Autism Reality

Vaccines & Autism – Some Sound Advice

There is very little support in the scientific community for the “vaccines cause autism” fears that have grabbed the hearts and minds of many parents. But still the fears are such that many people forgo vaccinating their children. The Lafayette Journal & Courier has offered some sound editorial advice which is well worth reading:

Vaccination: Safer than the alternative

It takes less than a minute to vaccinate your child against the measles, a virus that has infected and killed thousands of children worldwide.

But some parents are unwilling to do so.

Not everyone believes the ample body of validated evidence that supports this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s assertion: Vaccinating children against measles, mumps and rubella is the safe and responsible thing to do.

The National Vaccination Information Center is a parent-led organization that aims to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths. Its Web site warns that vaccines can cause their own problems, such as autism, and details cases of children who, the NVIC claims, became violently ill or died after receiving regularly scheduled vaccinations.

Much of its evidence is anecdotal.

But repeated studies confirm the vaccinations are safe for the overwhelming majority of children.

Last week the CDC announced that the largest U.S. measles outbreak in a decade had been traced to a Clinton County girl.

The girl had not received the typical round of childhood immunizations before she traveled to Romania in 2005, federal health officials said. She returned carrying the measles virus, prompting an outbreak that infected 32 people in Indiana and one from Illinois.

Most were children. Only two had been vaccinated against the disease. Three were hospitalized. And one spent time in the intensive care unit before recovering, the CDC said.

The CDC has determined there is no convincing evidence that vaccines, such as the one that prevents measles, cause autism or other related health disorders.

What’s clear is that before vaccines were available, thousands of children became sick — and some died — from the measles virus before the vaccine became available in 1963.

At that time, U.S. health officials documented about 450,000 measles cases and about 450 measles deaths annually. Now, as more and more children routinely receive vaccinations, the number has dramatically dropped.

Science, not fear, should be the deciding factor in how we protect our children.

Refusing to vaccinate them is a dangerous practice that could endanger their lives.

December 27, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Autism Heroes 2006

2006 has been a momentous year for autism advocacy in North America. The US enacted the Combating Autism Act and in Canada the Scott-Stoffer private member motion calling for a National Autism Strategy passed in the House of Commons with only the Bloc Quebecois putting partisan politics ahead of compassion and refusing to endorse the motion. In no particular order I offer my personal list of Autism Heroes for 2006.

1. Teacher Greg Peters and the students in his political science classes at Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton for the past two years who worked tirelessly and effectively to garner support for a National Autism Strategy in Canada.

2. Andy Scott MP Fredericton NB – Andy Scott has worked for several years on a National Autism Strategy and “wheeled and dealed”, lobbied and persuaded to get it under way in 2006 with private member motion M-172.

3. Peter Stoffer MP Sackville-Eastern Shore NS – Peter Stoffer has also laboured long in support of a National Autism Strategy, seconded M-172 and spoke eloquently in support of the need for a National Autism Strategy for Canada.

4. Shawn Murphy MP – Charlottetown PEI – Shawn Murphy brought his own motion calling for amendments to the Canada Health Act to specify autism and autism treatment. His efforts continued to highlight in Canada the need for a NAS.

5. Autism Society New Brunswick – the struggle for a National Autism Strategy has been long underway. The ASNB has been actively fighting and lobbying for a NAS for several years. Lila Barry, Nancy Blanchette, Jason Oldford, Luigi Rocca, Dawn Bowie, Brian Rimpilainen and many others at ASNB have fought long and hard to advance the cause of autism on the national level.

6. Andrew Kavchak, Sam Yassine, Mike Lewis, Jean Lewis, Shirley Hewko and the families in the Auton and Wynberg cases all of whom have lobbied, sued, advocated and fought for better conditions in the lives of their children and other persons with autism.

7. US Senator Chris Dodd (D) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R) for introducing and championing the Combating Autism Act. Also US President George W. Bush for signing the CAA into law.

8. New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham for his commitment to provide autism specific training to Teachers’ Aides and Resource Teachers working with autistic students in New Brunswick schools.

9. Former New Brunswick Health Minister Brad Green who reversed a decision to discontinue pediatric tertiary care services for autistic children at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in Fredericton and committed to the funding of a new team dedicated specifically to the provision of autism services at the Centre. Director Ron Harris at the Stan Cassidy who provided well informed leadership to those who fought for the commitment to the new autism team and who is overseeing the development of the team.

