A Night of Entertainment

By Angelina Acevedo and Andy Blazaitis

Our New York, NY office was transformed into an Art Gallery / Lounge the evening of April 24th. All around were beautiful modern masterpieces on display by our kids that would have put Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol to shame. The pieces were filled with expressions of raw emotion that jumped off the page and spoke volumes to the soul. Music and excitement filled the air.

Managing Supervisors Deidra King and Frank LoCurto kicked off the festivities with a moving speech and Andy Blazaitis our Scheduler opened up the show with a song that had the kids mesmerized. One little diva decked out in pink stole the show with a riveting performance of “If Your Happy and You Know It (shout Deidra)” sung on the silver tinfoil microphone constructed by Office Manager Angelina Acevedo. The kids were clamoring to the stage to take their spot in the limelight. It was beautiful to see them all interacting with one another in a little jam session. Some of the performances included “Lean on Me”, “Let it Be”, “Happy Birthday” and “Twinkle Twinkle”.

The energy was further amplified when Office Manager Angelina Acevedo sang “Redemption Song” in her silky smooth voice, followed up with the interactive sing-a-long with the kids “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.


Our special guest Final Gravity closed out the show with a Jerry Garcia tune and had the kids moving and shaking. One young, wavy-haired Adonis tried to keep the show going and had the ladies in an uproar. These kids would’ve have jammed all night, if it weren’t for Mom’s and Dad’s getting tired. It was truly a spectacular night and another fundraiser is already in the works. Next time we’ll be sure to have more instruments to go around to really get that modern jazz sound and have our own making of the band.

American Idol has nothing on these rising stars Maybe we’ll see you there!

Dr. Granpeesheh to Speak - TUESDAY - at NY Metro Chapter of NAA!

The New York Metro Chapter of the National Autism Association (NAA) presents ...

What is ABA and How Does it Work Side by Side
with Biomedical Interventions?

By Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Doors Open:
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Social/Networking Hour, Light Refreshments

Keynote Presentation:
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Rebecca School, 40 East 30th Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY

Arrive Early - There is no registration and no fee - Limited Seating

About Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh:

Doreen Granpeesheh, PhD, BCBA is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc. (CARD) and President of the Board of Autism Care and Treatment Today (ACT Today!). Dr. Granpeesheh received her Ph.D. in Psychology from UCLA and is licensed by the Medical Board of California, the Texas State Board of Psychologists and the Arizona State Board of Psychologist Examiners.

Dr. Granpeesheh holds a Certificate of Professional Qualification in Psychology from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and has been providing behavioral therapy since 1979.

In 1990, Dr. Granpeesheh founded the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc. (CARD) and through its 20 offices world wide, she has provided diagnosis, assessment and behavioral treatment for thousands of children with autism and related disorders.

In 2005, Dr. Granpeesheh founded ACT Today!, a non-profit organization that provides support and funding to families of children with Autism. In addition, Dr. Granpeesheh is also a principle member of the Thoughtful House Center for Children, a charity organization that provides behavioral services in collaboration with medical treatment and research.

Dr. Granpeesheh is member of the Defeat Autism Now Executive Council, on the Scientific Advisory Board of the US Autism and Asperger's Association and First Vice Chair of the National Board of Directors of the Autism Society of America. Dr. Granpeesheh is also the executive director and co-producer of the award-winning documentary, RECOVERED: Journeys Through the Autism Spectrum and Back.

Autism Care and Treatment to Host Orange County Love, Hope and Healing, A Mother's Day Luncheon

Parents and supporters of children with autism are invited to attend the Love, Hope and Healing, A Mother's Day Luncheon held at The Resort at Pelican Hill on May 4th, in Newport Coast, hosted by Autism Care and Treatment (ACT Today!).

"The gift of hope is the best gift a mother can receive. If you know a mother of a child on the autism spectrum, show her your love by treating her to a day of inspiration at one of the most beautiful resorts in the world. All the proceeds will go to grants for autistic children so you'll be giving hope to other mothers who need our support, " says ACT Today!'s Executive Director, Nancy Alspaugh-Jackson.

