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Archive for June, 2011

Photo of Travis, from his website

Travis Breeding’s work at Starbucks is an exciting look into the employment opportunities available for individuals on the Autism spectrum. At Starbucks, Travis, an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome, works as a Barista, making drinks, taking orders, greeting customers, and working at the drive-through station. Though Travis thought initially that it would be difficult to find employment, he has found Starbucks to be a welcoming setting for individuals on the Autism spectrum. Now, Travis is filled with nothing but anticipation and excitement for his new career:

I’m looking forward to starting this new journey as a partner/employee at Starbucks. Finding employment that works for someone on the autism spectrum isn’t always easy. I will continue to blog and share some of my experiences about working at Starbucks but for now I must get off to memorizing the different types of drinks.  Please stay tuned for more in the coming days and weeks on this exciting journey.

Read Travis’ blog, detailing his experience at work:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

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Can $1 really make a difference? You bet!  Today the Autism Science Foundation is the featured nonprofit on Philanthroper.com.

Philanthroper has been described as the “Groupon” of the nonprofit world.  Each day they raise funds $1 at a time for a selected nonprofit whose work they think is outstanding and today that’s ASF!

Philanthroper is about group giving.  If everyone gives a little bit it will add up to enough for us to fund another critical piece of autism research.  All funds raised through this project will go directly to research.

Please donate $1 today  and then SHARE with all your friends. After making your donation, post this Facebook update or send an email to your family and friends. This is an easy and simple way to get even more support for ASF’s work.

Facebook Update: I just gave $1 to support the Autism Science Foundation on Philanthroper.com! Join me and give a little hope today! (Help spread the hope by reposting this to your Facebook status after you donate $1) https://philanthroper.com/deals/autism-science-foundation#/

Email:I  just gave $1 to support the Autism Science Foundation on Philanthroper.com. Please join me! You can only donate TODAY, so please take a moment and give a little hope today! https://philanthroper.com/deals/autism-science-foundation#/

Thank you to all of you for supporting our work each and every day, and a special thank you to Phyllis Lombardi who sent a letter about our work to the creators of Philanthroper!

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Thank all of you who supported ASF by purchasing The Invisible Gorilla!

With your help, we were the most selected charity, so we have received an additional $2000 from the authors of the book, in addition to the purchase proceeds.

A very special thank you to authors Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris for supporting the Autism Science Foundation.

You can buy a copy of The Invisible Gorilla here.

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ASF Volunteer Louise Bach-Capps’ son, known as ABC,  may only be seven years old, but his knowledge of Paleozoic creatures far exceeds his years. He has been writing a blog titled “Life Before The Dinosaurs,” which provides information about the organisms that preceded the dinosaurs.

On June 17, his blog was picked up and featured in a post by the Science Blog “Pharyngula”. In one day, the blog received over 9,004 hits from 41 countries!

To visit ABC’s blog, click here.

To follow ABC on twitter, click here.

To read the article in Pharyngula, click here.

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Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg is the Director of the Lab of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston University. She is also the newly elected president of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR). In May 2011, ASF intern Max Rolison interviewed Dr. Tager-Flusberg about her research and her INSAR presidency.

Helen Tager-Flusberg, PhD

Max Rolison: How did you get involved with autism research?

Helen Tager-Flusberg: I had been very interested when I was an undergraduate when I was still in England. I was introduced to the earliest research by Uta Frith that she had done for her dissertation under the directorship of Neil O’Connor and Beate Hermelin. And these were the people who were the pioneers doing cognitive research of autism back in the 1970s. I found the work really interesting. I had been interested in pursuing graduate studies in language development. I moved to the United States and when I was looking around for a dissertation topic, I came back to the idea that we could apply the methods that the theory of language acquisition and psycholinguistics to explore the nature of the problems in children with autism. So I began with my dissertation. That’s where I got interested.

MR: I read some of your evaluation of “Theory of Mind”. How has that shaped your interest and direction in the field?

HTF: When I began my research on language development in children with autism, I started out asking the question, “What is really uniquely different about language and language development in this population?” I began looking at grammatical development and then semantic development, and while certainly the majority of verbal children with autism are impaired in those aspects of language, they really didn’t seem different from other language impaired children, so that was clearly not what was unique to autism. Of course, by then others had begun to explore the idea that it was in the aspects of pragmatic development—the ability to use language effectively in different social contexts—that was the heart of what was uniquely impaired in autism. And I began to work on that and then I came across the paper by Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues in England. I was working in the States by then. I came across this paper and I said to myself, “This is something interesting and important for trying to understand why children with autism are impaired in pragmatics, particularly.” So I got interested in Theory of Mind. Early on I was visiting in England and I visited with Simon Baron-Cohen. So that’s how I got started editing the books with him and pursuing my own line of research investigating the interaction and interconnection between language and theory of mind in autism. (more…)

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Dr. Eric London is an ASF scientific advisory board member, NAAR co-founder, Director of the Autism Treatment Laboratory at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, and Chief Science Advisor of the New York State Autism Consortium. In June 2011, Max Rolison, an intern at the Autism Science Foundation interviewed Dr. London on the importance of brain tissue research.

Eric London and his wife Karen receive the INSAR Advocate Award at IMFAR 2011

 

Max Rolison: How did you become involved in the autism tissue program?

