Archive for the ‘The Autistic Society Fund’ Category

17 Signs That Your Child Has Autism

April 26th, 2013 by Brian Maiorana

AutismIn a recent article we reported that cases of autism rose 78 percent from 2002 to 2008. It is not a rare condition — one in eighty-eight children are now diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

The increase of diagnoses is in part good news — it demonstrates that awareness of the condition has increased dramatically over the past ten years or so. However, the relative prevalence of autism means that we should work even harder to increase awareness. That is in part the role of our Autistic Society Fund — to raise awareness of the condition so that children are diagnosed as early as possible in their developmental stages.

Since the diagnosis of autism at an early stage leads to better longterm developmental outcomes, we believe that all parents should learn to recognize the signs of autism. With that in mind, in this article we want to cover all of the main symptoms that may indicate that a child has autism through the three periods of their development.

Signs of Autism in Infants

Spotting autism in a newborn or very young child is difficult. Much of the symptoms of autism are manifested in social interaction and a lack of those particular skills amongst all infants makes it difficult to discern any potential issues. However, there are certain things you can look out for.

  1. Gaze aversion: this is where a child rarely (or never) makes direct eye contact. They may look at you out of the corner of their eye or even seem to be staring right through you. Furthermore, the child may not follow your gaze or look at things pointed out to them.
  2. Hearing: the child may not respond to (or seem to recognize) your voice, and yet they may seem sensitive to less immediate sounds (such as a doorbell).
  3. Interaction: the child may have little or no interest in drawing your attention to objects of interest by pointing, waving, or pulling at you.

Signs of Autism in Toddlers

As an infant grows into a child, he or she will typically begin to learn to communicate, both verbally and physically. It is at this stage that an autistic child may begin to exhibit more noticeable and unusual traits.

  1. Speech development: the child’s speech development may be slow or non-existent. Alternatively, speech development may begin to develop but then stop abruptly. As many as 40% of people with autism never speak.
  2. Social interaction: the child may demonstrate a marked lack of interest in interacting with adults and other children. Furthermore, they will have little interest in taking part in any kind of social activity. Although the child may be able to form friendships with other children, their behavior may often be inappropriate.
  3. Environmental interaction: the child may still play with toys but do so in an unusual fashion. Their attention may be drawn to certain parts of a toy (e.g. the wheels of a car) and they may play with that part specifically rather than the toy as a whole. Furthermore, they may “play” with toys in a logical and repetitive fashion (i.e. ordering blocks by size or color rather than building something with them).
  4. Stereotypies: the child may develop repetitive patterns of physical behavior such as flicking their fingers, flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, and so on.
  5. Routine: the child may establish habits like watching the same cartoon at the same time every day. Interrupting established routines may result in an extreme temper tantrum or possibly even self-harming.
  6. Visual stimulation: the child may be attracted to shiny objects or certain patterns. They may sit close to the television in order to better see the colors and shapes.
  7. Food habits: the child may demonstrate a strong dislike of certain foods based upon texture and color rather than taste. For instance, they may not like the consistency of mashed potato. Furthermore, they may insist on food being separated on their plate.
  8. Sensitivity to pain: the child may exhibit a higher than typical tolerance for pain and injury.

Signs of Autism in Children and Teenagers

Some children with mild or moderate autism may actually display an improvement in their symptoms as they begin their journey towards adulthood. However, others can actually worsen as they are exposed to new social situations that serve to exacerbate their behavioral deficiencies.

  1. Language: the child’s language skills will tend to improve but certain difficulties may become noticeable. These include referring to themselves as “he,” she,” or “you” rather than “I;” consistently repeating newly-learned words and phrases; and speaking in pre-learned phrases rather than piecing together words to form unique sentences.
  2. Communication: while the child may be able to hold a conversation about a topic that particularly interests them, they may otherwise struggle to start or continue a conversation. Their communicative style may be to talk “at” people, rather than “to” them. They may lack empathy. Furthermore, they may seem unable to adapt the tone and style of what they say to suit the social situation (e.g. they might talk to a teacher in the same way that they talk to a peer). Finally, they may not understand concepts such as humor and sarcasm.
  3. Social skills: the child may continue to show little interest in social activities such as sports. They may find it difficult (or impossible) to make friends.
  4. Habits: the child may develop a near-obsessive interest with a specific subject or activity; often one that involves order (i.e. lists, numbers, etc.). This could be anything from collecting coins to reading instruction manuals. They may abruptly move onto different interests after a number of months or years.
  5. Routine: the child may prefer a great deal of rigidity and consistency in their day-to-day activities. Their reaction to a change in their routine may be extremely volatile. Temper tantrums can be common and unpredictable.
  6. Learning: the child may perform well in subjects that involve rational thinking, such as math. Conversely, their ability to think abstractly may be highly limited, and as such they may struggle in subjects such as English Literature.