The ACT Today! fundraiser luncheon features Honorary Guest Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, a world renowned autism researcher and psychologist, who has recently been noted for her award-winning documentary "RECOVERED: Journeys Through the Autism Spectrum and Back". Fellow autism expert and biomedical clinician, Dr. Jeffrey Bradstreet is the Keynote Speaker.

"As the mother of a son who's recovered from autism, my heart goes out too families who are unable to afford treatments which will help their children," says Event Producer Laura Marroquin. "It is a privilege to indirectly help by being part of this fabulous event."

Tickets for the Love, Hope and Healing, A Mother's Day Luncheon, which begins with a champagne terrace reception with the speakers at 11:00am, are $125 and can be purchased online at http://www.act-today.org.
Each attendee will receive fabulous Gift Bags valued at over $500.

The Love, Hope and Healing, A Mother's Day Luncheon will include a silent auction with the following items made available: vacation and leisure items, beauty and health treatment, exquisite jewelry, and
hyperbaric oxygen therapy and consultation with Dr. Bradstreet.

Sponsors to date include David and Sandy Stone and Family,
Newport / Naples Rib Companies, Oxy Health, and Reaction Audio Visual.


Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) and the Founder and President of the Board of Autism Care and Treatment. Dr. Granpeesheh is licensed in California, Texas and Arizona. She is a member of the Defeat Autism Now! Executive Council, on the Scientific Advisory Board of the US Autism and Asperger's Association and is first Vice Chair of the National Board of Directors of the Autism Society of America. Dr. Granpeesheh is a member of the Autism Human Rights and Discrimination Initiative Steering Committee and on the Oversight Committee of the Department of Developmental Disabilities for the State of Arizona.


Dr. James Jeffrey Bradstreet is the Founder and Director of Clinical Programs of the International Child Development Resource Center (ICDRC). He is the author of numerous studies concerning the biomedical aspects of autism and recently has finished a landmark study of critical biomarkers of oxidation and inflammation in autism spectrum disorders. His son, Matthew, is recovering from autism with the combined help of biomedical and behavioral interventions. Dr. Bradstreet has offices in Florida, Arizona and will soon open an Orange County office in 2009.

ACT Today! is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to increase access to effective autism treatments. Since July of 2008, ACT Today! has given a total of approximately $200,000 in grants to families seeking assistance. Grants given range from behavioral therapy, bio-medical treatments and testing, safety equipment, school and camp programs, and social skills groups.

CARD has Spirit, Yes We Do!

In honor of Autism Awareness Month and the birthday of CARD Founder and Executive Director Doreen Granpeesheh, PhD, BCBA, CARD held their 1st Annual CARD Spirit Day this past Friday, April 10th, 2009 at headquarters. Staff was encouraged to come to work dressed up in CARD apparel and accessories to show their support for the company and the cause. From t-shirts to temporary tattoos, CARDian’s walked the halls of the building expressing their love for the company and Dr. Granpeesheh.

At twelve o’clock all the employees came together to see a very creative skit from the Research and Development Department and vote on three categories; Most Spirited CARDian, Most Creative CARDian, and Most Spirited Department.

The winners were Daphne Plump for Most Spirited CARDian, Carrie Zuckerman for Most Creative CARDian, and the Research and Development Department for Most Spirited Department.

The 1st Annual CARD Spirit Day was celebrated company wide, including the very spirited Garden Grove, San Jose, and Sacramento CARD offices. Thank you to all the employees who participated, as it would not have been a successful celebration without you.

Next year's 2nd Annual Spirit Day will be part of CARD’s 20 year celebration of service in the autism community. Pictures from this year can also be viewed by going to http://www.centerforautism.com/.com.






Living with Autism

By Darhiana Mateo, The Cafe' Magazine

Shortly after Elsa Sanchez’s son Israel’s first birthday, the La Grange Park mom suspected something was wrong. Her fair-skinned, redheaded second child wouldn’t look at her in the eyes or try to form words, and he never seemed at ease.

