Blue Horizons for Autism: Families Find Success at JFK Airport!

Monday, September 23, 2013Autism SpeaksView Comments
On Saturday, September 21, we were thrilled to partner with JetBlue to host Blue Horizons for Autism at JFK Airport in Queens, NY. Blue Horizons provided over 300 people with the opportunity to navigate the air travel experience in a realistic, relaxed environment, surrounded by other families in the autism community. We know that air travel can be challenging for individuals affected by autism due to sensory issues, communication difficulties and other symptoms. As a result, many families do not fly due to the fear of the response it could elicit from their children with autism, as well as fellow travelers and airline crewmembers. Blue Horizons was designed to allow families to practice the airport experience with the goal of opening the doors to future travel opportunities for families in the autism community!
Every effort was made to ensure the run through was as close to the actual air travel experience as possible. Families arrived at JFK’s Terminal 5 and walked right up to the ticket counter where they picked up their boarding passes and were given their boarding time and gate number. They then made their way through TSA security and explored the terminal or sat at their gate until boarding time. After all of the participants had boarded the plane by row number, the flight crew performed the full in-flight demonstration, and the plane pulled away from the gate! Air traffic control at JFK allowed the plane to circle the airport on the ground so families could experience the plane in motion. The participants were on the plane for roughly 30 minutes. Some were even able to sit in the cockpit with the pilots! Once they got off, there was a reception in the terminal of snacks and drinks to celebrate their accomplishment. We’d like to send out a special thank you to the ten behavior analysts from Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism who were onsite and volunteered their time to help support the participants throughout the day!
We have already gotten wonderful feedback from families who participated in Blue Horizons for Autism. Check out some of the comments below!
Such a great program! My kids enjoyed the whole experience. The staff from Jet Blue and Autism Speaks were great. Couldn’t believe that during our “flight” not one meltdown. Can’t say enough about this program Thank You for a great experience!
This was awesome!! Took my son today and JetBlue was wonderful!! They made this experience so pleasant and fun for my son. They were very helpful and I’m so grateful to them for doing this! My son loves planes now!
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for today. Our sons had a great day and everything went so smoothly. Thank you for helping us in our efforts to return to life as we once knew it :)
Want to let you know how much my son (and I) enjoyed yesterday’s event at JFK. I was deeply moved and several times fought back tears. Thank you and all of the employees at JetBlue who gave so generously of their time on a Saturday to help our kids.
My 7 year old son had a fear of airplanes so I signed up for the event as soon as I found out about it. I was amazed he boarded the plane without incident. Now I have confidence we will be able to travel via airplane. Thank you, Autism Speaks!!
We were so pleased with the success of the event and we hope to work with JetBlue in the near future to host other Blue Horizon events around the country! Stay tuned to our website and Facebook pages for potential opportunities near you!
If you are preparing for air travel with your family, be sure to check out Adventures in Autism: A Guide to the Airport Experience, which we created to help families get ready for their trips!
*We would like to thank JetBlue, Port Authority, TSA and Wyndham Worldwide for making this event possible!

Robots to help people with dementia in Western Isles

NHS Western Isles is putting robots into the homes of people with dementia as part of a pilot scheme to help them to continue to live independently.

A relative or carer – potentially hundreds of miles away – can drive the machine around the house to check that everything is all right.

The pair can also have a chat through a two-way video call system.

The Giraff robots are 1.5m (4ft 11in) tall with wheels, and a TV screen instead of a head.

A relative or carer can call up the Giraff with a computer from any location. Their face will appear on the screen allowing them to chat to the other person.

The operator can also drive the robot around the house to check that medication is being taken and that food is being eaten.

NHS Western Isles will be piloting the Giraff for the first time in Scotland, as part of the European Union project Remodem, which aims to investigate ways to support people with dementia living in remote communities.

‘High hopes’
Health board bosses said earlier trials in Australia showed that people with dementia were not afraid of the machines. They hope the robots will help people living alone in remote areas to feel less lonely.

