20 May 2008

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Adults with autism to be audited

For the first time the government is to calculate the number of adults with autism in England. Announcing the £500,000 project, Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis said autistic adults are too often abandoned by health and social services.
The National Autistic Society welcomed the move, saying it hopes it will mark a turning point in the way the needs of adults with autism are met. The statistics will be used to form a national strategy. The challenge for the researchers will be to make sure people whose autism has not yet been diagnosed are not overlooked.
In making the announcement, Ivan Lewis highlighted how limited the understanding of the condition still is. "We still don't know enough about autism, but we do know that left unsupported, it can have a devastating impact on those who have the condition and their families. One of the key gaps in our knowledge is simple - we don't know how many people have the condition in any given area. That is why I am ordering a study to address this."
Click for more details of the Government's commitment

Befriending Scheme recruits volunteers to share interests with local adult, child or family affected by autism
"The aim of the NAS Befriending Scheme [in the English Midlands] is to provide voluntary support to individuals with autism and their families.  The scheme is going from strength to strength, but still needs more volunteers to meet the needs of families.  Befrienders receive training in autism and are supported all the way."

Autism Risk Linked To Distance From Power Plants, Other Mercury-releasing Sources

A newly published study of Texas school district data and industrial mercury-release data, conducted by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, indeed shows a statistically significant link between pounds of industrial release of mercury and increased autism rates. It also shows—for the first time in scientific literature—a statistically significant association between autism risk and distance from the mercury source.

Autism's link to mental illness in parents

Parents of autistic children are twice as likely to have had psychiatric illness, researchers have discovered. Doctors studied patient records for more than 30,000 children and found that rates of autism rose substantially if parents had suffered schizophrenia, depression or a range of other personality and psychiatric disorders. A child's risk of autism was 70% greater if one parent was diagnosed with a mental illness, and twice as high as average if both parents had psychiatric disorders, according to a report in the Pediatrics journal. The finding suggests autism and psychiatric problems may sometimes have a common cause and genetic link.
The latest study is expected to help doctors distinguish between the different types of behavioural disorder that are brought together under the label of autism. "The diagnosis of autism includes a wide spectrum of disorders that are probably caused by different things," said the lead researcher. "The more we can refine groups of individuals with the classification of autism, the better our ability to look for causes and treatments.

$5M to help scientist probe autism DNA

Renowned genetic researcher and Windsor native Stephen Scherer has received the prestigious Premier's Summit Award for his groundbreaking work. Scherer, who leads one of the biggest genetics laboratories in Canada, said he will use the award money to tap into new technologies "that will allow us to do experiments we could have only dreamed of before." (Windsor Star)

Autism Study Links Repetitive Behavior Patterns to Brain Function Differences

Individuals with autism who exhibit repetitive behavior show reduced activity in brain regions normally responsible for attention and executive function,  the processes that help organize our actions and behaviors, researchers at Hofstra, Duke, and the University of North Carolina report in the current issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry. These results suggest that the repetitive behavior patterns observed in individuals with autism may be associated with dysfunction within the brain’s attentional and executive response circuitry.

Surprising language abilities in children with autism
What began as an informal presentation by a clinical linguist to a group of philosophers, has led to some surprising discoveries about the communicative language abilities of people with autism.
Several years back, Robert Stainton, now a philosophy professor at The University of Western Ontario, attended a presentation by his long-time friend Jessica de Villiers, a clinical linguist now at the University of British Columbia. The topic was Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). De Villiers explained that many individuals with ASD have significant difficulties with what linguists call “pragmatics.” That is, people with ASD often have difficulty using language appropriately in social situations. They do not make appropriate use of context or knowledge of what it would be “reasonable to say.” Most glaringly, many speakers with ASD have immense trouble understanding metaphor, irony, sarcasm, and what might be intimated or presumed, but not stated.
Drawing on his philosophical training, however, Stainton noticed less-than-obvious pragmatic abilities at work in de Villiers’ examples, which were drawn from transcripts of conversations with 42 speakers with ASD – abilities that had been missed by clinicians. Thus began research to more clearly understand and define the conversational abilities and challenges of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).... (Please click on title to read the whole story).