When Israel was 2 years old, his pediatrician confirmed her fears: He was diagnosed with autism. “That was the saddest day of my life,” says Sanchez. “I didn’t know what autism was. The first thing that popped to my head was ‘Is there a cure? How can I help my son?’ ”

autismIsrael, now 7, is part of an alarming trend that many experts are now calling an epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects as many as 1 in every 150 children in the United States. In fact, autism is now the fastest-growing developmental disability in the country, with government statistics reporting a 10 to 17 percent increase in diagnoses each year.

The complex developmental disability, part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders, impairs an individual’s ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behavior. Symptoms range from mild to severe depending on the individual.

For families, a diagnosis of autism — which occurs across all racial, ethnic and social groups — can be devastating, says Jonathan Tarbox, director of research and development for the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, one of the world’s largest organizations dedicated to treating autism, and an adjunct faculty member at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

“It really is a pervasive, global developmental disorder. It affects basically every aspect of the person’s life,” Tarbox says. “Mothers that I’ve met said things like when their child was diagnosed they felt like they were dying, that their world was falling apart. They felt a tremendous weight crushing down on them.”

There is no cure for autism, but with critical early intervention, there is hope. “If you intervene early on, you can make permanent changes in the child’s ability to function,” Tarbox says. “The earlier you start the less delayed the child is likely to be.”


In spite of some strides, the medical community remains as baffled by the disease as affected families.

Experts still have not reached a consensus as to what causes autism. “It’s very controversial still,” says Tarbox. “No one has identified any ‘autism genes’ yet. But most agree that it’s a product of genetics and some mix of environmental factors.”

As soon as autism is diagnosed, early intervention instruction should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social and cognitive skills. While there is no single treatment regimen for all children with autism, most individuals respond best to highly structured behavioral programs, according to Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization that sponsors research. Some of the most common interventions: applied behavior analysis; floortime therapy; a gluten-free, casein-free diet; speech therapy; and occupational therapy.

Within the Latino community, children are often diagnosed with autism and other developmental disorders later in life than other groups, thus missing out on key early treatment.

Dr. Elina Manghi, a native of Argentina and clinical services director at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Developmental Disabilities Family Clinics, says barriers that prevent Latino parents from accessing needed services include lack of knowledge, limited resources and language.

The clinic houses the Hispanic Diagnostic and Family Support Program, which provides interdisciplinary comprehensive assessments in Spanish and/or English for individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities. Its specialized bilingual services and culturally sensitive approach is filling a void in the Latino community, she says.

“The most pressing needs for the Latino population in Chicago affected by autism include information about the diagnosis and about services for their child; information regarding how to teach their child or how to handle the child’s behavior difficulties; access to services; and connection to other parents who also have a child with autism,” Manghi says.

The clinic launched Grupo SALTO, a Chicagoland monthly support group for Hispanic families with children with autism spectrum disorders. More than 150 families attend the meetings, which consist of training sessions for the parents and art classes for the children.

Elsa Sanchez is a member of Grupo SALTO as well as Grupo Fe, a support group for Latina mothers of children with developmental disabilities. During a Wednesday evening Grupo Fe meeting at Cicero Stadium on the South Side, Sanchez fought back tears as she explained how she draws strength from the other families: “The meetings are like my therapy. I’ve learned so much.”

Within the Latino community, there is still a stigma attached to being different, she says. “We can’t accept a diagnosis like autism,” Sanchez says. “It’s too harsh, especially when we know there’s no cure.”

Sanchez was immobilized by fear during those early months after her son’s diagnosis: “I was scared. Really scared. I didn’t want to accept it. I was afraid to even tell my family,” she says. Eventually, she realized she had to fight to help her son lead a normal life.

Thanks to years of intensive therapies and his mother’s determination, Israel, a second-grader, is doing much better. His proud mother describes him as a “happy, confident, charismatic child.”


Nelly Aguilar, a special educations attorney and member of Autism Speaks’ board of directors, says when her now 8-year-old son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, she received little guidance as to what to do next. “He was diagnosed — and that’s it. There was no here is what you should do,” she says.

So Aguilar took it upon herself to become an expert on autism and along the way, a staunch advocate of parents’ rights and community-based support.