Conclusion

A child that displays one or two of these symptoms may not be autistic — it is the correlation of multiple symptoms that can make a diagnosis relatively straightforward. As is demonstrated by the number of symptoms, it becomes far easier to spot autism as the child develops, but the signs are often there at a very young stage.

Because autism is more treatable the earlier it is diagnosed, we urge you to contact your physician if you feel that your child demonstrates symptoms that could suggest autism. We will continue to accept contributions towards earlier diagnosis and better treatment of autism through our Autistic Society Fund — if you would like to help earlier diagnosis and better treatment, please submit a donation or contact us for further information.

Sources: Autism Speaks, WebMD and the NHS. Image Credit: Beverly and Pack.

This report was prepared on behalf of The Autistic Society Fund and Good Charity Inc. director Brian J Maiorana.

Good Charity, Inc. operates the following funds:

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Good Charity Inc. and the Autistic Society Fund Presents:

Autism: What you need to know

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized by difficulties in social interaction, poor verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and repetitive behaviors.  Other frequent symptoms include intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention, and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances.
  • The portion of children in the United States diagnosed on the autism spectrum scale has grown 10 times in the last forty years.  It doubled in the period 2000-2008 alone.
  • 1 in 88 children are now diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Boys are diagnosed at a rate of 1 in 54, girls 1 in 252.

autism_data_graphic2012

  • Autism causes billions of dollars in treatment and other costs every year. The emotional toll on families is immeasurable.
  • With the rise in the rate of autism diagnosis, a tremendous increase in autism research has occurred. Media attention and political action on issues surrounding autism have grown exponentially.

Researchers have identified various possible causes for increased ASD rates, but none are definitive and no “cure” or vaccination appears to be on the immediate horizon.

Some Possible Causes of Autism:

  • Increased age of parents (especially fathers)
  • Pre-natal or very early childhood exposure to pesticides and other environmental toxins such as various chemicals used in manufactured goods like plastic.
  • Low birth weight/fetal distress/multiple births by mother

Evidence also indicates that autism rates have increased so sharply due to improved testing and  other non-medical reasons.

 

Diagnostic substitution.

As diagnosis rates for autism have increased, the diagnosis rate of mental retardation and other developmental disorders has decreased. Autism’s high media profile may cause both parents and doctors to choose autism as an explanation for a child’s delayed development or other problems. A common reaction to developmental abnormalities in children is for a parent to seek an explanation, a cause for their child’s abnormality and autism’s large presence in the socio-media landscape makes it an attractive explanation.

Income, Health Care, and Autism

  • Studies have shown strong correlation with income and autism diagnosis. In the past, higher income families were much more likely to have a child diagnosed with autism;  this phenomenon has somewhat reversed in recent years.  Access to medical care and increased parental resources associated with higher income levels almost certainly account for the increased diagnosis rate for higher income parents. Currently many children diagnosed at the mild end of the autism scale are from higher income families and the growth in overall autism rates has been driven primarily by growth in the low to moderate end of the autism spectrum.
  • Autism rates vary greatly by state, and are correlated with income levels and the efficacy of state level autism screening programs. For example Utah, which has widespread screening programs, had the highest rate—1 child in 47. The state was closely followed by New Jersey, which prides itself on its autism services, at 1 in 49. At the bottom was Alabama, one of the poorest states in the country. Its ASD rate actually fell 20% between 2006 and 2008 — from 1 in 167 to 1 in 208.autism by state

 

Autism | Genetic Factors

Stanford University’s school of medicine recently released the results of the largest ever study of twins where at least one twin was diagnosed autistic. The results of this study were used to estimate that 62% of autism risk was environmental and only 38% genetic.  Prior estimates estimated genetic factors as accounting for 90% of autism risk.

