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US Autism & Asperger Association, Inc. March 23, 2009

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

One child in 60 'suffers from a form of autism
Drug Maker Told Studies Would Aid It, Papers Say
MMA & Autism: More Than Just For Kicks
How Do Siblings Affect Autistic Kids?
Music therapy helps autistic children
Shop Online and Support USAAA

One child in 60 'suffers from a form of autism

Far more children have autism than previously thought, a study of British school pupils has found.

Researchers now believe as many as one in 60 children has some form of the condition.

The disturbing findings, which are due to be made public within weeks, mean that up to 216,000 children in the UK could suffer from an autistic condition, although many have not yet been diagnosed.

"The latest study, by academics at Cambridge University's respected Autism Research Centre, involved thousands of children.

Controversially, it showed autism rates were nearly twice as high as the figure of one child in 100 which is currently accepted by the National Autistic Society."

The research could have a major impact on public services in Britain with many more youngsters potentially needing a lifetime of special care.

Autism covers a spectrum of developmental disorders which affect a person's communication and social skills.

Families caring for severely autistic children say their lives are devastated by the condition, and looking after sufferers of autism and related disorders already costs the nation £28billion a year.

The latest study, by academics at Cambridge University's respected Autism Research Centre, involved thousands of children.

Controversially, it showed autism rates were nearly twice as high as the figure of one child in 100 which is currently accepted by the National Autistic Society.

Click here to learn more.


Drug Maker Told Studies Would Aid It, Papers Say

An influential Harvard child psychiatrist told the drug giant Johnson & Johnson that planned studies of its medicines in children would yield results benefiting the company, according to court documents dating over several years that the psychiatrist wants sealed.

"Dr. Biederman — who was director of the Johnson & Johnson Center for Pediatric Psychopathology Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston — is in the middle of two controversies: one involves the use of antipsychotic drugs in children, and the other relates to conflicts of interest in medicine."

The psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Biederman, outlined plans to test Johnson & Johnson’s drugs in presentations to company executives. One slide referred to a proposed trial in preschool children of risperidone, an antipsychotic drug made by the drug company. The trial, the slide stated, “will support the safety and effectiveness of risperidone in this age group.”

Dr. Biederman was the lead author of a trial published last year concluding that treatment with risperidone improved symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in bipolar children.

"Judge Jamie D. Happas of New Jersey Superior Court, who is overseeing the multistate litigation, ruled last year that Dr. Biederman should be deposed.

Dr. Biederman — who was director of the Johnson & Johnson Center for Pediatric Psychopathology Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston — is in the middle of two controversies: one involves the use of antipsychotic drugs in children, and the other relates to conflicts of interest in medicine.

He is the world’s most prominent advocate of diagnosing bipolar disorder in even the youngest children and of using antipsychotic medicines to treat the disease, but much of his work has been underwritten by drug makers for whom he privately consults. An inquiry by Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, revealed last year that Dr. Biederman earned at least $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007 but failed to report all but about $200,000 of this income to university officials.

Click here to learn more.

Harvard Psychiatrist Promised Clinical Trial Results To Drugmakers
Harvard Psychiatrists Under Fire for Failing to Report Drug Payments
Harvard Psychiatrist Must Suspend Clinical Trials Over Conflicts

MMA & Autism: More Than Just For Kicks

Helping children with autism can be like unraveling clues in a mystery.

One form of autism is Asperger's Syndrome.

And, one key to unlocking what's going on with these children may be "mixed martial arts," or MMA.

Meet a Delhi Township [Cincinnati, Ohio] mother who says it's made a big difference in her son's life.

""It's the one thing I've never had to fight with him to get ready to go to," said Tedesco. "Ever. Having to change clothes, having to wear a uniform. It's never been an issue for him because he loves it.""

What may look like a bunch of punching, kicking and wrestling -- is proving to be therapy for Theo Tedesco.

"Oh it's been a phenomenal thing for him," said his mother, Paige Tedesco.

She enrolled Theo in mixed martial arts when he was five-years-old. Her son has Asperger's Syndrome, which makes social interactions and speech difficult.

But for whatever reason, MMA does not come hard for him.

Click here to learn more.


How Do Siblings Affect Autistic Kids?

By Teresa J. Foden

Putting Our Heads Together
As some autism researchers pore over brain MRIs in labs and other researchers closely observe children in natural play settings, noting in micro-detail every element of every interaction, and as parents scour the landscape of cyberspace for the latest and greatest in treatment methods, many an eye is turning to the role of siblings. The sibling bond is a key component of the developing personality of children, and there is research showing that this holds true when one of the children has a disability. However, there is considerable debate about how this relationship molds the typically developing siblings and the children with autism alike, and whether this sibling effect is positive or negative.

"A growing body of research shows that some typically developing siblings outright benefit from their relationships with children with autism. These siblings speak of a certain pride in "teaching" their siblings, and may have higher scores on self-esteem, empathy, and maturity measurements."

Adding to the complexity of the search for answers is the sheer variety of labels that comes under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs): autism, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger's disorder, to name a few. These children exhibit a puzzling array of deficits and strengths which even the experts can't completely agree on, all spread over a wide spectrum.

The Good, the Bad, and the Contradictory
Undoubtedly, the interplay between siblings profoundly affects each participant's personality, social, and intellectual development. However, exactly how that plays out, and exactly what interventions might support positive sibling interactions, remains murky. Studies are chock-full of reports that the path for siblings of children with ASDs is fraught with developmental landmines.

The Sibling Bond in a Petri Dish

"A 1995 study, comparing sibling interaction in relationships involving a child with autism or Down syndrome, found that though children with autism may have interacted less with their siblings, they did respond to social overtures from their siblings.

As with much of research into the causes and effects of ASDs, the results in sibling research studies seem contradictory. Perhaps adding to the overall feeling of consternation, the findings sometimes don't ring true for families experiencing autism in the most natural lab of all, the home. But with the sibling relationship playing such a central role in family life, we can't help but wonder how to maximize its gifts and minimize its burdens. There is something just out of reach, something pure, about the sibling bond. Adults are largely relegated to the outside, unable to step back to a time when personality was so raw and so fluid. The words of an oft-cited study of sibling bonds, going back more than 30 years, still hold true today: "Siblings collude and align with each other.... The sibling relationship is seen as a life-long process, highly influential throughout the life cycle."? (11)

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Music therapy helps autistic children

by Carrie Stetler/The Star-Ledger

Autistic children can greatly benefit from music therapy, according to a story by Ellen Chase in today's PG section of The Star-Ledger. You can read it here.

According to Ellen's story, the scientific evidence on musical therapy and autism is incomplete, but parents are seeing breakthroughs. This video by Star-Ledger reporter Joe Perone looks at a class taught by veteran music therapist John Foley. Click through for more information on music therapy programs in New Jersey.

Music therapy has applications so broad that it's used everywhere from the neonatal ward to the nursing home. It can assist in treating various illnesses and disabilities and managing pain.
Autism students learn to communicate with musical sounds

Although its use in special education may be most evident for children and adolescents on the autism spectrum, music therapy is a valuable intervention for a wide range of students with special needs, including, but not limited to, those with ADD and ADHD, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury, Tourette's syndrome and nonverbal learning disorder, which shares many characteristics with Asperger syndrome.

Click here to learn more.


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!

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