Autism Reality

An Autism Question for the Hon. Stephane Dion




The Hon. Stephane Dion, P.C., M.P.
Leader of the Official Opposition
Liberal Party of Canada

Dear Mr. Dion

An Autism Question

I am the father of two sons one of whom has classic Autism Disorder, with profound developmental delays, and I have been an autism advocate for the last eight years. This year I watched hopefully, but with no illusions, as Liberal MP Shawn Murphy of Charlottetown introduced Bill C-304, a Private Member’s bill, which would called for amendment of the Canada Health Act to provide coverage for autism treatments. As expected, Bill C-304 was defeated by the governing Conservative Party and its partner, the Bloc Quebecois. The Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party both voted, by and large, in support of Bill C-304. You personally cast a vote in support of the Bill.

Autism is a serious neurological disorder which affects 1 in 150 Canadians, including 1 in 94 male Canadians. Persons with an autism disorder can display a wide range of deficits including intellectual, communication, behavioural and social deficits. While no known cure exists, a treatment which has been empirically demonstrated in hundreds of studies to decrease the negative autism deficits, and in some cases virtually eliminate, these deficits exists. Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) has been demonstrated to improve the abilities in all these areas and improve the quality of life of autistic persons in hundreds of studies. Effective, early and intensive intervention with ABA, in addition to being effective in treating autistic children, has also been shown to save governments very substantial sums of money in provision of government services over the life of an autistic person.

Despite these facts, governments in Canada have an atrocious record in dealing with the Autism Crisis which confronts Canada and in helping these very vulnerable people. In British Columbia and Ontario governing parties reversed election campaign promises to provide medicare coverage for autism choosing instead to spend hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars to fight in court the parents of autistic children they had pledged to help. Mr. Dion I hope that you will not follow these shameful precedents, I hope you will not forget your vote in support of Bill C-304.

Mr. Dion, will you tell me, and other parents and caregivers of autistic children and persons, if the Liberal Party of Canada will, once elected, introduce legislation in the first year of your taking office as Prime Minister, to include autism treatment in medicare for all Canadians with autism regardless of residence and regardless of income?


Harold L Doherty
New Brunswick

June 10, 2007 Posted by | advocacy, applied behaviour analysis, auitsm disorder, autism advocacy, autism treatment, Bill C-304, Canada Health Act, Liberal Party, Stephane Dion | Leave a comment

Family With ONLY 3 Children With Autism

Unlike the Kirton’s of Utah who have six children, all with an Autism Disorder diagnosis, Randy and Lynn Gaston have ONLY 3 children, triplets, with autism. The Washington Post, in an article by Susan Deford examines the realities of family life for this family with triple the challenges, and impacts on family life, of having a child with autism.

No Group Discount For Autism Care

Now even mundane details of the daily routine are carefully orchestrated, driven by the boys’ need for sameness: identical sheets on their beds, baths in the same order every night, the same kind of pizza from the same kind of box.

The Gastons rarely go out as a couple; it’s difficult to find babysitters. The family has never eaten in a restaurant together, because crowded, unfamiliar environments sometimes make the boys anxious and upset. And the couple never get a full night’s rest. Like many autistic children, the boys don’t sleep well, going to bed at 8 p.m. and often waking for the day between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.

A recent attempt to go to a park came to an abrupt halt when Zachary started yelling in the car. Lynn pulled over and found the reason: Hunter had taken off his shoes and socks, disrupting his brother’s uneasy equilibrium.

The Gastons’ experience, though extreme, is shared by growing numbers of families.

June 4, 2007 Posted by | auism disorder, autism, autism awareness, family, family stress | Leave a comment

UK Study Confirms ABA As Most Effective Intervention for Autism

A UK Study has confirmed, again , that Applied Behavior Analysis, ABA, is the most effective intervention method for children with autism. The study was a comparative study of different teaching interventions for children with autism in a community setting and looked at the effectiveness of the interventions on children’s intellectual, educational, adaptive behavioral functioning and family stress levels. As reported on News-Medical.Net, Children supported by Applied Behaviour Analytic (ABA) programmes made greater intellectual and educational gains than children in other intervention programmes, while Special Nursery programmes also produced gains, compared to other less time-intensive programmes. Ideological opponents of ABA , some of whom actually oppose treating or curing autism, will not be convinced but parents seeking to help their autistic children enjoy a better quality of life should understand that this recent study is preceded by hundreds of other studies demonstrating that ABA is an effective way to help their children enjoy a better quality of life.

