Entries in Autism (52)


Increased Autism Rate Linked to Induced or Augmented Childbirth

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Boys born to mothers who needed assistance inducing or augmenting birth may have a higher risk of autism, according to a new study.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, found that boys whose mothers either required stimulation to begin contractions or medical action to increase the strength duration and frequency of contractions were 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with autism than those who did not require procedures to assist in their births.

Induced labor can often help reduce medical complications for mothers and babies. The study analyzed over 600,000 birth records in North Carolina over an eight year span and matched them with public school records that would show whether a child was diagnosed with autism. More than 1.3 percent of male children and 0.4 percent of female children were diagnosed with autism during that eight year span.

The rate of autism diagnosis was higher among both sexes when the mother required induction or augmentation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 50 U.S. children are diagnosed with autism or a related disorder.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


People with Autism Find Job Niche in Tech

Fuse(BROOKFIELD, Ill.) -- Phillip Griffin graduated high school with honors in 2009, but despite his good grades and interest in math and science, finding a job proved difficult.

That's because Griffin, 22, has autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disorder characterized as difficulties with social interaction and communication -- making job interviews a nightmare.

"I got a little frustrated," he told, adding that he's had part-time jobs that included working as a custodian for a local church near his home in Brookfield, Ill.

Although no two people with autism are exactly alike, many have trouble catching social cues, elaborating on answers to interview questions and making eye contact, said Peter Bell, executive vice president for programs and services at Autism Speaks.

"They're sometimes not well understood," said Bell, the father of a 20-year-old son who has autism. "If an interview candidate is not looking you in the eye, I might -- if I didn't know the person had autism -- say, 'Wow. This person is aloof' or 'They aren't necessarily interested in the job.'"

He said standard company interview practices focus on "soft skills," but the most important thing is the hard skill: Can the candidate actually do the job?

But Griffin proved that he could and last Thursday landed a job in information technology at AutonomyWorks, a technology company that employs only autistic people because it values their ability to spot patterns and their preference for repetitive tasks. He had to prove that he could build test websites during a two-week tryout.

And he "mastered" it, said managing director of AutonomyWorks Julie Calmes.

When asked what he enjoys about his new job, Griffin said, "Well, it involves computers. I love the step-by-step process. I like the office environment."

But AutonomyWorks isn't the only group seeking autistic employees to work in jobs in software testing, data entry and programming.

Since it's estimated that 1 percent of the world population is autistic, German software giant SAP announced this week that it aims to hire enough autistic people to make up 1 percent of its 65,000 work force.

"It really is a new step," Bell said. "As an autism dad, this makes me really excited and optimistic that corporate America is going to recognize the value of people with autism, and that more and more opportunities will become available."



Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Half of All Autistic Kids Will Run Away, Tragedy Often Follows

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Nearly half of all children with autism will run away and potentially go missing at least once before their 17th birthday, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of those who run away, what clinicians call "eloping," many will be found dead.

One in 50 children is diagnosed annually with autism, a spectrum of neurodevelopment disorders marked by problems with social interaction and communication, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. As the number of children who are diagnosed increases, so too does the number of kids who run off, leaving rescuers to learn quickly how best to handle a unique set of challenges.

The numbers alone present a challenge for law enforcement authorities, who regularly rank searches for missing children among the most difficult work they do. Finding children with autism -- who shirk when their names are called out, who run away at the sound of police sirens, who are afraid of the dogs sent to find them, and who naturally are comforted by burrowing and hiding -- makes a hard job even harder, investigators say.

Autistic children are more likely to run away than unaffected children. When they do runaway, they are more likely to die than unaffected children. And more often than not, 91 percent of the time, those deaths are a result of drowning.

But what is so perplexing to researchers and rescuers are the stories of almost super-human rates of survival for young children with developmental disabilities. Some children manage to stay alive for days often in the wilderness and against staggering odds.

"It's a mystery," said Robert G. Lowery Jr. of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "Time and again, we see cases where autistic children live longer and survive in harsher settings than unaffected children. We don't really know why. It might be that these children with autism have a diminished sense of fear, but it's astonishing."

Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism, but girls are twice more likely than boys to die after an elopement, according to Lori McIlwain, executive director of the National Autism Association, which tracks eloping incidents and deaths.

In 2012, 195 autistic children younger than 10 went missing, according to the autism association, which only tracks those incidents reported by the media.