Chief executive Gordon Jamieson said: “We are absolutely delighted to have the Giraff here with us to trial and we have high hopes for how it may improve the quality of life for some dementia patients.

“As a new technology for us, the robot could also potentially be used in many other areas of healthcare to improve quality of care, live access to specialists, and speed up consultations, regardless of location.”

He added: “Having seen the Giraff in action, I am extremely impressed with how easily it can be moved around by the ‘controller’ so that you can clearly see the environment of the patient, and can have a conversation and meaningful interaction, regardless of distance.”

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The Case for Never Weighing Yourself Again

September 20, 2013 RSS Feed Print
Melinda Johnson
Melinda Johnson
Is your mood for the day frequently tied to the number you see on your bathroom scale? You’re not alone: Recent research reveals that in some people, frequent self-weighing is actually tied to depression, poor body image and an overall crummy mood, even though the subjects were normal weight. Worse, these feelings are also tied to disordered eating, making self-weighing a potential vicious cycle for some. Advocates of the Health At Every Size philosophy point out that being healthy requires healthy behaviors, regardless of what your scale number is – in other words, that number should not be dictating how you treat your body on any given day.

If this rings a bell with you, I invite you to become a “virtual guest” at a successful women’s retreat that focuses on healthy living without dieting, called Green Mountain at Fox Run in Vermont. President and co-owner Marsha Hudnall, a registered dietitian, offers insight into how self-weighing can actually be a destructive behavior. Her responses have been edited:

Q: In your experience, do you find that some people actually damage their health (including mental health) by relying too much on the scale number?

A: Every week, we see women who have spent and still spend a large portion of their lives focused on how much they weigh. If they don’t weigh what they want – and they rarely do –their days are spent feeling bad about themselves to varying degrees. Then, they either spend their time trying to put in place behaviors that they think will help them achieve that weight (behaviors which, by the way, often aren’t healthy and usually send them in the opposite direction), or feeling defeated and depressed about their ability to do “what’s needed” to lose weight. So, from both a physical and mental health standpoint, the focus on the number on the scale can significantly interfere.

[Read: Are You Exercising for the Right Reasons?]

Q: Some health professionals maintain that it is not a good idea to never weigh oneself, because self-regulation is necessary to “keep things in check,” so to speak. Do you agree?

A: I agree that the scale should be an objective measure that can sometimes give important information about health. But there’s too much baggage attached to the number on the scale for many people to be objective about it. And the number is also misused to diagnose health problems – there’s a lot of misinformation out there that attributes health problems to body weight, when often an unhealthy weight can be just as much a symptom of the root cause of the health problems.

Q: How do you convince women that the scale may not be helping them in their effort to become healthier?

A: I talk about weighing ourselves being like seeing your reflection in a store window. Many of us have done this before: We’re walking down the street, feeling good about ourselves. We’ve been eating well, regularly engaging in pleasurable physical activity, starting to get a handle on managing some of the big sources of stress in our lives. Then we happen to glance in the store window and see a reflection of ourselves. Who is still feeling well? Most of the women who come to Green Mountain would agree that they have fallen into a pit of despair about themselves. They don’t like their bodies; they think they’re too fat; they have struggled so much around this and things just seem to be getting worse. They now have to spend their time climbing out of that pit, as opposed to continuing on the path to wellness that they were just on a moment before.

The scale acts just like the store window for many people. We get on it, see a number we don’t like and it sends us to varying degrees of despair. Even if we are in the act of losing weight, the pleasure is temporary for most people because their history is that weight gain will follow weight loss, often ending up weighing more than when they started.
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[Read: The Diet Mentality Paradox: Why Dieting Can Make You Fat.]

Predicting asthma in preschool children with asthma-like symptoms

Published Online: August 28, 2013

Parents of preschool children with asthma-like symptoms, such as wheezing or dry cough, are often interested if their child will have persistent asthma at a later age. It is known that approximately 30% of preschool wheezing children have asthma at school age. Preschool asthma-like symptoms are non-specific, and therefore it is difficult to determine which preschool children with asthma-like symptoms actually have or will develop asthma at school age. Several asthma prediction models have been proposed to improve early diagnosis and management of asthma-like symptoms. The PIAMA Risk Score predicts the probability of developing asthma at school age among preschool children with suggestive symptoms.

A recent study published in The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (JACI), by Hafkamp-de Groen et al, externally validated and updated the PIAMA Risk Score. They used data collected on 2,171 children with preschool asthma-like symptoms participating the PIAMA study (development study) and 2,877 children with preschool asthma-like symptoms, participating in the multi-ethnic prospective population-based cohort study, Generation R (validation study).

At age 6 years, 6% (168/2,877) of the children had developed asthma. Compared to the development study, the original PIAMA Risk Score was able to better distinguish asthmatic from non-asthmatic children. No differences in the ability of the original PIAMA Risk Score to distinguish asthmatic from non-asthmatic children were found at different ages or in ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups of preschool children. The updated PIAMA Risk Score included pre-term birth (instead of post-term) and respiratory tract infections were removed from the original PIAMA Risk Score.

The authors concluded from these results that the original PIAMA Risk Score showed good external validity in a multi-ethnic cohort study. The authors recommend that further studies are needed to reproduce the predictive performance of the updated PIAMA Risk Score in other populations and settings, and to assess its clinical relevance.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

Physical activity improves quality of life

Do you want to add years to your life? Or life to your years?

Feeling your best boosts your zeal for life!

The American Heart Association recommends 30-minutes of moderate activity, but three 10-minute periods of activity are as beneficial to your overall fitness as one 30-minute session. This is achievable! Physical activity may also help encourage you to spend some time outdoors. Sunlight on your skin helps your body produce vitamin D, which brings many added health benefits.

Here are some reasons why physical activity is proven to improve both mental and physical health.

Physical activity boosts mental wellness.

Regular physical activity can relieve tension, anxiety, depression and anger. You may not only notice a “feel good sensation” immediately following your physical activity, but most people also note an improvement in general well-being over time during the weeks and months as physical activity becomes a part of your routine.

Exercise increases the flow of oxygen which directly affects the brain. Your mental acuity and memory can be improved with physical activity.

Physical activity improves physical wellness.

Stronger immunity
It enhances your immune system and decreases the risk of developing diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Reduced risk factors
Becoming more active can lower your blood pressure by as much as 4 to 9 mm Hg. That’s the same reduction in blood pressure delivered by some antihypertensive medications. Physical activity can also boost your levels of good cholesterol.

Physical activity prolongs your optimal health.

Without regular physical activity, the body slowly loses its strength, stamina and ability to function well. And for each hour of regular exercise you get, you’ll gain about two hours of additional life expectancy, even if you don’t start until middle age. Moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, for as little as 30 minutes a day has the proven health benefits listed above as well as:

Improves blood circulation, which reduces the risk of heart disease
Keeps weight under control
Helps in the battle to quit smoking
Improves blood cholesterol levels
Prevents and manages high blood pressure
Prevents bone loss
Boosts energy level
Helps manage stress
Releases tension
Promotes enthusiasm and optimism
Counters anxiety and depression
Helps you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly
Improves self-image
Increases muscle strength, increasing the ability to do other physical activities
Provides a way to share an activity with family and friends
Reduces coronary heart disease in women by 30-40 percent
Reduces risk of stroke by 20 percent in moderately active people and by 27 percent in highly active ones
Establishes good heart-healthy habits in children and counters the conditions (obesity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels, poor lifestyle habits, etc.) that lead to heart attack and stroke later in life
Helps delay or prevent chronic illnesses and diseases associated with aging and maintains quality of life and independence longer for seniors
So why not see for yourself? Once you get over the inertia and find creative ways to fit physical activity into your life, we think you’ll agree that the effort to get moving is worth it!