June 4, 2007 Posted by | Applied Behavior Analysis, autism, education | 2 Comments

One Family, Six Children with Autism, WOW

I have personally met families with more than one child with autism. I have met some with 2 autistic children and some with 3 but SIX! My son Conor is profoundly autistic and, because of his autism, our family life is affected dramatically. Every aspect of daily life including scheduling work activities and vacation have been affected. Conor requires constant 24/7 adult supervision. I can only imagine what life must be like for the Kirton’s of Utah who have been blessed with six children all of whom have an autism disorder. The Kirton’s story is featured on and tells of the many challenges faced by the Kirtons in raising and caring for their six children with autism. John Kirton has had to find new employment after losing a job after missing too much work to tend to home matters. Robin Kirton made an off hand remark out of frustration about buringing down her messy home which landed the Kirtons in family court. The legal process is now winding down but the court proceedings also prompted court ordered assessments for all six children as a result of which it was discovered that two of the six had Asperger’s. The article also talks about “stoppage” which is the name some geneticists give to the phenomenon which occurs when parents stop having children after having a child with autism.

John Kirton with 5 year old daughter Sarah

If the Kirtons are googling their names on the internet, or otherwise happen across this blog, I commend you for facing your challenges with determination and humor and I wish your family ” the very best ” as we say here in Atlantic Canada.,1249,660226195,00.html

June 3, 2007 Posted by | autism, autism challenges, autism diagnosis, family stress | 2 Comments

Hello and Welcome to Autism Reality

Conor on the Trail

Conor, My Buddy

I am starting this WordPress blog site to encourage reality based discussions of autism, autism research, causes, treatments, education, residential care and public policy. I encourage you to contact me or comment to offer your views and opinions. Profanity and harassment of anyone public or otherwise will not be permitted but open, candid, and honest dialogue will be encouraged. I expressly state my bias. My son, Conor, is autistic, profoundly autistic, and although I love HIM deeply, I do not love his autism which is a serious neurological disorder because of which Conor requires adult supervision on a 24/7 basis. Conor, and other autistic children, deserve evidence based treatment, education and … some day a cure for their autism.

June 3, 2007 Posted by | autism, autism challenges, autism diagnosis, Conor | Leave a comment

Rob Corrdry Doesn’t Buy the Autism Is Wonderful Spin

Rob Corddry of “The Daily Show isn’t buying the joy of autism spin that permeates the neurodiversity internet sites.

Actor-comedian Rob Corddry of “The Daily Show” fame, will host The Hollywood Reporter’s 36th annual Key Art Awards on June 15 at the Beverly Hilton. He recently revealed in his blog that his young nephew is diagnosed with Autism.

“My brother Nate and I went to Boston this weekend to host a benefit for local autistic children. We HATE autism. We hate everything about it. Everything. There is nothing good about autism,” says Corddry in his penned thoughts regarding the frightening affliction.

“Except for all of that math stuff. That’s pretty cool,” he quipped.

“My sister asked us to host the event because her son, our nephew, is autistic, and the kids at his school need a new playground. Their current one is full of cockroaches and fire ants,” Corddry wrote.

“Nate and I told our team of publicists to accept the invitation…we hate autism that much.”

Corddry uses his humor to make his point: The heaviness of having a loved one diagnosed with the neurological disorder can be processed just a bit easier with a dose of positive attitude and proactive stance to learn as much as you can to fight back.

“Nate and I were in for a huge surprise. Who knew that autistic kids were such big Daily Show fans?”

Corddry talks openly about his four-year-old, autistic nephew Owen: “We have some history. Ours has been a slightly rocky relationship. You see, a few years ago, my millionaire father died, leaving Owen his entire fortune and me an old convertible. So I kidnapped Owen and took him to Vegas where I put him to work counting cards,” Corddry jokes.

Corddry and his brother Nate were successful in raising needed funds. “Nate truly found a second calling that night, conducting an auction for autistic kids. He was auction-tastic. He was auctistic,” mused Corddry in his blog source/

Chances are, if you are reading this article, you know too well about Autism, a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime.

Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.

It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls.

Autism hampers a person’s ability communicate and navigate social structure. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive, obsessive behaviors. is an excellent resource started by Suzanne and Bob Wright, whose grandson Christian was diagnosed with Autism.

Autism was first identified in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital. At the same time, a German scientist, Dr. Hans Asperger, described a milder form of the disorder that is now known as Asperger Syndrome.

Pediatricians may initially dismiss signs of autism, thinking a child will “catch up,” and may advise parents to “wait and see.” New research shows that when parents suspect something is wrong with their child, they are usually correct.

If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait: speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism.

June 1, 2007 Posted by | autism awareness, autism disorder, Key Art Awards, neurodiversity, Rob Corddry, The Daily Show | 1 Comment

Jamie McMurray Will Put Pedal to the Metal for Autism Awareness & Research in Autism Speaks 400

Autism Speaks latest autism awareness and fundraising effort, the Autism Speaks 400, is a beauty. Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah Winfrey, Larry King and many other celebrities have pitched in to help raise autism awarness. Now the Autism Speaks 400 is set to roll and this should help push autism awareness further into public consciousness. Jamie McMurray has also stepped forward individually. His helment and firesuit this weekend will carry the autism puzzle piece design and the Crown Royal folks will be repainting the No. 26 Ford Fusion Jamie will be driving to carry the puzzle piece design. Autism is a serious neurological disorder but it will help everyone to have some fun this weekend as Jamie and the other drivers race to bring autism awareness home and to raise funds for autism research. I know I will be cheering for the No. 26 Ford Fusion this weekend. A big thank you to Autism Speaks, Jamie McMurray, Crown Royal and VISA, which will be donating $5 from ticket purchases to autism research.

Jamie McMurray to Race Special Paint Scheme in Dover to Raise Awareness and Funds for Autism

May 31, 2007
CONCORD, N.C. – One year ago at Dover International Speedway, Jamie McMurray led 95 of the race’s closing 98 laps, only to be passed by teammate Matt Kenseth with three laps remaining. McMurray went on to finish with a season-best second place. This year, McMurray and the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion hope to be leading when the checker flag drops on the Autism Speaks 400. McMurray, who has been one of the most vocal spokesmen for autism awareness in the sport of NASCAR, hopes to bring a lot more attention to the cause this weekend with a new autism-themed paint scheme, firesuit, helmet and gloves.

“I went to Crown Royal a few weeks ago and asked them how I can do more in support of the Autism Speaks 400,” said McMurray. “I had the idea of wearing a different firesuit and helmet in the race and then auctioning them off after and have all of the funds go towards the Jamie McMurray Foundation, which supports autism research, education and families afflicted with autism. Needless to say, Crown Royal was very supportive and backed us completely.”

Crown Royal even went further and changed the look of the No. 26 Ford Fusion for this weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway. The sides, front and rear of the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion will be outfitted with the well-known autism puzzle piece design.

“We know how important this race is to Jamie, so we wanted to go the extra mile to help out,” said Jim Lorenz, senior brand manager, Crown Royal. “When we first started working with Jamie, it was clear how much passion he has for this cause and we want to do our part to join in the effort to raise money and awareness. After we found out the race would be entitled the Autism Speaks 400, we wanted to help Jamie in any way we could.”

Along with the special paint scheme on the No. 26 Ford Fusion, McMurray will also don a new firesuit, helmet and gloves – all of which will be outfitted with the Autism puzzle piece design. Following the race, all of these special items will be auctioned off on Speed Channel’s website ( with the proceeds going to benefit the Jamie McMurray Foundation.

Heading into this weekend, McMurray, along with a handful of NASCAR drivers, will participate in the Drive for Autism Research Golf Tournament in Wilmington, Del. The golf tournament is organized by Artie Kempner of FOX Sports, with the proceeds of the tournament being split between the foundations of McMurray and Elliott Sadler.

“It’s great to be paired up with Artie and Elliott for this week’s golf event. This golf tournament continues to grow in popularity and it raises a lot of money for autism, which is the most important part,” McMurray said.

This Sunday morning at the Dover International Speedway media center, McMurray will be presenting Autism Speaks with a charitable donation. The presentation is set to begin at 9:30am.

