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Posted by . on June 14, 2000 at 11:44:33:

June 12, 2000

Autism Masked in Sad Myths / Genetic Clues To The Biological Basis Of Autism
Also: * Govt. Vaccine, Conflicts of Interest Hearing Postponed
* Social Stories Available Free

Autism Masked in Sad Myths and Misconceptions

[Clinical Psychiatry News 28(5):39, 2000. © 2000 International Medical
News Group. Betsy Bates, Los Angeles Bureau. Medscape. Thanks to Ambry
Ward.]

The truth about autism is often so difficult to bear that the disorder
is publicly characterized by sad half-truths and misplaced hope, Dr. Andrew
Morgan said at a meeting on practical pediatrics sponsored by the American
Academy of Pediatrics.
"This is a devastating disorder. I wish I had better news for you,"
Dr. Morgan said as he cast doubt on "miracle" cures, from secretin to
facilitative communication.
Of the many desperate myths that have built up around autistic
disorder, the worst is this: "Underneath the bizarre autistic behavior is a
normal child waiting to get out if only you can find the right key."
"I wish this were true," Dr. Morgan said.
In reality, most autistic children are mentally retarded: 94% have a
full-scale IQ of less than 68, while 75% have an IQ of less than 50.
"Autism goes hand in hand with mental retardation," said Dr. Morgan,
chief of the section on child development at the University of Illinois,
Peoria.
Other myths also persist.
Myth: If a child makes eye contact, he/she does not have autism. "Poor
eye contact is a classic sign, but not an absolute," Dr. Morgan said.
Myth: Autistic children are unable to show affection. If fact, some
can be cuddly.
Myth: Children with autism are untestable. In fact, several tests
identify autism accurately by assessing imitative behaviors and the ability
to put a puzzle together.
For example, one 12-point imitative play screening test developed by
W. Stone and associates uses such activities as building a tower of cubes or
pretending to give an animal water (Pediatrics 86[2]:267-72, 1990). It can
be done in a physician's office and is a better tool than the Autism
Behavior Checklist, he said.
Autistic children can also be given screening tests for other
conditions -- deafness, for example.
Myth: Autistic behaviors do not change over time. The behaviors change
but the overall function level of autistic children remains stagnant.
Outcome studies over the past 30 years consistently found that 60%-66% of
autistic children are completely dependent in adulthood.
Myth: Facilitative communication helps autistic children convey their
thoughts. "This is a bunch of malarkey," Dr. Morgan said. Despite numerous
studies that show the facilitator is the one doing the thinking, school
districts are still being pressured into paying for facilitators.
Myth: Secretin is the answer. In a well-designed study of 61 children,
secretin had no impact on scores on the Autism Behavior Checklist. The need
for parents to hold on to hope was illustrated by the fact that 69% of the
parents in the study remained interested in secretin as a therapy despite
this information.
Myth: Autism develops as a reaction to the MMR (measles, mumps,
rubella) vaccine. This misconception derives from a coincidence of timing,
Dr. Morgan said.
The vaccine is given at 15-18 months, right about the time when
autistic behaviors are recognized. "It just takes time for parents to
realize just how strange these children are," he said.
Myth: Autism is caused by aloof parents or parents who used cocaine.
No evidence exists for either claim. The cause of autism is unknown,
although it does appear to be on the rise. It's worth noting, however, that
autism is unusual in intact families with good communication skills.
Dr. Morgan encouraged pediatricians to communicate frequently and
support parents in their difficult task of raising children with this degree
of impairment.
* * *

Government Hearing on Vaccines & Conflicts Moved Again to Thursday

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform has
postponed until Thursday, June 15 at 2:00 p.m. The hearing entitled "FACA:
Conflict of Interest and Vaccines-Preserving the Integrity of the Process?"
The day was previously reported here as Wednesday. The hearing will take
place in Room 2154, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. Stay
tuned.

Take the Mystery out of Autism
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* * *

Genetic Clues To The Biological Basis Of Autism

[Abstract from Medscape.]
http://news.medscape.com/server-java/MedLineApp?/member-search/getdoc.cgi?or
d=1&searchid=1&have_local_holdings_file=0&local_journals_only=0

[Record Supplied By Publisher]
SO - Mol Med Today 2000 Jun;6(6):238-244
AD - MRC Child Psychiatry Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park,
Denmark Hill, London, UK SE5 8AF.
AB - Autism, the prototypical pervasive developmental disorder, is
characterized by impaired communication and social interaction, and by
repetitive interests and behaviours. The core disorder probably affects
around 5:10 000 individuals, of whom some three-quarters are male. Onset is
in the first three years of life, and the disorder is associated with
lifelong disabilities. Because of the clear evidence that idiopathic autism
has a strong genetic basis, many groups are undertaking whole genome screens
to identify susceptibility loci. We review the first results, and briefly
consider the implications of molecular genetic findings for future research,
diagnosis and management.
* * *

Social Stories Available Free

[This from Carrie Searing, Searingma.]

I have started a web page of social stories. I have written these
stories and they are free to print out. Social stories are very helpful for
people with autism and other social disorders. On this site there are a
range of functioning levels, from basic self-help skills to communicating in
a group.
I try to set the stories up to be easily printed and made into
booklets. I am also having a weekly contest for Barnes and Noble gift
certificates for helping me name different stories.

http://www.angelfire.com/tx4/kidsstories/index.html

I would appreciate if this link could be sent to your mailing list, if this
is possible.

[The following is an excerpt of one of the stories, "Please Answer
Me."]

Mommy called Rachel several times and
Rachel did not answer. Rachel was
watching TV. . Mommy came over and
tapped Rachel on the shoulder and said
Rachel a little louder. This scared Rachel
and she ran to her room.

Mommy was very upset because she
thought Rachel was being mean by not
answering when she called. Rachel was
scared and did not know why mommy had
yelled at her like that.

Later when daddy got home it happened
again. Daddy called Rachel and she didn't
answer. So he got closer and said her
name again but louder. Rachel got scared
and ran to her room.

This made daddy mad because he had
something to give to Rachel. Rachel was
scared and would not talk to daddy.

Mommy and Rachel got up the next day
and they were both upset still. Mommy
said Rachel come here I want to talk to you.
Rachel did not want to go sit down by
mommy. She just wanted to tell mommy
she was mad and go to her room.

Rachel please come here and sit down with
me. Rachel did but she sat on the other
end of the couch. She was mad at mommy
and wanted her to know.

Mommy told Rachel she was sorry for
scaring her last night.

Rachel asked, "Why did you yell at me?"

Mommy said, "because I had been calling
you and you did not answer me."



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