10. Clinical Psychologist and Professor Emeritus (Psychology) Paul McDonnell who received special recognition from the Autism Society New Brunswick this year for his outstanding contributions to the cause of autism in New Brunswick. Paul works with autistic children in his practice and has been a primary source of knowledge, confidence and inspiration for parents advocating for better lives for their children with autism.

11. Autistic children and adults who have made our lives better in 2006 and all years and provide joy and strength to parents in our daily lives, including my son, Conor .

December 27, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Conor’s Christmas Card

Conor’s Christmas Card

Merry Christmas!!

December 24, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Amnesty International: Police Use of Taser Convenes International Standards

Amnesty International has criticized the use by police forces of TASER weapons as contraventions of international standards prohibiting torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as well as standards set out under the United Nations (UN) Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by law Enforcement Officials. Amnesty has also asked that force should be used as a last resort and that officers must apply only the minimum amount of force necessary to obtain a lawful objective. They also provide that all use of force must be proportionate to the threat posed as well as designed to avoid unwarranted pain or injury. Amnesty International has called on law enforcement agencies to suspend all use of electro-shock weapons, pending an urgent rigorous independent and impartial inquiry into their use and effects. Other recommendations include recommendations for the immediate control and limitation on the use of the taser by forces who continue to deploy such weapons.

The AI report can be found at this url

December 23, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fredericton Police, Tasers And Autistic Persons

Fredericton police will now be armed with TASERS. Fredericton City Council has voted to authorize the purchase of the stun guns with the “ high-voltage charge that temporarily shocks unruly individuals and allows police to disable them.” (Daily Gleaner, December 23, 2006). Unfortunately for autistic persons, including some autistic persons with low IQ’s, they can sometimes be perceived as unruly and dangerous by police authorities. And TASERS are dangerous weapons. As the Gleaner stated: “

Taser use remains controversial.

The Canada Safety Council in 2005 said that 50 people in the United States died between 2002 and 2005 after receiving Taser shocks.

In Canada in 2005, there were five deaths after police used stun guns, including one in Moncton, although the Canada Safety Council hastened to add that the Taser was not named as the cause of death in those cases.”

[Not named as the cause of death following TASER Fire? – If a heart stops beating after being fired upon by a TASER ; heart failure might be the medical cause but surely the TASER fire should be a suspect in bringing about the cause of death? – HLD]

Rendering a person unable to use their muscle systems to prevent falling or to allow falling in a protective manner victims of TASER attacks are vulnerable to injuries such as head injuries when falling on a hard surface such as a curb or road. Concerns have been expressed around the world about the indiscriminate use of these high voltage weapons and about their use on persons with autism and other mental disabilities. Hopefully the Fredericton City Police training will include training to recognize behavior characteristic of such persons and how to deal with them – short of firing upon them with TASERS.”

From New Zealand:

Injuries to officers highlight taser dangers

Keith Locke MP, Green Party Police Spokespon

13th September 2006

Green Party Police Spokesperson Keith Locke has written to the Police Minister asking her to reconsider her support for the taser trial following a disclosure that three New Zealand police officers had been injured during tests.

Two officers had received minor flesh injuries, and one was dazed after falling badly.

“Taser victims often ‘fall badly’ because they have no muscular control to cushion the impact,” Mr Locke says.

“Presumably the dazed officer was tasered on a soft surface, unlike many taser victims, who will knock their head on a hard road, a curb, or a protruding object.

“Overseas, such falls have caused death or serious injury. On June 4, 2004 Jerry Pickens was tasered in Bridge City, Louisiana. He fell backward, hit his head on his driveway, went into a coma and died.

“The taser is also dangerous to people with heart conditions, or those whose cardio-vascular system is affected by drugs. The police ‘guinea pigs’ would have been fit and healthy, unlike many of the people they will be tasering on the street.

“I have written to Police Minister Annette King to ask her to reconsider whether the trial should go ahead in the light of this new evidence,” Mr Locke says.

“The risk to the public is too great to justify the continued use of this weapon.”

From Illinois:

Ill. teen shot by police stun gun dies

The Associated Press

JERSEYVILLE, Ill.- A teenager carrying a Bible and shouting “I want Jesus” was shot twice with a police stun gun and later died at a St. Louis hospital, authorities said.

In a statement obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, police in Jerseyville, about 40 miles north of St. Louis, said 17-year-old Roger Holyfield would not acknowledge officers who approached him and he continued yelling, “I want Jesus.”