Her advice to parents? Trust your instincts and do your homework. “A lot of these kids can’t speak. It’s really up to [parents] to take on an investigative role,” she says. “The Latino community is making great strides in terms of awareness, but there is still much left to go.”

Red Flags

Doctors used to wait until a child was at least 3 years old to diagnose autism. Now children are being diagnosed by 18 months or even earlier.

Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child’s failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones, according to the Web site Autism Speaks (www.autismspeaks.org).

Caretakers need to be vigilant and watch out for delays in their child’s language and socialization skills, as well as unusual behavior, Dr. Jonathan Tarbox says. Some early warning signs:

1. No response from the child to his or her name at an age that other children start to (usually around 6 to 8 months)

2. No attempt to communicate through babbling or gestures

3. A lack of eye contact

4. A lack of interest in engaging with others (i.e. not wanting to be held or cuddled or interact with siblings)

5. Any sudden loss of speech or social skills

6. If your child is showing any of these warning signs, Tarbox advices parents to find a psychologist or medical doctor who is an expert at diagnosing autism — most family physicians or pediatricians still know very little about this disorder, he says.

Insurance Mandate for Autistic Children

In December, Senate Bill 934 was passed into law in Illinois, providing insurance coverage to parents of children with autism for the first time in the state’s history.

The new insurance mandate provides for each eligible beneficiary up to $36,000 per year of services, including diagnosis, speech, and occupational, physical and behavioral therapies (including Applied Behavior Analysis), explains Laura Cellini, a policy advocate and parent representative to the Illinois Autism Task Force who helped co-write the bill.

The law applies to all insurance companies in Illinois except for large, self-funded corporations.

Cedar Hill Boy's Story Sparks Hope, Skepticism in Autism Community

By JESSICA MEYERS / The Dallas Morning News

The twiggy boy who greets strangers at his Cedar Hill home with a handshake and an impish grin bears no resemblance to the toddler who shied away from contact, screamed when he had to walk down the stairs and spent hours staring at the ceiling fan.

Roman Scott's cheerfully innocuous disposition belies the whirlwind he's stirring in autism circles. He's the subject of his mother's book, which claims he overcame the disorder after her intensive 2 ½ -year training program. Raindrops on Roman was released this month in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month.

On one level, Elizabeth Scott's account has stoked existing controversy among autism experts who question whether situations like Roman's are a promising development or a case of false hope. But it also reveals how the state's limited services have forced parents into the unwitting role of therapist, caretaker and healer.

Texas is "on the bottom of the totem pole in terms of resources," said Michelle Guppy, who runs Texas Autism Advocacy, an online network intended to help parents navigate the state's bureaucracy.

Her 15-year-old autistic son waited eight years before he received services from the state. By that time, the family had gone $60,000 into debt and had yanked him out of therapy.

"I could help one son now and that takes away college for the other and I couldn't do that," said Guppy, who applauds the book's inspirational tone and instructive suggestions. "Who knows – he could have been one of those recovered kids."

Range of disorders

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission estimates that about 50,000 Texas children have a disorder related to autism.

Few receive the same daily attention as Roman, who was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified at 18 months and autism at 3 years old. Both fall within the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders, with PDD-NOS considered milder. There are five types, which range from mild to severe and often involve problems with social interaction, appropriate behavior, speech development and repeated compulsive actions.

The state-administered Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program treats about 60,000 children with disabilities and developmental delays up to 3 years of age. Individual school districts take over with special education programs from age 3, but both systems have a shortage of professionals and inconsistent services.

Some children who have delayed speaking problems may only see a speech therapist twice a month, unlike in California, where regional centers offer a range of services to parents of autistic children. In Texas, parents wait up to 10 years for Medicaid programs that offer aid to people with mental disabilities.

The Texas Legislature passed a law two years ago mandating that insurance companies cover autism-related services for children between ages 3 and 5, but the coverage is often limited. Children often need therapy reinforced beyond this point, and that can cost upwards of $50,000 a year and is generally out-of-pocket.

Unlike states such as California and Indiana, Texas has no central autism resource center. Parents are left relying on each other to find out what's available.

