Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tae Kwon Do, The Bittersweet End To An Era

Today is Saturday and we are not at the Tae Kwon Do studio. Kind of weird. I'm still hardwired to hunt down his pants and shirt and belt. Today, I just had to make coffee and fix breakfast.

Leo has been taking Tae Kwon Do for 4 years. Like many parents, we used it for PT and OT reasons. I remember those first few times he went. I was so anxious after the many failed attempts at utilizing gymnastics and swimming, I passed the chore to Dad. After all, Dad in theory was in charge of gross motor.

Those first couple of months were tough, like everything new we tried. Leo was SOOHH overstimulated by the yelling (AYE!), the noise level can get very high and unanticipated. Mirrors everywhere, very confusing. Kids are moving around all directions. But we kept at it, actually HE kept at it. We saw that he really wanted to do it (he must have thought it was way easier than anything else we've offered up to this point).

Eventually he settled in and fell in love with this rule-bound individual sport.

Cool outfit?

Mom and Dad fell in love with the philosophy; To build a more peaceful world. TKD focuses on the positive aspects of an individual's personality: Respect, Courtesy, Goodness, Trustworthiness, Loyalty, Humility, Courage, Patience, Integrity, Perseverance (ha yeah, the irony), Self-control, an Indomitable Spirit and a sense of responsibility to help and respect all forms of life.

We fought so hard to find money to pay for it. We asked our district to pay for it too (one year they did).

Last year Leo began losing interest. His interest in team sports like soccer took over. He began losing enthusiasm for TKD. Sure, when we were there he enjoyed himself, but he began to complain about going. We took a couple Saturdays off, thinking some away time may rejuvinate him. That lasted a while. Getting a new belt.

The time had come to pay again for the year. Leo didn't want to renew, and talked about how he'd miss his instructor and his friends. I too felt conflicted about ending TKD. After all, will Leo's rate of development change (his coordination, his sensory integration). We sat down and talked about the pros and cons, and decided not to go back. We also realized if we regretted this later we could always join again. Leo was relieved to know he wouldn't have to start over with belts. He'd still be high red.

TKD made me feel safe. Letting go of the last piece of what I consider therapy is very difficult. I have to let go and let go of Leo a bit. Let him make some of his own decisions. Let him choose to try baseball this year even though I've already had bad dreams about that one (Leo getting hurt orfeeling inadequate, becoming resensitized in his face).

I've sat down to write the TKD instructor a caring note, but I'm just not in a place to do it just yet.

So spring soccer and spring (gulp) baseball it is.

Friday, March 30, 2007

'The eyes have it' — autism research yields surprising results

'The eyes have it' — autism research yields surprising results
PA51/07 — March 26 2007

Autistic children are able to interpret the mental state of others by looking at their eyes, contrary to previous research, a new University of Nottingham study has found.

In findings that contradict previous studies, psychologists found that autistic children can 'read' a stranger's mental state based on that person's eyes. Autistic children have long been thought to be poor at interpreting people's mental states based on facial expressions, especially expressions around the eyes.

Some researchers believe that this lack of ability could be central to the social problems experienced by autistic children and adults.

But the latest findings cast doubt on this hypothesis. A study at The University of Nottingham found that autistic children were able to interpret mental states when looking at animated facial expressions. The findings also suggest that the use of moving images, rather than conventional still pictures, gives a much more accurate measure of the abilities of autistic children.

Researchers hope that by increasing understanding of autism, their findings may ultimately help in the teaching and treatment of people with the condition.

Published in the latest issue of the journal Child Development, the study was led by Dr Elisa Back. Her co-researchers were Professor Peter Mitchell and Dr Danielle Ropar of the School of Psychology at The University of Nottingham.

Dr Back said: “Previous findings show that children and adolescents with autism may have difficulty reading mental states from facial expressions but our results suggest that this is not due to an inability to interpret information from the eyes.

“Surprisingly, autistic children seemed particularly reliant on the eyes and also the mouth when making mentalistic inferences.

“The conclusions of previous research are largely based on methods that present static photographs to participants. Our study indicates that a more accurate measure of the abilities of those with autism can be obtained through the use of sophisticated digital imaging techniques with animated facial expressions.”

The study compared two groups of autistic children, one group aged 10–14 and one aged 11–15, with two control groups of non-autistic children. They underwent a series of tests to see whether they could gauge the mental state of a stranger by looking at different parts of the face.

Researchers conducted two experiments in which the participants looked at a series of facial expressions on a laptop screen. In the facial images used, the eyes and mouth were either 'freeze-framed' in a neutral expression, or animated and expressive. By showing a sequence of different combinations, they were able to gauge which aspects of the face were used by the autistic children to 'read' someone's mental state — and how successful they were.

In the second experiment, the 18 autistic children involved were as successful as non-autistic children in interpreting mental states, whether they saw the eyes in isolation or in the context of the whole face. This indicates that autistic children do, in fact, make use of information from the eyes — a finding that contradicts prior studies.

