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Autism News

Writer with autism calls for more acceptance

Toronto, Canada — In an online op-ed, writer and autism advocate Sarah Kurchak makes a powerful personal call for increased interpersonal acceptance and tolerance of people on the autism spectrum like herself.


Ms. Kurchak, who recently turned 36, points out the numerous risks associated with living with autism, including health and energy issues, life-threatening accidents, unemployment, and even uncaring caregivers. 


“Because I can speak, work, and maintain a semblance of a social life—and because I am able to hide my most severe symptoms from other people—they assume that I am too ‘high-functioning’ to be considered autistic,” she points out.


However, for those with autism, a high-functioning life still brings a parade of challenges, Ms. Kurchak writes.  These include being “tired all the time” due to “the effort it takes to fit in,” and the resulting “erratic” sleeping patterns; chronic anxiety; and “whether my contributions to my family, friends, and the world are at least equal to all that I feel like I’m taking from it.”


Amusingly addressing one common autism stereotype, “I repeatedly have to tell people I’m not a math savant,” she writes.


“So what do I want you to do about it?  Listen to us,” she concludes.


“Think about how hard we’re working to exist in your world and consider meeting us halfway.  Tell us we don’t bore you.  Tell us we don’t drain you.  Look at us somewhere other than the eyes—we’re really not comfortable with eye contact and are tired of being forced to make it for your benefit—and tell us that we deserve to be alive.  And then act like it.”



‘Cognitive enhancement therapy’ boosts employability: study

Pittsburgh, PA — According to a new study by the University of Pittsburgh, cognitive improvements, and resulting employability, may be increased by a therapy designed to bolster social learning.


The therapeutic approach, called “cognitive enhancement therapy,” combines computer-based tasks with structured group sessions.


The computer games are believed to improve problem-solving and memory, while the closely monitored group sessions ostensibly provide participants with valuable practice in reading nonverbal cues, taking someone else’s perspective, as well as with other social skills.


Cognitive enhancement therapy already has a record of success helping adults with schizophrenia to secure and maintain employment.  The new study focused on applying the method towards benefiting young adults who have autism.


Results of the study, the largest and most comprehensive evaluation of cognitive enhancement therapy for people with autism, was published recently in Autism Research.



Feds fast-track autism drug despite questions

Washington, D.C. — In mid-February, Swiss drug maker Roche won a rare “breakthrough therapy” designation from the FDA for balovaptan, an experimental new autism drug.


The designation allows balovaptan to move faster to final FDA approval.


The drug works by suppressing the social hormone vasopressin in the brain.  It was shown in a Roche trial to improve scores on the popular Vineland behavior survey in 223 men with autism who were taking various dosages of the drug daily for 12 weeks.


There are currently no drugs approved to treat the central features of autism, although risperidone and aripiprazole are approved for treating the irritability associated with autism.



Up to 90-percent accuracy for first-ever autism blood test

Warwick, England — Last month, it was U.S.-based LabCorp announcing approval of the first patented autism diagnosis test.  This month, it’s a British university announcing development of an autism test of its own.  The still-experimental test is far from available to the public.


While the LabCorp test uses patient samples of tissue or other biological material for its patented genetic test, the University of Warwick research consists of a blood test.


To develop their test, the researchers had custom software compare blood samples from 38 Italian children with autism to 31 without.  The computerized scans looked for damage to specific proteins in the blood’s plasma; those damaged proteins are associated with autism.


The most successful of the four new algorithms correctly identified blood profiles as belonging to a child with autism 90 percent of the time, and also correctly identified those who do not have autism 87 percent of the time.


The new test is ultimately expected to improve the accuracy of current ASD tests from 60-70 percent to approximately 90 percent, according to researchers.  They also hope it will be available readily at all major hospitals, as it does not require expertise in neurological disorders. 


Autism is currently diagnosed at the average age of two utilizing a battery of surveys and questionnaires.  The new test, if and when approved for mainstream usage, would allow for an authoritative single test at a far younger age than currently possible.



Boy with Down syndrome newest “Gerber Baby”

Dalton, GA — One-year-old Lucas Warren has Down syndrome, a totally irresistible personality (with perfectly matched smile)—and now, the title of 2018 Gerber Baby, too.  Young Mr. Warren was chosen by the iconic American baby-food company in early February to have his face adorn Gerber’s bottles for the next 10-plus months. 


In beating out over 140,000 competitors, little Lucas becomes the first “Gerber Baby” with disability since the annual contest’s 2010 launch.