June 1, 2007 Posted by | autism awareness, autism disorder, Autism Speaks 400, Crown Royal, Dover International Speedway, Jamie McMurray, VISA | 3 Comments

Four Strong Autism Winds

Four strong winds that blow slowly
Seven seas that run high
All these things that don’t change come what may
Now our good times are all gone
And I’m bound for moving on
I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way

Guess I’ll go out to Alberta
Weather’s good there in the Fall
Got some friends that I can go to workin’ for
Still I wish you’d change your mind
If I asked you one more time
But we’ve been thru that a hundred times or more

– Ian Tyson

Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds is viewed by many as Canada’s unofficial national anthem, a tale of Canadian migration to Alberta in search of work. Today Alberta continues to draw Canadians in search of work. But it is also a magnet attracting Canadian families with autistic children in search of its government funded autism treatment. In neighboring Saskatchewan meanwhile government funding for autism is virtually non-existent.

In Parliament the Scott-Stoffer private member’s motion calling for a National Autism strategy to deal with this national health crisis was passed while the Shawn Murphy bill seeking inclusion of autism treatment under medicare was defeated by the Harper Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois on spurious jurisdictional arguments. Canada would not have a national medicare system at all if this feeble rationalization was employed consistently. Indeed why do we even have a federal Health Minister, at present Tony Clement, if the federal government has no role to play in health issues? The reality is that prior to the election of the Harper Conservatives Canadians had long recognized the need for federal provincial cooperation to address health issues of national magnitude that might be beyond the ability of smaller or poorer provinces to address.

To most Canadians the hundreds of studies documenting the effectiveness of ABA in treating autism should be enough to justify extending a federal hand to ensure that Canadians do not have to move to Alberta to seek treatment for their autistic children. To most Canadians the fact that 47-50% of autistic children can be rendered indistinguishable from their peers by school age, with intensive behavioral intervention, would be enough to justify federal involvement. For most Canadians the improvement in quality of life, the increased ability to communicate, to function in society, to avoid self injurious behavior would be compelling motivations justifying an effective national autism strategy. Since Stephen Harper is Prime Minister though a different argument, one which does not rely upon empathy or compassion, must be found – studies show that autism treatment saves governments very substantial sums of money, in reduced government services, over the life of an autistic person.

How about it Mr. Harper, how about offering a real national autism strategy to address Canada’s autism crisis? You have clearly said no. Still I wish you’d change your mind, if I asked you one more time.

Autism funding drawing parents to Alberta

Last Updated: Monday, January 16, 2006 | 9:37 AM MT

CBC News

Alberta’s coverage of an intensive therapy for children with autism is prompting some families to move to the province to receive additional care for their children.

“I used to see easily a kid a month that came to Alberta for autism services,” Calgary pediatrician Dr. Neil Cooper said. “Probably it’s been 10 years that we’ve been in this office that we’ve seen kids come from other provinces, mostly because of the funding.”

The therapy – known as intensive behavioural intervention – is time consuming and expensive, but parents like Kim and Mike Stafford say it’s worth it.

The Moose Jaw couple moved to Calgary 18 months ago because Alberta’s health care system pays for the therapy, which they say has led to a big difference in their son.

When six-year-old Trey was diagnosed with autism, a developmental disorder which can be accompanied by severe problems with social interactions and language, three years ago, it seemed he had retreated into his own world, his parents say.

However, since he’s been involved in intensive behavioural intervention, his progress has been remarkable, they say.

For example, although now Trey spends part of each morning spelling words, he could barely even say them a year ago, Kim Stafford said.

“Now he knows all the kids’ names in his class. He can write down the names, he can spell them. It’s really wonderful to see,” she added.

The treatment involves speech therapy, physiotherapy, music and games – between 20 to 30 hours per week. It costs around $60,000 per year.

The Saskatchewan Health Department would only pay for one hour a week, which the Staffords say was inadequate, so they moved to Alberta. Almost immediately, Trey began receiving the full 30 hours, the Staffords said.

Roger Carriere, executive director of the Saskatchewan Health Department’s community care branch, said the therapy is expensive and there are questions about its effectiveness. He also noted there are many other priorities competing for Saskatchewan’s health dollars.

