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Autism in the News

Digest of news and headlines (Highlights in the Five Weeks to 1 December 2001)




Some would say that general awareness of autism has increased enormously in the past two years. But we think that there has been much less attention in Canada than in say the United States or Britain—and that, when autism does get into the news here, it is usually negative, even tragic.

October was Autism Awareness Month in Canada, so we feature the website of Autism Society Canada (ASC) at http://autismsocietycanada.ca

Important items of autism news and comment are posted at:

Press releases posted recently by ASC include:

  1. Appointment of Dr Susan Bryson to Canada’s first Chair in Autism, at Dalhousie University.
  2. Dr Bryson, of York University and formerly the University of Guelph, is a member of various research teams in Canada and the United States that are working on more precise diagnosis and explanation of autism disorders. In the 1980s, she directed an important project in the 1980s at Dalhousie in which the prevalence of autism/pdd disorders in young children was established at higher levels than previously assumed. OAARSN notes that while at Guelph, Dr Bryson was a member of the Adult Task Force of Autism Society Ontario. She wrote important essays for its report Our Most Vulnerable Citizens, and also supported Waterloo-Wellington Autism Services to plan effective supports for adults with autism. (Copies of these documents are on the OAARSN site).

  3. Autism: 100 Families in Quebec Undertake A Class Action Suit Against their Provincial Government.
  4. There are now six provinces in Canada in which "parents of children with autism have been forced to take legal action to access a medically necessary treatment."

  5. Autism epidemic: the hidden Canadian human and financial cost

  6. Autism: a failure of the Canadian health system

"No other medical conditions have produced so much avoidable tragedy including, in the last 5 years, the apparent murder of 3 children with autism spectrum disorders by their parents. Autism Society Canada calls on the Canadian Government for the immediate establishment of an Autism Secretariat to address these autism issues, including development of national standards based on best practices and universal no-cost accessibility to effective treatments and adequate supports for people of all ages with autism conditions."

e. Canadian Autism Crisis

"With the death of the third Canadian within two years whose life was taken by a parent: "clearly families with children with disabilities need much better supports, and families with autism conditions have a critical need for those supports. The reality in our country is that services for all but a fraction of people with autism conditions and their families remain unnecessarily ineffective, inadequate and inaccessible. Families in six provinces have taken provincial governments to court to fight for effective treatment for their children with autism conditions. Multitudes of meetings take place across the country with every level of government, educators and service providers where thousands of hours (and $) are spent every year resulting in some progress in isolated instances for specific groups of individuals. On a national basis, however, progress is unacceptably minimal. Why? The reason is not lack of information. The provincial autism societies, all of whom make up the Autism Society Canada, have diligently presented data and research in those meetings that illustrate how the provision of early and accurate diagnosis, effective treatments, and adequate family supports can cut by 50% the current lifetime cost of supporting a person with an autism condition. The reason is therefore not money. The reason is lack of political will to exercise strong leadership through reorganizing current service provision and funding channels, ensuring national standards, funding and facilitating collaborative and relevant research, as well as making a commitment to see that every person with an autism condition receives universally accessible no-cost treatments and assistance based on current best practices."



a) The Times Christmas Appeal this year provides the opportunity for readers to help some of the estimated 500,000 people in Britain who suffer from autism. The Times is appealing on behalf of the National Autistic Society which, established 40 years ago by a handful of parents in the back room of one of their homes, has grown to become a vital help and support to sufferers and their families.

"The lives of severely autistic children will always be blighted by this affliction. No amount of money will cure it, no cure is even on the horizon. Early diagnosis and expert care can, however, greatly improve the quality of life of all who suffer from autism and all who, suddenly and without warning, find themselves struggling to help another to cope.