Motor disorder can hide healthy mind: psychologist
Could some cases of autism be variations of brain malformations that also cause movement disorders?
A motor disorder can hide a perfectly intact mind, said developmental psychologist Michael Weiss, a professor at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., and a psychologist at Giant Steps School, a private institution for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. "Some autism patients who have profound language problems have been misunderstood, Weiss said, because supposedly "if you can't talk, you can't think."

Institute gets $500k for autism, speech research
The John P. Hussman Foundation, which supports research and training on communication strategies for people with autism, announced April 16 it would provide the Facilitated Communication Institute (FCI) of the Syracuse University School of Education a half million dollar grant. Hussman has a personal connection to the work of the FCI. His son has autism and makes use of facilitated communication. The grant will be used in three different ways. Chadwick will manage the development of the program's clinical ability to work with families and better develop those methods. The money will also support research projects taking place both locally and nationwide. One project will look at people who are communicating at an increasingly independent level. Another will study the use of facilitated communication in the post-high school level and in the community at large.

New Interfaith Resource Guide on Autism Available for Congregations, Clergy, and Families
The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Pediatrics at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School announces a new resource entitled Autism and Faith: A Journey into Community.  The guide provides an introductory, empowering resource for use by clergy, religious educators, and families to develop inclusive spiritual supports for children and adults with autism and their families and recognize the unique gifts that congregations and people with autism can offer to one another.

The fifty-two page guide for including individuals with autism in faith communities was developed by The Autism and Faith Task Force of The Boggs Center and The Center for Outreach and Services to the Autism Community ( COSAC ) with funding from The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation. The Task Force worked for more than two years collecting stories and experiences from families, best practices and strategies from clergy and human service professionals, and resources from around the country. 
The guide features more than fifteen short articles written by clergy, parents, professional experts on autism, religious educators and people with autism, illustrated by numerous sidebar stories and examples from families who shared their experiences, both positive and negative, with their own faith communities in New Jersey. It is interfaith, including examples from Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim communities.
The guide is expected to be available at the COSAC conference in May. It will be disseminated to faith groups, families, and disability organizations in New Jersey for free and to anyone outside New Jersey for a nominal fee of $5. Ordering information will be available on The Boggs Center’s web site at http://rwjms.umdnj.edu/boggscenter.


The first research project to examine effects of the total vaccine load received by children in the 1990s has found autism-like signs and symptoms in infant monkeys vaccinated the same way. The study's principal investigator, Laura Hewitson from the University of Pittsburgh, reports developmental delays, behavior problems and brain changes in macaque monkeys that mimic "certain neurological abnormalities of autism."  The findings have been reported this weekend at a major international autism conference in London--the International Meeting For Autism Research.

Although couched in scientific language, Hewitson's findings are explosive. They suggest, for the first time, that our closest animal cousins develop characteristics of autism when subjected to the same immunizations – such as the MMR shot -- and vaccine formulations – such as the mercury preservative thimerosal -- that North American children received when autism diagnoses exploded in the 1990s.

Autism researchers say eye tracker technology may lead to earlier diagnosis

Mel Rutherford of McMaster University has presented findings at the International Meeting for Autism Research in London of her ongoing lab study that involves placing infants in car seats in front of a computer screen. The infants, tested at three months, six months, nine months and a year, are exposed to images on the screen. "So the eye tracker measures the light that's reflected off the surface of the baby's eye, and from that we can tell where on the computer screen the baby's looking," she said. The babies who are considered high risk have a sibling with autism, while babies in the control group don't have any known relatives with autism.

Click here to peruse highlights of presentations at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in London last week
This annual gathering brings together scientists to report the latest findings on the causes and treatments of autism May 15-17, 2008.