May 31, 2007 Posted by | aba, Alberta, Applied Behavior Analysis, autism disorder, bloc quebecois, Canada Health Act, Conservative Party, Saskatchewan, Stephen Harper, Tony Clement | 1 Comment

Autism Induced "Excited Delirium Syndrome" ? Or Police Brutality?

A mom is suing police after her autistic son died following a struggle with police. Local police authorities, who apparently are also medical experts, stated that her son died from what they called “autism induced excited delirium syndrome” resulting in cardiac arrests. As the article indicates this purported “syndrome” is often used by police in explaining deaths of certain persons following confrontations with police. Interestingly, a 1999 Salon article on the subject points out that this medical theory was advanced by coroners. Recenlty excited delirium syndrom was cited by an official pathologist in a NB death of a man involved in a confrontation with police. A taser/excited delirium death also arose in Calgary and prompted a sudy of the connection between taser use and deaths from this purpoted syndrome. Apart from being regularly used by police coroners and pathologists to explain deaths of individuals in police custody or confrontations it is worthwile to note that “excited delirium syndrome” is not a diagnosis used in psychiatry:

“Excited delirium is not a diagnosis used in psychiatry,” says Dr. Roumen Milev of the Mood Disorders Clinic at the Providence Continuing Care Centre in Kingston, Ont.

“It does not exist as such either in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic and statistical manual, or in the World Health Organization’s international classification of diseases.”

Mom sues in death of autistic son

The Monterey County Herald

Article Last Updated: 05/29/2007 01:43:36 AM PDT

RIVERSIDE (AP) — The mother of an autistic man who died after struggling with Riverside County sheriff’s deputies has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

The suit, filed in federal court last month, accuses deputies of negligence and brutality and seeks unspecified damages in the death of Raymond Lee Mitchell, 21.

Mitchell died in a hospital last July following a struggle with deputies at his Perris home. Deputies responded to the residence after his mother called 911 saying she needed authorities to pick up her son.

Sheriff’s officials contend Mitchell died from autism-induced “excited delirium syndrome,” a condition that leads to sudden cardiac arrest.

His mother’s attorney rejects that claim, saying it’s a common defense among law enforcement agencies sued over in-custody deaths.

“That’s what they always say,” attorney Carl Douglas said.

Douglas believes Mitchell died of positional asphyxiation after several officers piled on top of him.

Sheriff’s spokesman Jerry Franchville said deputies are trained for encounters with people with autism, mental illness and other special needs.

Besides what authorities claim is the cause of death, he refused to release results of an investigation into matter.

Some coroners say suspects are dying not from police brutality but an obscure medical disorder.

– – – – – – – – – – – –
By Christian Parenti

Sept. 29, 1999 | America’s latest cultural export to the United Kingdom isn’t some hot new software or a hip-hop single, it’s a controversial medical theory that seeks to explain why so many people die in police custody. The concept, called “excited delirium” (ED) or “in-custody death syndrome,” is being put forward by a small but vocal clique of big-city coroners. Proponents of excited delirium argue that most people who die in police custody are not the victims of police brutality, but rather victims of their own cocaine or amphetamine abuse, which can trigger this fatal condition.

Since the mid 1990s excited delirium has been floated as an explanation in several high-profile police custody deaths in the United States. But so far, the “excited delirium” debate has yet to begin in the U.K. Last week, the Royal Society of Medicine in London held a conference on “The Medical Aspects of Death in Custody” due to the record number of people (65) who died in custody last year in England and Wales.

While excited delirium was not proved as the cause of many of these deaths, in other countries, such as Canada, most of the people who died from excited delirium between 1988 and 1995 were in police custody at the time, according to one study. Medical examiners say this may just be the tip of the iceberg, but it’s hard to say for sure since nobody tracks the number of ED-related deaths that occur each year.

“You can’t prevent most of these deaths,” says Dr. Boyd Stephens, chief medical examiner for the City and County of San Francisco. This view is shared by his colleague, assistant medical examiner Dr. Steve Karch, who has just returned from addressing the conference on drugs, restraint and postural asphyxia.

“Whether or not these people [who die in custody] see the police is irrelevant. They could be seeing a seven-headed monster. They’re delirious, they get a surge of adrenaline and they die,” Karch says. He and others contend that the real cause of death is long-term amphetamine abuse, which causes heart disease and increases neurotransmitters, called Kappa 2 receptors, in the part of the brain — the lymbic amygdala — that is responsible for fear. Translation: Speed and crack make you paranoid and prone to heart attacks.

