Sunday, September 23, 2007

While Doing Research on an Entirely Different Subject....

I stumbled across an incredibly interesting article about vitamin D and autism. I became quite thoroughly distracted from my original task as I read this long, but fascinating, 11 page article, then felt compelled to search for other research and information on the theories expressed within it, despite the pile of work on my (virtual) desk that needs attention. In my travels I found this article, posted on the Autism Today site, and this one in the Telegraph, among many others.

While the connection has yet to be proven, I found the evidence compelling enough to agree with the author of this theory, John Jacob Cannell MD, in his concluding point:

"That is, what do we do while we wait for all the hundreds of studies that need to be done to see if the vitamin D theory is correct? The studies will take years. If we do nothing but just wait, we are continuing an unplanned naturalistic experiment on pregnant women, the brains of their unborn children, and upon autistic individuals. A risk/benefit analysis tells us the risk of doing nothing is potentially great while the risk of treating vitamin D deficiency is minimal, simply good medicine, and the better choice."

I am filing this one in my "can't hurt" file. Correcting vitamin D deficiency can do no harm, especially since a lack of this nutrient can contribute to a stunning array of other health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and chronic pain, to name just a few.

Well, back to my neglected to do list.....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Symptoms of Little Known Vision Problem Can Mimic Autism and ADD

This article was forwarded to me by my daughter’s Special Ed teacher and I thought it might be of interest. If you are a parent who is in the midst of testing with your child for developmental concerns, this is a possibility that is worth exploration. It seems many children with this condition are mistakenly diagnosed with other disorders, as many health care providers are unaware of convergence insufficiency. My daughter had a similar issue with her vision, which affected her gross and fine motor skills development for a period of time. Vision therapy has resulted in a 99% resolution of the problem; her vision is perfect most of the time now, and the improvement has made incredible progress in other areas possible. I have included a portion of this article below, but it is well worth reading in its entirety…just follow the link.

Not Autistic or Hyperactive. Just Seeing Double at Times

As an infant, Raea Gragg was withdrawn and could not make eye contact. By preschool she needed to smell and squeeze every object she saw.

“She touched faces and would bring everything to mouth,” said her mother, Kara Gragg, of Lafayette, Calif. “She would go up to people, sniff them and touch their cheeks.”

Specialists conducted a battery of tests. The possible diagnoses mounted: autism spectrum disorder, neurofibromatosis, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorder.

A behavioral pediatrician prescribed three drugs for attention deficit and depression. The only constant was that Raea, now 9, did anything she could to avoid reading and writing.

Though she had already had two eye exams, finding her vision was 20/20, this year a school reading specialist suggested another. And this time the ophthalmologist did what no one else had: he put his finger on Raea’s nose and moved it in and out. Her eyes jumped all over the place.

Within minutes he had the diagnosis: convergence insufficiency, in which the patient sees double because the eyes cannot work together at close range.

Experts estimate that 5 percent of school-age children have convergence insufficiency. They can suffer headaches, dizziness and nausea, which can lead to irritability, low self-esteem and inability to concentrate.

Doctors and teachers often attribute the behavior to attention disorders or seek other medical explanations. Mrs. Gragg said her pediatrician had never heard of convergence insufficiency.

Dr. David Granet, a professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, said: “Everyone is familiar with A.D.H.D. and A.D.D., but not with eye problems, especially not with convergence insufficiency. But we don’t want to send kids for remedial reading and education efforts if they have an eye problem. This should be part of the protocol for eye doctors.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Six New Autism-Related Bills Signed Into Law In NJ

You can see the list of the new laws right here.

One of the Aspects of Autism Most Interesting to Me

I first became interested in autism many years ago due to a child that I knew. I suspected his autism was more environmental – as in his family life – than typical, as it came on much later than is typical and there were circumstances… his parents became crackheads and the children were locked in a bedroom for hours upon hours while the parents and others were sitting around in the living room smoking crack. I knew the child before and after, as well as one can know a child that one sees regularly out and about in the neighborhood. I was stunned when, after a period of not seeing the child, I ran into the father – after he stopped smoking crack daily – and the child, who was suddenly displaying hardcore, classic autism symptoms. Autism is what the father said to we as we were in the checkout line… but right then, I started to wonder.

The shocking, stunning, absolutely amazing increase in autism during the past two decades is one of the most interesting aspects of autism for me. The Mercury News reported today:

“The disorder has increased more than 600 percent in recent years, now affecting about one in every 150 children. It is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States.”

While certainly, a fair proportion of that increase can be attributed to the broadening of the diagnosis to include symptoms beyond the classic autism, i.e., autism spectrum disorders, it seems to me that there must be something else going on here. And, what that something is or those somethings are interests greatly, as I’m sure it does many other people. There are many theories and much conflict concerning the cause or causes of autism, and many factors at play.

The history of autism and the statistics of its occurrence in the population make for interesting reading. I find it quite interesting that we see families, like this one, with 6 children diagnosed, and this one, with 5 children diagnosed with varying degrees of autism. The word epidemic is starting to be used more commonly in mainstream media to describe the increasing rate of autism. And, it seems to me, with good reason.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Welcome to Autism Information

My name is Melinda L. Secor, and I am a single mother of three children and a full time freelance writer. Before giving up working outside the home to homeschool my children, I spent seventeen years in the healthcare/developmental disabilities fields. During this time, I worked with both the physical aspects of disabilities as a direct care worker, and with behavioral/ life skills issues as a Residential Habilitation Counselor, with the goal of enhancing client independence and social skills. Through my work, I have gained a great deal of knowledge and experience in the day to day challenges faced by people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Beyond my professional experience with developmental disabilities, I have a personal interest, having close personal and family ties with a number of individuals who have special needs. Among them are a god-daughter with severe autism, a young man, soon be my ward, who has cerebral palsy and mental retardation, and my own youngest child, born three and a half years ago with Down syndrome.

My sister, Sharon Secor, also a freelance writer and a homeschooling mother of four, is very interested in child development in general, and has a college background in adolescent psychology. She has a special interest in cognitive development, particularly in the mechanics, so to speak, of cognition and has spent a great deal of time researching autism spectrum disorders specifically. We have decided to collaborate in creating this blog in an effort to explore and discuss the many aspects of living with autism, as well as providing information and resources that we hope will be both helpful and interesting.