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December 7, 2010

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


Environmentally vulnerable physiology to autism spectrum disorders

Autism and Visual Thought

The State of Marriages: Are there Insights to Be Learned from Greeting Cards? Part II

USAAA 2010 Conference Proceedings Manual now available

NEW! Nutrition and Supplement Store

NEW! Bookstore

Contributions of the environment and environmentally vulnerable physiology to ASD

dr. herbertby Martha Herbert MD, PHD
TRANSCEND Research Program, Pediatric Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts, USA



Purpose of review
This review presents a rationale and evidence for contributions of environmental influences and environmentally vulnerable physiology to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

"Prevalence, genetic, exposure, and pathophysiological evidence all suggest a role for environmental factors in the inception and lifelong modulation of ASD.

Recent findings
Recent studies suggest a substantial increase in ASD prevalence above earlier Centers for Disease Control figures of one in 150, only partly explicable by data artifacts, underscoring the possibility of environmental contributors to increased prevalence. Some gene variants in ASD confer altered vulnerability to environmental stressors and exposures. De-novo mutations and advanced parental age as a risk factor for ASD also suggest a role for environment. Systemic and central nervous system pathophysiology, including oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and mitochondrial dysfunction can be consistent with a role for environmental influence (e.g. from air pollution, organophosphates, heavy metals) in ASD, and some of the underlying biochemical disturbances (such as abnormalities in glutathione, a critical antioxidant and detoxifier) can be reversed by targeted nutritional interventions. Dietary factors and food contaminants may contribute risk. Improvement and loss of diagnosis in some with ASD suggest brain circuitry amenable to environmental modulation.

Prevalence, genetic, exposure, and pathophysiological evidence all suggest a role for environmental factors in the inception and lifelong modulation of ASD. This supports the need for seeking targets for early and ongoing medical prevention and treatment of ASD.

This article is published in the USAAA 2010 Conference Proceedings Manual. Click here to purchase the manual.

Dr. Herbert was a Keynote Speaker and a panelist on the "Current Status of Research and Strategies for the Future" Panel Workshop and the "Medical/Biomedical Cutting Edge Interventions and Treatments" Panel Workshop at the USAAA 2010 World Conference in St. Louis, Missouri October 1-3, 2010. DVDs of the Keynote and the panel workshops are available at the USAAA DVD store.

Dr. Herbert is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, a Pediatric Neurologist with subspecialty certification in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at the Massachusetts General Hospital, a Principal Investigator, a member of the MGH Center for Morphometric Analysis, and an affiliate of the HST-MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging.


Autism and Visual Thought

by Temple Grandin, PhD

grandinI THINK IN PICTURES. Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures. Language-based thinkers often find this phenomenon difficult to understand, but in my job as an equipment designer for the livestock industry, visual thinking is a tremendous advantage.

"One of the most profound mysteries of autism has been the remarkable ability of most autistic people to excel at visual spatial skills while performing so poorly at verbal skills.

Visual thinking has enabled me to build entire systems in my imagination. During my career I have designed all kinds of equipment, ranging from corrals for handling cattle on ranches to systems for handling cattle and hogs during veterinary procedures and slaughter. I have worked for many major livestock companies. In fact, one third of the cattle and hogs in the United States are handled in equipment I have designed. Some of the people I've worked for don't even know that their systems were designed by someone with autism. I value my ability to think visually, and I would never want to lose it.

This article is published in the USAAA 2010 Conference Proceedings Manual. Click here to purchase the manual.

Dr. Grandin was a Keynote Speaker and a panelist on the "Self Advocacy - Experiences, Perspectives, and Challenges" Panel Workshop at the USAAA 2010 World Conference in St. Louis, Missouri October 1-3, 2010. DVDs of the Keynote and panel workshop are available at the USAAA DVD store.