“It took me a bit by surprise that the heritability of autism was so much lower than previous studies calculated,” said Joachim Hallmayer, MD, the first author of the new paper, which appears in ‘Archives of General Psychiatry’. “Our work suggests that the role of environmental factors has been underestimated.”

Autism | Environmental Factors

  • A  recent study indicated that exposure to lacquer, varnish, and xylene occurred more often in the parents of children with ASD  compared to the parents of unaffected children. Parents of children with ASD were more likely to report exposures to asphalt and solvents compared to parents of unaffected children. This study was limited by the small sample size, but results suggest that workplace exposures to some chemicals may be important in understanding the nature of ASD and deserve further investigation.
  • A study of mothers living in the California Central Valley, an area of intense agricultural production,  showed that children born to mothers who had been exposed to organochlorine (OC) insecticides within 500 meters of their home between days 26 and 81 of pregnancy were 7.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than the children of mothers who lived in areas with the lowest exposure to OC insecticides.
  • While small mammals such as mice are often used in chemical and genetic experiments as a stand-in for humans, the nature of autism and its social interactions make it difficult to model in non-human species. However, the Prairie Vole, a small mammal that builds complex social structures has been used in experiments testing the impact of various chemicals on social interaction. Male Prairie Voles exposed to high levels of mercury displayed a pronounced decline in social interaction within their colony, a primary symptom of autism.

praire vole

 

  • PCB’s are a class of chemicals banned for production in the U.S. since 1979. However exposure to PCB’s remain a concern to human health because of their persistence in the environment.  Studies in rodents and nonhuman primates have demonstrated the ability of PCBs to negatively affect brain function within critical regions for language development. Poor language and verbal communication skills are a frequent symptom of ASD.
  • Taken together, numerous studies indicate that women exposed to pesticides have children with higher rates of  immunological and behavioral abnormalities. It is possible that autism is downstream manifestation of the same underlying process given the tight  interconnection between both these systems  as they develop in-utero.
  • In 2001, the reelin gene was implicated in autism risk. When parents had the gene, there was 72% transmission to affected children and only 32% transmission to unaffected children.
  • Although pesticides are a biologically plausible contributor to autism, research in several critical areas is needed to understand cognitive and behavioral consequences of gestational exposure in humans. First, animal studies suggest critical windows of exposure, yet in humans the window or windows of biologic susceptibility remain unknown, and would be expected to vary by mechanism. Second, studies of nontoxic and environmentally relevant doses are needed to understand the effects of developmental neurotoxicity in the context of a background of genetic susceptibilities. Third, the vast majority of exposures occur in combination with exposures to other ubiquitous and/or persistent compounds such as flame retardants, plasticizers, and other pesticides. More research on combinations of exposures may reveal interactions between multiple environmental exposures,  creating new toxins.
  • While many studies point to the impact on ASD of environmental toxins such as pesticides, PCB’s, paint lacquer and others, the complexity of the analysis and the dearth of long-term large scale studies makes it difficult to pinpoint exact causes and precise impacts of toxins on ASD.
  • “Our findings suggest that events during pregnancy should be a focus for future research into the origins of autism,” said Lisa Croen, PhD. Croen is a senior research scientist and director of the Autism Research Program at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

 

Autism and Vaccination

  • In 1998, a study published in the prominent British medical journal The Lancet proposed that the triple vaccination for mumps, measles, and rubella was a possible cause of autism.
  • By 1999 the idea that vaccines caused autism had taken root in the popular consciousness; high profile celebrities and members of congress began championing the cause. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. published a magazine report that implicated the pharmaceutical industry in conspiracy to hide the evidence that chemicals, most notably mercury, used in several vaccines were definite causes of autism in children.
  • The reaction in the scientific community was very different. Within months of the Lancet article several new studies were conducted that showed no link between vaccines and autism, but the genie was out of the bottle. Throughout the 2000’s, more celebrities and politicians joined the anti-vaccine crusade; Presidential candidate John McCain even got in on the act during a town hall meeting in Texas during his campaign against Barack Obama.
  • Meanwhile, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics all concluded that the scientific evidence does not support a causal tie between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
  • The 2000’s also saw an uptick in Measles/mumps/rubella cases, as a result of decreased vaccination rates spawned by the false information promoted by the anti-vaccine movement.  In 2007, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is set up by the U.S. Federal Court to deal with thousands of claims by parents that vaccines caused their child to develop autism.
  • In February of 2009, judges working for the U.S. Vaccine Injury Compensation Program decided against parents’ claims that vaccines had caused their children to develop autism.  This ruling virtually eliminates any grounds for granting compensation in the roughly 5,000 remaining claims of vaccine-induced autism. In May of 2010 Andrew Wakefield, the chief proponent of the vaccine-autism link and the lead writer on the Lancet article that began the anti-vaccine furor,  was stripped of his medical license in England.

 

Review| History and Information about Autism

Diagnoses rates of autism have skyrocketed in recent years. Autism is such a complex disorder(s), that not only is its cause not understood, even the reason for the increased diagnosis rate itself is not understood. Environmental factors have been shown to play a significant role, but their exact nature and method have yet to be deciphered.

Pregnant women should avoid exposure to pesticides and other strong chemicals. Even with these precautions, women and peri-natal children may unknowingly be exposed to toxins in the environment.

If you feel your child is not developing properly you are advised to take him/her to a variety of licensed and trained autism doctors and therapists.

Choosing to not vaccinate your child or engaging in any of a variety of “holistic” or “non-traditional” treatments may be counterproductive to your child’s health.

This report was prepared on behalf of The Autistic Society Fund and Good Charity Inc. director Brian J Maiorana.

Good Charity, Inc. operates the following funds:

 

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Help Good Charity to Increase Awareness of Autism

April 9th, 2013 by Brian Maiorana

World Autism Awareness Day logo.Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or simply autism as it is typically known, is still not particularly well understood by science. It is certainly even less understood by the public at large, many of whom do not understand that early diagnosis and early behavioral therapy intervention can improve quality of life in sufferers of autism.

That is the reality we face in April 2013, which also happens to be the most important month on the calendar for autism awareness. It is currently World Autism Awareness Month and we recently celebrated the Annual World Autism Day on April 2nd.

With the above in mind, what should you know about autism and how can you assist in increasing awareness and ultimately helping those who can benefit from our better understanding of the disorder?

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is in fact an umbrella term for a number of disorders relating to brain development. It is typically identified by (but not limited to) the following symptoms:

  • Issues with social interaction and verbal/non-verbal communication
  • Difficulties in motor coordination
  • Repetitive behavior

The symptoms of autism will typically be noticed during the a child’s first three years but it can be difficult to recognize them unless one knows what to look for. Parents invariably seek medical advice on the basis that their child is acting unusually but do not necessarily understand what the problem may be.

The Importance of Understanding Autism

The aim of the Annual World Autism Day is primarily to raise awareness of a disorder that is still not particularly well understood by science. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a statement on April 2nd to mark the day in which he outlined why it is so important:

This international attention is essential to address stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate support structures. Now is the time to work for a more inclusive society, highlight the talents of affected people and ensure opportunities for them to realize their potential.

And Barack Obama released a Presidential Proclamation on April 1st in which he made clear why awareness of autism needs to increase:

Today, public health officials estimate that 1 in every 88 children in America is growing up on the autism spectrum. It is a reality that affects millions of families every day, from the classroom to the job market. And while our country has made progress in supporting Americans with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), we are only beginning to understand the factors behind the challenges they face. On World Autism Awareness Day, we recommit to helping individuals on the autism spectrum reach their full potential.

The fact is that autism is not a rare disorder. Each of us is likely to come into contact with it (and be affected by it) in our lifetime.

Not only that, but diagnoses of autism are on the rise — a recent CDC report concluded that cases of autism have increased 78 percent from 2002 to 2008. Although this increase may in part be down to a boost in awareness, health experts opine that “genetic abnormalities” passed down from older fathers could also be a cause.

Increased Awareness of Autism is Vital

With autism on the rise it becomes even more important that more people are made aware of autism and its effects. The positive consequences of early diagnosis and treatment cannot be underestimated in terms of increasing quality of life amongst autism sufferers in the long term.

The Annual World Autism Day has been an incredibly effective movement for those who seek to increase awareness of autism. Now is the time to capitalize on that by helping even more people to understand what autism means to our society.