An estimated 588,000 people have autism in the UK, according to the National Autistic Society. A mental health survey by the Office for National Statistics found the prevalence of children and young people anywhere on the autistic spectrum is 0.9 per cent — almost one in every 100.

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is Britain's University of the Year (The Times Higher Awards 2006). It undertakes world-changing research, provides innovative teaching and a student experience of the highest quality. Ranked by Newsweek in the world's Top 75 universities, its academics have won two Nobel Prizes since 2003. The University is an international institution with campuses in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and China.

More information is available from Media Relations Manager Tim Utton in the University's Media and Public Relations Office on +44 (0)115 846 8092,

This is very exciting news! Indeed the language of the eyes is extremely important, one component of where us humans (and other animals) obtain social information. Hopefully research like this can assist therapists and evaluators into pinpointing the root of social deficits. For some, it may not be info from the eyes. It may be other parts of the face, body language, tone, or just trouble putting the pieces together as a whole.

Ami Klin (Yale) also used live video rather than stills in his research. He also demonstrated how many ASD adults look at the mouth when people talk. Makes sense.

I was talking to a friend recently about her son and eye contact. His eye contact is now excellent. However, her son misses other social cues/information because he focuses too much on the eyes. He has actually been overtrained (for lack of a better word) to look at the eyes.

Mercury in energy-saving bulbs worries scientists

Mercury in energy-saving bulbs worries scientists
By Lisa Von Ahn
Thu Mar 29

There's an old joke about the number of people it takes to change a light bulb. But because the newer energy-efficient kinds contain tiny amounts of mercury, the hard part is getting rid of them when they burn out.

Mercury is poisonous, but it's also a necessary part of most compact fluorescent bulbs, the kind that environmentalists and some governments are pushing as a way to cut energy use.

With an estimated 150 million CFLs sold in the United States in 2006 and with Wal-Mart alone hoping to sell 100 million this year, some scientists and environmentalists are worried that most are ending up in garbage dumps.

Mercury is probably best-known for its effects on the nervous system. The Mad Hatter in the classic children's book "Alice in Wonderland" was based on 19th-century hat makers who were continually exposed to the toxin.

Mercury can also damage the kidneys and liver, and in sufficient quantities can cause death.

U.S. regulators, manufacturers and environmentalists note that, because CFLs require less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, they reduce overall mercury in the atmosphere by cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants.

But some of the mercury emitted from landfills is in the form of vaporous methyl-mercury, which can get into the food chain more readily than inorganic elemental mercury released directly from a broken bulb or even coal-fired power plants, according to government scientist Steve Lindberg.

"Disposal of any mercury-contaminated material in landfills is absolutely alarming to me," said Lindberg, emeritus fellow of the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The mercury content in the average CFL -- now about 5 milligrams -- would fit on the tip of a ballpoint pen, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and manufacturers have committed to cap the amount in most CFLs to 5 milligrams or 6 milligrams per bulb.

The majority of Philips Lighting's bulbs contain less than 3 milligrams, and some have as little as 1.23 milligrams, said spokesman Steve Goldmacher.

To prevent mercury from getting into landfills, the EPA, CFL makers and various organizations advocate recycling.

Besides commercial recyclers and some municipal waste collection services, some retailers accept used CFLs.

IKEA, the Swedish home furnishings chain, has free drop-off programs at all of its 234 stores, 29 of which are in the United States. Spokeswoman Mona Astra Liss said response was slow at first, but has since picked up.

Now advocacy groups are calling on Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other big chains to get involved.

Andy Ruben, vice president for corporate sustainability at Wal-Mart, said the company was working with the EPA's Office of Solid Waste and others to find mercury and recycling solutions.


One problem with recycling is that it isn't cheap.

Larry Chalfan, executive director of the Zero Waste Alliance environmental group, said the value of the metal, glass and mercury reclaimed from recycling fails to offset the cost of the process. "Someone has to pay," he said.

Costs can range from 20 cents to 50 cents per bulb -- not a paltry sum when some CFLs sell for less than $2 at Wal-Mart.

But, compared with the overall lifecycle cost of buying and using a bulb, recycling would be less than 1 percent, said Paul Abernathy, executive director of the Association of Lighting & Mercury Recyclers, "a small price to keep the mercury out of the environment."

Another obstacle lies in the fragility of the bulbs and their mercury content.

"People who are going to accumulate these things from the public are going to have to address the fact that breakage will happen," Abernathy said. "There's the potential for contamination, and I think right now people are a little hesitant to volunteer to take on this liability."

The U.S. government has no single recycling plan in mind, said Matt Hale, director of the EPA's Office of Solid Waste.

Among the alternatives are special curbside collections by municipalities, mail-back programs by manufacturers and drop-off programs at various places, including retail stores that sell CFLs, he said.

