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US Autism & Asperger Association, Inc. November 13, 2009

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


Headlines:
Disabled students restrained, injured in public schools

Project Spectrum - Strengths of autism shine through in 3D

Tiny evolutionary mutation led to 'language gene': Study

Literacy and comprehension in school-aged children: Studies on autism and other developmental disabilities

Parent IEP Preparation Check List

9 In 10 Kids With Autism Bullied At School

At Last, Facing Down Bullies (and Their Enablers)


Shop Online and Support USAAA


Disabled students restrained, injured in public schools

AUSTIN, TX– Texas educators forcibly pinned down students with disabilities more than 18,000 times in the last school year, sometimes injuring them in the process.

A Texas Tribune review of state data shows public school educators used so-called “physical restraints” – a tool to control or discipline students with disabilities – roughly 100 times a day during the 2007-08 school year.

" The U.S. Government Accountability Office found restraints were performed on children who weren’t physically aggressive, and by teachers who weren’t trained to use them.

That year, school staff restrained four of every 100 special education students, with some students being restrained dozens of times. More than 40 percent of restrained youth suffered from emotional problems like post-traumatic stress disorder; nearly 20 percent were autistic.

Educators say restraints are sometimes the only way to prevent disasters. They point to the September 2009 case of a 16-year-old Tyler special education student who fatally stabbed his music teacher in a classroom.

Click here for entire article on Disabled students restrained, injured in public schools.


 

Project Spectrum - Strengths of autism shine through in 3D

Project Spectrum was created to give people with autism the opportunity to express their creativity and develop a life skill using Google SketchUp 3D modeling software. The idea for Project Spectrum originated when we began getting phone calls and emails from users telling us about how much kids on the autism spectrum were enjoying SketchUp. As the calls kept coming in, we learned that people with autism tend to be visually and spatially gifted—that, in fact, they think in pictures. When people with these gifts get their hands on powerful, easy-to-use 3D design software like SketchUp, sparks tend to fly.

Update on the Google SketchUp model by Rachel W.

Rachel is the daughter of Theresa K. Wrangham, USAAA Advisory Board Member. Theresa updates us on Rachel's progress since she started Project Spectrum in 2007.

"Rachel is attending Front Range Community College to complete her Associates Degree in MultiMedia. She is a past award recipient of the Skills USA pin design contest, as well as Boulder Valley School District Destination Imagination award recipient. She currently has 9 credits toward her degree and graduated with honors from high school and is a member of the National Technical Honor Society.

"The wonderful thing about Project Spectrum is that without that exposure, I don’t know that Rachel would ever have identified her career track. Of course, as parents we know she could change her mind and choose another direction…we are just happy that she has found a direction."

Click here for entire article on Project Spectrum - Strengths of autism shine through in 3D.

As an educator, you can:
Try Google SketchUp - free 3D design software
Sign up for the Google for Educators Newsletter
Join our online community at the Project Spectrum Google Group
Watch a video on how to get started using SketchUp
Download the Project Spectrum Manual of Lesson Plans


 

Tiny evolutionary mutation led to 'language gene': Study

BY MARLOWE HOOD, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS - Two minute changes in a gene that is otherwise identical in humans and chimps could explain why we have full-fledged power of speech while other primates can only grunt or screech, scientists said on Wednesday.

The findings may also point to new drug targets for hard-to-treat diseases that disrupt speech, such as schizophrenia and autism, they said.

"What we found is that FOXP2 drives these genes to behave differently in the two species," said Geschwind.

A decade ago, researchers discovered that members of an extended family beset with a rare inherited speech disorder all shared the same defect in a gene called FOXP2.

Investigators then found that a small number of patients with another speech-related disease, developmental dysphasia, also had mutations in the gene.

"Separately, biologists studying FOXP2 in our closest evolutionary cousin, the chimpanzee, noticed that only two among the hundreds of amino acids in the protein coded by the gene differed across the two species.

Separately, biologists studying FOXP2 in our closest evolutionary cousin, the chimpanzee, noticed that only two among the hundreds of amino acids in the protein coded by the gene differed across the two species.

The question emerged: Could this minor genetic variation be the key that enables human speech?

Click here for entire article on Tiny evolutionary mutation led to 'language gene': Study.


 


Literacy and comprehension in school-aged children: Studies on autism and other developmental disabilities

Abstract
Jakob Asberg, University of Gothenburg, department of Psychology, Sweden

The present thesis consists of five studies and addresses literacy and comprehension skills in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD, including Asperger’s disorder) and, to a lesser extent, attention disorders (eg. Attention Deficits Hyperactivity Disorder; ADHD). Although a completely clean and coherent picture of the abilities of these groups was not attained in the studies, the findings indicate that difficulties in reading comprehension and/or listening comprehension of connected discourse are common in children with ASD and children with ADHD at the group level (Study I, II and/or III). For children with ADHD, such difficulties often co-occurred with word decoding and spelling difficulties (Study II). Word decoding skills were more variable for students with ASD, yet typically unimpaired. These findings are broadly consistent with previous research. When difficulties in word decoding were observed in children with ASD, such difficulties appeared to conform to a ‘normal pattern’ in terms of underlying cognitive and psycholinguistic abilities (e.g. poor phonological awareness and rapid naming) (Study IV).

"However, there were also initial indications that the discourse comprehension skills in ASD were amenable of positive change through educational intervention in collaboration with school staff.

Finally, for children with ASD, discourse-level comprehension appeared to be more difficult than what one would expect from non-verbal cognitive level and basic language comprehension skills (study III). However, there were also initial indications that the discourse comprehension skills in ASD were amenable of positive change through educational intervention in collaboration with school staff (Study V). The results presented in the thesis are of importance for professionals who are concerned with understanding and supporting literacy and comprehension development in all children. Key words: autism, Asperger’s disorder, reading, literacy, language, discourse comprehension, cognition, special educational needs.

Click here for entire article on Literacy and comprehension in school-aged children: Studies on autism and other developmental disabilities.

Click here for entire dissertation by Jakob Asberg, University of Gothenburg, department of Psychology, Sweden.


 


Parent IEP Preparation Check List

by Jeffrey A. Gottlieb, attorney

An Individualized Education Program (IEP), is a written document that's developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education. The IEP is created through a team effort and reviewed at least once a year. The IEP is developed at an IEP meeting that is typically attended by parents, teachers, school administrators and others who have information pertinent to the special education eligible child.

"Know what you want in terms of placement, services and goals and why you want each item and what objective and subjective data/information supports what you want (put all of this in writing as part of your own confidential notes). Know your bottom line.

The IEP can be viewed as a contract between the child (child’s parents) and the school district regarding an appropriate placement and scope of educational services for the child. Accordingly, it is critical that the IEP meet the highest standards of what the school district should offer the child. As a tool to help parents receive the best IEP, the following is a general check list to be used by a parent in preparation for an IEP meeting. The list is basic and is not intended to be exhaustive. Legal advice may be required for specific circumstances (deadlines for notices may have statutory requirements).

Click here for more information on Parent IEP Preparation Check List.




9 In 10 Kids With Autism Bullied At School

By Shaun Heasley
NOVEMBER 13, 2009

Nine in 10 Massachusetts parents of kids with autism say their child has been a victim of bullying at school, a new survey finds. In over half of the cases, the bullying included being hit, kicked or chased.

"88 percent of children with autism have been bullied at school ranging from verbal abuse to physical contact.

The results come from an online survey conducted by Massachusetts Advocates for Children of nearly 400 parents of children with autism across the state. Findings indicate that 88 percent of children with autism have been bullied at school ranging from verbal abuse to physical contact.

Though widespread, parents indicated that schools were doing too little to address the bullying. Just one in five parents said they learned about the bullying their child experienced from the school. And, in two out of three cases, the bullying lasted for several months with most parents saying their child’s school didn’t do enough to respond.

Click here for entire article on 9 In 10 Kids With Autism Bullied At School.




At Last, Facing Down Bullies (and Their Enablers)

By PERRI KLASS, M.D
NY Times

Back in the 1990s, I did a physical on a boy in fifth or sixth grade at a Boston public school. I asked him his favorite subject: definitely science; he had won a prize in a science fair, and was to go on and compete in a multischool fair.

The problem was, there were some kids at school who were picking on him every day about winning the science fair; he was getting teased and jostled and even, occasionally, beaten up. His mother shook her head and wondered aloud whether life would be easier if he just let the science fair thing drop.

"Dr. Robert Sege, chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and a lead author of the new policy statement, says the Olweus approach focuses attention on the largest group of children, the bystanders. “Olweus’s genius,” he said, “is that he manages to turn the school situation around so the other kids realize that the bully is someone who has a problem managing his or her behavior, and the victim is someone they can protect.”

Bullying elicits strong and highly personal reactions; I remember my own sense of outrage and identification. Here was a highly intelligent child, a lover of science, possibly a future (fill in your favorite genius), tormented by brutes. Here’s what I did for my patient: I advised his mother to call the teacher and complain, and I encouraged him to pursue his love of science.

And here are three things I now know I should have done: I didn’t tell the mother that bullying can be prevented, and that it’s up to the school. I didn’t call the principal or suggest that the mother do so. And I didn’t give even a moment’s thought to the bullies, and what their lifetime prognosis might be.

In recent years, pediatricians and researchers in this country have been giving bullies and their victims the attention they have long deserved — and have long received in Europe. We’ve gotten past the “kids will be kids” notion that bullying is a normal part of childhood or the prelude to a successful life strategy. Research has described long-term risks — not just to victims, who may be more likely than their peers to experience depression and suicidal thoughts, but to the bullies themselves, who are less likely to finish school or hold down a job.

"The way we understand bullying has changed, and it’s probably going to change even more. (I haven’t even talked about cyberbullying, for example.) But anyone working with children needs to start from the idea that bullying has long-term consequences and that it is preventable.

Click here for entire article on At Last, Facing Down Bullies (and Their Enablers).



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!

GoodSearch.com 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!

GoodShop.com 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 www.goodsearch.com and be sure to enter US Autism and Asperger Association as the charity you want to support. And, be sure to spread the word!

Watch for the launch of our Facebook page next week and Become a Fan. Many wonderful tips are included on our Facebook page with video clips from practitioners, parents, and specialists never shown before.

USAAA YouTube Video Channel. Be sure to subscribe to receive notices on new videos uploaded to the channel.

Click here to subscribe to the Official USAAA YouTube Video Channel. There is no cost to subscribe.

USAAA 2009 4th International
Recap, Manual and Powerpoints


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