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Autism Awareness month announced in New York Senate

April 9th, 2013 by Brian Maiorana

New York Senator Hoylman speaks on Autism awareness month in New York State.

autism awareness fund april is national autism month

 

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The Autistic Society Fund supports ASRC

January 4th, 2013 by Brian Maiorana

They say charity begins at home, and The Autistic Society Fund recently discovered an amazing organization in Connecticut that illustrates this fact.  Founded in 1998 by the parent of an autistic child in the New Haven area, The Connecticut Autism Resource Center (CT-ASRC) has grown from an informal group meeting in the basement of a synagogue to the largest autism service group in Connecticut.

Good Charity, Inc. helps ASRC fight Autism

The ASRC is still family run to this day, and doesn’t receive any state or federal funds to help with all the important services it provides. The Autistic Society Fund’s director Brian Maiorana decided to financially support the ASRC in 2012 because of its unique programs, like its “Parent Advocacy Boot camp” occurring  February 2013. The Boot Camp consists of 4 seminars to train parents how to recognize autism in their child, navigate the school and medical systems, and how to prepare their child for transitioning into adulthood on their own.

Good Charity, Inc.  is committed to helping autistic Americans, their families, and their caregivers. To the tens of thousands of children and adults in Connecticut coping with this difficult condition, as well as those that love and care for a child, sibling, or legal dependent with autism, The Connecticut Autism Resource Center is a powerful resource. The Autistic Society Fund is proud to help support them.

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The Autistic Society Fund fights Autism in Illinois

December 20th, 2012 by Brian Maiorana

The Autistic Society Fund has found an innovative organization to support in Illinois. They initially caught our attention when we heard about an Italian restaurant, Pasta Fare, and a flower shop called Petals Remembered being staffed by autistic employees.

Spaghetti dinner at Pasta Fare

Brian Maiorana, the director of Good Charity, Inc., decided to investigate. What he found was the Illinois Center for Autism (ICA). The Center, in addition to offering numerous programs, resources, and services to the autistic community, also operates two small businesses- the restaurant and the flower shop, “designed to provide employment opportunities to include social and vocational skills training necessary for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to function within a community job setting.”

We chose to donate funds to the ICA because it engages and impacts autistic people in such a broad way. From day camps that take everyone from kids with Asperger’s syndrome to young adults (up to 23) with more severe developmental impairments, to family counseling and private therapy sessions, ICA offers the wide spectrum of support that autistic Americans and their families need.

Good Charity, Inc.  is committed to helping autistic Americans, their families, and their caregivers. To the tens of thousands of children and adults in Illinois coping with this difficult condition, as well as those that love and care for a child, sibling, or legal dependent with autism, the Illinois Center for Autism is a powerful resource. The Autistic Society Fund is proud to help support them.

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Good Charity, Inc. Helps Katy Perry Fight Autism

November 28th, 2012 by Brian Maiorana

     In October Good Charity, Inc. and the Autistic Society Fund were happy to support New York Collaborates for Autism (NYCA) and the “Night of Too Many Stars”, which raised over $4 million to assist families coping with autism.

Katy Perry and The Autistic Society Fund

Katy Perry and Jody sing a duet

NYCA leverages their connections in the entertainment industry to sponsor the nationally-televised variety show “Night of Too Many Stars” in partnership with Comedy Central cable network. This year the show was hosted by Jon Stewart and was packed with numerous celebrities and superstars – including Katy Perry! Katy Perry performed an amazing duet with a young singer by the name of Jodi DiPiazza, who also happens to be autistic. Check out Katy Perry’s performance here.

2012 was The Autistic Society Fund’s inaugural year; we are ecstatic to see that our financial contributions helped NYCA stage “Night of Too Many Stars” and raise LOTS of money to support those individuals afflicted with autism. Below is an excerpt from a letter NYCA recently sent to director Brian Maiorana:Dear Brian, thank you for your generous contribution…to Comedy Central’s “Night of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together for Autism Programs”. Together we exceeded our goal and raised over $4 million dollars…
NYCA is engaged in the fight against autism on many levels. One of NYCA’s most impressive accomplishments was creating the Hunter College Autism Center, which serves as an invaluable resource to the New York City community providing training and outreach programs. NYCA is a source of original academic research into Autism Spectrum Disorder. NYCA also provides training for educators and parents, after school programs, and a wide variety of other services for families facing the special challenges posed by autism.
Good Charity, Inc. and The Autistic Society Fund are proud to support this worthy cause.

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