Some methods lend themselves to certain geographic areas more than others, Hale said, because of differences in population density, transportation infrastructure and proximity to recycling sites.

State laws are also a factor.

Federal regulations mandate recycling of fluorescent lighting, while exempting households and other small users. Some states, however, are strict. For example, California no longer allows anyone to throw CFLs in the trash, while Massachusetts requires manufacturers to implement recycling programs and meet certain targets.

As technology advances, however, mercury could become less of an issue, at least as far as light bulbs are concerned.

Last month General Electric Co. said it was working on doubling the energy efficiency of incandescent lights and eventually developing versions comparable with CFLs. These bulbs, which the company hopes to begin marketing in 2010, will cost less than fluorescents but they won't last as long.

Meanwhile, some environmentally minded consumers are embracing CFLs and doing their best to dispose of them responsibly.

"I have CFLs throughout my house," said Lindberg, who lives in California. "None of them have burned out yet. I can't tell you what I'll do with them when they've burned out, but I won't throw them in the garbage."
Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited.

Hmm...the number one neurotoxin now being advertised and promoted. Arg, when will it end? There's gotta be a greener solution that doesn't cause disorders in living things.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Eat a lot of beef? It may affect your son's sperm

Eat a lot of beef? It may affect your son's sperm
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science EditorWed Mar 28

U.S. women who eat a lot of beef while pregnant give birth to sons who grow up to have low sperm counts, researchers reported on Tuesday.
They believe pesticides, hormones or contaminants in cattle feed may be to blame. Chemicals can build up in the fat of animals that eat contaminated feed or grass, and cattle were and are routinely given hormones to boost their growth.
"In sons of 'high beef consumers' (more than seven beef meals/week), sperm concentration was 24.3 percent lower," the researchers wrote in their report, published in the journal Human Reproduction.
FOR MORE, read Reuters
Not surprising. Another way to look at how hormones are passed through our food to us.

U.S. Lawmakers Eye Incentives For Kids' Therapies

U.S. lawmakers eye incentives for kids' therapies
By Susan HeaveyTue Mar 27
Patent extensions for drug companies that test their medicines for use in children should be continued, U.S. lawmakers heard on Tuesday at a hearing that also considered incentives for devicemakers.
The provision, set to expire in September, allows pharmaceutical companies to receive a six-month patent extension in exchange for conducting clinical trials of their therapies for younger patients.
Such studies are key for doctors and parents to choose the best and most effective treatments for children. Without them, physicians must decide what therapy to use and how much based only on data gathered on adults.
At a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, medical and industry experts urged lawmakers to renew the practice of allowing drugmakers to hold exclusive rights longer in return for the information.
"Children's differing metabolism, growth and development, and size have very large effects," Dr. Richard Gorman said on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, adding that nearly two-thirds of medicines used in children are not specifically labeled for them. MOREReuters Limited

Finally we are hearing some good news. I know it's because economics now dictate that it's more cost effective, but he, whatever works to get our kids cared for.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Does Disco Cause Autism?

JUST kidding! So my new thing is to listen to a 70's station on my favorite music provider, Sirius, each night in the kitchen during chore time. Right at 4:30pm, I pluck it on and tackle the kitchen disaster that awaits and set up for dinner. (yes I love my structure). I need that boogie beat to get me going and keep me going. Leo also does his homework while I clean up, mix supplements, and talk about his day. Tonight is like no other night, other than that Leo mentions that this kind of music "repeats the same thing over and over mom, and now it's stuck in my head".

Leo's got a point, and I realize that Disco has a lot in common with Autism.
Let's take a look:

1)It's repetitive.
2)Sometimes the vocals are inaudible.
3)It certainly gets us moving.
4)Was very popular in the 70's but no one admitted it.
5)Had environmental triggers like drugs,alcohol,free love, and aerosol cans galore (to clarify I'm only talking about disco here)
6)Stereotypical 70's clothes are very sensory friendly - that polyester is quite soft and non-restrictive.
7)Bright lights and colors were popular off and on the dance floor (sensory seekers only please)
Did I miss any? Little help, little help?


And speaking of Webkinz, has anyone seen these suckers?
Once I caught wind of them, I swore them off. I swore I'd never buy them for my kids. After all, why do my kids need stuffed animals that need to be "fed" online in their Webkin world, when we are up to our eyeballs with real animals?

Now I'm eating my words. I've sucumbed for social reasons for my kids. So many of their friends have them, so I had to investigate. It's actually okay. You buy a poorly made, not that cute, stuffed animal that comes with a code. You join Webkins online.

The good part is that they can actually learn something - mainly about how to earn money (by playing trivia or pac-man-like games) so they can buy virtual food, clothing, couches, beds, and other stuff for their pet's room. You must feed them, exercise them, and take them to the doctor. But it's pretty low maintenance which is key. The shopping is actually set up very much like a real online shopping experience - you place things in cart, view cart, etc. Your bank account is always visible.

There's also a limited version chatting with your friends and having their Webkin over for a play date. Very cute! It's set up to be very safe - as safe as one can be online. A person also cannot write anything to another person, you must choose a stock comment from a list. I like that!

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things....

Raindrops on roses?
Whiskers on kittens?
Yes please, but other than that I love books.
I love good books.
And I love books that really work for Leo's unique learning style, mostly visual. Indeed!

Geronimo Stilton

I like Geronimo because the author (Geronimo like his main character) illustrates his text. It's so visual but not TOO visual, giving the potential to please any sensory palette. For example, when Geronimo writes the word "red", it's the color red. If he writes a descriptive word like "huge", well, it's HUGE. It's funny, Lot's of play on words, and the character isn't black and white. Gotta love it.

Geronimo also comes with a whole world full of maps and consistent characters that pop up in most books. Family members, friends. Each of Geronimo's adventures teaches stuff about the destination (Australia, Egypt). It's amazing how much he's learned about different countries, another interest (geography) so it's an excellent tie-in on obsessions.

Leo loves these books, and it's no surprise to share that he's OBSESSED with having all of the books. Leo is a collector. He enjoys coming home from school, spreading out his books in order. Some days, it's in the order he's read them. Others, it's by publishing date. Some days he'll play library with Sydney, and she'll come to browse his collection and pick one out.

Leo reads them at school too. Has a couple in his "book bin". The other day, he said "Mom, I can't wait for reading time at school. I'm at a really good part of my Geronimo book. He's stuck in a cheese trap, and I haven't figured out how he's going to escape."

Music to any parent's ears, right? Looking forward to reading? I realize it may not last, but hey, I'll happily enjoy it for now.

Still obsessed with football, collecting state quarters, and Webkins!
4 days till parent/teacher conference....

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Top Reasons to Hate the FDA

1) A new report contends that mistakes and mismanagement by the FDA have delayed a new computer system to track the side effects of drugs after they go on the market. The agency rejects its conclusions. It seems everyday we hear about a recall!

2)The FDA has promoted the use of cough medicines for children for years when they have never been tested on children. Old formulas have simply been re-packaged and marketed with guestimates for usage. Finally, they are admitting they are unsafe and shouldn't be used!

3)Promoting the use of vaccines for preemies

4) Fresh food guidelines

5) Mad cow mismanagement

6)Promotion of cloned food

Friday, March 23, 2007

Discover Magazine Article

I admit. Discover magazine is one of my favorites!
It makes me think.
It makes me ponder and ponder and ponder.
It makes me talk to my husband about topics that I don't think about living my ordinary day.

If you feel like a breath of fresh air, buy the latest Discover Magazine that's got Autism featured on the cover. No matter what, you gotta love that.

Even better, it's got a very readable take on the non-gene side of Autism. The gut and the immune system. Not new news for most of us, but let's think of the American public - they only read about the epidemic and the genes. To this we should celebrate, even when Discover is a male skewed mag.

Autism: It’s Not Just in the Head

Here's the headline:
The devastating derangements of autism also show up in the gut and in the immune system. That unexpected discovery is sparking new treatments that target the body in addition to the brain.

On other notes:
Picking up our first hybrid tomorrow afternoon! We are lucky we can afford to have one.
Worry List number one: Leo's Parent/Teacher Conference NEXT Friday. Stay tuned. I'm freaked, but not as freaked as last time since I know what I'm workin' with.

Keywords and Sitemeter

So I admit I am completely addicted to Sitemeter. I am fascinated with how new visitors reach my site. They also help me make my site better. BUT, these keywords keep me up at night. Here are a few from this week's searches:

"autism recovery"
"how do I teach math to a 1st grader with autism"
"autism spins wheels on cars for hours"
"baby sick symptoms "hands in mouth"
"opening and shutting cabinet doors all day toddler"

Autism recovery the most common keyword I see. The irony: My objective with posting my main website was to disseminate social skills technology that most professionals and parents don't seem to have access to. Not discuss recovery!

But it seems this is what a newly diagnosed parent wants to know.
Question 1: What the heck is Autism?
Question 2: Can we get rid of it?

It's the other keywords that cause a visceral reaction. Not because these keywords can mean Autism. But because schools and pediatricians fail this generation of parents and these innocent children. How? Because for many parents, my website is the first site they see about Autism. After all, I'm just a "lowly parent". There is no hand-book. There is no one-size-fits-all. There's just our story and info about viable treatment options. And of course, my ramblings on this blog.

What keeps me up at night? Thinking about that "cabinet" parent. What will they do next? Will their child be diagnosed soon? Will their child get the services they deserve to maximize their potential? Are they awake too? Worrying about their child? Wondering what is wrong? Wondering how they can get to the bottom of this?

And how about the 1st grade teacher? Who is helping THIS person? What an amazing person, researching away on their puny salary. A person that cares about our children. And one site they've clicked on is mine? Like my site can help? I don't think so!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fruit and Veggies CDC Report

Americans Not Eating Enough Fruit And Vegetables Says CDC Report
Article Date: 16 Mar 2007 - 7:00 PDT

A report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Americans are not eating enough fruit and vegetables.

The report reveals that across America no state is achieving national targets for fruit and vegetable consumption. And across the nation as a whole, the number of people eating the target daily amount of fruit and vegetables is only half what the government is aiming for by the year 2010.

The government campaign, Healthy People 2010, was started in 2000 and gives a set of 10-year targets for improving the health of Americans. One important area of the campaign is diet, and consumption of fruit and vegetables in particular.

A diet high in fruit and vegetables protects health in two ways. First, it is linked to lower incidence of chronic disease. Second, because fruit and vegetables pack fewer calories for the equivalent volume of processed foods, a diet high in these ingredients helps people keep their weight down.

The Healthy People 2010 targets include increasing to 75 per cent the proportion of Americans over 2 years of age who eat two or more servings of fruit a day, and to 50 per cent the proportion who eat three or more servings a day of vegetables, with at least one serving comprising dark green or orange vegetables.

The CDC report found that in 2005:

33 per cent of adult Americans ate fruit two or more times a day, with:
- men eating more fruit than women,
- seniors eating more fruit than 35 to 44 year olds,
- Hispanics eating more fruit than other racial/ethnic groups,
- non-Hispanic whites eating the least,
- college graduates eating more fruit than those with lower education levels,
- people earning more than 50,000 US dollars a year eating more fruit than those earning less, and
- people neither obese nor overweight (Body Mass Index, BMI, under 25) eating the most and obese people (BMI over 30) eating the least amount of fruit.

27 per cent of adult Americans ate vegetables three or more times a day, with:
- men eating fewer vegetables than women,
- seniors eating more vegetables than 18 to 24 year olds,
- whites eating more vegetables than other racial/ethnic groups,
- Hispanics eating the least,
- college graduates eating more vegetables than those with lower education levels,
- people earning more than 50,000 US dollars a year eating more vegetables than those earning less, and
- people neither obese nor overweight (BMI under 25) eating the most and overweight people (BMI 25 to 30) eating the least amount of vegetables.

The report used data from the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), to assess adult consumption of fruit and vegetable by state and demographic characteristics.

The BRFSS is an annual random telephone survey designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that monitors health behaviour and other factors contributing to the leading causes of disease and death in the population. It includes six questions on frequency, quantity and variety of fruit and vegetable intake.

The analysis took in data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC), and after excluding incomplete and invalid responses, it covered over 300,000 people across the nation.

In conclusion, the CDC report suggests that if America is to reach the 2010 targets, then a "more sustained and effective public health response is needed, including continued surveillance, identification of barriers to eating more fruits and vegetables, and environmental changes (eg, increasing the proportion of fruits and vegetables in vending machines and promoting healthful food advertising and the availability of healthful foods)".

They also recommend more campaigns and interventions to persuade people to eat more healthily, for instance by increasing public awareness of the benefits of fruit and vegetables. They mention the changes in recommended numbers of daily servings of fruit and vegetables, according to sex, age and physical activity.

According to the US government's campaign, a 25 year old male who gets less than 30 minutes a day of exercise should eat 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables.

This would be equivalent to eating the following fruit and vegetables over the course of one day:

Morning (1 cup fruit):
Half a grapefruit, and
1 small banana

Lunchtime (1 cup veg, 1 cup fruit):
Medium plate of salad (peppers, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, raw carrot), and
1 apple

Evening (2 cups veg):
1 baked potato, and
1 cup of green beans or cooked greens give examples of what constitutes 1 cup of fruit and vegetables.

1 cup of fruit is equal to one of the following:
1 medium grapefruit
1 large banana
1 small apple
1 medium pear
1 small wedge of watermelon
1 large orange
3 medium plums
8 large strawberries

1 cup of vegetables/salad is equal to one of the following:
1 large bell pepper
2 large celery stalks
1 medium potato (preferably baked, not fried)
1 cup cooked or 2 cups raw greens (spinach, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens)
1 large sweet potato
12 baby carrots (or 2 medium carrots)
10 broccoli or cauliflower florets
1 cup of green beans
2 cups of lettuce (counts as 1 cup of vegetables), as do many other nutrition guides, stress the importance of eating fresh fruit and vegetables in a range of colours, since this is a good way to ensure you get the variety of minerals and vitamins you need.

"Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Adults: United States, 2005."
CDC MMWR Weekly Report, March 16, 2007 / 56(10);213-217

Written by: Catharine Paddock
Writer: Medical News Today

Interesting there isn't any chemical or toxin consumption allowances. After all, the agency's name says Center For DISEASE CONTROL. Hmm.... For me personally, it was a nice reminder to know what the cup equivalents are.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Secret Lives of our ASD Mainstreamed Kids

There are 3 kids with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in Leo's 2nd grade mainstreamed public classroom. Leo, Aspie Girl, and PDD Boy. They sound like superheroes, don't they? Three out of 22 kids. This, my friends, is the new normal. This doesn't include the other proud owners of IEPs for other disorders or delays.

