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US Autism & Asperger Association, Inc. March 4, 2009

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

The Thinkers: Robotics developer helps studying autistic children
By Mark Roth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Marek Michalowski's favorite robot looks like an oversized Easter peep that can bust some moves.

His name is Keepon, and he is best known as the star of a YouTube video -- dancing to an infectious tune by the rock group Spoon -- that has been viewed more than 2 million times.

"You can imagine how the mother, when she was watching this video, was reduced to tears," Mr. Michalowski said, "because she so rarely saw that interaction herself, and to see her daughter doing this through the robot was very moving."

But Keepon is much more than a disco robot.

In the hands of Mr. Michalowski, a Ph.D. student in robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, and his mentor, Hideki Kozima of Miyagi University in Japan, Keepon is also being used to study how children interact socially, and whether the robot might particularly be able to help children with autism.

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Should federal officials study vaccine schedule?
Recommendation » Panel with 2 Utahns suggests a look at timing, spacing and links to disorders.

By Heather May, The Salt Lake Tribune

A growing number of parents are tossing their doctors' recommendations about when to vaccinate and choosing their own path by delaying, spacing or forgoing vaccines out of fears for their children's safety.

"Utah's top public health officer, Utah Department of Health director David Sundwall, says such study is warranted."

Now, a prominent group of federal vaccine officials, safety advocates and public health officials -- including two Utahns -- suggests exploring research into the current vaccine schedule and possible links to a variety of disorders, including autism.

"At Healing Solutions Pediatric Centers in Sandy,[UT] naturopathic physician Joseph Humpherys offers an alternative schedule.
The federal schedule "is too many, too soon, too often."

Utah's top public health officer, Utah Department of Health director David Sundwall, says such study is warranted. He is part of a group recommending that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluate whether it would be possible to compare vaccinated children to unvaccinated children and their incidence of allergies, asthma, learning disabilities and autism, among other disorders.

The recommendation, along with other research proposals, will be discussed by the National Vaccine Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C., in two weeks.

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Music Wins Applause for Addressing Autism
Evidence Is Slim, but Experts Say Therapy Is Valuable

By Jean Hwang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 3, 2009; Page HE05

louisehabakusWhen it's bath time for Janna Simpson, her mother sometimes throws together a tune. "Take a bath, take a bath, take a bath," Judy Simpson might chant, luring her daughter into the water.

Janna isn't a toddler, and her mother isn't simply singing along. Janna is a 15-year-old with autism, a speech impairment and a seizure disorder. Music, Judy Simpson says, has been key to getting her to engage in such everyday activities as taking a bath; it's also an alternative to verbal instructions in helping her overcome social and behavioral problems.

"Music is inherently structured and patterned", [says Mijin Kim, a music therapist at the Beth Abraham Institute in New York]. "You can see people with autism who are hypersensitive to sound but respond differently to music because of its structure.

Janna, who never developed normal speech, receives formal music therapy at West Virginia's Hedgesville Middle School, where she is enrolled in a classroom for students with autism. Her mother, a former music therapist who is director of government relations at the American Music Therapy Association, based in Silver Spring, continues with that therapeutic approach at home.

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A Vaccine Form You Can Give to Your Pediatrician

By Dr. Joseph Mercola

Although you likely won’t find any physician anywhere willing to sign this form, it could be a valuable learning lesson to simply bring it with you and present it to him or her, if nothing else just to observe the reaction.

Because the truth is, your pediatrician is not taking responsibility for any adverse reactions or damage that happens to your child, and neither are the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the vaccines that injure countless children each year.

"Because the truth is, your pediatrician is not taking responsibility for any adverse reactions or damage that happens to your child."

Vaccine companies have long ago used political manipulation through their strong lobbying efforts to created legislation that essentially immunizes them against any law suit damages or awards. The Homeland Security bill also contains a provision that protects manufacturers of vaccines that contain thimerosal from liability in vaccine-related lawsuits. Pro-vaccine-safety educators have long been saying that vaccines can over-stimulate your child’s immune system, sometimes causing the very disease it’s designed to protect against, or worse. And, when several vaccines are administered together, or in close succession, their interaction may completely overwhelm your child’s developing immune system.

Once that happens, what can you do? Where can you turn?

You’re far better off doing your own research beforehand so that you can make an educated decision about the health of your child, than to blindly trust your pediatrician, who likely has not done much research on it either, and is in turn trusting the information they get directly from the vaccine manufacturer.

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Harvard Medical School in Ethics Quandary
By DUFF WILSON, New York Times

harvardBOSTON — In a first-year pharmacology class at Harvard Medical School, Matt Zerden grew wary as the professor promoted the benefits of cholesterol drugs and seemed to belittle a student who asked about side effects.

Mr. Zerden later discovered something by searching online that he began sharing with his classmates. The professor was not only a full-time member of the Harvard Medical faculty, but a paid consultant to 10 drug companies, including five makers of cholesterol treatments.

"The professor was not only a full-time member of the Harvard Medical faculty, but a paid consultant to 10 drug companies, including five makers of cholesterol treatments."

“I felt really violated,” Mr. Zerden, now a fourth-year student, recently recalled. “Here we have 160 open minds trying to learn the basics in a protected space, and the information he was giving wasn’t as pure as I think it should be.”

Mr. Zerden’s minor stir four years ago has lately grown into a full-blown movement by more than 200 Harvard Medical School students and sympathetic faculty, intent on exposing and curtailing the industry influence in their classrooms and laboratories, as well as in Harvard’s 17 affiliated teaching hospitals and institutes.

They say they are concerned that the same money that helped build the school’s world-class status may in fact be hurting its reputation and affecting its teaching.

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GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!Shop Online and Support USAAA

What if USAAA earned a penny every time you searched the Internet? Or how about if a percentage of every purchase you made online went to support our USAAA? Well, now it can! is a new Yahoo-powered search engine that donates half its advertising revenue, about a penny per search, to the charities its users designate. Use it just as you would any search engine, get quality search results from Yahoo, and watch the donations add up! is a new online shopping mall which donates up to 37 percent of each purchase to USAAA! Hundreds of great stores including Amazon, Target, Gap, Best Buy, ebay, Macy's and Barnes & Noble have teamed up with GoodShop and every time you place an order, you’ll be supporting USAAA.

Just go to and be sure to enter US Autism and Asperger Association as the charity you want to support. And, be sure to spread the word!

The Thinkers: Robotics developer helps studying autistic children
Should federal officials study vaccine schedule? Utah's top public health officer thinks so.


Music Wins Applause for Addressing Autism

A Vaccine Form You Can Give to Your Pediatrician

Harvard Medical School in Ethics Quandary
Shop Online and Support USAAA

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