Autism News Beat

An evidence-based resource for journalists

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About

I am a writer, former journalist, and father of a 16-year-old autistic son. I started this site to help journalists cover autism related stories. It is my intention to offer constructive reviews of print and television news coverage, and to do my own original reporting on this subject. Please feel free to contact me @  autismnewsbeat@gmail.com .

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31 Comments

31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 anonymous // Mar 1, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Hey, man, great site!

    I’m really happy that you’re able to take a scientific, rational view of this.

    I don’t have an autistic kid myself, though my nephew is autistic.

    Cheers.

  • 2 Diego Pineda // May 13, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Great content and great idea to help other journalists cover this topic.
    We are publishing a book next month titled, “Do Vaccines Cause That?! A Guide for Evaluating Vaccine Safety Concerns,” and I’m trying to get the word out to bloggers like you. The site for the book is http://www.dovaccinescausethat.com. Let me know if you would like a review copy. Thanks.

  • 3 Epi Wonk // May 29, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    It’s great to see a blog like this run by a journalist. If you have the time, take a look at my blog at http://epiwonk.com/. It’s not specifically devoted to autism, but I do have some posts on the subject. I’m mostly aiming toward improving medical reporting in general.
    Keep up the good work,
    Epi Wonk

  • 4 Suzanne Berman, MD, FAAP // Mar 19, 2009 at 6:53 am

    Fabulous website!

  • 5 Benjamin Wyatt // Sep 2, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    As the father of a six month old baby and someone searching for serious answers to the vaccine debate, I’m dismayed that this site like most others, regardless of which side they are on, mostly revolves around mindlessly attacking the other side’s personal advocates. This site has some good facts it is just a shame I have to waste most of the time spent here slogging through the mud rather than getting anything useful.

  • 6 Harold L Doherty // Nov 30, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Thought you might , as someone with a purported interest in evidence based autism journalism, be interested in this press release about the early intervention study from UC Davis Mind Institute:

    Early intervention for toddlers with autism
    highly effective, study finds
    Significant gains seen in IQ, communication and social interaction

    (Seattle, Nov. 30, 2009) – A novel early intervention program for very young children with autism – some as young as 18 months – is effective for improving IQ, language ability, and social interaction, a comprehensive new study has found.

    “This is the first controlled study of an intensive early intervention that is appropriate for children with autism who are less than 2½ years of age. Given that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all 18- and 24-month-old children be screened for autism, it is crucial that we can offer parents effective therapies for children in this age range,” said Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., chief science officer of Autism Speaks and the study’s lead author. “By starting as soon as the toddler is diagnosed, we hope to maximize the positive impact of the intervention.”

    The study, published online today in the journal Pediatrics, examined an intervention called the Early Start Denver Model, which combines applied behavioral analysis (ABA) teaching methods with developmental ‘relationship-based’ approaches. This approach was novel because it blended the rigor of ABA with play-based routines that focused on building a relationship with the child. While the youngest children in the study were 18 months old, the intervention is designed to be appropriate for children with autism as young as 12 months of age. Although previous studies have found that early intervention can be helpful for preschool-aged children, interventions for children who are toddlers are just now being tested. Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by repetitive behaviors and impairment in verbal communication and social interaction. It is reported to affect one in 100 children in the United States.

    “Infant brains are quite malleable so with this therapy we’re trying to capitalize on the potential of learning that an infant brain has in order to limit autism’s deleterious effects, to help children lead better lives,” said Sally Rogers, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, a study co-author and a researcher at the UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif. Rogers and Dawson developed the intervention.

    The five-year study took place at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle and was led by Dawson, then a professor of psychology and director of the university’s Autism Center, in partnership with Rogers. It involved therapy for 48 diverse, 18- to 30-month-old children with autism and no other health problems. Milani Smith, who oversees the UW Autism Center’s clinical programs, provided day-to-day oversight.

    The children were separated into two groups, one that received 20 hours a week of the intervention – two two-hour sessions five days a week – from UW specialists. They also received five hours a week of parent-delivered therapy. Children in the second group were referred to community-based programs for therapy. Both groups’ progress was monitored by UW researchers. At the beginning of the study there was no substantial difference in functioning between the two groups.

    At the conclusion of the study, the IQs of the children in the intervention group had improved by an average of approximately 18 points, compared to a little more than four points in the comparison group. The intervention group also had a nearly 18-point improvement in receptive language (listening and understanding) compared to approximately 10 points in the comparison group. Seven of the children in the intervention group had enough improvement in overall skills to warrant a change in diagnosis from autism to the milder condition known as ‘pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified,’ or PDD-NOS. Only one child in the community-based intervention group had an improved diagnosis.

    “We believe that the ESDM group made much more progress because it involved carefully structured teaching and a relationship-based approach to learning with many, many learning opportunities embedded in the play,” Rogers said.

    “Parental involvement and use of these strategies at home during routine and daily activities are likely important ingredients of the success of the outcomes and their child’s progress. The study strongly affirms the positive outcomes of early intervention and the need for the earliest possible start,” Dawson said.

    In this study, the intervention was provided in a toddler’s natural environment (their home) and delivered by trained therapists and parents who received instruction and training as part of the model.

    “Parents and therapists both carried out the intervention toward individualized goals for each child, and worked collaboratively to improve how the children were responding socially, playing with toys, and communicating,” said Milani Smith, associate director of the UW Autism Center and a study co-author. “Parents are taught strategies for capturing their children’s attention and promoting communication. By using these strategies throughout the day, the children were offered many opportunities to learn to interact with others.”

    Other study authors include Jeffrey Munson, Jamie Winter, Jessica Greenson, and Jennifer Varley, all of UW Autism Center or the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Amy Donaldson of the department of speech and hearing science, Portland State University, Portland, Ore.

    The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). NIMH has also funded a multi-site trial of the Early Start Denver Model which is currently being conducted at the University of Washington, the UC Davis MIND Institute and the University of Michigan.

    About Autism Speaks
    Autism Speaks is the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks funds more than $30 million each year in new autism research, in addition to supporting the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange, Autism Clinical Trials Network, Autism Tissue Program and a range of other scientific and medical programs. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit http://www.autismspeaks.org.

    About UC Davis MIND Institute
    The UC Davis MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute, in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where parents, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and eventual preventions and cures for neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition to autism, the MIND Institute has major research efforts in fragile X syndrome, Tourette syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome and ADHD. More information about the institute is available on the web at http://www.mindinstitute.org.

    ###

    Jane E. Rubinstein
    Sr. Vice President
    Rubenstein Associates
    1345 Avenue of the Americas, 30th fl.
    New York, NY 10105-0109
    212-843-8287 direct
    212-843-9200 fax
    516-993-0708 cell
    jrubinstein@rubenstein.com

  • 7 J. Brian Harris, Ph.D., P.E. // Mar 17, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    I believe you requested that I email you, as you have a question (to ask me)…

    Please ask. Thanks.

    J. Brian Harris, Ph.D., P.E.
    Wisconsin Registered Professional Engineer 34106

  • 8 autblog // Mar 17, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    autismnewsbeat@gmail.com

  • 9 sheldon101 // Jun 9, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I like it. Added to my blogroll.

  • 10 Terence Mix // Sep 18, 2010 at 11:13 am

    On May 20, 2010, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health presented their findings from a study exploring the possible relationship between the use of fertility drugs and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The scientists reported to attendees at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia that women who used fertility drugs to get pregnant had almost double the risk of having a child with ASD verses nonusers. The drugs studied included Clomid (clomiphene citrate) and Pergonal (gonadotropin).

    This recent study is part of a growing body of research that strengthens the argument that Clomid and other fertility drugs are a cause of ASD via their ability to deny cholesterol to a developing embryo shortly after conception. About 58% of ASD children have low total cholesterol (<160 mg/dL) and about 19% have extremely low total cholesterol (<100 mg/dL). The average level for children is 165 mg/dL. It has also been observed that a high percentage of children (71-86%) born with Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS), in addition to a wide array of birth defects are also born with ASD. Infants with SLOS are born with a defective enzyme that impairs the body’s ability to convert a precursor (7-dehydrocholesterol) to cholesterol. Cholesterol is essential for growth of the myelin membranes that cover the brain and abnormalities in the myelin sheath are believed to be a contributing cause of ASD. Many experts thus believe that low cholesterol during early embryonic development is one of the causes of ASD.

    Clomid has a long half-life and is present during the embryonic period (first 8 weeks) even when taken before conception. Studies have shown it to be biologically active for up to 54 days after ingestion and that it can accumulate over successive cycles of treatment. In the Harvard study they found that the longer the use of fertility drugs, the higher the risk of developing ASD. A critically important fact – and one not known by most physicians prescribing the drug – is that Clomid is a cholesterol inhibitor and impairs its production by acting upon enzymes in the body similar to Lipitor and other statin drugs. Its chemical structure is also similar to the cholesterol-reducing drug, Triparanol, which was briefly available during the 1960s. Animal studies have shown that Clomid and Triparanol both act on the same enzyme and affect developing organs in a similar way, with Triparanol being slightly more potent.

    Pergonal (also known as human menopausal gonadotropin or hMG) likewise reduces cholesterol, but by way of a different mechanism. Namely, it suppresses cholesterol levels in early pregnancy via its ability to elevate estrogen production. Studies have established that following hyperstimulation of the ovaries by Pergonal, the resulting elevated estrogen during the luteal (post-ovulation) phase of the cycle suppresses the level of total cholesterol. In fact, there is an inverse correlation between concentrations of estrogen and the level of total cholesterol – the higher the level of estrogen, the lower the concentration of total cholesterol.

    The GOOD NEWS is that many ASD children with low cholesterol, treated with cholesterol supplementation, have shown dramatic improvement. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, led by Dr. Richard Kelley, have shown such treatment resulting in improved mobility, verbalization, growth, behavior, sociability and alertness. More importantly, once we have a full understanding about a cause of ASD, we will be in a position to eliminate that cause and reduce the number of families impacted by this tragic congenital anomaly. For further research in the impact of fertility drugs on the human embryo see http://www.terencemix.com.

  • 11 Chris // Sep 19, 2010 at 9:40 am

    That is just too silly for words! First, I don’t believe that many women use fertility drugs, so you really needed to post the actual papers (your website is not enough). Plus, while brain development is dependent on enough energy, again you need to post actual papers and not your own website.

    It is almost like you are trying to sell something.

  • 12 Chris // Sep 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    On further inspection, Mr. Mix is a lawyer who is spamming this blog to sell his book.

  • 13 autblog // Sep 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    That’s just sad.

  • 14 gina // Dec 15, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Im glad I got a taste of what this sites (creator) is all about….You are a very mean, condescending man…to pick apart anothers blog that has only helped so many others with autism is not only pathetic, mean spirited & evil…its WRONG. And you have the GALL to hide behind the Autism blog with a “donate” button….well how convenient for you…as for this mom of Autism….You DONT exist.

  • 15 autblog // Dec 16, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Gina,

    Thanks for stopping by. Which post are you referring to?

  • 16 Autism News Beat | fauxtistics.com // May 13, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    [...] no son at all, but he does. You’ll have to look carefully, the only mention of him is in the about section of his [...]

  • 17 John Ordover // Jun 25, 2011 at 7:08 am

    ARTISM EXHIBIT EXPANDS TO THREE WEEKS, ADDS FILM FESTIVAL.

    ARTISM: The Art of Autism
    Exhibition and Sale
    &
    The ARTISM Film Festival

    JULY 7th to JULY 27th

    Opening Reception Thursday, July 7th, 2011 6pm – 9pm

    The SoHo Gallery for Digital Art
    138 Sullivan St., New York, NY 10012 (212) 228-2810

    Stunning Exhibition Presents Astonishing Artworks
    By People with Autism
    ¬
    The SoHo Gallery for Digital Art presents ARTISM: The Art of Autism. Based on the book ARTISM by Debra Hosseini, who curated this show, the exhibit uses the unique capabilities of the gallery to feature hundreds of pieces including works by Temple Grandin and dozens of other creators with autism from around the world. The exhibit opens an incredible doorway into the imaginative worlds of people with Autism. All gallery proceeds from sale of prints of the works will go to the Reach for the Stars Learning Center for Autistic Children in Brooklyn, NY.

    Fantastic Film Festival showcases films
    about, by and for people on the autism spectrum.

    THE ARTISM FILM FESTIVAL will run concurrently with the ARTISM exhibit, and will include the groundbreaking HBO Film TEMPLE GRANDIN, the controversial film FLY WITH ME, PORTRAIT OF EMOTIONS and fascinating mix of drama, comedy and documentary films about, by and for people on the autism spectrum. While the EXHIBITION is free, there will be a suggested donation of $10.00 for each day’s screening.
    Curator and author Debra Hosseini will be attending the opening as will many of the featured artists including Esther Brokaw, Travis Aycox and Maria Iliou, who will be signing copies of the ARTI¬SM book. There will also be short presentations by Ms. Hosseini, by Dr. Rosa C. Martinez, a founding member of the nonprofit arts organization Strokes of Genius, an expert on art and autism and editor of the ARTISM book, and gallery owner John Ordover, owner of The SoHo Gallery For Digital Art, who has a son on the autism spectrum. All gallery proceeds from the EXHIBITION and the FILM FESTIVAL will be donated to Reach for the Stars Learning Center, the non-profit school for autistic children his son attends.
    Samples of art from the exhibit can be found at http://artismtoday.com/art-gallery. Please see attached poster for the exhibit or download it from http://flic.kr/p/9Wwbaj.

    For more information contact: John Ordover at The SoHo Gallery for Digital Art,
    212 228-2810/sgdaintra@gmail.com or Debra Hosseini at 805-259-6879/ artismtoday@gmail.com.

    Debra Hosseini is a mom of three children. Her youngest child, Kevin, is featured in this exhibit. After Kevin was diagnosed with autism at age four, Debra left her full-time career as a computer analyst to become a stay-at-home mom and has dedicated her time to creating a better world for children and individuals with disabilities. Debra was a founding board member with several organizations that serve individuals with autism and developmental disabilities in Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, California. She now writes and curates art exhibits for people with autism and developmental disabilities.

    Rosa C. Martinez, Ph.D., BCBA-D Dr. Martinez has been working with individuals on the autism spectrum, ranging from infants to adult populations for approximately 30 years. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst currently working for the NYS Dept of Education. She is the President of “Strokes of Genius” and organizes art exhibitions throughout the United States featuring the artworks of savants and individuals on the autism spectrum.

    The SoHo Gallery for Digital Art is owned and run by John Ordover, whose eight-year old son is on the autism spectrum. Using digital display screens instead of traditional displays allows the gallery to rotate through multiple works by multiple artists in a single night. The gallery sells high-quality art prints of the works displayed.

  • 18 Jane Sullivan // Dec 12, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Have you seen today’s article in the Lost Angeles Times today, “Unraveling an Epidemic”? Fantastic!

  • 19 John Paolozzi // Dec 16, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Hey there,

    Super interesting site. Thanks for your efforts. I’m father to a 6-year-old boy who was just recently diagnosed with ASD, so just starting to navigate the halls of craziness the internet has to offer. I came across your site after reading about you being ejected from the Autism One conference, which I was searching after watching a recent documentary on CBC’s The Nature of Things with David Suzuki:

    http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episode/autism-enigma.html

    The gist of this doc is that there may be a correlation between autism and gut bacteria. Would love to hear your take on things.

  • 20 seo // Jan 31, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Amazing blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Many thanks!

  • 21 autblog // Feb 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Thank you. I appreciate that.

    I started blogging about politics about ten years ago. I used free platforms like Blogger. I started ANB about three years ago.

    You probably want to start with a free platform. That’s how most of us start out. ; – )

  • 22 Greta // Jun 16, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    So who writes this? Supposedly he is a writer, former journalist and father of a 16 year old autistic son but there is no name I can find. Is this a reliable site or one set up by the pharma industry, AMA, or who. I can’t take seriously someone who isn’t willing to put their name out there. I also agree with Benjamin Wyatt’s comment.

  • 23 Chris // Jun 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Well, Greta, no one expects you to take anything you read seriously. Especially on someone’s personal website.

    What you need to do is decide who is using actual factual evidence, despite the name or lack of name. Perhaps you would prefer ScienceBasedMedicine, where the authors are all identified. Or if you wish http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/, where everyone, including the guest authors are identified. Or one of editors of the latter’s other sites: http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/.

  • 24 Ken Reibel // Jun 23, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    I am not paid to promote autism awareness and acceptance. “Greta”, are you paid to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt?

  • 25 Andrew // Jun 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Hey. I think I just figured out the name of the mysterious person who writes this blog. Should I say, or is Greta still interested in figuring it out for herself?

  • 26 Chris // Jun 26, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    It is about as secret as Orac’s identity. Seriously, folks, it is about how they reference what they write!

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  • 28 Billy Cresp // Apr 9, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Considering your focus is on exposing faulty theories on causes/treatment of autism, why are your posts often riddled with the shaming of “doom and gloom” expressions and hints that autism’s disability isn’t a serious problem? I think it makes it look like you’re hiding something.

  • 29 autblog // Apr 10, 2014 at 5:52 am

    Not sure what you mean, Billy. Can you give me an example?

  • 30 Billy Cresp // Apr 18, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    “These stories give us hope, and are a welcome relief from the doom and gloom crowd who characterize autism, and thus some children and adults, as train wrecks and lost souls.” in your post from March 24th, 2014

  • 31 autblog // Apr 19, 2014 at 6:28 am

    I guess because I spent too many years immersed in doom and gloom over my son’s autism diagnosis. Over time I came to accept it. I’m in a better place now. I also believe it is disrespectful, and even counterproductive, to see any person with autism as a lost cause, damaged goods, a train wreck, mercury poisoned, without a soul, etc.

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