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Category Archives: Autism In the News

Autism in the national and local news.

President Obama Signs Bipartisan Autism CARES Act Into Law

WASHINGTON, DC (August 8, 2014) – President Obama signed the Autism CARES Act today, which dedicates $1.3 billion in federal funding for autism over the next five years. Autism CARES—introduced by Sens. Menendez (D-NJ) and Enzi (R-WY) and Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle(D-PA)—enjoyed broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House.

“Autism Speaks commends President Obama and our Congressional leaders for taking action on behalf of the millions of families affected by autism, which continues to rise at an alarming rate,” said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. “These families are our champions and this critical legislation would not have been possible without the voices of tens of thousands of grassroots advocates from across the country.”

Autism CARES reauthorizes the landmark 2006 Combating Autism Act for another five years at an annual funding level of $260 million. The funding will be used primarily for autism research grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health. Autism CARES will also ensure the continued funding of autism prevalence monitoring; training of medical professionals to detect autism; and continued efforts to develop treatments for medical conditions associated with autism.

“Since 2006, the prevalence of autism has risen at an alarming rate to 1 in 68, including 1 in 42 boys. Given this epidemic, there has never been a greater need for these types of bipartisan efforts to make autism a federal priority,” said Feld. “We applaud Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) for their continued leadership and commitment to autism families.”

Autism CARES also tasks the federal government with surveying the current landscape of adult services and reporting to Congress where gaps exist and how to most effectively address those needs.

“There is a particularly acute need to serve young people with autism as they transition to adulthood and need new housing, employment, transportation, and other services,” Feld added. “Autism CARES will be critical to identifying these challenges and the ways that the federal and state officials can address them.”

The bill also empowers the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) with the task of avoiding unnecessary duplication and making recommendations to implement a strategic plan. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is required to take charge of implementing the plan and reporting to Congress on progress.

Autism Act Wins Senate Approval

Just before leaving Washington for a month-long break, the U.S. Senate acted to renew the nation’s primary autism legislation, sending the measure to the president’s desk.

The autism bill was approved by unanimous consent late Thursday night. The move comes after the legislation, which cleared the U.S. House of Representatives in June, had been held up for weeks as some advocacy groups working as the Autism Policy Reform Coalition called for changes to the measure.

Known as the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act, or Autism CARES, the bill authorizes $260 million in federal funding annually through 2019 for autism-related programs.

It serves as a reauthorization for what’s previously been known as the Combating Autism Act, which is set to expire at the end of September. Without the renewal, federal funding for research, prevalence tracking, training for professionals, early identification and other autism efforts would come to a halt, supporters led by Autism Speaks said.

“The Senate’s action today ensures these vital autism programs are reauthorized and continue providing research, services and supports individuals with autism and their families have come to rely on,” said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the legislation’s lead sponsor.

In addition to continuing federal funding for existing programs, the Autism CARES Act calls for an autism point person at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and spells out changes to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. The bill also requires a new report be conducted focusing on the needs of young adults and youth during transition.

Aside from approving the autism legislation, lawmakers also moved forward on a bill that would establish a new way for people with disabilities to save money. A House panel unanimously approved the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act on Thursday, positioning the legislation to be considered by the full body as soon as next month.

The bill would allow people with disabilities to create special accounts where they could save up to $100,000 without risking eligibility for benefits like Social Security. Under the proposal, individuals would not lose Medicaid coverage no matter how much money is deposited in the accounts.

The ABLE Act has support from more than half the members of both the House and Senate, but key lawmakers said they would work together to find a way to pay for the measure before putting it up for a vote on the House floor.

Meanwhile, the Senate left town without voting on ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The treaty, which sets an international standard for disability rights similar to what’s already in place domestically through the Americans with Disabilities Act, was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July and disability advocates had lobbied heavily for a floor vote before the August recess.

Both the Senate and House will return to Washington in September.

World-Renowned Artist with Autism and Mom Give Inspiring TED Talk

Tim Sharp is an Australian artist and the creator of  superhero Laser Beak Man. When Tim was diagnosed with autism at 3 years of age, doctors advised his mother Judy to institutionalize him. She did no such thing and worked with Tim at home in the hope of one day hearing him speak. After several attempts to communicate with Tim, she tried drawing – he was immediately enamored. Soon Tim began drawing. Then his love of superheroes led him to create his own caped crusader in the form of Laser Beak Man – a duck with a cheeky sense of humor.

Now at 25, Tim speaks eloquently and his art has been seen in galleries all over the world. Laser Beak Man was even turned into an animated series that aired in Australia and on Cartoon Network. Watch the TED Talk above to learn how Laser Beak Man became a global sensation.

To see the Ted Talk click the link below.

 

Beware of False or Misleading Claims for Treating Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month, a fitting time to think about the growing need for concern and awareness about autism.