Karch says that being high and paranoid leads to erratic behavior, delirium and a heightened heart rate, often accompanied by a rise in body temperature. All of this, plus a weakened heart, can kill a person, and the police have nothing to do with it, he says.

But not everyone is so impressed by the new theory. A bevy of critics, ranging from police accountability activists, to former cops, to toxicologists and coroners, think Karch and other proponents of excited delirium have turned the causal sequence upside down.

“Most of the people who die in police custody die not from drugs or some mysterious syndrome but from police abuse,” says Van Jones, executive director of the Ella Baker Human Rights Center in San Francisco. “Officers choose to escalate confrontations and use force when dealing with disturbed and excited people.” Jones points out that many of the cases cited as prime examples of excited delirium or sudden in-custody death syndrome involve gross police misconduct and extreme violence.

The in-custody death of Aaron Williams in San Francisco, which was later attributed to excited delirium, is one such example. In 1995, Williams was chased and beaten by 12 police officers. According to press reports, he was high on drugs and “acting crazy” at the time. Once he was captured, the police twice sprayed him with pepper spray — a chemical agent that causes gagging and massive mucus production. The police then covered Williams’ face with a surgical mask and hogtied him, which consists of manacling hands and feet together behind the back. They then repeatedly kicked him in the head, according to eyewitnesses quoted in press reports. (Although the San Francisco Police Department denies this part of the account.) He was then left untended in the back of a paddy wagon with his face down. Less than an hour later, the prisoner arrived dead at the local cop shop.

Taser alone didn’t kill Geldart: pathologist

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | 5:14 PM AT
CBC News

A temporary condition, not an electronic stun gun used by Moncton police, was likely to blame for the death of a psychiatric patient, an inquest heard Wednesday.

Kevin Geldart, 34, who had walked away from the psychiatric unit at the Moncton Hospital, died in the Right Spot bar on May 5th, 2005, after police used a Taser in a bid to subdue him.

Ken Obenson, the pathologist who examined Geldart’s body, told the inquest that in his opinion the primary cause of Geldart’s death was “excited delirium,” a condition in which a mentally ill person is acutely agitated, violent, sweating profusely and showing an insensitivity to pain.

Geldart showed many of those symptoms, according to previous testimony from four police officers who confronted him at the Right Spot Bar in Moncton. The officers used pepper spray and a Taser, an electronic stun gun, to try to subdue Geldart, who was six-feet-six inches tall, weighed more than 350 lbs., and suffered from asthma.

Obenson said that because an agitated Geldart was wrestling with police, his adrenaline level would have been high.

His potassium level would also have been high, Obsenson said, and that would have protected his heart. However, once restrained, his potassium level would have dropped, Obenson said, and that would have lead to arrthymia, an upset in the heart’s normal rhythm.

Obenson said the Taser, pepper spray and Geldart’s obesity might have been contributing factors in his death. But even if those factors had not been present, he said, the outcome still would have likely been death.

However, if the condition of excited delirium were removed, and every other factor left in place, Obenson said, Geldart likely wouldn’t have died.

‘Excited delirium’ case raises taser questions

Updated Sun. Mar. 11 2007 5:16 PM ET

Canadian Press

FREDERICTON — A New Brunswick man’s death due to a mysterious malady called excited delirium has raised more questions about police arrest techniques and the growing use of stun guns.

Kevin Geldart, 34, of Moncton, N.B., died after he was repeatedly shocked with Taser weapons by RCMP officers in 2005.

It was another in a long series of deaths in North America following the use of police force and Taser guns to control people who are described as combative, irrational and extraordinarily strong.

In most of these cases, the cause of death is difficult to pinpoint and is often attributed to cardiac arrest, drug intoxication or a combination of the two.

But a New Brunswick coroner’s inquest into Geldart’s death earlier this month ruled that the large, mentally ill man died of excited delirium _ a condition that cannot be found in medical or psychiatric text books.

“Excited delirium is not a diagnosis used in psychiatry,” says Dr. Roumen Milev of the Mood Disorders Clinic at the Providence Continuing Care Centre in Kingston, Ont.

“It does not exist as such either in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic and statistical manual, or in the World Health Organization’s international classification of diseases.”