Increase Alzheimer’s research funding: Column

Don Campbell, USATODAY 4:36 p.m. EDT September 16, 2013
The National Institutes of Health spends more on HIV/AIDS even though more Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.

campbell photo
(Photo: Jym Wilson, USA TODAY)
From 2000 to 2010, deaths of people with Alzheimer’s skyrocketed.
By 2050, the disease could cost Medicare and Medicaid $1.2 trillion a year.
The search for a cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s requires a harder-nosed pursuit of money.

This country is famous for waging health-related “wars” — a war on cancer, a war on smoking, a war on HIV/AIDs, a war on obesity.

It’s time we launched a serious war on Alzheimer’s disease. Right now, we’re pursuing a “national plan to address” Alzheimer’s, passed by Congress two years ago. It’s a timid plan, having produced a lot of bureaucratic boilerplate but only a paltry increase in federal funding for research into the insidious disease.

It includes a goal of being able to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s by 2025, but without the means to achieve that goal. Why is it so difficult to get the war launched?

Robert Egge, vice president of public policy for the national Alzheimer’s Association, quotes the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, whose daughter said she had Alzheimer’s: To successfully mount a political strategy, “first you win the argument, then you win the vote.”

In order to win spending arguments today, you have to contend with a political climate of lawmakers obsessed with federal budget deficits and cutting spending. Yet, because a large part of our economic problems are tied to surging health care costs, the argument for an exponential increase in spending on Alzheimer’s research, now a meager $484 million a year, is multifaceted but simple:

From 2000 to 2010, the percentage of deaths in the U.S. from cancer, HIV/AIDs and cardiovascular diseases declined, some sharply, while deaths of people with Alzheimer’s skyrocketed. The numbers reflect the money spent by the National Institutes of Health on research. For example, this year NIH is spending nearly seven times as much on HIV/AIDs as it is on Alzheimer’s, though there are five times as many people with Alzheimer’s as with HIV/AIDs.

‘Most expensive malady’

A New England Journal of Medicine report last spring showed that Alzheimer’s is “the most expensive malady in the U.S. … exceeding that for heart disease and cancer,” Egge says.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates it costs Medicare three times more to care for someone with Alzheimer’s than for someone without the malady. Medicaid spends 19 times as much. By 2050, the disease could cost Medicare and Medicaid $1.2 trillion a year.

There’s a stigma attached to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia that must be overcome, despite a few admired figures having become a public faces for the disease: Ronald Reagan, former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, singer Glen Campbell.

There’s age discrimination. “We tend to live in an ageist society,” says Eric VanVlymen, executive director of the Miami Valley Alzheimer’s Association in Ohio. Only 4% of people with Alzheimer’s are younger than 65, but nearly half of those 85 or older have Alzheimer’s in a country working tirelessly to extend lives.

There’s an emotional and financial impact on families. “The devastation it does to a family is slow, and it’s long, 10 or 15 years of losing a person you care about,” VanVlymen says. Typically, a family starts out sharing the burden of providing care for the loved one. Then they might hire in-home care attendants, or move Mom or Grandpa into a private Alzheimer’s facility. Only the rich can afford that for long. A private facility can cost $50,000 to $75,000 a year — or more. Eventually, many end up in nursing homes where Medicaid — meaning you — foots the bill.

All of our problem

You may have the attitude that if you don’t have Alzheimer’s in your family, or know anyone who has it, it’s not your problem. Wrong. As long as Medicare and Medicaid remain solvent and you are among the shrinking percentage of people who pay federal taxes, it’s your problem, too.

The Alzheimer’s Association does good work with the resources it has, holding countless “awareness” walks each year and counseling families dealing with the disease. But this is warm and fuzzy stuff; the search for a cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s requires a harder-nosed pursuit of money.

Even Egge, who is “conditionally optimistic” about meeting the 2025 goal, concedes that without quadrupling research funding to $2 billion a year, that goal is “virtually remote.”