Leo's teacher, his peers, and the parents do not know about his Autism label.
The para that allegedly assists Aspie Girl doesn't know either. The majority of parents believe paras are there to help the teacher, like an assistant teacher. They must believe our district "gave" our class a para out of kindness or something. Like there's money for THAT. Moms look at it like positive status. An extra that a fellow mom may lose out on. "My class doesn't have a para this year" a fellow mom says gloomily, while another mom perks up to say how wonderful "her" para is, and how she helps her son all the time. What about OUR kids? The reason they are there?

Leo reports how the para is the one that checks his weekly sentences. How is it that I know her handwriting and not the teachers? Leo reports the para checks the mail, makes copies, doing all that assistant stuff while Aspie Girl loses out on any natural opportunities for learning.

Naturally, Aspie Girl is a bright girl and friendly. She has several friends that I see her play with during recess. Aspie Girl, according to Leo, is a "help needed" kid, a kid that "needs extra help". She makes her daily trip down to the Assisted Learning Room and attendes "lunch bunch" with other help needed kids in 2nd grade.

I assume Aspie Girl's program is crappy, because not once have I seen the para do anything for her, other than "watch her", like glorified babysitting. No facilitation, no explanations, during recess or at a day long field I attended.

During this beach field trip, the kids gathered around a naturalist that was holding up sea creatures while giving a talk on them. I see Aspie Girl off to the side, twirling her long piano fingers into the sand, not able to listen to the talk. I could only listen through her. I heard the wind, the cars, the other groups that were nearby. All distractions that kept her from learning.

Her para was listening and watching other kids, occasionally glancing towards Aspie Girl, making sure she didn't "wander off". In my mind, I dream I slap her around, shouting at the para and the teacher. I order them to move Aspie Girl next to the naturalist so she could see and hear the talk. So she could learn. After all, why did she take the 45 minute bus ride? She could've twirled her fingers in the sand at school.

What will the para say at her next IEP? Aspie Girl is a good student. She's doing well. Of course, because she is not a behavior problem. Detached doesn't cause problems for other students or for the teacher? Will the para say she enjoyed the field trip? Would the para have behaved differently if she knew I was a special ed parent?

I know about PDD Boy too. I could just tell, and then a mutual mom friend had mentioned it in conversation. We've never been in the same class until this year. I thought here's my chance to get to know the family and see what happens. Maybe I'll have a friend!

PDD Boy's mom doesn't know I know. He is "doing well" too. He is "doing so well" that he doesn't need a para! Surprise! And what did HE do during the talk with the naturalist? He was next to the naturalist, a good spot. Phew, I thought. He began talking to himself, humming a bit when the naturalist was talking. The teacher quickly removed him and put him towards the back of the group since he was distracting the naturalist. Oh good, so both kids are not learning. Nice.

We've gotten together with PDD Boy, a play date at his house. I hope one day we can talk about their shared label. I don't know the mom very well, but my hope is that one day I can trust her and she can trust me. She's kind of quiet, and when I put out feelers, they were rejected. I use my nephews as the stories, and I also openly share that Leo had a speech delay. No luck.

I feel like a bit of an ass, but I don't know what else to do. I can't disclose Leo's label without knowing what I'm getting into. The mom hasn't been to our local support group. That was my hope. She doesn't advocate for him overtly. I think she does the school services and that's it. Fortunately, our district has an excellent ABA provider now. She could get great services. I wish I could talk to her! I wish I could tell her how the teacher is handling his issues (or not handling them I should say). I'll have PDD Boy over soon - Leo really likes him and his twin. I really want Leo to have several friends on the spectrum. They'll need each other.

I feel for PDD Boy. I envision him in a couple excellent social skills groups I know of, with some terrific children that would really challenge him. But Leo comes first.

Quote of the Day

Leo completed his first ever biography book report. He chose Hank Aaron. It was sports, and of course I loved the fact that discrimination was a part of it! I can't believe he's old enough for something like that!

When picking out things to report about Hank Aaron's early life, he chose the fact that Hank's dad built them a house out of old boards from a torn-down house. I said that was an excellent idea. Hank's house didn't have plumbing or heat either. I told Leo he could add those facts too, further showing how he grew up poor. Leo looked at me impatiently and said, "Mom! I already said the house was made of old boards. They can INFER that he grew up poor!"

I have never used that word before with him. That word! That word has been written hundreds of times all over IEPs and other therapy materials. And now he's giving me his lesson right back to me. Infer they can, Leo. And of course I got all teary!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Tyson unit recalls ground beef on E.Coli risk

Tyson unit recalls ground beef on E.Coli risk:
USDA Fri Mar 2, 11:56 PM ET

Tyson Fresh Meats, a Wallula, Washington unit of Tyson Foods Inc., is voluntarily recalling about 16,743 pounds (7.6 tons) of ground beef that may be contaminated with E.coli, the USDA said on Friday.

