December 08, 2006

"Combating Autism Act" Passes Both Houses Of Congress

Heads to the President's desk to be signed into law.

The summary of the bill can be found here. The full text is here. In a nutshell, this act provides $1 Billion for research, screening, intervention and education on this mysterious condition.

Special thanks goes to Senator Rick Santorum of PA who personally championed this effort.

As some of you may already know, Autism is an issue that touches me and my family personally. Autism and Austistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are currently being diagnosed at a rate of 1 out of every 166 children.

Think about that for a moment. 1 in 166. Even if you suspect this is an overestimation, the odds of an ASD possibly affecting your child is extremely high in proportion to those of any other diagnosed illness.

Take from my personal experience that the key to facing this challenge is early detection and early intervention. I urge all parents to educate themselves about autism. And if you even remotely suspect that your child may be affected, I strongly recommend that you get an evaluation. Don't let the fear of a label deter you. Every month, every week, every day that passes is critical.

Find out more at

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March 02, 2006

I Don't Believe In Chelation Therapy

On to a serious subject here. I write this as a parent of three children who have been diagnosed with autistic-spectrum related disorders. There has been a lot written about what appears to be an epidemic of Autism these days. Many have speculated as to the specific causes, none have been proven. I personally feel it's a complex mixture of genetic and environmental factors combined with an ever-broadening diagnostic criteria. Hopefully, one day, medical science will figure it out.

One therapy de jour that has become popular (and is very expensive) is called Chelation. This therapy operates under the premise that Autistic-related disorders are caused primarily by the mercury in Thimerosal, a preservative that was used in childhood vaccinations. Those who offer "Chelation" therapy claim that it removes the mercury and - over time - will "cure" the condition.

Look, I understand the pain, anger and frustration that parents of a child with autism feel. I understand it three times over. I have nothing but empathy for these folks who desperately want to do anything they can to find a cure. But having researched this myself, the evidence is overwhelming to me that Chelation is at best a scam and at worst an even greater threat to the child's health. You can find plenty of sources on the internet that debunk the claims about Chelation including sites here and here.

I've avoided this subject because I know there is a lot of hostility out there for those who question it. Politics is one thing, but this is personal. I was always doubtful about Chelation but the best evidence I have against the validity of the Thimerosal claim is one simple fact: The last lot of thimerosal-containing vaccines expired in January 2003. My youngest son, who has been diagnosed with mild "classic" autism, the most severe condition of the three boys, was born in June 2003. If the claims of the Thimerosal crowd are valid, then the incidences of diagnosed autistic-spectrum disorders should now be plummeting. Since this didn't happen in countries like Canada and Denmark who mandated removed of Thimerosal from vaccines back in the 1990's, I'm highly skeptical it will happen in the U.S. now.

What spurred this post was something related to me by Orac at Respectful Insolence. He has written extensively on the subject and he recently came across a story that shows how this Chelation movement has gotten even more bizarre. I urge anyone who has even a passing interest in this topic to read it in full. It's an eye-opener.

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February 24, 2006

Hoop Dreams Come True For Autistic Teen

High School Senior Jason McElwain of Rochester, NY plays in the final four minutes of his team's last home game. What he does will make you cheer.

Jason has autism.

The story has special meaning for me because autism is a part of my family's life. Be sure to watch the video that goes with the story. Special thanks to BullDogPundit for linking this.

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August 10, 2005

Ex-Donkey shows his vulnerable side...

My youngest son, Kevin, is a sweet little two-year old who has been diagnosed with autism. We don't know yet how severe it is but he is currently receiving ten plus hours a week of therapy courtesy of the State of CT (they can do some things right).

Anyway it's share time. This evening the Ex-Donkette took the middle son to a PJ storytime at our local library and I have number one and three to tend to while I clean the house in her absence.

Kevin, unlike most children with autism, likes to be held but he has always been very passive about it. This evening while getting him ready for bed I thought I'd rock him on my shoulder while listening to some music to get him in the bedtime "mindset".

A little bit into the first song, while his head rested on my left shoulder, Kevin reached his left arm around my neck and held it firmly and his right arm went around my left shoulder in the same way. He was hugging me.

I can't express in words how important this is - not only for his development but for my own emotional well-being. I'm still a little choked up about it. Sorry for wasting valuable blog space when I could be sharing stories about a guy in Latvia who blew his nuts off trying to brew moonshine in his apartment.

Cripes, between this and the LL Bean catalog I'm turning into a great big pansy.

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April 02, 2005

Autism Awareness...

I've added this picture link to my right sidebar. It will bring you to a good resource - the Autism Society of America. I have a personal connection to this issue. All three of my sons have been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum disorders. My oldest son, Ryan, has Asperger's Syndrome, or High-Functioning Autism. My middle son, Justin, has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified) and my youngest, Kevin, has what is considered "classic" Autism. I highly recommend that any parent of young children learn all they can about Autism and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).

Medical and psychiatry experts are learning more and more with research every day. And many children who have been misdiagnosed with other conditions (ADHD, OCD, etc.) are now getting the help they need as we come to better understand Autism and its signs and symptoms.

Early detection is the key because intervention at a young age can make a tremendous difference in an affected child's life. If you have a child between 18 and 36 months who is not yet speaking, has difficulty with interaction, rarely makes eye contact or even just seems to often be "in another world", I URGE you to educate yourself because it's better to rule it out than overlook it. You know your children best and if something just doesn't seem right you need to go with your instincts and talk to your pediatrician.

Another great resource is Autism, an organization dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of Autism and developing new treatments.

Having a child on the Autistic spectrum can make a parent feel very isolated and frustrated. If you would like to send me an email, I'd be more than happy to share any insights or experiences that I may have on the subject or even lend a sympathetic ear for anyone that may be struggling with this increasingly common situation.

UPDATE (12/8/06):
"Combating Autism Act of 2006" becomes law. Read more here.

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