Critics say excited delirium exists purely in the imaginations of those who are anxious to defend the use of Taser weapons and excessive police force.

Eric Balaban, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, says that blaming excited delirium for in-custody deaths could be a way of whitewashing inappropriate use of force by police.

“It’s not recognized as a mental-health diagnosis,” Balaban says.

“It is really used only by medical examiners to attribute the cause of death of an arrestee following a violent scuffle with police officers.”

Whatever excited delirium may be, it is characterized by extreme agitation, incoherence, bizarre behaviour, often superhuman strength and a high body temperature.

It is associated with drug abuse and mental illness, and occurs often in people who, like Geldart, are very large. Geldart was tall and weighed at least 350 pounds.

Family members and friends of people who die during police Taser arrests are almost always unsatisfied with descriptions of the cause of death and the fact that the police are exonerated.

One of Geldart’s relatives has called for a moratorium on the use of Tasers until more is known about the effects of the weapon on people, especially on those with mental illness.

So far, 212 people in North America have died following custody struggles with Taser-wielding police officers _ at least 15 of them in Canada, where the weapon has been used since 2001.

In all cases, the stun gun has been cleared of any direct involvement in the deaths, even in cases like Geldart’s, where there were eight Taser injuries to his body and head.

“I’m not aware of any case in the world where the conductive energy weapon has been found to be the factor that caused death,” Sgt. Richard Groulx, an RCMP training and tactical weapons expert, told the New Brunswick inquest.

The Taser delivers a pulsating, 50,000-volt electrical current through the body, and police say it can pierce clothing four centimetres thick.

The shock, which lasts up to five seconds, locks muscles instantly and overrides the central nervous system.

Dr. Deborah Mash, professor of neurology at the University of Miami and a leading expert in North America on excited delirium, says the ultimate goal of her research is to establish a protocol so police know how to handle people exhibiting signs of the condition.

Mash says excited delirium is a real brain disorder.

“There are clearly neuro-chemical changes in the brain,” she says. “There is a defect. The issue of police brutality is simply wrong. That’s not to say it can’t occur, but when the police are confronted by someone exhibiting superhuman strength like a Hulk Hogan … what can they do?”

Mash says the phenomenon came to light in the 1980s, when crack cocaine first burst onto the Florida drug scene.

She says many victims have cocaine or drugs in their systems, although mentally ill people like Geldart, who was bipolar, are also susceptible.

“It doesn’t have to be drug-related,” she says. “There are a number of triggers that will pop the switch.”

Mash says no one knows the best intervention techniques for police when confronted by an individual in the throes of excited delirium.

She says she hopes a standard of practice can be developed.

She also says research may ultimately unlock a clear diagnosis of the disorder, so victims can be identified before they run into trouble.

“Thanks to advances in molecular biology, we have an opportunity to look for the first time for real diagnostic markers, and that’s what we need,” Mash says.

Link between excited delirium, Taser deaths to be studied

Calgary Herald

Saturday, January 14, 2006

CALGARY — A Calgary physician is leading a national study to see whether a medical condition that causes violent behavior and superhuman strength can turn deadly when police Taser or pepper- spray suspects.

Dr. Christine Hall is undertaking a three-year analysis of subjects who die in police custody and what role the little-understood disorder, known as excited delirium, may play.

The condition, while not universally recognized by the medical establishment, has been linked to the deaths of several police suspects, including cases in which detainees died after being Tasered or pepper-sprayed.

“We think there’s something systematically different from the people who die in custody than the people who don’t,” said Hall, an emergency room doctor and epidemiologist.

The study will also examine any association between police use of pepper spray or stun guns and custody deaths.

Hall’s research, which must still be approved by an ethics review board, follows the Christmas Eve death of a man who was Tasered by Edmonton police after he went into a fit of rage at an intersection.

The Tasers can deliver a 50,000-volt shock to temporarily immobilize a suspect and have been the subject of heated debate in recent years.

While supporters argue they are less lethal than other weapons, groups like Amnesty International blame the stun guns for dozens of police custody deaths in North America.

Hall’s research, which has received $1.5 million in funding from the Canadian Police Research Centre, could begin as early as this summer, pending approval from an ethics committee.

She hopes the study will unravel some of the mysteries surrounding excited delirium, a disorder that hasn’t been studied extensively.