Dr. Grandin is the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world. Dr. Grandin ranked 31st on Time Magazine’s list of the most influential people of 2010 in the world. Dr. Grandin's current best selling book on autism is The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's. Dr. Grandin’s fascinating life was recently brought to the screen in the HBO production full-length film, "Temple Grandin", which claimed seven Emmy Awards, including outstanding made for TV movie. Dr. Grandin presently works as a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University.


The State of Marriages: Are there Insights to Be Learned from Greeting Cards? Part II

Editor's Note: Part I was featured recently in our October 29th newsletter.

by Robert Brooks, PhD

brooksIn last month’s article I described my experience attempting to buy a birthday card for my wife Marilyn. I noted that over the years I have read many birthday, anniversary, and Valentine’s Day cards intended to be given from husbands to wives. Most began with an expression of regret for not stating often enough “I love you” or for not displaying affection or for not spending enough time together. I quickly determined that the apologetic cards far outnumbered those that did not voice regrets. I also judged that they did not reflect my behavior towards Marilyn. Fortunately, Marilyn agreed with this assessment and she liked the card I gave her this year. I tend to gravitate towards those cards that contain few words and focus on feelings of love rather than apologies. I find the fewer words on the card, the more words I write, which makes the message more personal and meaningful.

" I believe that relationships are enriched when we encourage our partner to engage in activities that they enjoy even if we do not join in. Of course, this is a relative statement. If the time spent on individual interests eclipses the time spent in our relationship, then alienation instead of enrichment will be present."

My experience buying the latest card for Marilyn prompted me to reflect on our marriage as well as other marriages, including couples I have seen in marital therapy. In “googling” the words “happy marriage,” many citations appeared. I decided to review those pertaining to Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist who has conducted extensive research in the areas of marital harmony, marital stability, and divorce. Among his books, he is the author of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. As noted in last month’s article, Gottman developed a model that he claims predicts which newlywed couples will remain married and which will divorce within four to six years. He asserts that his model has 90% accuracy and is predicated on the ways in which couples argue. In the October article I described the signs Gottman identified as predicting divorce and added some of my own commentary. In this month’s article I will turn to those practices that Gottman contends contribute to happier marriages or partnerships.

Click here to read the entire article, "The State of Marriages: Are there Insights to Be Learned from Greeting Cards? Part II

Dr. Brooks is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and has served as Director of the Department of Psychology at McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital. He is the author of a book titled The Self-Esteem Teacher and has co-authored over twelve books.


USAAA 2010 Conference Proceedings Manual now available


The USAAA 2010 Conference Proceedings Manual is now available. The manual is a collection of articles from many of the USAAA 2010 World Conference presenters that include Dr. Temple Grandin, Dr. Martha Herbert, Dr. John Constantino, Dr. Phillip DeMio, Dr. Mark Geier, David Geier, Dr. Michael McManmon, Dr. Stephen Shore, Dr. Jim Partington, Elaine (Coach E) Hall, Theresa K. Wrangham, Marlo Payne Thurman, plus a bonus section of articles from previous USAAA Conference Manuals.

grandin shore herbert

Click here for more information on the USAAA 2010 Conference Proceedings Manual.


NEW! Nutrition and Supplement Store

dnsw supplement store

Get all of your supplements from our new partner, Doctor's Nutrition & Supplement Warehouse (DNSW). Proceeds benefit USAAA programs. DNSW offers a 100% Price Match Guarantee. If you find your product available from an authorized reseller, at a lower, standard, non-sale price, on another site, we will match it.

Click here to start shopping.


NEW! Bookstore

booksGet all of your books from our new partner, Future Horizons. Proceeds benefit USAAA programs. You will find offerings from the best minds in the field, providing a wide variety of approaches to the challenges of autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Resources for Caregivers, Resources Educators, Children's Books, plus more. Click here to start shopping.

If you don't find the book you are looking for on this site, contact Future Horizons at 800.489.0727 to see if they are able to get the book for you or go to Shop Our Partners and try to locate the book through Amazon. Proceeds from Amazon benefit USAAA Programs, too.


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