Report of National Autism Research Symposium, November 8-9, 2007
Part of a series of initiatives on autism announced by the federal Minister of Health, Tony Clement, in November 2006, the symposium brought together researchers, health professionals, educators, service providers, family members and persons with autism, as well as community organizations and government representatives. Held under the auspices of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, its purpose was to inform participants about the current state of knowledge on autism, to further the dissemination of ideas and to assist the research community in planning research.
In accordance with the symposium's goal of information sharing, the event provided an opportunity for a variety of individuals to convey their knowledge and views on a diverse set of issues related to autism. The opening evening, for instance, featured a group of speakers who shared their insights and knowledge on living with the condition - a young man with autism, the parent of a child with autism, and a prominent researcher in the field. The second day of the event offered an opportunity for participants to learn about the state of the science on autism, with presentations by twelve leading Canadian researchers. The symposium also featured break-out discussion sessions, through which all participants were invited to share their thoughts on many different aspects of the condition.
This report provides an account of these informative presentations, and discussions. While research on ASD in children predominated, OAARSN welcomes the inclusion of adult issues in several of the discussions (see Section 3: Dialogue on Issues realted to Autism).

AutismConnects has recently developed an interactive Service Map allowing individuals and service providers to find available ASD services and information.
View promotional poster. [HTML] [PDF]

AutismConnects invites people with ASDs, their families and friends, educators, therapists, service providers, organizations, researchers, legislators and volunteers – anyone with an interest in autism and a desire to improve the health and quality of life of people with ASDs – to become a member.
View promotional poster. [HTML] [PDF]

Thanks to Autism Society Canada for hosting these posters.

The Ontario Partnership for Adults with Aspergers and Autism introduces its new website.

Please visit www.autismontario.com/adults
Click here for information about Pam Button's water colour greeting cards.

It has become known this past week that there is no new money for the Passports initiative for 2008 in Ontario. This means those on the waiting list will not be considered and there will be no new individuals funded.  To stop funding a program that has been so helpful and yet so underfunded already is very worrisome. If you are concerned about the Transformation agenda and ensuring people have choices, consider supporting the event on 26th May and writing a letter to the Minister. 

Thousands of Ontario Families are supporting an adult at home with a Developmental Disability. In May 2007, the Minister of Community and Social Services announced a $200M budget for Developmental Services. Out of that budget only $9M went to people with developmental disabilities and their families to hire support workers to enable their child to participation in community life. The remainder of the funding went to the "revitalization of traditional agency infrastructure and wages." The Minister promised a "transformation" of developmental services to enable people with developmental disabilities to live more meaningful lives of independence and citizenship. Pouring millions of dollars into the old system and then allowing the largest provider of support in this province ‘the family’ to reach a crisis will not accomplish ‘transformation’.
The Passport Program, the only program that provides direct funding to persons with developmental disabilities and their families to hire support workers to enable participation in community life, has been devastatingly under funded. Across the province the statistics are available, in Toronto 400 families applied and there was funding available for 33 people. Our children are leaving high school at age 21 and ending up at home on the couch. Parents are quitting jobs and redirecting respite funds and retirement funds to hire support to insure their son’s and daughters have some meaningful daytime activities or are simply ‘safe’ at home on the couch.

Click for more information, including a model for a letter you might send to the Minister.



Please send submissions for this news bulletin or for the OAARSN Calendar and Bulletin Board in plain text format by email to ebloomfi@uoguelph.ca with "announcement" at the beginning of the subject line.
Please provide details of the following as BRIEFLY as possible: 
Name of Event
 Main Speakers and Topics of Event 
 Date of Event 
 City and Location of Event
 Contact information to learn more about event
 URL Link for more information/registration 

 Please Do Not Send Files Or Brochure Attachments


Announcing Series of Events
PLAN Institute offers
Weaving the Ties That Bind
Online Training Course for Facilitating Social Support Networks
"Facilitated social support networks are an effective way to address the isolation and loneliness of many people living on the margins of our society. These networks (also known as “circles of friends”) are proven to contribute to the health, safety and well being of individuals who are vulnerable as a result of age, disability or social circumstance."
Click on title for details of availability and to register--for May, September, October, or November.