Between 2009 and 2011, 91 autistic children younger than 14 died in drowning incidents. More than two-thirds of those deaths occurred in small natural bodies of water like creeks, lakes, rivers and ponds.

"Oftentimes, children who go missing are low or nonverbal," McIlwain said. "But they know where a pond is. They see it from the car going to and from school every day, but they can't tell mom or dad that they want go to the pond and play. They think about it and when they have the chance, they bolt."

"We make recommendations to law enforcement about things they should be doing immediately," said Lee Manning, a former Massachusetts state trooper and now a consultant for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which works with law enforcement agencies across the country to train cops on how best to search for children with autism.  

"[Police] have to respond very seriously and not waste any time. One of the things we strongly recommend is to get first responders, even neighbors, dispatched to local bodies of water right away," said Manning a member of Team Adam, a nationwide rapid response team of retired cops that helps law enforcement on the most difficult missing children cases.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Genetic Link between Autism, Schizophrenia, Other Disorders Found

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism may have a genetic link, according to a new study out Wednesday.

A new study, published in the Lancet, compared the genes of 33,000 people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, autism or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, along with almost 28,000 controls. The results showed that the disorders shared genetic traits.

Researchers looked for differences among single building blocks of DNA, and found that areas of the genome that identified with the five psychiatric disorders studied.

The discovery may make it possible to diagnose mental illnesses based on biology instead of relying on behavioral symptoms, which can be harder to define.

Several of the genes identified are related to calcium-channel function, which translate messages between nerve cells into biological responses and aid in emotional processing.

Alessandro Serretti, a professor at the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of Bologna, who wrote commentary to accompany the study, praised its quality, but said that more research is needed to further understand the impact of the genes and to learn how to positively apply it to what they know.

While a genetic connection between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder had already been discovered, this study was the first to search for, and find, relationships between a much more widespread range of afflictions.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Flu During Pregnancy Linked to Autism, Survey Says

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Mothers who reported having the flu during pregnancy were at least twice as likely to have a child with autism as those who did not report having the flu, according to new survey results from a Danish study.

While the study does not suggest that high fever -- or flu -- causes autism, many experts said the correlation reinforces recommendations that all pregnant women should get the flu shot.

The study by researchers in Denmark and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at nearly 97,000 children ages 8 to 14 who were born in Denmark between 1997 and 2003, only 1 percent of whom were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  The researchers interviewed the mothers during their pregnancy and after delivery about any infections and high fevers they'd experienced while pregnant, as well as whether they had used antibiotics.

Although the study was not designed to ask about cases of the flu, mothers who reported having the flu during their pregnancy were two times more likely to have a child with autism, according to the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.  Those whose fever persisted for a week or more before their third trimester were three times more likely to have a child on the autism spectrum, the study found.

While the flu shot may prevent many cases of influenza, the findings did not suggest that getting the flu shot would have prevented the development of autism.

"While it is very important to get an influenza shot during pregnancy, women who get the flu this winter should not worry that they have put their child at an increased risk of developing autism," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor.

The interview with the mothers included more than 200 questions that sought information about many different types of infections during pregnancy.

"We consider this study to be exploratory," said Dr. Colleen Boyle, director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.  Boyle was not involved in the study.

The study also found that some mothers who reported taking one type of antibiotics called macrolides, more commonly known by names like azithromycin or erythromycin, had only a slight increase in risk.

Studies in animals have shown that the baby's brain is affected when a female's immune response is triggered during pregnancy, such as fighting an infection.  These initial findings suggest a mother's immune system may play some role in a baby's development, though not nearly as strong as the association found in animal studies, according to some experts.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Wandering More Common in Autistic Children than Once Thought

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Bolting from home is a familiar phenomenon for many families who have children with autism, but a new study now suggests these episodes happen more frequently than previously thought.

Nearly half the children who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) run away from home, and more than half of those who do go missing long enough to cause concern, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Families of more than 1,200 children with autism and more than 1,000 siblings without autism were surveyed online about their children's wandering habits.

Nearly half the families reported that their autistic child had attempted to escape or bolt from home at least once after age 4, compared with only 13 percent of siblings without autism.  More than a quarter of the children with autism who left their home were in danger of drowning and 65 percent were in danger of being injured by oncoming traffic, according to the study.

Anecdotal evidence suggests these episodes are all too common.  On Oct. 3, a 12-year-old boy who wandered away from his home in Houston died after being struck by a car while trying to cross the freeway.