Police tried to calm the teen, but Holyfield became combative, according to the statement. Officers fired the stun gun at him after he ignored their warnings, then fired again when he continued struggling, police said.

Holyfield was flown to St. Louis’ Cardinal Glennon Hospital after the confrontation Saturday; he died there Sunday, police said.

From Oregon:


By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian
The Oregonian

When Portland police encountered Sir J. Millage walking barefoot and shirtless in the chill December dawn, carrying what appeared to be a stick or metal rod, they thought he “might be unstable and possibly violent.”

Witnesses who had spotted Millage walking amid traffic across the Broadway Bridge told police they thought the 5-foot-10 inch, 260-pound person was around 25. An officer later was struck by his “fixed gaze,” as if he was looking “right through” him. He did not respond to shouted orders to drop his stick, and, according to the officer, waved it in a threatening manner.

One officer fired four Taser shots at Millage, and then another struck him six times with his baton because he wouldn’t stay on the ground. They thought Millage was high on drugs.

Millage’s great-grandmother and legal guardian, Pastor Mary Overstreet Smith, said Millage didn’t respond to police because he’s autistic.

He’s also 15 years old and can hardly talk. She said she can’t understand what led to the use of physical force that Dec. 5 morning and is sickened by what occurred.

“He can’t speak for himself. It tears me up when I read this,” she said, flipping through the police report. “I just feel like what they did was unwarranted.”

As the father of a 10 year old autistic boy with limited verbal skills this story from Oregon is particularly disturbing to me as I contemplate Fredericton City police officers patrolling city streets armed with TASERS. I hope that our good officers are receiving training not just in firing TASERS but in recognizing characteristics of persons with autism and other mental disorders so that they do not mistake them for “unruly” criminals. And I hope that their excitement expressed by Police union represenetative Cst. Currie does not become an excitability and eagerness to use these new and dangerous weapons:

“Const. Ralph Currie, president of Fredericton Police UBC Local 911, said the union supports Taser use.

“The feeling is it’s an absolutely necessary tool in our business … We’re excited about the fact that we’re moving forward,” Currie said.”

December 23, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Parenting (Behavior Modification) Therapy for Children’s Mental Disorders

The New York Times reviews a trend towards using behavior modification based parenting as an alternative to, or at least, as a complement to medication to treat various disorders including Autism, ADHD and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Parents of autistic children have been fighting for years in Canada and the US for Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for their children. But professionals and parents are now looking at behavior based approaches to parenting and treating children with a variety of disorders. And avoiding over reliance on medication.

In a study involving 128 families, psychologists at the university had found that about a third of parents who completed the program saw enough improvement in their children that they had decided that medication was unnecessary. The other two-thirds put their children on stimulant medication at school but at doses significantly lower those typically prescribed, said William Pelham, a psychologist who is director of the Center for Children and Families at Buffalo and the senior author of the study. Eighty percent of the families who participated in the program, with follow-up parent training, decided that their children did not need medication at home.

“Most parents seeking help for a child with a psychiatric disorder never hear about programs like this,” Dr. Pelham said. “The only option they’re given is medication. Now, it may be that the best treatment for that child is medication. But how do you know if you never try anything else?”

Behavior modification for A.D.H.D. and for related problems, like habitually disruptive or defiant behavior, is based on a straightforward system of rewards and consequences. Parents reward every good or cooperative act they see: small things, like simply paying attention for a few moments, earn an “attaboy.” Completing homework without complaint might earn time on a Gameboy. Parents remove privileges, like television and playtime, or impose a “time out,” in response to defiance and other misbehavior.

And they learn to ignore annoying but harmless attempts to win attention, like making weird noises, tapping or acting like a baby.

December 22, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Autism’s Many Faces

It will not come as a surprise to many parents of children with autism that researchers are examining different kinds and degrees of autism. On the internet there are many high functioning autistic persons who are obviously very intelligent, literate and self aware. Their perspectives and insights are interesting but of little help in raising, caring for and educating my son with limited verbal and communication skills who also lacks awareness of the life’s common dangers such as automobile traffic. The differing types and degrees of autism are now starting to receive more attention from researchers who are focusing on physical characteristics which may distinguish the different types. It is hoped that such research might lead to more specific and effective treatments.

Ped Med: The many faces of autism

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 19 (UPI) — Although all show some degree of difficulty in socializing, communicating and imagining, like snowflakes, no two cases of autism are exactly alike, researchers say.

Their newfound recognition of the condition’s diverse complexity and multi-faceted nature carries over to the research field, where the seekers of causes and cures are starting to look for ways to subdivide the disorder and crack its armor of secrecy piece by piece.

“The analogy that I find most helpful is to childhood leukemia,” said Dr. Judith Miles, professor of pediatrics, Thompson Endowed Chair of Child Health and Pathology and director of the Medical Genetics Division at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

“When I went to medical school, we thought it was one disorder, and only 5 percent of kids survived. Over the past 25 years, we realized it’s a class of disorders. By separating the different types and learning how to treat each appropriately, we were able to make progress so that the survival rate is now 90 percent.”

Miles is convinced all that looks like autism doesn’t have the same cause and, therefore, will require a different therapeutic approach.

“If we can be more precise, we can do a lot of things,” she said. “That would include the ability to prognosticate a child’s future capabilities and design more specific and hence more efficacious treatments.”

To that end, she has proposed the criteria for identifying autism, which currently are broadly based on social, communication and behavioral symptoms, be broken down into two further categories.

The recommendation is based on her finding that 20 percent of autistic children differ from the rest in both unusual physical features, such as an abnormal head size or malformed ear or hand, and autistic symptoms, which may include lower IQ, seizures or lack of speech after age 8. The researchers dubbed this subtype “complex autism.”

They noted the much larger set of youngsters without the corporeal differences tended to be male and have siblings with a high risk for autism and other kin with the disorder. They called this subdivision “essential autism.”

“It’s very important for families to realize that autism is not a single disorder,” Miles said, noting the two subgroups she has identified have different outcomes and recurrence rates.

“Separating essential autism from complex autism should be the first diagnostic step for children with autism spectrum disorders as it allows better prognostication and counseling.”

Miles’s five-year investigation sets the stage for exposing autism’s genetic underpinnings, she said.

“By determining if there are differences between the children who have distinct physical markers such as a small head and those who don’t, we can start to identify differences in their genes,” Miles said.

“Once you start splitting the disorder into subgroups, you start seeing specific trends and the water is not as muddy as it once was.”

For example, Ohio State University investigators observed genetic changes found in certain cancers — including of the breast, thyroid, uterus, endometrium and brain — also appear in some types of autism.

They detected a mutated version of the so-called “PTEN” protein in three of 18 individuals with larger-than-normal heads and autism-spectrum disorders, including the severely impairing classic autism and Rett syndrome, a type that affects primarily girls.

Although it was based on a small study, the observation raises the possibility some people with autism and large heads may face an increased cancer risk, the authors said.”

December 20, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

President Bush Signs Combating Autism Act into Law

In another historic day for persons with autism disorder US President George W Bush signed into law the Combating Autism Act. The bill dramatically increases US federal funding for autism including research which could well benefit all persons with autism.

“For the millions of Americans whose lives are affected by autism, today is a day of hope. The Combating Autism Act of 2006 will increase public awareness about this disorder and provide enhanced federal support for autism research and treatment. By creating a national education program for doctors and the public about autism, this legislation will help more people recognize the symptoms of autism. This will lead to early identification and intervention, which is critical for children with autism. I am proud to sign this bill into law and confident that it will serve as an important foundation for our Nation s efforts to find a cure for autism.”

– President George W. Bush, 12/19/06

Today, President Bush Signed The Combating Autism Act Of 2006. This Act authorizes expanded activities related to autism research, prevention, and treatment through FY 2011. There are more than 1.5 million cases of autism in the United States.

  • Since The President Took Office, National Institutes Of Health (NIH) Funding For Autism-Related Research Has Increased By Over 80 Percent From $56 Million In FY 2001 To An Estimated $101 Million In The FY 2007 Budget, Including Support For Autism Centers of Excellence. In addition, the Budget includes approximately $15 million at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for autism surveillance and research, including five regional Centers of Excellence for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology. In October, CDC initiated a $5.9 million study to help identify factors that may put children at risk for autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.

The Combating Autism Act Enhances Research, Surveillance, And Education Regarding Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Act Authorizes Research Under NIH To Address The Entire Scope Of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism, sometimes called “classical autism,” is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Other ASDs include Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).

The Act Authorizes Regional Centers Of Excellence For Autism Spectrum Disorder Research And Epidemiology. These Centers collect and analyze information on the number, incidence, correlates, and causes of ASD and other developmental disabilities. The Act also authorizes grants to States for collection, analysis, and dissemination of data related to autism.

The Act Authorizes Activities To Increase Public Awareness Of Autism, Improve The Ability Of Health Care Providers To Use Evidence-Based Interventions, And Increase Early Screening For Autism. The Act authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to:

  • Provide information and education on ASD and other developmental disabilities to increase public awareness of developmental milestones;
  • Promote research into the development and validation of reliable screening tools for ASD and other developmental disabilities and disseminate information regarding those screening tools;
  • Promote early screening of individuals at higher risk for ASD and other developmental disabilities as early as practicable;
  • Increase the number of individuals who are able to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of ASD and other developmental disabilities;
  • Increase the number of individuals able to provide evidence-based interventions for individuals diagnosed with ASD or other developmental disabilities; and
  • Promote the use of evidence-based interventions for individuals at higher risk for ASD and other developmental disabilities as early as practicable.

The Act Calls On The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) To Enhance Information Sharing. The IACC provides a forum to facilitate the efficient and effective exchange of information about autism activities, programs, policies, and research among the Federal government, several non-profit groups, and the public. The Combating Autism Act requires the IACC to provide information and recommendations on ASD-related programs, and to continue its work to develop and update annually a strategic plan for ASD research.

December 19, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

US President Bush About to Sign Combating Autism Act into Law

Autism Speaks is reporting that US President George W. Bush will sign the Combating Autism Act into law in the United States in the next couple of days:

The bill was presented to the President on Monday, December 11, and now awaits his signature, which is expected within the next ten days.

The Combating Autism Act authorizes nearly $1 billion over the next five years to combat autism, increasing federal spending on autism by at least 50%. The bill includes provisions relating to the diagnosis and treatment of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and expands and intensifies biomedical research on autism, including an essential focus on possible environmental causes.

Hopefully increased autism research in the US will benefit all persons with autism including those in Canada.

December 18, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

David Roberts – New Assistant Deputy Minister (Student Services)

The Anglophone side of New Brunswick’s Department of Education has a new Assistant Deputy Minister (Student Services). His name is David Roberts. This is an important position in the Department of Education for students with an autism disorder. Much of the advice concerning services for students with exceptionalities, including autism, received by Education Minister Lamrock from the civil service will come from those in Student Services. Only Deputy Minister John Kershaw will be senior to Mr. Roberts on the Anglophone Side.

Mr. Roberts has previously served in a number of capacities with the Province of New Brunswick in Education, Service New Brunswick and other areas. A press release detailing his background upon his appointment as General Manager of Service New Brunswick in 2004 describes his background in some detail:

David Roberts
General Manager, Service New Brunswick

David Roberts was appointed, General Manager of Business Development, Marketing and Sales for Service New Brunswick in 2004. This position has a mandate to leverage current Service New Brunswick expertise and technologies in pursuit of e-government opportunities locally, domestically and internationally. David previously worked with the provincial department of Intergovernmental Affairs building relationships and brokering strategic partnerships between the New Brunswick Government and the Government of Canada that enhanced economic and social opportunities for New Brunswickers. Prior to this as Executive Director with New Brunswick’s Information Highway 1993-2000, he was part of a team that received many local, national and international awards for community capacity building and civic entrepreneurship through the creation of New Brunswick’s “culture of technology”. David has consulted and been a guest speaker in most provinces in Canada as well as in locations around the world such as Cienfuegos/Cuba, San Luis/Argentina, Kuala Lampur/Malaysia, Tasmania/Australia, Scarborough/Tobago, Beijing/China and Washington/USA. He has been a teacher, guidance counselor, Ministry of Education administrator and interim federal Director of Industry Canada’s Community Access initiative. He has worked in both the public and private sector and is know for his creativity and the capacity to “think outside the box.””

Hopefully the new Assistant Deputy Minister (Student Services) will subscribe to an evidence based approach to the education of students with autism disorder. The absolutist philosophy of mainstream classroom inclusion for all students and failure to provide autism trained Teacher Assistants and Resource Teachers have impaired the development of autistic children in New Brunswick schools. Attempts to introduce flexibility into location and methods of instruction for autistic students have met with persistent resistance from some Education officials and others with vested interests in the absolute philosophy of mainstream classroom inclusion for all students. The questioning of mainstream classroom inclusion as a solve all panacea which has been taking place in the United Kingdom and some areas of the United States was by passed in the MacKay inclusion review in New Brunswick schools. There is no reason to expect that Mr. Roberts will introduce a more evidence based and flexible approach to educating autistic students. We can only wait and see at this time.

December 17, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment