Heart of Autism: Teacher on the Spectrum Inspires Students with Autism

Thursday, February 20, 2014
This Heart of Autism post is written by Ann Kagarise, the Assistant Director at IDEA House Educational Services, a published author, a journalist, an amazing photographer, a counselor, a volunteer in her community. She also happens to be on the autism spectrum! Below is a beautiful poem written by Ann about her experiences as a woman on the spectrum teaching students with autism: “There is no other place I would rather be than at a school that ‘gets’ me.”
Pull up a blade of grass, sit down and get to know me
Sit quietly with me. I love your company, but I love the silence.
Look at life, with me, as if you are looking at it for the first time.
Watch my eyes dance as I think of something fun.
Look at the world as a toy.
Play.
Enjoy.
Love.
Connect.
When I hear others speak of Autism, they miss the best parts.
“People on the spectrum do not connect.”
Funny.
When I look into the eyes of a child with Autism, I feel a connection that goes to my soul.
I feel what they are feeling. I hurt when they are hurting. I feel joy when they feel joy.
I empathize. I love them deeply.
There is no place I would rather be.
I would have done anything to have a school like IDEA House when I was a kid.
I would have done anything for someone to ‘get’ me.’
“She doesn’t make eye contact.”
“She doesn’t make friends.”
“She likes to be by herself.”
“She’s different.”
You think we don’t hear that?
Yes. We do. While thinking, if they knew how much we feel, they would understand why I have to get a break from life at times.
If they knew just how much connection I feel with the people around me they would understand why my skin hurts at times and why I just cannot look at them.
There is no other place I would rather be than at a school that ‘gets’ me.
A place that offers more for kids on the spectrum than I ever had as a kid.
To come alongside a kid on the spectrum and show them that they can do it, gives me purpose.
It makes my life of struggles all worth it.
IDEA House is a place that took me in. They allowed me to grow and to be who I was at first.
We meet kids on the spectrum where they are. I have a degree in counseling and there is no other place I would want to work than beside a child with Autism.
“I have Autism, too.”
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Autism and Toxic Chemicals: Are Pollutants Fueling Rising Prevalence?

Date: February 18, 2014
Researchers link more pollutants to disorders of brain development; call for global prevention strategy to control their use

A new report implicates a growing number of industrial chemicals as contributing to autism and other disorders of brain development. The authors call for a global strategy to reduce exposure.

The report appears online in Lancet Neurology. The authors are Harvard environmental epidemiologist Philippe Grandjean and Mount Sinai Medical School pediatrician and epidemiologist Philip Landrigan.

The new report summarizes evidence from published studies on industrial chemicals and brain toxicity and updates the review that the authors conducted in 2006.

Five known threats to brain development
Their 2006 review identified five widely used industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants.” Such chemicals can contribute to developmental brain disorders such as autism. The five were lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic and toluene.

In addition, the 2006 report identified more than 200 industrial chemicals that cause brain damage in adults. The authors warned that many of these might likewise cause developmental brain disorders.

Six more chemicals on the danger list
The new report adds six chemicals to the list of developmental neurotoxicants. They are high-doses of manganese or fluoride, the pesticides chlorpyrifos and DDT, the solvent tetrachloroethylene and polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are flame retardants applied to furniture.

Manganese and fluoride become toxic only at unnaturally high levels. The doses in vitamins and dental-hygiene products are safe.

While exposure to some of these chemicals is common in North America, the highest exposures tend to occur in developing nations, notes Alycia Halladay, Autism Speaks senior director for environmental and clinical sciences.

“Most exposures are hard for individuals to control themselves,” Dr. Halladay adds. “One way to prevent exposure is through regulation. Examples include the elimination of lead from gasoline and paint and the Clean Air Act.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Halladay agrees with the authors’ call for more research on the hundreds of toxic industrial chemicals now polluting the environment.

Many other neurotoxicants are likely contributing to a “silent pandemic” of developmental brain disorders, Drs. Grandjean and Landrigan write. As evidence, they cite studies linking autism risk to prenatal exposure to high levels of air pollution. (Click here for the full text of one of these studies, funded in part by Autism Speaks.)

Autism Speaks funds further research
Autism Speaks has funded a number of studies on autism risk and air pollution. In addition, it is currently supporting several studies collecting information on autism risk and exposures to other types of toxic chemicals.

To further speed discoveries, Autism Speaks is also funding the development of the Early Life Exposure Assessment Tool (ELEAT). Designed for autism research, this instrument allows investigators to combine the results of multiple studies on early environmental exposures. By increasing sample sizes, this will boost scientists’ ability to uncover toxic effects.

Learn more about Autism Speaks Environmental Factors in Autism Initiative here. For a full list of Autism Speaks studies on environmental risk factors for autism, click here.

Explore all the research Autism Speaks is funding using this website’s grant search.

Detecting Autism In The Eyes Of Your Baby

POSTED 2 MONTHS, 2 WEEKS AGO BY ALLISON ESPIRITU

Detecting Autism In The Eyes Of Your Baby

It’s known that children who have been diagnosed with autism do not make eye contact, but is it possible to find these signs at an earlier age? Researchers at Emory University have discovered an eye tracking software that shows where your baby is looking and has proven to find changes already happening that may detect autism.

Studying babies as early as two months old, these researchers have found that by six months children with autism spend less time looking at eyes. This technology can now help identify autism before a parent or doctor sees signs.

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