'People need to know'

That's largely what motivated Scott to write the memoir.

"If there is a story of recovery and this is it, then parents need to know about it," she said, as 7-year-old Roman alternated between building his Lego city and watching Tom and Jerry in the living room.

Scott, who has a master's in elementary education, said she had to try something as she watched Roman choke on his food, churn his hands in circles, throw tantrums at the sight of a camera, smack the television every morning or fight the sensation of a toothbrush.

"I needed to work all day to keep him from retreating into his own world," she said. "I ran the Boston Marathon, and that was cake compared to this."

Frustrated with only two hours a week of ECI therapy, she stopped working and dedicated herself to re-training her son. Her husband continued to work nights as a computer analyst for J.C. Penney.

She turned her sitting room into a work space with shoe-lacing activities and puzzles for fine motor skills, word charts for language development, and a spot for timeout. The "skills and drills" took at least 10 hours a day, from songs at breakfast to spelling in the bathtub at night.

Three months into the regime, Roman started talking. Then the recurring laps around the house stopped. Slowly, he started responding to the reading drills. By 4, he tested out of special education.

Roman's altered behavior did not go unnoticed.

"He has far surpassed any of the other kids I have ever seen," said Paige Garza, his preschool teacher and a neighbor who has witnessed all of Roman's stages. "Now he's a grown man in a little person's body. If I had met him today, I would never believe it."

She cited Roman's progress as her impetus for returning to school to focus on special education.

Cases of recovery

The word "cure" is considered taboo among researchers, and stories of recovery are rare. But they're not inconceivable for a disorder that affects one in 150 children in the United States. High-profile cases have inspired self-help books and made-for-TV movies. The Son-Rise Program and the Autism Treatment Center of America sprang from the apparent recovery of Raun Kaufman, an autistic child who stopped showing symptoms after his parents developed a comprehensive therapy program for him.

Actress Jenny McCarthy has garnered significant recent attention for autism recovery by claiming that a special diet helped her son cease his autistic behaviors.

Researchers warn against following these examples too closely.

"What is true for one child is not going to be true for most children for autism," said Susan Swedo, chief of pediatrics and the developmental neuropsychiatry branch at the National Institute of Mental Health. She has just begun a study on autism recovery.

While it's possible that children like Roman stop showing symptoms, it's also conceivable that they received a "squishy" or inaccurate diagnosis, she said. A behavior checklist rather than a medical test determines whether a child has an autism spectrum disorder. So if the child was having a bad day during the evaluation or has a general fear of strangers, that can affect the results. She also noted that the previous behaviors could re-develop later in life in less structured settings, such as a junior high cafeteria.

Scott's repeated and rigorous training techniques resemble the most commonly accepted autism therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis, Swedo said. And they only could have helped in an area where so much rides on early intervention.

"The earlier you start, the more time you will have to be in therapy and won't get stuck in negative patterns," she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends autism screening as early as 18 months. The academy also encourages systematic activities for at least 25 hours a week even before a definitive diagnosis is made.

Time-intensive process

Most parents don't have this same time or financial means to focus solely on their children, said Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, the founder of the California-based Center for Autism and Related Disorders.

"You're basically teaching a child a new communication system," she said, emphasizing that even several hours a day of structured one-on-one lessons from mom or dad can help a child under the age of 7. For the busy parent, she suggested paying a high school student to go over reasoning skills or asking a sibling to play games that require hand-eye coordination.

Granpeesheh endorses the notion that some children can recover from the disorder. She worked on the seminal 1987 autism treatment study that spanned two years and showed astounding progress in autistic children after 40 hours a week of behavioral therapy. Almost half of the children tested normally when the study ended. She has continued her own research, and completed a documentary last year that featured four children who, like Roman, no longer show signs of autism.

Entering mainstream

Autism studies are gaining more ground as the word enters the mainstream. The National Institutes of Health will commit about $60 million from the stimulus package toward autism research, the most funding to date. The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services started a pilot program last April that gives $5 million to four Texas agencies devoted to autism spectrum disorders and behavioral therapy.