The condition appears to strike men who are mentally ill or high on drugs.

People suspected of having excited delirium are often agitated, violent, hot to the touch and don’t feel pain at all, Hall said.

Hall will work with 11 police forces around the country to collect reports on all suspects who physically resist arrest, comparing the data to reports on suspects who die in custody.

The study will examine whether the suspects exhibited signs of excited delirium and what forms of restraint, such as Tasers, police used in the cases.

“We have to figure out if there’s a way to know who the people at risk are,” said Hall.

Since the devices came into use in Calgary last October, police officers there have used Tasers 37 times on suspects without any serious ill effects, according to Staff Sgt. Kevin de Villenfagne of the Calgary Police Service.

He said the move to study excited delirium and its relationship to Tasers is helpful for police.

“Anytime we can do research to determine the validity of the tools we’re using to ensure we’re doing the best with the tools we have, that’s a good thing,” he said.
Brian Hill
Training is not an expense, it is an investment. “

May 30, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, excited delirium syndrome, law enforcement, tasers | 1 Comment

Autism Spectrum Disorder and ABA – Living With Autism

Lexi Cota’s tutor, Sara English, coaxes her to repeat an “mmm” sound for a spoon of frosting.
(Journal Photo by Lauren Carroll)

The Winston-Salem Journal has done some excellent work on autism with this article and video Living With Autism. The article, interactive graphic and video do an excellent job of presenting the realities of life for an autitsic child and her family. It is done with a positive, but realistic, presentation of the challenges facing autistic children. And it cuts to the chase in telling parents of autistic children what they need to know. ABA based early intervention is critically important for your child’s future. These pieces also present very well the challenges faced by parents in trying to educate their children including the inadequacies of the formal education system in helping educate autistic children.

The Gordons suspected that Ross had autism when he was 6 months old, said Kristi Gordon, his mother. He never responded to people or toys, and could spend hours spinning things.

The diagnosis was confirmed a year later.

“No matter how much we thought it, it still kind of crushed us,” she said.

Others, like the Cotas, watch their seemingly typical child change into someone they don’t recognize. When she was a year old, Lexi was a charming, typical toddler, one who loved to pop out from behind doorways and say “hi!” Then, when she was about 16 months old, she began to change. She became at turns silent and withdrawn or unruly, running around and flapping her arms wildly. She was diagnosed with autism a few weeks before her third birthday.

No matter when they get the diagnosis, the message that goes with it is the same: Get help now.

Many experts say that children who are placed into therapy as soon as possible have the best chance of eventually living a relatively independent life in which they will be able to have a job, even if their social mannerisms are unconventional.

“When you see them young, and 11/2, 2 and 3, you have no way of knowing which child will respond well to intervention and which won’t. The idea is you provide intervention and treatment when they’re young,” said Dr. Kurt Klinepeter, an associate professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the medical director of Amos Cottage. Amos Cottage is affiliated with Wake Forest and offers services for children with developmental problems.

It’s difficult to tell how many children have other conditions that co-exist with the autism. About 30 percent of autistic children will have IQ scores in the normal range. Those children will have the best chance at eventually living independently, with jobs and typical lives – not just because they score well, but also because they have to be on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum to be able to take an IQ test at all, Klinepeter said.

The other 70 percent aren’t necessarily mentally retarded, he said. They could be more affected by the communication and social aspects of the disorder, which would make it nearly impossible to correctly administer an IQ test.

Children who are suspected of having autism usually end up at the county’s early-intervention program, either through a referral from a doctor or day-care worker, or because the parent is concerned enough to want an evaluation.

If the child is autistic, the county is in charge of providing therapy until the child turns 3, through the Children’s Development Service Agencies. Children can receive a combination of speech, occupational and physical therapies. Some also receive therapy through the ABC of NC center. It is paid for by Children’s Development Service Agencies.

Many parents want their children to receive Applied Behavior Analysis. The National Institute of Mental Health, the leading federal agency for research on mental and behavioral disorders, said that ABA has “become widely accepted as an effective treatment” in its booklet about autism. ABA is the only treatment specifically mentioned in the booklet.

May 29, 2007 Posted by | aba, Applied Behavior Analysis, autism spectrum disorders, early intervention, education | Leave a comment