might have concerns about a computer doing such a thing, it could have very interesting treatment implications. Of course, most of us would not even think about computers REPLACING people in therapy, but if a computer could help people with autism to be more AWARE of their facial expressions, this could be very useful. The program in development is based on the work of Simonpr-cartoon-r.gif Baron-Cohen, the director of the Autism Research Centre in England, who is an expert in theory of mind and autism, check out some of the research he is doing, he does some incredible studies, including using technology such as DVDs and computers to teach people with autism. The researchers on this new project for a wearable emotion detector include Peter Robinson at Cambridge University and Rana el Kaliouby at MIT Here is the article from today’s headlines: Mind-Reading Computers Could Help Those With Autism By Jennifer LeClaire
“Would we want computers that can react to our emotions? Such systems do raise ethical issues,” said Professor Peter Robinson of the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. “Imagine a computer that could pick the right emotional moment to try to sell you something.” British and U.S. scientists are developing an “emotionally aware” computer that can gauge an individual’s thoughts by analyzing facial expressions. The technology could have practical applications for people with autism, researchers said.
“People express their mental states all the time through facial expressions, vocal nuances and gestures,” said Professor Peter Robinson of the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in London. “We have built this ability into computers to make them emotionally aware.”

Theory of Mind

The ability to determine an individual’s mental state based on behavior and then use that information to guide one’s actions or predict those of others, is known as the “theory of the mind.” This is not a new field. It has been around since the 1970s, but it has recently gained attention in light of the needs of people with autism, who are thought to be “mind-blind.” That is, they find it difficult to interpret others’ emotions and feelings from facial expressions and other non-verbal cues. Robinson and his colleague, Rana el Kaliouby from the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, based their computer program on the latest research in the theory of mind by Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Center at Cambridge. Baron-Cohen’s research provided them with a taxonomy of facial expressions and the emotions they represent.

“Machine versus people testing of this system has shown the computer to be as accurate as the top 6 percent of people. But would we want computers that can react to our emotions? Such systems do raise ethical issues,” Robinson said. “Imagine a computer that could pick the right emotional moment to try to sell you something.”


There are, however, applications with clear benefits, including an emotional hearing aid to assist people with autism, usability testing for software, feedback for online teaching, and informing the animation of cartoon figures, Robinson noted.

The duo has been working since 2004 on a wearable system that helps people with Autism Spectrum Conditions and Asperger Syndrome with emotional-social understanding and mind reading functions. El Kaliouby is currently implementing the first prototype of the system at MIT’s Media Lab.


Mary Bellis Waller, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and scientist at the Center for Addiction and Behavior Studies, is cheering on the researchers. Bellis has worked with autistic children and adults in her practice and is encouraged by progressive technologies designed to help autistics live a more normal life.

“Whatever helps autistics develop an awareness and sensitivity — and appropriate responses — to emotional cues, should be done,” Waller told TechNewsWorld. “And from all the research showing how plastic the brain is, the more anybody — including autistic people — practices appropriate responses, the better they get at it, the more natural it becomes to ‘act normal.’”

Autism Prevalence - New Findings!

Monday, May 8th, 2006

50249.jpgNew research supports an increase in autism prevalence over the past 10 years, but controversy still exists about why such a sharp increase. Many still feel that mercury in vaccinations is to blame while others point to new diagnostic criteria established in 1994.

Research supports genetic factors but environmental factors are the controversy - the truth is, we just don’t know yet why there has been such a dramatic increase in prevalance. The article below shows the new findings (which are similar to those published 5 years ago). .

While it is important for doctors and researchers to look for the cause and the cure, it is also important for us to talk about what we can do for these children today. The fact is, we have too many children who are in need of treatment and not enough resources to help them all. So, while we research the cause and wait for the cure, we must have solutions in place today (check out Autism Speaks, Autism Society of America, and TeachTown for information about treatment).

US Survey Shows Autism Is Very Common (copied from The Financial Express)

autistic_child_556.jpgWASHINGTON, MAY 5: The first national surveys of autism show the condition is very common among US children —with up to one in every 175 with the disorder, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday. This adds up to at least 300,000 US schoolchildren with autism, a condition that causes trouble with learning, socialising and behaviour, the CDC said.

The CDC analysed data on 24,673 children whose parents took part in two separate government surveys on in the United States to generate its first national estimate of the prevalence of autism.

“Together, these two national surveys of parents indicate that at least 300,000 children aged 4 to 17 years old had autism in 2003-04,” the CDC said in the report.

The surveys came up with similar results — that autism has been diagnosed in anywhere between 5.5 per 1,000 and 5.7 per 1,000 children aged 4 to 17. This translates to between one in every 175 to one in every 181 children.

“(The surveys) affirm that autism is a condition of major public health concern that affects many families,” Dr. Jose Cordero, director of CDC’s National Centre on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a briefing.

He said the findings fit in with previous estimates of autism, which were based on local surveys done in Atlanta and New Jersey. A survey in 1996 had showed autism had been diagnosed in 3.4 per 1,000 of the 3- to 10-year-olds included, or one in every 296.


April is Autism Awareness Month

Friday, April 7th, 2006

With autism awareness month coming up, TeachTown is working hard to increase awareness locally and nationally. In addition, we will be attending several events in Washington and California to show our support for the autism community.

There is likely to be a great number of programs on TV and radio, as well as articles in magazines and newspapers across the globe. I will be posting on the things that I see and trying to post updates on upcoming broadcasts as I become aware of them.

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