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US Autism & Asperger Association, Inc. August 3, 2009

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

Conference Proceedings Manual and PowerPoint Presentations

Unfolding the mysteries of the brain

Microbes ‘R’ Us

Video Modeling to Teach Play (and Language and Social Skills) to Children with Autism

Shop Online and Support USAAA

Conference Proceedings Manual and PowerPoint Presentations

USAAA is proud to present 23 PowerPoint presentations and 22 Conference Proceedings presentations from the US Autism & Asperger Association 2009 International Conference, made possible by our friends at Oxy Health Corporation. The Proceedings Manual will be updated frequently as we receive additional presentations from our speakers.


Unfolding the mysteries of the brain
Researchers are learning to map the wrinkled landscape of the cerebral cortex for clues to how the mind develops

By Emily Anthes
Boston Globe Correspondent / August 3, 2009

The surface of the brain is a complex landscape, featuring endless peaks and valleys. This intricately folded outer layer, known as the cerebral cortex, is one of the brain’s most noticeable features. But it’s also one of the least well understood.

“There’s this large expanse of cortex, much of which is like South America to a 17th century cartographer,’’ said David Van Essen, a neurobiologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s this big mass of land, and we know what the outlines are, but no one’s been able to chart the intricacies.’’

That’s beginning to change. Technological and computational advances have enabled researchers to image the brain’s wrinkled exterior in stunning detail, mapping the size and shape of each fold. Scientists pursuing this new discipline of “cortical cartography’’ expect it to yield insights into how the brain develops and what happens when things go awry. Researchers have already discovered that the cerebral cortex - which controls higher-level functions, including thought, emotion, and perception - is folded abnormally in disorders ranging from autism to depression. Such insights could lead to better and earlier diagnoses and perhaps even new clues to treatment.

"Perhaps some of... environmental factors that contribute to autism...can also disrupt folding."
— radiologist Ellen Grant,
Children's Hospital Boston

Click here for entire article on Unfolding mysteries of the brain.


Microbes ‘R’ Us

by Olivia Judson, research fellow in biology at Imperial College London
NY Times

This week [July 21, 2009], the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, there’s much talk of exploring other worlds. Which is exciting and grand; such is the stuff that dreams are made on. Yet we don’t need to go abroad to find amazing new life forms. We just need to look at the palms of our hands, the tips of our fingers, the contents of our guts.

"Gut bacteria play crucial roles in digesting food and modulating the immune system. They make small molecules that we need in order for our enzymes to work properly. They interact with us, altering which of our genes get turned on and off in cells in the intestinal walls."

The typical human is home to a vast array of microbes. If you were to count them, you’d find that microbial cells outnumber your own by a factor of 10. On a cell-by-cell basis, then, you are only 10 percent human. For the rest, you are microbial. (Why don’t you see this when you look in the mirror? Because most of the microbes are bacteria, and bacterial cells are generally much smaller than animal cells. They may make up 90 percent of the cells, but they’re not 90 percent of your bulk.)

This much has been known for a long time. Yet it’s only now, with the revolution in biotechnology, that we’re able to do detailed studies of which microbes are there, which genes they have, and what they’re doing. We’re just at the start, and there are far more questions than answers. But already, the results are astonishing, and the implications profound.

"...during your lifetime, your bacteria can change their genes even though you cannot change yours".

Even on your skin, the diversity of bacteria is prodigious. If you were to have your hands sampled, you’d probably find that each fingertip has a distinct set of residents; your palms probably also differ markedly from each other, each home to more than 150 species, but with fewer than 20 percent of the species the same. And if you’re a woman, odds are you’ll have more species than the man next to you. Why should this be? So far, no one knows.

Click here for entire article on Microbes 'R' us.

Video Modeling to Teach Play (and Language and Social Skills) to Children with Autism

by Sarah Clifford Scheflen, MS, CCC-SLP
presented at the USAAA 2009 Conference in Los Angeles

Play has been described as “the very fabric of childhood culture” and is often considered the “work of childhood.” Play is widely considered to be central to the development of children, and as such, serves a number of critical functions in their development. Play involves a number of diverse and complex behaviors deficits, and the important developmental skills learned in part through play include language skills, social competence, appropriate behaviors fine and gross motor skills, memory skills, imagination, and emotional control and confidence. Social interaction is typically learned through play; children progress from independent and parallel play to reciprocal and interactive play, which incorporates sharing.

" modeling is successful as an instruction methodology for children with ASD because it avoids common potential distractions and instead plays to their strengths."

Play is typically described as a fundamental deficit in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), with deficiencies in the area of imaginative and symbolic play noted as a characteristic of ASD. Although children with ASD usually acquire play skills in the same order as typically developing children, play in children with ASD is not only delayed in rate of acquisition, but has been shown to differ in complexity and form from play of typically developing children. Even when children with ASD have acquired play skills, their play has been described as simple, repetitive and stereotypical, and lacking much of the complexity and diversity that characterizes the play of children who do not have ASD. At lower, pre-symbolic and pre-imaginative levels of play, children with ASD often exhibit repetitive and ritualized play behaviors (e.g., obsessively arranging toys according to physical characteristics, such as lining up toys by shape or color, or showing extreme fixation on one or a small set of toys and not showing interest in others).

Click here for entire article on Video Modeling to Teach Play (and Language and Social Skills) to Children with Autism.

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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