Sunday, September 9, 2012

Autism Immunity, Whip Worms and More Mischief

Latest Autism News

You probably read or heard about the lead Op Ed article in the New York Times a week or two ago by Velasquez-Manoff claiming there is strong evidence autism is an immune disorder. Not so much.  There is actually very little evidence to support this idea despite many, many years of efforts by many researchers to find a clear connection. The author is an environmental activist journalist with no background in autism or immune disorders. He is trying to sell a book which will probably be a real hit with the anti-immunization crowd.  He makes all kinds of unsubstantiated claims, such as there is no autism in Cambodia, apparently due to endemic whip worms, and that 1/3 of cases of autism are caused by intrauterine infections. Yet one more magical mystery cure.  Shoddy science journalism.  See http://www. for my commentary “More Autism Mischief:  From Auto-Immune Disorder Whip Worms.”

I just learned that my book, Dr. Thompson’s Straight Talk on Autism has been translated into Portuguese an is being published in Brazil by Papirus Editora under the mixed title, “Straight Talk Dr. Thompson sobre o Autismo.” Apparently “straight talk” has no Portuguese equivalent. Many thanks to my Publisher Paul H. Brookes and my Brazilian colleagues!  Here’s the link to the English version

Quick Tips

It’s important to decide upon a strategy for your child’s intervention, make a commitment to stick with it.  Evidence shows the best predictors of positive outcomes of early behavioral intervention are partially child and partially parent characteristics.  Children with some speech, imitation and social interest, and parents who have made a clear commitment to an approach for their child and persist, tend to yield the best child outcomes. (Grindle, Koshov, 2009)

Random Thoughts

Every time a phony cure for autism is proposed and is exposed for what it is, phony, it feeds the misimpression that very little is actually known about autism and that little progress has been made.  In 1972 psychiatrist William C. Dement conducted a follow up study showing that only 1-2% of a large group of children with autism grow up to function within the typical range without treatment, putting forever an end to the idea children “outgrow” autism with good parenting.  Because of Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention, which has grown out of applied behavior analysis research, about half of young children with autism diagnoses now are able to function in or near the typical range after 2-3 years of treatment.  Compared with the rate of progress in finding the causes and effective treatments for cancer and heart disease, progress has been made far more rapidly in understanding and treating autism.

What I'm Up To

Logan Hall, University of New Mexico
I just returned from a visit the Psychology Department at the University of New Mexico in Aluqueque, where I presented the Frank A. Logan Quad-L Award lecture “Autism Early Intervention and Brain Development.”  The audience seemed to find my thoughts about the causes and treatment of autism thought provoking, and some even found them compelling.  I met some terrific honors undergraduate and grad students, and wonderful faculty members, Randi Fink, Derek Hendry, Karin Butler, Kevin Vowles and Ronald Yeo, all doing fascinating work from spousal abuse, to mechanisms underlying alcoholism, to pain management and genetics of schizophrenia.  An unexpected “side-benefit” of my visit was that I Iearned Black bears come down from the nearby Sandia Mountains this time of year to begin fattening up for the winter.  One was captured near a mall in nearby Santa Fe a week or so ago.  When I was out and about in Albuqueque, I admit, kept a slightly wary eye out for the big fellas, just in case they had a hankering for a midwestern psychologist.  Thanks to all for a great visit. 

Quote of the Week: 

C. S. Pierce, the first experimental psychologist and philosopher, who was born Sept 10, 1839 said it concisely, “There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be.”
Pragmatism as a Principle and Method of Right Thinking (1997), 266.

Grindle, Corinna F.Kovshoff, HannaHastings, Richard P. and Remington, Bob (2009) Parents’ experiences of home-based applied behavior analysis programs for young children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders39(1)42-56(doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0597-z)
Grindle, C.F.Kovshoff, H.Hastings, R. and Remington, R.E. (2009) Parents experiences of home-based applied behaviour analysis programs for young children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders39(doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0597-z)

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