In Washington, the squeakiest wheel gets the most grease, and I have a solution: Local Alzheimer’s associations around the country should request — no, demand — that their U.S. represenatives and senators spend one hour, without aides or professional escorts, wandering around an advanced-stage Alzheimer’s ward. Not only would that quickly loosen federal purse strings for Alzheimer’s research, those purse strings would virtually disappear. Guaranteed.

Don Campbell, a former Washington journalist and journalism educator, lives in Oakwood, Ohio, and is a member of USA TODAY’sBoard of Contributors.

In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors. To read more columns like this, go to the opinion front page or follow us on twitter @USATopinion or Facebook.

Kids’ food allergies cost U.S. nearly $25 billion a year, study finds

By Karen Kaplan
September 16, 2013, 1:50 p.m.
Children’s allergies to peanuts, dairy and other foods cost the U.S. nearly $25 billion a year, according to the first survey to come up with a comprehensive price tag for a condition that affects 8% of American kids.

Researchers led by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, surveyed 1,643 parents around the country who have at least one child with a food allergy. The parents’ responses were weighted to match the actual distribution of children with food allergies in the United States.

Here’s what they found:

Doctor’s appointments, hospital stays, trips to the emergency room and other direct medical expenses accounted for $4.3 billion of the tab, researchers reported. The lost productivity of parents who had to take their children to these appointments added $773 million.

Then there were the expenses associated with buying special allergen-free foods, placing children in allergy-sensitive schools and making special arrangements for child care in facilities that are willing to banish peanuts. These costs totaled $5.5 billion.

The biggest cost by far was the money parents gave up by staying out of the workforce, taking lesser jobs or otherwise restricting their careers to accommodate their children’s medical condition. Among the parents surveyed, 9.1% said they had incurred some type of work-related opportunity cost. (Some parents even said they’d been fired as a result of dealing with their kids’ allergies.) Altogether, these costs added up to $14 billion a year.

The grand total for these expenses came to $24.8 billion a year, or $4,184 per child, the researchers found. After excluding medical expenses that would be covered by health insurance, the costs borne by families was $20.5 billion.

To make sure their number was in the ballpark, the researchers asked parents to consider this hypothetical question: How much would you pay each month for a medicine that would cure your child’s allergy? The average response, annualized, was $3,504.

When extrapolated across every single kid with a food allergy in the entire country, the parents’ total willingness to pay to be rid of allergies was $20.8 billion per year. That was surprisingly close to the $20.5 billion per year that food allergies actually cost them, and seemed to validate the high price parents pay in their careers (or lack thereof).

Parents “often need to be at school, social events, or camp to educate and affirm the seriousness of their child’s condition,” the researchers noted in their report, which was published online Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. “In case of an emergency, caregivers may not be able or willing to take a job that requires travel or many hours away from their child.”

Autoimmune diseases may soon become history

By ANI | ANI – Tue 10 Sep, 2013

Washington, Sept. 10 (ANI):An immunologist has said that with some prompting, the protein STING can turn down the immune response or even block its attack on healthy body constituents like collagen, insulin and the protective covering of neurons – targets of the debilitating diseases.
Medical College of Georgia researchers saw STING’s critical role play out after they injected into the bloodstream submicroscopic DNA nanoparticles, engineered carriers for delivering drugs or genes into cells.
They learned that the magic is in STING, which recognizes the molecule that senses the DNA then prompts release of IDO, or indoleomine 2,3-dioxyegenase.
Dr. Andrew L. Mellor, immunologist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University said that the fact that STING is actually part of the DNA-sensing pathway tells us something we did not know before.
DNA nanoparticles apparently look to the body a lot like the debris that results when dying cells release DNA from their nucleus.
Researchers already knew there was a link between STING and immunity: the food-borne bacterium listeria releases cyclic dinucleotides to activate STING in cells it has infected.
When MCG researchers put the STING stimulus into the bloodstream, it results in suppression. Other scientists have generated the exact opposite effect by injecting STING stimulating reagents under the skin.
In the bloodstream, there are a lot of immune cells called phagocytes that ingest the submicroscopic particles that wind up in the fluid portion of the cell, called the cytoplasm, where most cellular activity happens.
There, sensors detect the DNA and trigger signaling that leads to expression of IDO. In this complex interplay, STING appears essential to recognizing the molecule that recognizes the DNA.
The study has been published in the Journal of Immunology. (ANI)

