April 2012

There is a series on BBC Two about autism that looks fabulous. Sometimes video links from the BBC won’t play here in America, but if you can play it, it looks really good.

BBC Two – Louis Theroux, Louis Theroux – Extreme Love, Autism.



Vitals – Obese moms may be more likely to have autistic child, study suggests.

Researchers found that the risk of autism increased by nearly 70 percent when moms were obese during their pregnancies, while the risk of a having a baby with some other neurodevelopmental disorder doubled, according to the study published early online Monday in Pediatrics . . . He noted that U.S. autism rates have increased along with obesity rates and said the research suggests that may be more than a coincidence.


I gained more weight with Rob than I did for my firstborn daughter, Joy. It was especially pronounced at the end of the pregnancy, when I suddenly put on ten pounds in a week. They did a gestational diabetes test, which showed that I was borderline. Rob was 10 lbs 10.5 oz at birth, but did not lose any of that weight afterward.

If this is a factor, then why is autism also associated with low-birthweight babies?

It has been suggested that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are especially vulnerable to bullying. The Interactive Autism Network (IAN) is now sharing initial results of a national survey on the bullying experiences of children on the autism spectrum. Our findings show that children with ASD are bullied at a very high rate, and are also often intentionally “triggered” into meltdowns or aggressive outbursts by ill-intentioned peers.

via IAN Research Report Bullying | IAN Research Reports | Interactive Autism Network Community | Share. Research. Discover..

Rob was definitely bullied in school, and he was also intentionally “triggered” by other students: a fact I had a hard time convincing his teachers of until I insisted that he be “shadowed” by an aide on the playground and in the lunchroom. Sure enough! the aide confirmed what I had suspected. Rob was taunted and bullied until he exploded, and then HE was the one who was disciplined for the outburst. If you suspect your spectrum child is being bullied at school, you must INSIST on having him/her shadowed by an aide in unstructured situations.

This study identifies one particular group of autistic children that tend to make great strides:

One group of ∼10% of children experienced rapid gains, moving from severely affected to high functioning. Socioeconomic factors were correlated with trajectory outcomes; children with non-Hispanic, white, well-educated mothers were more likely to be high functioning, and minority children with less-educated mothers or intellectual disabilities were very unlikely to experience rapid gains.

via Six Developmental Trajectories Characterize Children With Autism.

The authors speculate that the group they call “bloomers” (start out LF and improve dramatically to HF)  may get better services, have parents who are better able to advocate for their children, and have well-educated mothers who more likely to be able to stay home and coordinate the autistic child’s care. This study did not take into account treatment the children received; so the relationship between socioeconomic status and “blooming,” while clear, needs to be clarified by more specific data about treatment in these groups.


Doctor: Why we’re making changes to autism diagnosis – CNN.com.

Part of the anxiety over the new DSM-V definition is the way it may affect the ability of families to get services. The way our health system currently works,  diagnosis restricts or expands the type and frequency of services offered. Autism is a very expensive disorder to treat, and it has significant impact upon the finances of the family. This is one reason why I personally support health care reform, so that every child has equal access to treatment.

1 in 88 children, or 1 in 54 boys, are now diagnosed with autism in the U.S.

via Troubling CDC Report Opens Autism Awareness Month – Hatboro-Horsham, PA Patch.

Well, not long after my last post, Rob lost the job at the print shop. The owner seemed like a nice guy and one that really wanted his employees to succeed; so I did what I have not done until now: I called him to get his story on why Rob was fired. Rob said he had no idea, except that he had been late a few times. I try really hard not to be a “helicopter parent” but I really wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on. What I learned is that the problem was mainly with communication. Lateness was an issue, but that was also fueled by bad communication. He felt that he could just not “get through” to Rob. He was sad and puzzled because he thought that Rob’s technical skills were excellent.

I asked him if he knew that Rob has AS. He said he did not, but that knowing made certain things more understandable. Here is an example he gave me that helped me understand the communication struggles they were having:

Rob was coming to work in wrinkled t-shirts. The boss wanted him to look more professional, but rather than say so directly, he tried to be indirect. The print shop had polo shirts as well as t-shirts, so the boss had Rob make a polo shirt with his name on it and put it on, and then told him how much better and more professional he looked. The next day, Rob showed up again in a wrinkled t-shirt. When his boss asked, “What happened to the polo shirt?” Rob replied, “I don’t like polo shirts.”

Rob totally missed the point: which he tends to do if it is not spelled out directly. This also had ramifications for the issue of being late. The shop opened at 9. The boss wanted Rob there by 8:45. Rob was getting there consistently right at 9. Rob didn’t really believe that it was that important to get there early, since the shop opened at nine, and it only took a minute or so to open the store. The boss felt that it was an issue of trust. This is an issue we have had with Rob as well; he has his own way of doing things, and if he doesn’t agree with our logic or reasons for something he tends to disregard them.

The lateness is what finally got to his boss. He wanted to be able to call the store at 8:45 and know that someone was there getting ready. It was his way of feeling like things were in control. It was important enough to him that he fired Rob over it. 

I suspected it was this type of issue that was at the root of his troubles, because it is the type of thing we have with Rob all the time. And we have told him repeatedly that part of building trust is knowing that he will respect our reasoning and way of doing things even if he doesn’t agree with them, that he will learn to value what we value (truthfulness, honesty, promptness, reliability).

I did not ask the boss to give Rob another chance, nor did he offer to. So Rob went back on the job market. He found a job almost immediately in another graphic design shop, but that job also ended after a few months. We really aren’t sure about what happened with that one. The work environment was pretty dysfunctional so it may not have had anything at all to do with Rob. But that’s a story for another post.