In the meantime, parents search for reassurance, advice and clarity for this perplexing condition and its myriad forms.

"We've ordered a couple of copies [of Scott's book] for the family," said Kimberly Henderson, a St. Louis resident whose 2-year-old son has developmental delays and is undergoing testing. She squeezes in lessons when she gets home from work at 6 until bedtime. "I use it as my textbook. Knowing that she has overcome this is important to me."

Roman also knows his mother has written a book about him but doesn't fully understand why. He still exhibits a few quirks. He understands comments on a more literal level than most kids and hates the texture of almost all foods, but he already has "a million girlfriends."

He has plans to be an architect, once he makes it through first grade.


'Red flags'

•Does not make eye contact or interact with other children

•Does not react to smiling and is resistant to change

•Is unusually attached to certain objects; excessively lines up toys

•Is prone to tantrums

•Does not babble, coo or make meaningful gestures (pointing, waving, grasping, etc.) by 1 year

•Engages in repetitive behaviors (hand twirling, flapping)

•Is oversensitive or undersensitive to pain

•Has fine or gross motor problems

Treatment tips from Elizabeth Scott

1. Stop repeated behaviors: Count down to warn the child to stop a repeated habit, then replace it with a toy or activity.

2. Focusing: Have the child sit at a small table and participate in a variety of activities (shape sorter, Play-Doh, arts and crafts) for one to two minutes. Increase the time per activity over weeks. Use a timer and lots of language to keep the child talking.

3. Daily living activities: Incorporate skills into regular activities such as feeding, bathing and driving. Have a "goodie bag" of stuffed animals, squishy balls and flash cards. When the child is done with one toy, hand the child another. Interact using the toy. This will keep the child focused on something purposeful even while you are doing your daily routines.

4. Improving fine motor and gross motor skills: Have the child lace pictures, play with beads, use stamps, and do stacking and sorting. Increase gross coordination with activities such as tunnel play, rolling and throwing a ball, basketball shots, bowling and using playground apparatus.

SOURCES: Autism Society of America; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

The Office that Never Sleeps

By Frank Lo Curto
As Published in the CARD Case Spring 2009 Newsletter

Click Image Below to Enlarge

Autism Votes... It's time for lawmakers to listen

Dear Autism Advocate,

Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today applauded the introduction of the groundbreaking Autism Treatment Acceleration Act (ATAA). Originally drafted by then-Senator Barack Obama and introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), ATAA is comprehensive federal legislation that addresses several critical challenges facing the autism community, including increased funding for scientific research, treatment and services. The ATAA incorporates provisions from the Expanding the Promise of Individuals with Autism Act (EPIAA), originally proposed by then-Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

A key section of the bill requires all insurance companies to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASDs), including coverage of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy – a medically-necessary, evidence-based autism treatment. In most states, insurers are currently allowed to specifically exclude coverage for these critical services, which can cost upward of $50,000 a year – well beyond the means of most families.

To help address the unique needs of adults with ASDs, the bill would create a demonstration project with one-year planning grants and multi-year implementation grants for the provision of service for adults with autism. In addition, it creates the National Autism Translational “Research to Services” Network aimed at accelerating the dissemination and utilization of critical, new information, moving it from “bench to bedside” as quickly as possible.

For a complete summary description of this bill, go to www.AutismVotes.org/ATAA.

Help us get it PASSED!

1. CONTACT YOUR FEDERAL SENATOR! Urge him/her to become a cosponsor of the ATAA bill.

Call your Senator's office and let him/her know that you support the ATAA bill and you want your Senator to become a cosponsor today. Click here to find the name and phone number for your federal Senator!

Send an email to your Senator! Autism Votes has written part of the email message for you. All you need to do is fill in the empty box with your story about your family's experience with autism and how the ATAA bill will help.

2. STAY INFORMED ON THE ATAA BILL! Sign up to receive Autism Votes email alerts and stay informed on the progress of this bill.

3. FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY! Get your friends and family involved in getting the ATAA bill passed.

World Autism Awareness Day

On December 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 62/139, tabled by the State of Qatar, which declares April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) in perpetuity.
This UN resolution is one of only three official disease-specific United Nations Days and will bring the world's attention to autism, a pervasive disorder that affects tens of millions. The World Autism Awareness Day resolution encourages all Member States to take measures to raise awareness about autism throughout society and to encourage early diagnosis and early intervention. It further expresses deep concern at the prevalence and high rate of autism in children in all regions of the world and the consequent developmental challenges.

World Autism Awareness Day shines a bright light on autism as a growing global health crisis. WAAD activities help to increase and develop world knowledge of the autism epidemic and impart information regarding the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. Additionally, WAAD celebrates the unique talents and skills of persons with autism and is a day when individuals with autism are warmly welcomed and embraced in community events around the globe.

By bringing together autism organizations all around the world, we will give a voice to the millions of individuals worldwide who are undiagnosed, misunderstood and looking for help. Please join us in our effort to inspire compassion, inclusion and hope.

For more information about World Autism Day, please visit www.worldautismawarenessday.org.

For more information about autism and nationwide events,
please visit: www.centerforautism.com.

Autism Rates Are Higher for U.S.- Born Somali Children in Minneapolis


Confirming the fears of Somali immigrants in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Health Department agreed Tuesday that young Somali children there appeared to have higher-than-usual rates of autism.

Though health officials emphasized that their report was based on very limited data, they concluded that young Somali children appeared to be two to seven times as likely as other children to be in classes for autistic pupils.

Dr. Sanne Magnan, the state health commissioner, said the finding was “consistent with the observations by parents,” who have been saying for more than a year that alarming numbers of Somali children born in this country have severe autism. Somalis began immigrating into the area in the 1990s, fleeing civil war in their homeland. The report made no effort to explain why the children had autism. Its authors did not examine children or their medical records. They accepted the diagnoses — some by doctors, some by school evaluators — that admitted children to special-education classes, and they calculated rates for different ethnic groups. They counted only 3- to 4-year-olds, only children in Minneapolis public schools, and only children born in Minnesota. They drew no comparisons with Somalis in other cities.

There have been anecdotal reports of higher autism rates among Somalis in some American cities, and no formal studies. A small study in Sweden reported high rates among Somali schoolchildren in Stockholm.

Idil Abdull, the mother of an autistic child who has long tried to draw attention to the Minneapolis situation, said she was “happy that they said, ‘Yes, there is a problem.’ ”

“I knew they couldn’t count everyone,” added Ms. Abdull, a founder of the Somali American Autism Foundation. “I know there are Somalis whose kids are under the bed and not taken anywhere and kids who go to private schools or charter schools that weren’t counted.

“But at least they didn’t say, ‘No, it’s all in your minds.’ If they had done that, I’d picket in front of their building.”

Istahil Ma’alin, who has an autistic son, said, “They told us that what our eyes feel, they feel it, too.”

Ahmed Essa, 8, who is autistic, worked on a math exercise at school in Bloomington, MN, with his teacher Lacey Brock.

Dr. Magnan said possible next steps included extending the study to Minneapolis suburbs or other cities with Somali populations or doing a study based on medical diagnoses that would try to determine autism rates statewide. But she added that creating statewide registries was difficult and expensive, even for easier-to-diagnose illnesses like cancer.

Dr. Magnan noted that this study found “strikingly low” numbers of Asian and American Indian children in the same special-education classes. But she cautioned that the reason might not be lower autism rates; instead, parents might not be enrolling their children in those classes, or might be sending them to private schools.

The study was done in consultation with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coleen Boyle, director of the agency’s division of birth defects and developmental disabilities, called the study well done but preliminary, adding, “It highlights the importance of ongoing monitoring.”

There are no plans yet to study autism in Somalis elsewhere or to do genetic studies, Dr. Boyle said.

The disease control agency monitors autism diagnoses among 8-year-old children in 14 sites around the country, and in 2007 it estimated that about 1 child in 150 had an autism-spectrum disorder. Rates are roughly the same for whites and blacks, Catherine Rice, another C.D.C. official, said recently. They are lower among Hispanics, possibly because of poor medical care or cultural reticence, she said. Too few Asians were monitored to make estimates.