Archive for the Autism Category

Autistic 10-year-old Arvada girl missing from her home

Posted in Autism, News with tags , , on May 31, 2011 by punauni

Arvada police and volunteers are looking for an autistic 10-year-old girl who went missing on Monday afternoon.

Kristina Vlassenko has been missing since about 3:30 p.m. in the area of West 58th Avenue and Miller Street, according to an Arvada Police Department media release.

Arvada police and the Arvada Search Team canvassed the area Monday but did not find the girl.

The missing child is described as a white girl, about 3 3 feet, 8 inches tall and 40 pounds. She has hazel eyes and brown hair.

Kristina was wearing a red, Mickey Mouse t-shirt, with a white t-shirt underneath, blue jeans and pink sandals.

The girl, who has limited speaking ability, carries a Life Trak system but the device has not

helped searchers locate her. Life Trak is a low-frequency radio tracking device.

Police said there were no immediate indications of foul play.

Anyone with information on the missing girl is asked to call the Arvada Police Department at 720-898-6900.


Scientists Find Molecular Similarities in Brains of Those with Autism

Posted in Autism, Medicine, News with tags on May 31, 2011 by punauni

The symptoms and severity of autism vary widely, but new research shows remarkable similarities at the molecular level in the brains of people with the disorder.

Researchers from Los Angeles, Toronto and London analyzed post-mortem brain tissue samples from 19 people with autism and 17 without.

In the healthy brains, researchers saw distinct differences in the gene expression in the frontal lobe vs. the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex — differences that help determine the structure and function of the two brain regions.

Specifically, between the frontal and temporal lobes in the healthy brains, more than 500 genes were expressed at different levels. Gene expression is the process by which a gene’s DNA sequence is copied into RNA to produce proteins, which perform specific tasks within the cell.

But researchers didn’t find those same patterns in autistic brains. Instead, researchers found only eight differences in the gene expression in the frontal and temporal lobes.

“In a healthy brain, the frontal and temporal lobes can be differentiated,” said principal investigator Dr. Daniel Geschwind, a distinguished professor of neurology, psychiatry and human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “But in autism we didn’t see that. Instead, the frontal lobe closely resembles the temporal lobe.”

Many of those regional differences in the cerebral cortex are established during fetal development, researchers added.

The study is published in the May 25 online issue of Nature.

Over the past decade, researchers have discovered lots of gene variants that seem to play a role in some cases of autism, but none of the mutations were present in a large percentage of people with the disorder.

Prior research has also implicated regions of the cerebral cortex, which is highly developed in humans, in autism. The frontal lobe is involved with judgment, language, planning, social cognition and personality, while the temporal lobe is important for language and emotions, Geschwind said.

But this is the first study to show differences in the patterns of gene expression between brain regions. It’s those patterns of gene expression that enable the brain to function normally and to communicate properly with other regions of the brain, explained Robert Ring, vice president for translational research for Autism Speaks.

“This study allows us to look at the complexity of what’s going on at a molecular level in the brain, a step up from the gene,” Ring said. “Here we have the opportunity to really see that the development of normal brain physiology requires differences in the regional activity of gene networks. This report provides evidence that the expected pattern of these differences is absent in autism.”

Researchers say the findings may help in the development of medications that target the pathways. “The fact that it’s shared says there is some hope of beginning to unwind this and develop some treatments that would target those pathways,” Geschwind said.

Compared to the healthy brains, autistic brains had less activity in the genes responsible for neuron function and communication, and a heightened level of gene expression in genes involved in immune function and inflammatory response.

Some of those genes have also previously been implicated in autism, researchers noted.

An estimated one in 110 U.S. children — including one in 70 boys — has an autism spectrum disorder, according to background information in the study. Autism affects behavior and impairs the ability to communicate and establish social relationships. Diagnoses have increased tenfold in the past decade.

Is the iPad a ‘Miracle Device’ for Autism?

Posted in Autism, News with tags , , on March 22, 2011 by punauni


Steve Jobs called it a magical device. For the parents of autistic children, it actually might be.

Experts say the Apple iPad lessens the symptoms of the disorder, helping kids deal with life’s sensory overload — in a sense “curing” the disorder, one parent says.

That’s what Laura Holmquist believes, at least. Her son Hudson was having 8 or 9 violent meltdowns per day. One morning he started screaming in his bedroom — and didn’t stop until late that evening. The family of eight could not go to public events or out to dinner and had a hard time communicating with him.

“The iPad has given us our family back,” Laura told “It’s unlocked a new part of our son that we hadn’t seen before, and given us insight into the way he connects with his world.”

Diagnosed with autism about ten months ago, 3-year-old Hudson is built like a Mack truck and has a disarming smile. His brother Zane is about the same age (both are adopted) and can ask for toys and say complete sentences, but Hudson has trouble communicating about basic needs.

“Originally, we thought he wasn’t talking to us because he has four big sisters and they would help him out,” Laura said. “He would point to things without asking for them.”