"We tend to hear about the most traumatic stories on the news," said Dr. Paul Law, director of medical informatics at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, and study researcher.  "It's just the tip of the iceberg of what parents are experiencing with this issue."

The more severe symptoms of autism, the more likely the child was to bolt, the study found.

Because the survey was administered through the Interactive Autism Network, a volunteer-based online community through Kennedy Krieger, the study may not provide a clear estimate on the wider number of autistic children who bolt and are at high risk of injury, according to the researchers.

"An unanswered question is whether the risk for elopement is higher in these children because of cognitive issues, their ASD or both," said Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a neurologist at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland.

Currently there are no national standards for responding to missing children with autism.  The Amber Alert system, which focuses on child abduction, does not cover children with autism who wander.

"Once a child goes missing, there needs to be a way to initiate a search," said Law.  "Each minute that goes by without that child being recovered, the chances of a serious outcome goes up tremendously."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Drug Offers Hope for Autism Patients 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Researchers have found a drug that can help patients with Fragile X syndrome stay calm in social situations by treating their anxiety.

Dr. Elizabeth Berry-Kravis and her team found that a drug called Arbaclofen reduced social avoidance and repetitive behavior in Fragile X patients, especially those with autism. The drug increases GABA, a chemical in the brain that regulates the excitatory system in Fragile X patients.  

GABA-deficient patients are often easily excited or overwhelmed, but one trial participant said he was able to enjoy his birthday party for the first time in his life while he was on Arbaclofen.

Sixty-three patients with Fragile X participated in Berry-Kravis's placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial from December 2008 through March 2010. Of those, the patients with autism showed the biggest improvements in social behavior, Berry-Kravis said.

Fragile X syndrome, which affects one in 4,000 men and one in 6,000 to 8,000 women, causes autism in up to one-third of patients diagnosed with it. While the two disorders are linked, they are not mutually exclusive. Unlike Fragile X syndrome, which is genetic, autism is a behavioral diagnosis characterized by an inability to relate to other people or read social cues.

Although Arbaclofen worked best on autistic Fragile X patients, further studies will be needed to prove whether it can help all autism patients, not just those with autism caused by Fragile X.

Copyright  2012 ABC News Radio


Donald Trump Plays Doctor on Twitter with Autism Claims

Mike Stobe/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mostly quiet since his last birther allegation, Donald Trump Thursday to went on Twitter to peddle a theory that claims vaccinations cause autism in young children.

“Massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism,” Trump wrote. “Spread shots over long period and watch positive result.”

The Romney campaign, for whom Trump has raised millions this campaign season, would not comment on his latest offering.

Doctors and medical research findings were not so circumspect.

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, called Trump’s remarks “shameful.”

“The autism-vaccine link has been disproven. Spreading shots out over a long period of time will not reduce the number of children who develop autism but it will leave more children vulnerable to infectious diseases for a longer period of time than necessary,” he said. “That can kill children.”

While it’s true that autism diagnosis rates have risen over the years, there is an ongoing debate about whether the numbers can be taken at face value. Many doctors believe a broadening of diagnostic criteria has led to more confirmed cases.

What is unquestioned, though, and confirmed by serious medical studies, is that there is no known connection between the condition and having received childhood vaccinations.

“As we know from political campaigns, stating a claim repeatedly can lead to a public belief in the concept since these conclusions are not always based on rational thought processes but also on emotional thinking and preconceived notions,” Dr. Max Wiznitzer, associate professor of pediatric neurology at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, told ABC News in March.

The scientific paper that once served as the driving force behind the theory has long since been discredited and rejected by its original publisher, The Lancet, which wrote in 2010 that “it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by [Andrew] Wakefield et al are incorrect.

“In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were ‘consecutively referred’ and that investigations were ‘approved’ by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false.”

The British Medical Journal published an editorial in January 2011, calling the Wakefield report “fraudulent,” adding that “clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare.”

Closed, that is, until Trump opens it up again.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Why Older Men Are at Greater Risk of Fathering Autistic Kids

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers in Iceland think they've figured out why dads who postpone fatherhood to later in life are more prone to have children with problems like autism and schizophrenia.

The simple answer: older dads transmit genetic mutations to their offspring more so than their younger counterparts due to either environmental factors or cell divisions that go haywire.

Scientists at deCode Genetics Inc. in Reykjavik project that older fathers pass an average of two extra new DNA mutations with each added year of age.