How Diabetes is Effecting Your Mental Health—And Vice Versa

Posted on September 11th, 2013 by Eliot LeBow, LCS

You can’t sleep—again. Despite daytime fatigue, every time lie down for bed you’re suddenly restless.

At social gatherings, you feel like everyone around you is thinking about your new diagnosis. You’ve begun to avoid them.

With the added responsibility of checking your blood sugar, keeping your mental health under control has become more critical than ever.

Every day, millions of Americans suffer with psychiatric issues. For people with diabetes, these issues are more common, and get in the way of proper healthcare.

What puts people at risk for mental illness? For the general population, risk factors fall into three categories: inherited traits (like a family history of alcoholism), environmental exposures before birth (like virus or toxin exposure in the womb), or environmental exposures after birth (like domestic violence, emotional, sexual or physical abuse during childhood). For those of us living with diabetes, the disease itself is a fourth risk factor for mental illness.

Diabetes has both physiological and emotional links to your mental state. Children with Type 1 diabetes are prone to physical damage to various regions of the brain, impairing attention, processing, long-term memory, and executive skills. Individuals with Type 2 diabetes (generally adults with fully developed brains) are more prone to depression and anxiety brought on by out-of-control blood sugar levels and the trauma of diagnosis.

When it comes to addressing the dual challenge of diabetes and mental health problems, we’ve made strides. Researchers have a good sense of why psychiatric illnesses hit the diabetic population harder than the general one. In this eight-part blog series, I’ll examine some of the most common psychological disorders I’ve encountered with my patients—and discuss how they interact with diabetes, and what you can do to alleviate them.

Learning to identify and address your mental health issues is essential to managing your diabetes. Is your psychological disorder interfering with your diabetes care? Or have you and your healthcare providers developed a system that works? Share your experience with us in the comments section!

Best Way to Fight Type 2 Diabetes: Not What You Think

By Deborah Mitchell G+ June 29, 2012 – 7:12am for eMaxHealth
Diabetes Care Current News
Best way to fight type 2 diabetes

The conventional way to fight type 2 diabetes is to focus on diet, exercise, weight loss and, as recommended by the American Diabetes Association, to take the standard antidiabetes drug–metformin. But the authors of a new study say they have the best way to fight type 2 diabetes, and it’s not business as usual.

This diabetes treatment could be a breakthrough
If you want to make a significant impact on type 2 diabetes, then you need to treat it fast and aggressively, according to Dr. Ildiko Lingvay, assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Although diet, exercise, and weight management are certainly important, early and intensive treatment “can potentially change the course of this prevalent disease, which would represent a breakthrough,” noted Lingvay.

The trial consisted of 58 patients, ages 21 to 70, who had been newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. All the participants were treated with insulin and metformin during a three-month lead-in period, after which they were randomly assigned to one of two groups for 3.5 years of treatment: continuation of insulin plus metformin, or a trio of drugs–metformin, glyburide, and pioglitazone.

The goal of the trial was to determine whether early, aggressive therapy using an insulin-based approach or a trio of oral antidiabetes drugs would help preserve or even improve beta-cell function over 42 months.

Beta cells manufacture and release insulin and amylin, hormones that regulate sugar (glucose) levels in the blood. The beta cells are in tune with the body’s glucose levels and can quickly release extra insulin when it’s needed. Individuals who have type 2 diabetes have dysfunctional beta cells that gradually stop to view more