Eric London: I founded it back in about 1996. At that time, there was very little in the literature about autism tissue research. The most prominent articles were by Bauman and Kemper, and it was only on a few cases. They had a few more brains in the freezer, but they didn’t have money at that time to study them. So there was in effect no tissue available to any other investigator in the country. When NAAR was first starting out, we took it upon ourselves to create the Autism Tissue Program. That program functioned to do outreach to the advocacy community to generate brain donations, which is pretty much the role it still plays.

MR: Why is it important to collect brain tissue?

EL: Even at the present time, we actually know very little about what’s going on in the brain in autism. The only way we can know much about brain functioning is through various scanning techniques, including electrophysiology. By that I mean MRI scans, functional MRI scans, PET scans, and EEGs and MEGs. And these all yield us information, but the information is very limited. The information is on a very gross level, so we see large sections of the brain functioning, but on a microscopic level we learn almost nothing from these scanning techniques. So to understand the anatomy and to some extent the physiology of the brain on a more microscopic level we need to actually have tissue. (more…)

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Proceeds of all sales of Deadly Choices are donated to the Autism Science Foundation. 

From June 15, 2011 Journal of the American Medical Association  (Copyright American Medical Association 2011)

BOOK AND MEDIA REVIEWS

DEADLY CHOICES: HOW THE ANTI-VACCINE MOVEMENT THREATENS US ALL

By Paul A. Offit 288 pp, $27.50 New York, NY, Basic Books, 2010 ISBN-13: 978-0-465-02149-9

In an ideal world, I would never be asked to review such a book as Paul Offit’s Deadly Choices. In an ideal world, a book like Deadly Choices would have no market. In an ideal world, the genius who developed a vaccine against rotavirus should not have to divert his valuable time to address such phenomena as the antivaccine movement. But the world today is far from ideal.

Deadly Choices masterfully presents the history of the antivaccine movement, which finds its origin in the time of Edward Jenner, and provides a devastating rendition of the antiscientific mentality that animates the celebrities and physicians alike who grant this movementmoral legitimacy. The book is not just a polemic; it provides ample details that unequivocally establish the enormous achievement vaccination represents. The book presents many interesting facts and anecdotes. Such facts are eye-opening because they reveal the nonobjective basis that underlies some of the operations of the courts, which have disbursed billions of dollars to those it deemed “harmed” by vaccination, despite clearly contradicting scientific information, as in the case of the diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and pertussis vaccine. Other highlights of the book include a thorough analysis of the US Supreme Court case Jacobson v Massachusetts, which addressed compulsory vaccination; a useful summary of the issues surrounding the fraudulent study, recently retracted, associating the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine with autism; and the story of Samuel Berkovic’s discovery that Dravet syndrome—a genetic disorder—was responsible for many cases of vaccine-induced neurologic disease.

Offit profiles the major figures in the modern antivaccine movement, tracing their careers, thinking, and initiatives. His focus is not just on celebrities and parents’ groups; he also appropriately singles out physicians who are complicit in this movement and lend their considerable authority to it. The author likewise provides a scholarly juxtaposition of antivaccinationists from earlier eras with those of today, highlighting the similarities and differences that exist between them. As Offit writes, several similarities are the idea that physicians are evil; the use of public rallies; paranoia; false claims of vaccine harm; the idea that vaccines are unnatural; the rejection of the germ theory; the lure of “alternative” medicine; the fear of medical advances; the idea that vaccines thwart the power of a deity; and the use of mass marketing. Important differences include the fact that in the modern era, antivaccinationists are chiefly drawn from the affluent (vs the poor in earlier eras); the involvement of personal injury lawyers; and antivaccinationists’ tactic of not using the word “antivaccine” when describing themselves. A major strength of this book is that it does not simply ignore real issues that have occurred with vaccine safety. Offit does not gloss over the problems with the Cutter version of the polio vaccine, a topic on which he has written another book, or the intussusception cases associated with an earlier version of a rotavirus vaccine. One incident described in this text—the burning in effigy of Edward Jenner in antivaccine rallies in the 19th century— is powerfully affecting. To denigrate such a benefactor of humankind as Jenner is almost unfathomable. The event is reminiscent of a passage in philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand’s masterpiece novel The Fountainhead, in which she writes, “Throughout the centuries thereweremenwho took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received—hatred.”

It is my belief that when new histories of vaccination’s prowess are written, Offit will be mentioned in the same breath as Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, Maurice Hileman, Jonas Salk,Albert Sabin, Baruch Blumberg,Max Theiler, Robert Austrian, and the other giants of vaccinology who have incalculably benefitted humankind. One of the proponents of vaccines quoted in Deadly Choices states that those who refuse vaccines have the right do so but “have to live on an island: their own little infectious diseases island.” Those like Offit have created a world in which many infectious diseases have been relegated to virtual islands in a sea of immunized individuals—and it will be damning if their invaluable work is destroyed. It is in this vein that I recommend Deadly Choices, in the highest possible terms, as an anecdote and tool to fight for the glory of vaccines. The survival of humankind depends on it.

Amesh A. Adalja, MD

Author Affiliation: Center for Biosecurity and Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (ameshaa@aol.com).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The author has completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported. Book andMedia Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller,MD, PhD, Contributing Editor. ©2011 American Medical Association. All rights reserved. JAMA, June 15, 2011—Vol 305, No. 23 2469

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