One thing that is important to know up front: There is no cure for autism. So, products or treatments claiming to “cure” autism do not work as claimed. The same is true of many products claiming to “treat” autism. Some may carry significant health risks.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays an important role in warning these companies against making false or misleading claims.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 1in 68 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and are almost five times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describe autistic children as having difficulties with social interaction, displaying problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, exhibiting repetitive behaviors and having narrow, obsessive interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling.

“Autism varies widely in severity and symptoms,” says Amy Taylor, M.D., M.H.S., a pediatrician at FDA. “Existing autism therapies and interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about improvement,” she adds.

In addition, FDA has approved medications that can help some people manage related symptoms of ASD. For example, the FDA has approved the use of antipsychotics such as risperidone and aripripazole to treat children 5 or 6 years of age and older who have severe tantrums or aggression and self-injurious behavior. Before using any behavioral intervention or drug therapy (prescription or over-the-counter), check with your health care professional.

The Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT), a not-for-profit organization of parents and professionals committed to improving the education, treatment, and care of people with autism, says that since autism was first identified, there has been a long history of failed treatments and fads.

According to Gary Coody, R.Ph., FDA’s national health fraud coordinator, the agency has warned a number of companies that they are facing possible legal action if they continue to make false or misleading claims about products and therapies claiming to treat or cure autism. Some of these so-called therapies carry significant health risks and include:

  • “Chelation Therapies.” These products claim to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals by binding to them and “removing” them from circulation. They come in a number of forms, including sprays, suppositories, capsules, liquid drops and clay baths. FDA-approved chelating agents are approved for specific uses, such as the treatment of lead poisoning and iron overload, and are available by prescription only. FDA-approved prescription chelation therapy products should only be used under medical supervision. Chelating important minerals needed by the body can lead to serious and life-threatening outcomes.
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber and has been cleared by FDA for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by divers. It has not been cleared for autism, among other conditions.
  • Miracle Mineral Solution. Also known as Miracle Mineral Supplement and MMS, this product becomes a potent chemical that‘s used as bleach when mixed according to package directions. FDA has received reports of consumers who say they experienced nausea, severe vomiting and life-threatening low blood pressure after drinking the MMS and citrus juice mixture.
  • Detoxifying Clay Baths. Added to bath water, these products claim to draw out chemical toxins, pollutants and heavy metals from the body, falsely offering “dramatic improvement” for autism symptoms.
  • Coconut kefir and other probiotic products. These marketed products claim to treat autism and gastrointestinal illnesses associated with autism. They have not been proven safe and effective for these advertised uses.

Coody offers some quick tips to help you identify false or misleading claims.

  • Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases.
  • Personal testimonials are no substitute for scientific evidence.
  • Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, so be suspicious of any therapy claimed as a “quick fix.”
  • So-called “miracle cures,” which claim scientific breakthroughs and secret ingredients, may be a hoax.

The bottom line is this—if it’s an unproven or little known treatment, talk to your health care professional before buying or using these products.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Common Genes Implicated in Autism Study

By Robert Preidt, HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, July 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Most of the genetic risk for autism appears to come from common gene variants rather than spontaneous gene mutations, according to a new study.

Researchers compared about 3,000 people in Sweden with and without autism and found that about 52 percent of autism was linked to common gene variants and rare inherited variations. Spontaneous genetic mutations accounted for only 2.6 percent of autism risk.

The investigators also found that genetics seem to play a stronger role in autism risk than environmental factors, according to the study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The study, which the researchers said was the largest of its kind to date, was published in the July 20 issue of the journal Nature Genetics.

“From this study, we can see that genetics plays a major role in the development of autism compared to environmental risk factors, making autism more like height than we thought — many small risk factors add up, each pushing a person further out on the spectrum,” co-lead investigator Kathryn Roeder, professor of statistics and computational biology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said in a university news release.

Autism spectrum disorders describe a range of developmental disabilities that can cause social, communication and behavioral difficulties. About 1 in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

“Genetic variation likely accounts for roughly 60 percent of the liability for autism, with common variants comprising the bulk of its genetic architecture,” co-lead investigator Joseph Buxbaum, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, said in a news release from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

“Although each exerts just a tiny effect individually, these common variations in the genetic code add up to substantial impact, taken together,” explained Buxbaum.

Roeder added, “These findings could not have happened without statistics, and now we must build off of what we learned and use statistical approaches to determine where to put future resources, and decide what is the most beneficial direction to pursue to further pinpoint what causes autism.”

According to NIMH Director Dr. Thomas Insel, “Knowing the nature of the genetic risk will help focus the search for clues to the molecular roots of the disorder. Common variation may be more important than we thought,” he said in the Carnegie Mellon news release.

Buxbaum explained that “within a given family, the mutations could be a critical determinant that leads to the manifestation of [autism] in a particular family member.”

He concluded: “The family may have common variation that puts it at risk, but if there is also a [new] mutation on top of that, it could push an individual over the edge. So for many families, the interplay between common and spontaneous genetic factors could be the underlying genetic architecture of the disorder.”