One thing is fairly certain, according to the researchers: moms can't share too much of the blame for illnesses related to mental processes because they transmit about 15 new mutations to a child regardless of how old they are when becoming moms.

On the other hand, a 20-year-old male is responsible for 25 new mutations while a guy twice his age transmits 65.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teen with Autism Told Not to Use iPad During Plane Takeoff

Carly's brother Matthew Fleischmann (left) with Carly (center) and her mother Tammy Fleischmann (right) in October 2011. (Courtesy Arthur Fleischmann)(NEW YORK) -- A teenager with autism, flying on American Airlines, was nearly forced to turn off the iPad she uses to communicate.

Carly Fleischmann, who has been profiled on ABC News, was flying from Los Angeles to her home in Toronto on Aug. 10 when she was approached by a flight attendant who told her she needed to turn off her iPad during takeoff. The trouble is, if Fleischmann can't use her iPad, she can't communicate. Because of autism, she cannot speak.

Howard Dalal, Fleischmann's aide and lead therapist, was with Fleischmann on the flight. He told ABC News Fleischmann suffers from Oral Motor Apraxia, which means her thoughts are clear in her mind, but they get jumbled on the way to her mouth. She lacks the fine motor skills to use a pen, and only knows a little sign language. She types with one finger.

In an email, Fleischmann told ABC News, "I use the iPad like a prosthetic limb and not as a toy. I think that is what is blinding people on this issue."

Because the iPad is Carly's voice, it is paramount that she be able to use it, Dalal said. "If she was about to have a seizure, there is no way she could tell me without her iPad," he said.

In airplane mode, Fleischmann's iPad is fully operational for her communication needs. Dalal said that in Fleischmann's opinion, forcing her to turn off her iPad is akin to handcuffing a deaf person's hands to their chair.

In an emailed statement to ABC News, American Airlines said, "Our flight attendants are responsible for following U.S. Department of Transportation regulations on the accommodation of customers with disabilities. American's electronic device policy is designed to be in full compliance with the DOT. Likewise, Federal safety rules require the stowage of personal items during take-off and landing and prohibit the use of electronic devices at the same periods. We regret any discomfort Carly felt or difficulty this may cause customers."

The flight attendant who approached Fleischmann was eventually overruled by the pilot, who said Fleischmann could leave her iPad on. Dalal said they met up with the pilot again at customs in Toronto, and he told Dalal and Fleischmann that the policy was "ridiculous." Further, Dalal said that the pilot said the pilots themselves use iPads during takeoff and landing.

"There is virtually no evidence that any consumer electronics can or have had any deleterious effect on the aircraft systems, and least of all would be an iPad in airplane mode," said John Nance, ABC News aviation consultant. "The slavish 'we're just following orders' response of airline personnel in the face of unusual challenges is sad at best, and reprehensible at worst."

Dalal, at Fleischmann's request, set the timer on her iPad to see, if she had in fact been forced to turn it off, how long she would have been unable to communicate. The time: 50 minutes.

Dalal said that he and Fleischmann have never had a problem using her iPad on a flight before. In fact, on their way to Los Angeles, they flew on American Airlines and there was no issue.

Fleischmann posted her first complaint to American Airlines on Facebook. Her message reads, in part:

"I use my iPad during security to ask for further instructions, I use my iPad well [sic] waiting for my airplane and ask the reception people when the flights going to take off, I use my iPad on the airplane to tell them if there's something wrong with my seat or my seatbelt or with the airplane. I am begging you as a active passenger on your flights to change your policy when it comes to dealing with people with autism and other special needs."

In her email to ABC News, Fleischmann wrote she has reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Human Rights Commission to see if they can sit down together to change this policy. They "...are eager to sit down. My goal is to get American Airlines support," she wrote.

In an email exchange with American Airlines dated Aug. 16 that Fleischmann forwarded to ABC News, a customer service representative said the airline is reviewing the situation and waiting to hear back from the flight crew, but that because of travel schedules, it may take several weeks. Fleischmann has asked to speak to someone in the corporate office, someone "higher up than a customer service representative," in order to facilitate the meeting, but said she has not yet been sent a name.

This is far from the first time that the issue of personal electronic devices on airplanes has come up, but it may be the first time it has come up in connection with a person with a disability that prohibits them from speaking without it. In March, the FAA said it aimed to bring together "key stakeholders" to have a discussion about personal electronic devices in flight.

Fleischmann and her father published the book Carly's Voice: Breaking Through Autism earlier this year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio