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US Autism & Asperger Association, Inc. April 25, 2008

Welcome to USAAA Weekly News, an email newsletter that addresses a range of topics on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Asperger's Syndrome.

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

SAN ANTONIO (April 24, 2008) — How do mercury emissions affect pregnant mothers, the unborn and toddlers? Do the level of emissions impact autism rates? Does it matter whether a mercury-emitting source is 10 miles away from families versus 20 miles? Is the risk of autism greater for children who live closer to the pollution source?

Mercury exposure through fish consumption is well documented, but very little is known about exposure routes through air and ground water.

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.

“This is not a definitive study, but just one more that furthers the association between environmental mercury and autism,” said lead author Raymond F. Palmer, Ph.D., associate professor of family and community medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. The article is in the journal Health & Place.

“We need to be concerned about global mercury emissions since a substantial proportion of mercury releases are spread around the world by long-range air and ocean currents,” Dr. Palmer said.

Dr. Palmer, Stephen Blanchard, Ph.D., of Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and Robert Wood of the UT Health Science Center found that community autism prevalence is reduced by 1 percent to 2 percent with each 10 miles of distance from the pollution source.

“This study was not designed to understand which individuals in the population are at risk due to mercury exposure,” Dr. Palmer said. “However, it does suggest generally that there is greater autism risk closer to the polluting source.”

Click here for entire story.


Texas Study finds Autism Incidence Increased by Mercury Emissions from Coal Plants and Other Polluters
Lead author from University of Texas to brief media

Release from The Coalition of Safeminds and Autism United

A press conference and rally will be held on a newly published study titled “Proximity to point sources of environmental mercury release as a predictor of autism prevalence” appearing in the journal Health & Place (Elsevier), Wednesday, April 30 at 11am CDT at the United States Courthouse Steps in Dallas, Texas.

Dr. Raymond F. Palmer, associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, will discuss findings of the study, which used community autism estimates based on school district enrollment records of autistic children and mercury pollution data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  The study demonstrates increased risk specific to exposure to mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants and other industrial emission sources.

“Based on prior research demonstrating an association between environmental mercury pollution and autism rates, we investigated if proximity to the sources of mercury pollution (power plants and industrial sources) would increase the risk of autism in the community,” Dr. Palmer said.

Parents and children are invited to attend.


USAAA Announces Award Programs

US Autism and Asperger Association is instituting two new award programs for 2008, one for a Volunteer of Distinction Award and the other an Autism Sibling Scholarship Award.

The Sibyl Kaplan Moses Volunteer of Distinction Award recognizes an individual whose special volunteer contributions have made a remarkable impact in the autism community. There are two award winners each year. Each award winner will receive $1,000 in recognition of his or her volunteer work and travel to the awards ceremony held in conjunction with the US Autism and Asperger Association International Conference held in Austin, Texas September 4-7, 2008. Established in 2008, the award honors Sibyl Kaplan Moses who dedicated her life with over sixty years of volunteer service.

The USAAA Autism Sibling Scholarship Award Program recognizes siblings for their unique contributions to individuals with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome and encourages further contribution to those affected by autism. Scholarships are given to siblings of individuals with autism who demonstrate excellence in assisting their brother or sister and who will use the scholarships for a beneficial purpose that supports the autism community. There are three scholarships awarded each year. Each winner will receive a $500 scholarship for a project to be used to support autism. 

"USAAA is known for its Sibling Panel Discussion© conducted at the annual USAAA conference," said Dr. Kaplan, CEO of USAAA. "We want to recognize all siblings that share their unique insight as to the many obstacles they face each day, but also to express our admiration to them for their sibling relationships that contribute to the well-being of the entire family."

*For more information on the award programs and an application, click here.


Autistic Kids: The Sibling Problem


A few months ago, I took my sons to buy shoes. Nate is 14 and autistic. Joey is 8 and "typical." And I'm the parent — most of the time. Before we got to the store, Joey said to me, "If Nate has a tantrum, I can handle him. You just focus on buying shoes. I'm better at handling tantrums than you. Sometimes you just yell and it makes things worse. No offense."

None taken. He's absolutely right.

The "typically developing" siblings of autistic children are, in fact, the furthest thing from typical. Often, they are wiser and more mature than their age would suggest. And they have to be, given the myriad challenges they face: parental responsibility; a feeling of isolation from the rest of their family; confusion, fear, anger and embarrassment about their autistic sibling. And on top of all of it, guilt for having these feelings.

As their parents, there's a lot we can do to help. For starters, we can educate them early on, by explaining their sibling's disorder — a conversation that should be ongoing. Dr. Raun Melmed, co-founder and medical director of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center in Phoenix, suggests including non-autistic children in visits to the doctor or other autism professionals. Early intervention doesn't have to be "thought of as being geared only to the involved child," Melmed says. In his office, Melmed reassures siblings that "other brothers and sisters have negative and confusing thoughts about their [autistic] siblings. That is common." He also instructs parents to reaffirm that message at home. "Parents need only acknowledge to their healthy children that they know what they are going through and that negative feelings are normal," he says.

Click here for entire story.


Sensory Treatment Yields Promising Results for Children with Autism

Newswise, April 25, 2008— Parents of children with autism are increasingly turning to sensory integration treatment to help their children deal with the disorder, and they’re seeing good results. In 2007, 71 percent of parents who pursued alternatives to traditional treatment used sensory integration methods, and 91 percent found these methods helpful.

...children with autistic spectrum disorders who underwent sensory integration therapy exhibited fewer autistic mannerisms compared to children who received standard treatments.

A new study from Temple University researchers, presented this month at the American Occupational Therapy Association’s 2008 conference, found that children with autistic spectrum disorders who underwent sensory integration therapy exhibited fewer autistic mannerisms compared to children who received standard treatments. Such mannerisms, including repetitive hand movements or actions, making noises, jumping or having highly restricted interests, often interfere with paying attention and learning.

The children assigned to the sensory integration intervention group also reached more goals specified by their parents and therapists, said study authors Beth Pfeiffer, Ph.D., OTR/L, BCP, and Moya Kinnealey, Ph.D., OTR/L, from the Occupational Therapy Department in Temple University’s College of Health Professions. The children made progress toward goals in the areas of sensory processing/regulation, social-emotional and functional motor tasks.

Click here for entire story.

In This Issue:
Autism Risk Linked To Distance From Power Plants, Other Mercury-releasing Sources
Texas Study finds Autism Incidence Increased by Mercury Emissions from Coal Plants and Other Polluters
USAAA Announces Award Programs
Autistic Kids: The Sibling Problem
Sensory Treatment Yields Promising Results for Children with Autism

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US Autism & Asperger Association, Inc. (USAAA) kicks off its third annual International Autism and Asperger Conference (and 5th overall conference since 2006) in Austin, Texas, September 4 - 7, 2008. Over thirty of the world’s most renowned leading autism experts will present new interventions and new research in both education and medicine. The conference is presented in part by CARE Clinics and International Hyperbarics Association and will be held at the Hilton Austin Airport.


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©2008 US Autism & Asperger Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 532, Draper, UT 84020-0532
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