"Christmas can be a particularly hard time for those with autistic children. They see in the eyes of others the pleasure in life denied to their own. So much money is being spent everywhere at Christmas. This year just a little of that money could make a big difference to some of Britain’s most unfortunate children."



b) Moved by the plight of autism's lonely victims

The Times interview with actress Jane Asher who has volunteered prominently for the National Autistic Society since 1987 and now speaks up especially for adults with autism. Other stories about autism are published in the same issue of The Times.


c) Task force in Ireland backs school rights for autistic children

The Government should urgently reform the Constitution so that thousands of special needs children gain rights to a proper education, the Task Force on Autism has proposed.

The task force - established in the wake of the Jamie Sinnott case - is scathing about the level of provision for autistic children and adults. It says parents, who have been marginalised to date, should have a primary role in the decision-making process as soon as their child has been diagnosed.





Autism Parents Left Stunned as Wakefield Is Forced Out

The doctor who first raised doubts about the safety of the MMR vaccine has been forced to leave his position at the Royal Free Hospital in London. He has been testing the theory that measles virus from MMR vaccine can colonize the bowel of susceptible children, producing inflammatory bowel disease, which then, via a disruption of the chemical balance in the body and the brain, leads to autism.






a) US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) posts Autism Fact Sheets

  • Autism Facts overview
  • Autism Questions and Answers for Health Care Professionals
  • Autism and Genes
  • Autism and the MMR Vaccine
  • Rett Syndrome
  • The NICHD/NIDCD Network on the Neurobiology and Genetics of Autism--describes the largest single, autism-specific research effort to date and provides contact information for each of the 10 research sites involved.

Available from the NICHD autism page at




b) New Papers From The International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR)

Researchers from around the world presented their latest findings on autism at the recent inaugural two-day scientific meeting in San Diego, which was jointly sponsored by the Cure Autism Now Foundation, the U.C. Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, and the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR). Approximately 120 researchers presented findings in a slide/lecture format, and over 100 poster presentations displayed summaries of other autism-related research developments. The concurrent slide/lecture presentations were grouped into subject categories such as Treatment, Neuropsychology, Genetics, Diagnosis, Neuroimaging, Gastroenterology, Immunology and Animal Models.

Abstracts of papers presented at IMFAR’s on November 9 & 10 on all types of autism research are posted on the IMFAR website at http://www.imfar.org/index2.html



c) Over A Hundred Autism Research Abstracts

The FEAT Daily Newsletter news morgue has over a hundred research abstracts related to autism. More are added almost every day. There is no charge to access them:

Search www.FEAT.org



a) Emily Hecht (11) writes about her brother's autism in new book, Autism Through a Sister's Eyes, published by Barnes and Noble.



b) Autism Today http://www.autismtoday.com/?01

Latest features:

  • Autistic Athlete breaking barriers- By Shane Jones
  • Listening, Understanding, Sharing & Caring- By Cathy Grant
  • Creative poetry and artwork
  • Community Inclusion Heroes
  • Opinions
  • Poll- Should children with autism be included in regular schools regardless of the severity of the autism?
  • Conferences and Special Events
  • Books, Videos and other Resources





A Note about Autism News

OAARSN’s main focus is on adult autism issues in Ontario, but we are interested in the larger context of autism spectrum disorders generally and in related and parallel developments in other places. We used to try to include references to any and all autism news in our weekly summaries. Since August 2001, we have been more selective, featuring only certain topics and items in each monthly summary. We are interested in:

    • News of adult autism issues anywhere
    • Developments in knowledge of autism spectrum disorders generally

We welcome other items of news from our contacts.

If you want to keep in touch with autism news daily, mainly for the United States, we recommend:

  1. The FEAT DAILY NEWSLETTER http://www.feat.org
  2. Beyond Autism: Late-Breaking News (which is also concerned with other disability and inclusion issues) at http://trainland.tripod.com/newslink.htm


URL links are tested and work at the time our news digest is posted. If there is any doubt, or after a URL link may have expired (in some newspaper archives after one week), most reports might be reached through the FEAT archives. Click on this URL and search by keyword and dates.

Search FEAT Archives: http://www.feat.org/scripts/wa.exe?S1=featnews

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