The problem was discovered through routine sampling at another federally inspected establishment and the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said it had received no reports of illness associated with consumption of these products.

The ground beef was produced on February 16, 2007 and was sent to distributors in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

E.coli is potentially a deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. The young, elderly and those with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

The FDA has kept me so busy this week. New cow antibiotics that create new superbugs. E Coli still out there.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

U.S. reviewing safety of children's cough drugs

Ages ago our DAN ped told us that NONE, really NONE of the drugs are tested on for/on children. And where do you think our ASD kids fall? Kids that have unique wiring to consider? Totally screwed and up to Dr. Mom and Dad to figure it out.

Finally the FDA is admitting there's a problem. And only because they have to since a petition of "prominent" pediatricians forced them to. Frominent? Hmmm...very interesting don't you think? There are far too many comments to post for fear I'd bore ya'll. However, I cannot resist posting my favorite quotes so far on this topic. As always, if you really want to know what's going on, just read the last paragraph of any article and you'll find the gems! Here goes:

"In a recent study of hospital emergency room records from 2004 and 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that at least 1,519 children under age 2 had suffered serious health problems after being treated with common cough and cold medicines. Three of the children died, the disease control agency found."

"Like hundreds of older drugs, many of the medicines in these products did not receive thorough safety reviews by the F.D.A. "

"Parents will do anything for their kids," Dr. Sharfstein said. "They will buy expensive syrups if they think their kid will do better."

"The agency has put all the compounds on a "monograph," meaning that manufacturers can use and combine them in pills and syrups without doing any of the expensive and lengthy studies that would be needed for a new drug. Because the drugs are so widely available, there is no incentive for manufacturers to perform such studies. Information about their lack of efficacy and worrisome side effects have trickled out. "

"There is this incredible disparity between how the products are regulated and what the scientific evidence and consensus states," Dr. Sharfstein said.

An excellent example of economics working its magic. Supply and demand. That's all it is.

Quote of the Day

Lately, Leo's been bad about eating his breakfast quickly. He's never been a fast eater (surprise), and it was something we worked on for years. Anyway, this morning Leo was "on fire" with his peanut butter toast and honey toast (on tapioca bread).

He noticed that I noticed, and said "Now you can see what I'm made of, deep inside."

Indeed, I do see.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The "Remark-abilities" of people with Autism

I found this terrific page where people share the abilities, talents, and ways of thinking of people they know with Autism. Here are some excerpts from this page. I know many of you have wonderful things to share that other parents would enjoy, so hopefully you have a moment to contribute. FYI I'm not affiliated with this site - just a new fan! Here goes:

"The "Remark-abilities" of people with Autism
We stand in awe of people with Autism. They inspire us with their talents, abilities and way of thinking. Please share your story now. Together, let's show the world how remarkable these unique and wonderful people are.
People with Autism are PHENOMENAL! Click here to tell others right now Has this page touched you in any way?
Please Let Us Know