A school therapist suggested using the Apple iPad; amazingly, the Holmquists say Hudson took to the device immediately. A family friend used the site to raise funds for a new iPad for him, and Hudson now uses the iPad daily as a way to play games, communicate about ideas and even make puzzles.

Laura says the touchscreen tablet is a miracle device.

The experts weigh in
Autism experts like Dr. Martha Herbert, an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical, and Stephen Shore, who wrote the book “Understanding Autism for Dummies,” agree about the iPad’s usefulness.

The disorder, which affects as many as one out of 110 children in the U.S. according to a CDC study, means kids have “no control over the pace of information coming at them,” Herbert told “They are not distracted by context.” With the iPad, she said, the child has more control.

Shore, who struggled with autism as a child himself, said the iPad might be the difference between communicating with the outside world and being locked into a closed state. Interestingly, he says it might be the first of several gadgets that actually free a child from some effects of autism — and that additional devices, including those that augment speech, will also help.

Mark Coppin, the Assistive Technology Director at the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown, North Dakota — which uses the iPad as part of their special education programs — said the iPad lets autistic kids have direct control over the interface, unlike a laptop that uses a keyboard and mouse.

Apps like Proloquo2go by AssistiveWare provide a way for kids with autism to communicate desires and feelings in a way that would not be possible otherwise, Coppin said.

There are at least three dozen apps designed for autistic kids including ones for music and reading. And the device itself supports spoken text and other aids for those with special needs.

Areva Martin, an attorney turned autism advocate who has a 13-year-old son with autism, said one of the most important reasons the iPad works so well as a communication device is that it has a high “cool factor” and doesn’t make the child stick out. Other communication devices, such as the $7,000-$10,000 Dynavox, call attention to the child, she said.

Dangers of using the iPad?
As with any gadget, over-exposure is not a good thing. As Martin points out, any child will retreat into another world using a Nintendo DS or an Xbox 360. She said parents of any child, autistic or not, need to monitor how much a gadget is being used, similar to how they use candy as an occasional reward.

Shore explained that there is an opportunity for parents and teachers to get more involved with how the autistic child uses the iPad. Currently, there are no apps that let a parent or teacher connect over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to the child’s iPad and participate in the same app. He says that participation is still critical, though, to help prevent the iPad from being just a distraction from normal life.

“Still, it’s okay to use the iPad as a distraction,” Shore said. “People use BlackBerrys on planes that way all of the time. Of course, they don’t have meltdowns when the battery dies! But with the autistic child, it could be their only way to communicate and understand the outside world.”

Michigan Man Admits Getting Single Moms to Molest Their Own Kids and Send Him Videos WTF!

Posted in Autism, News, Parents Behaving Badly, People Behaving Badly, Sad with tags , , on March 7, 2011 by punauni


Detroit – Steven Demink of Michigan pleaded guilty on Monday to a horrifying scheme in which he persuaded single mothers in Illinois, Indiana and across the country to sexually assault their own children as a form of therapy, and then send him videos and photos.

Since authorities arrested Demink in October, seven children were rescued and at least three mothers have been arrested. Prosecutors say all of the children are now safe.

Demink, 41, of Redford Township, Mich., appeared in federal court in Detroit to enter his plea on six charges related to the sexual exploitation of children. Seven charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. He faces 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced in June.

Court documents paint a picture of a man who targeted single mothers, and in some cases, promised a date if they followed through with his directions. He would identify himself as Dalton St. Clair, a single father of a 14-year-old girl, prosecutors said, and posted pictures of male models as his headshot.

He connected with mothers in New Hampshire, Idaho, Florida, New Hampshire and elsewhere from April 2009 until September 2010, authorities say, and coerced and enticed them to engage in sexual acts with their children and send images via e-mail or through a live web stream. The children ranged in age from 3 to 15, according to court documents.

According to the plea agreement, Demink engaged in online chats with an Oregon woman about the sexual development of her eight-year-old autistic son. He told her to engage in sexually explicit conduct with her son as a way to teach him about sex, and she did so while Demink watched on a web camera, prosecutors say.

“Demink intimated to these women that the result of the therapy would be healthier children,” the document said.

The arrested mothers include Rebecca Nail, who lived in New Hampshire when prosecutors say the crimes occurred. She pleaded guilty in December to producing child pornography, which carries a possible sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison, and is scheduled to be sentenced March 21 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Va. The Associated Press left a message seeking comment from Larry Dash, a federal defender representing Nail.

Candice Miller of Lee County, Fla., has pleaded not guilty to five counts and was being held without bond in Florida and faces a May 2 trial in federal court in Fort Myers, federal defender Martin DerOvanesian said. She also faces state charges connected to the case, he said.

“Those are similar allegations the government has made in our case,” said Martin DerOvanesian, who represents Miller.

Prosecutors say Demink is also linked to four other mothers in Indiana, Georgia, Illinois and Oregon but has not been charged with crimes related to those communications. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mulcahy said those cases are not part of the indictment but can be considered during sentencing.

In court on Monday, Demink told U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen he understood the charges and that he was giving up his right to a trial by pleading guilty. When Rosen asked how Demink was feeling, he said, “Nervous, your honor.”

Demink’s attorney, Timothy Dinan, said his client “has expressed a lot of remorse” for what he did and has taken responsibility by pleading guilty. Dinan said Demink’s parents, who were in court but declined to be interviewed, are praying for their son as well as the victims and their families.

“It’s a shame he couldn’t ask for help,” Dinan said.

A bus matron in the Bronx has been arrested by police after being accused of attacking a 12-year-old autistic student Matthew Ortiz.

Posted in Autism, News, People Behaving Badly, Sad with tags , on February 14, 2011 by punauni

“She took him by his neck, and she pushed him so hard,” mother Joanne Ortiz told CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman.

It might have been an autistic child putting out his leg as a way of telling someone to stand back, but some say the matron on the bus may have thought it was a kick.

“And she hit him in his face,” his mother said.

Joanne Ortiz said she saw the bus matron hit her son, Matthew.

“I’m looking at her in shock, and I go, ‘did you just hit my son?’ That’s the first thing that came out of my mouth,” Ortiz said. “She said, ‘I’m not going to let your [expletive] son hit me.’

“She attacked me after that – physically. She went to beat me up,” she said.

When police from the 40th Precinct saw the bruise on the boy’s face, they arrested the matron, 40-year-old Gina Rosado. She was still in custody for most of the day Thursday, awaiting arraignment at Bronx Criminal Court.

Guzman spoke to Rosado’s manager, Debbie Lloyd, at Mar-Can Transportation.

“We have never had an incident with this matron…I think there have been a few situations with this particular parent…I definitely stand by this woman. This is way out of character,” Lloyd said.

“There should be cameras in these buses,” father Angel Ortiz said. “These kids, that cannot speak or protect themselves – there should be cameras in these buses.”

The bus company is hired by New York City. It has nothing to do with Matthew’s school in Westchester.

New York City’s Department of Education suspended Rosado until the investigation is completed.

Digestion and autism

Posted in Autism, News on January 5, 2011 by punauni


The mystery of autism may lie somewhere in a child’s stomach.

HealthFirst reporter Leslie Toldo explains why some researchers think so.

It is not without controversy, but a group of researchers believe they have cracked at least part of the autism code.

Zoe Langford lives in the background. She’s been such a loner for so long, mom and dad were worried. Then she was diagnosed with autism. “She’s very bright, very sweet. The problem is with communication,” said her father, Kevin Langford.

She’s enrolled in a controversial clinical trial at the University of Texas where kids are fed an enzyme to help aide in protein digestion.

“There are many ways we can treat children with autism, but this one is a different approach,” explained Deborah A. Pearson, Ph.D.

Pearson says autistic kids simply don’t accept protein well. Studies show 70 percent have gastro-intestinal problems. Better protein digestion may create amino acids, which could boost brain function. “They’ll be able to learn better, they’ll be able to, you know, behave better.”

Zoe’s father sees a change. “I notice a lot more talking, a lot more communicating. I just think she’s come out of her shell.”

Some experts are skeptical of the treatment, but the FDA approved the final phase of the trial looking to see if the enzyme improves communicative problems, social deficits and digestive problems. There are 12 trial sites testing 170 kids between 3-8 years old.

“If it can help us and our child, just imagine what it could do for those extremely autistic children,” Zoe’s mother, Meredith Langford, said.

For Zoe, it’s a new way of looking at the world. >

Critics say protein digestion alone can’t possibly correct the core complications of autistic behavior.

Only two drugs are currently approved for autism treatment, and both are antipsychotic medications.

The study is not taking place in Michigan. Indiana and Ohio are the closest states.

Dallas mom, Saiqa Akhter, killed her two children because they were autistic:

Posted in Autism, News, Parents Behaving Badly with tags , , , on July 27, 2010 by punauni

A woman accused of killing her two young children did so because they were autistic, authorities say.

The Dallas mom allegedly murdered her children on Monday, and made the shocking confession to a 911 operator, according to recordings released by police on Wednesday.

“I killed both of them. I told you,” Saiqa Akhter can he heard saying to 911, CBS News reports.

“They’re both not normal, not normal,” she said during the conversation with the operator. “They’re autistic. Both are autistic… I don’t want my children to be like that. … I want normal kids.”

Akhter admits during the call she first tried to poison the children with bathroom cleaner, but they wouldn’t drink it. She then opted to choke them with wire.

“They are not doing anything,” she said, after explaining they were on the bed in the master bedroom. “They are just blue and they are not taking any breaths and … their heart is not beating.”

Police can be heard arriving at the end of the recording.

Akhter has been charged with capital murder of Zain, her 5-year-old son, who was dead at the scene. The younger child, Faryaal, 2, died the following day, which will likely earn her mother a second capital murder charge.

Zain was autistic, Wasimul Haque, Akhter’s uncle, told the Dallas Morning News. He had a speech impediment and was undergoing therapy.

“It is very, very tragic,” Haque said. “We are in the deep sadness.”

It is unclear why the 30-year-old mother thought her 2-year-old daughter was not “normal.”

If convicted, Akhter could face the death penalty.

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