April 11 to July 13, 2008
Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto is hosting an exhibit
Out from Under: Disability, History and Things to Remember
organized by the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University
The 13-panel installation premiered in October 2007 at the ten-day Abilities Arts Festival in Toronto.

Learn more on the ROM website

A 60-page catalogue entitled Out from Under: Disability, History and Things to Remember (2008), accompanies the exhibition. Written by the curatorial team and produced by the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University it will be available in soft cover for $30 (plus applicable taxes) at the ROM Museum Store and the Ryerson University Bookstore, 17 Gould Street, Toronto.


Announcing Individual Events

May 21-25, 2008, in Chicago
Recovery Rising - Meet the Strongest Gathering of Biomedical Presenters
Ever Assembled at an Autism One Conference
Parents.Doctors..Recovering children together
One Mission
Autism One www.autismone.org
Autism One, a member of the Autism Collaboration (http://www.autism.org), the most experienced collective body of autism organizations worldwide covering all aspects of the spectrum, joins in celebrating the message that "autism is treatable and recovery is possible."
The Autism One 2008 Conference will bring together the most recent research and treatments in the most crucial biomedical areas:
-Oxidative stress
-Toxic burden and detoxification
-Immunological dysregulation and autoimmune activity
-Metabolic profiles, including methylation capacity and transsulfation

May 26, 2008, Ontario Legislature in Toronto, from 10am
Passport Program Funding Issues
Families are invited to fill the gallery at the Ontario Legislature to support Christine and Sylvia in raising questions about the issues related to the Passport Program. Please RSVP your attendance at Queens Park by May 19. Click for more information, including a model letter you might send to the Minister.
Cindy Mitchell                                              Helen Dionne
Passport Funding Action Group                  Durham Family Network
(905) 723-8111                                           (905) 436-2500 ext 2222
e-mail cmitchellworks@rogers.com         e-mail hdionne@dafrs.com

May 27-29, 2008, in Detroit
“Everyday Freedoms”
International Conference of Center for Self-Determination
”Cutting Edge in a City with an Edge”
Detroit Marriott, Renaissance Center, Detroit, USA
Conference Highlights:
§                            Discussions about meaningful lives, real freedom
§                            Community membership, income asset & development
§                            Aging with dignity & freedom
§                            Recovery in the context of self-determination
§                            Families truly supported to best assist in developing self-determined lives
§                            International perspectives on these issues as well as discussions of what system change requirements are needed: what works and what interferes
Click for more information

Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 9:30–3:30, in Windsor
Workshop offered by RSA
This workshop highlights the world of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).  We will explore how communication works and how AAC can help expressive and receptive language development through the use of symbol systems and technology.  Myths will be dispelled and discussion is encouraged.  Guest speaker:  Nola Millin, will provide her perspective as an AAC user. Click for more and to register

June 8th Nathan Philips Square
(Autism Speaks) 2008 Walk Now for Autism
Click for poster

June 9-11, 2008, in Honolulu, Hawaii
International Conference on Diverse Abilities & Innovative Supports 2008
Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Community

Join us as we explore topics such as:
Dual Diagnosis * Direct Support Worker Issues & Solutions
Supervision & Managment * Clinical Issues
International Best Practices * Self-Advocacy/Independent Living
Autism/Aspergers * Employment * Caregiving
Find out more from http://www.lifelibertyandthepursuitof.com
Questions?  lifelibertyandthepursuitof@craconferences.com
1-888-542-8555 CRA, 373 JaMax Dr., Hillsborough, NC 27278

June 13-14. 2008, in Markham 
Autism Ontario's Annual Conference - The Future is Now: Celebrating 35 years of Building Acceptance
Featuring: guest speakers and panels representing: The Centre for Dreams Inc a day program for adults, representatives from MCYS, MCSS, and MEDU, Ask the Behaviourist, a chance to hear from past recipients of the Eleanor Ritchie Post-Secondary Entrance Scholarship for Individuals with ASD, and more. This conference is suited to parents, professionals, and those connected to individuals with ASD.

June 13-15, 2008
, in Waterloo
International Conference 2008 presented by Laurier Centre for Music Therapy Research
Making Connections:
Exploring the relationship between music therapy and music education

Music Therapy keynote speaker, Dr Amelia Oldfield of the UK, is specialized with music therapy with autistic children. 
Pre-Conference workshop June 12, 2008
Click for full information

June 16, 2008, all day, in Rexdale (Etobicoke)
Issues of Power and Control that Lead to Violence in Human Services
Click for flyer with details

June 17, 2008, all day, in Rexdale (Etobicoke)
Exploration of Fundamental Issues of Restraint as a Human Service Technique
Click for flyer with details

June 23-25, 2008

Summer Institute at University of San Diego
Autism: Work With Me, Not On Me
This unique conference brings state-of-the-art ideas from national and international speakers on how to better understand and support individuals who live with autism. Topics will include:
  • Rhythm, Relationship, and Communication
  • The Role of Movement Differences in Communication and Participation
  • Applying Dynamic Systems Theory
  • Communication Supports
  • Supporting Social/Emotional Development
  • Relationships and Relationship-Development
  • Sensitivity Training – Understanding the Lived Experience of Persons with the Autism Label
  • Relaxation Techniques and Yoga
  • Exploration in Using Rhythm as Accommodations
  • Panel of Individuals with Autism
  • Autism Hub Bloggers
Click for a poster

Toronto Summer Inclusion Institute 2008
Hosted by the
Marsha Forest Centre
Ryerson University
, Toronto July 12 -17, 2008
Click to view pamphlet
NB: Early Bird Special expires on May 31

September 4-7, 2008

US Autism & Asperger Association presents
2008 International Conference in San Antonio, Texas
featuring Paul Shattock and Doris Rapp
Conference Theme: Treating Autism as a Medical Disorder:
Bringing Biomedical Treatments and Behavioral & Developmental Therapies Together

Click for overview and early registration

October 22, 23, 24, 2008, in Toronto
Autism 2008 – Geneva Centre for Autism International Symposium
The Symposium will provide a cross-section of perspectives on the most recent research and information on evidenced based best  practice.  All topics of importance to autism intervention will be addressed including bio-medical and neurobiological research, ABA, intervention, social skills, behaviour, communication, first-hand accounts, Asperger’s Disorder, and more.  Featuring speakers from Canada, U.S., Great Britain, and Australia
Click here for program information
Along the right hand side are topics;  simply scroll through the schedule, and topics specific to adults indicate ‘adults’ in the right hand column, or click on the ‘adults’ topic at the top of the list.

For registration information, visit www.autism.net or contact Eva Finna at efinna@congresscan.com or 416-504-4500 ext. 208.



See our
archive of past OAARSN news bulletins.
Read about why OAARSN was started and the tasks still ahead

You may be interested in our Creative Supports Bulletins which carry news about disabilities and special abilities and creative strategies more generally. See for example:  http://www.ont-autism.uoguelph.ca/CS-20060720.html

Send news, announcements and comments to gbloomfi@uoguelph.ca We welcome news items, announcements of autism events, new information, discussion questions and comments, and accounts of experience.

Please send submissions for this news bulletin or for the OAARSN Calendar and Bulletin Board in plain text format by email to
ebloomfi@uoguelph.ca with "announcement" at the beginning of the subject line.

Please provide details of announcements as BRIEFLY as possible: 
 Name of Event
 Main Speakers and Topics of Event 
 Date of Event 
 City and Location of Event
 Contact information to learn more about event
 URL Link for more information/registration 

 Please Do Not Send Files Or Brochure Attachments if you have an online version to which you can provide a link.

Visit OAARSN's website and keep in touch through the OAARSN Listserv--send a message requesting to join to gbloomfi@uoguelph.ca