My son can recite the presidents in order, forwards and backwards. He knows their first, middle and last names. He knows all of their vice presidents (if there was one). He could do this after reading the names a few times.
Jene, NY
My son has always been obsessed with numbers. He could multiply and divide with exponents at 4. Now he is 12 and is taking Differential equations and Linear Algebra (the class after Calc. 3) at our local Community College. But he still can’t tie his own shoes :-)
Rebecca, CA
My cousin can draw anything - and I mean anything in the most incredible detail.
Sue, NV
We took my 5 year old grandson to a large aquarium. He remembered the exact layout and where all the animals were placed even though he hadn't been there since he was 2 years old.
Jos, NY
One day we noticed my child could read fluently. She had just turned 3 years old. Nobody ever taught her.
Stacey, WI
My son taught himself to tread water for hours and hours, never getting tired. He taught himself to do this way before he learned to swim.
Laura, NY
One of my students can do puzzles as fast as lightning - with the picture side face down.
Wendy, CT
My son submerges himself under water and holds his breath for ages. He does it until I call his name so he'll come up for air. I feel like I can't breathe just watching him. He is perfectly fine and ready to do it again if I allow it.
Andrew, NY
My 4 year old son remembers every route we drive. He sits in the back of the car and instructs us "Turn left, turn right, take the parkway..."
Adrienne, CA
When my son was in 1st grade, his teacher told us, "I've learned that if your
son and I disagree on a science fact, HE is always correct."
Sara, CA
I don't know how he does it but my son can hear my husband's car the moment he turns into our block. We live at the other end of the block!
Lucille, TX
If I dump a cup of cheerios on the table, my daughter can tell me how many there are. Nine times out of ten, she's right. If she isn't, she's never off by more than 2.
Pat, MD
A student in my class can imitate anyone's speech. He imitates their voice and intonations perfectly and it sounds just like them. It's hysterical.
May, VA
My child notices everything. My living room is full of things but even if I move a photo frame to the middle of the ledge, he'll walk right in and immediately adjust it.
Reilly, AK
My brother can tell me about every dinosaur that ever existed, what they ate, what they looked like and what period they lived in.
Adam, NY
My child is a mechanical wizard. He can take anything apart and put it back together in perfect order. He does it really quickly too. It's amazing.
Shelly, OK
My son is 9 and loves road construction. He knows every piece of equipment used, has researched them all on the internet and will speak at length about the pros and cons of each make and model.
Wendy, Canada
My 3 year old can recite a 30 minute video, word for word. And that's after watching it once or twice.
Marcia, PA
My 5 year old brother can do multiple flips on the parallel bars without ever being shown how.
Jason, NY
My 7 year old son with Aspergers Disorder has taught me more about science than my years of schooling could ever come close to. He is a joy to be around and someday may just save our planet.
Amy, PA
My daughter has an excellent memory. She's 10 now and she remembers things in detail from when she was 2 years old.
Nancy, RI
My three year old cousin learned how to write in one month and learned how to read in less than two months.
Anne, DC
My 3 year old is amazing on the computer. Somehow he learned how to use the mouse and keyboard, find and bookmark his favorite Internet sites and play any computer game.
Melanie, CA
My son knows the model of every toilet seat cover and where it was produced - Hey, it's still a talent!
Debra, PA
My son is fascinated with vacuum cleaners. He knows about every make and model, what kind of motor they have and the attachments they come with.
Lauren, MI
One of my students is a math wizard. He's in 3rd grade and he can calculate very complicated math in his head. It astounds me every time.
Maya, FL
Every time my son meets someone he asks them what car they drive. He never forgets the make and model, no matter how many years go by.
Maureen, IN
My 5 year old daughter has never done a day of gymnastics in her life and she can do a triple flip like it's a piece of cake.
Lindsey, NJ
My son can tell you exactly what kind of truck is approaching before it is even
in sight.
Theresa, Canada
My 4 year old is a master escape artist. It doesn't matter how we try and bolt the door, lock the gates, secure the windows - he can find a way to get out.
Sammy, OH
If I can't understand what my son is saying, he can go to his bookcase, instantly pick out the book he wants, turn to the specific page he needs and point to the word he's trying to say.
Audrey, MD
My 3 year old daughter can climb to the top of our refrigerator in about 3 moves
Limor, WA
My son is 22 months old. He counts up to 200 in 5's. He can do it in reverse too. We have no idea how he learned this.
Lynne, PA
My 7 year old is an Internet search guru. He can find absolutely anything from the script for Shrek to ancient Japanese culture and tradition.
Ronnie, NY
My 8 year old has always had an interest in the solar system. He knows about every planet, including their moons, weight, density etc.
Shannon, FL
My 7 year old nephew loves the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. When he got home, he searched through all his toys and recreated all his favorite exhibits from the museum
Simone, NY
My cousin has autism and he knows exactly how long it takes for every traffic light in his town to turn from red to green.
Tina, GA
My son loves zip codes. He can tell you the zip code for every area in the USA
Becky, MN
My child can "speak" to cats. He goes down to their level, rubs up against them and greets them. The cat always responds. They sound so much alike it's hard to determine who is who.
Bev, NY
My 13 year old daughter remembers where she got every one of her beanie babies going back to 10 years ago.
Noni, NY
My 6 year old daughter talks just like Mater from Cars. She can recite every song she hears with perfect pitch and knows the name of the artist. She can remember the smallest detail from the time she was 2. If anything is moved in a room (even one she only visited once), she immediately notices.
Lisa, MD
My son at the age of 4 could name all of the makes and models of the cars on the road and now he is 8 and can tell you the year as well now.
Heidi, UT
My nephew can say the alphabet backwards and forwards and no matter where you stop him he can continue from that point in either direction. He can also tell you the day of the week your birthday is going to be on the next year.
Pepper, OR
My 6 year old grandson is like a skilled engineer. He can draw beautifully and he makes gorgeous Lego projects.
Linda, WA
My son is able to re-create a scene, for example a doctors visit. He re-arranges the furniture as best he can to look like the doctors office, and then he mimics the doctors visit, playing each part word for word, including the sound effects such as papers rustling in the background.
Vickie, PA
I used to work with a 5-year-old boy that could tell you the exact square
footage of a room just by looking at it!!!
Shauna, GA
I once worked with someone who could give you which day of the week a given month / date / year fell on, going back a hundred years.
Clementine, NJ
My 6 year old can recite songs after listening to it a few times. At first I thought he was just mumbling, but then I realized he was singing all the songs he had heard.
Teresa, GA
My child has incredible musical ability. I'm sure he hears notes that we don't hear. He has perfect pitch and melody.
Lori, NH"