1 in 100 Children With Autism

Two government studies have indicated that autism is much more common in children than previously thought: 1 in 100 as opposed to 1 in 150, according to the Associated Press.

From AP:

Greater awareness, broader definitions and spotting autism in younger children may explain some of the increase, federal health officials said.

“The concern here is that buried in these numbers is a true increase,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “We’re going to have to think very hard about what we’re going to do for the 1 in 100.”

Figuring out how many children have autism is extremely difficult because diagnosis is based on a child’s behavior, said Dr. Susan E. Levy of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics subcommittee on autism.

“With diabetes you can get a blood test,” said Levy. “As of yet, there’s no consistent biologic marker we can use to make the diagnosis of autism.”

The new estimate would mean about 673,000 American children have autism. Previous estimates put the number at about 560,000….

Children with autism can have trouble communicating and interacting socially. They may have poor eye contact and engage in repetitive behavior such as rocking or hand-flapping.

In other medical briefs, 13 millions babies worldwide are born premature, according to the Associated Press. The number of premature births are concentrated in Africa, followed by North America. I thought the ways African mothers — many who lack medical technology — cared for their premature infants were interesting.


What To Do With a Journalism Degree?

Due to the decline of newspapers in the country, a litany of news stories have arisen in recent months on the future of journalism. Here is what the Associated Press recently had to say about it:

For a new crop of journalists, with many more wannabes starting journalism school this fall, tumult in the news industry means new opportunities for connecting with readers online, but also fresh anxiety about finding a way to get paid for it.

Consider the latest job market statistics.

According to a survey released this summer by Lee Becker at the University of Georgia, only six in 10 graduates from journalism and mass communication schools during the 2007-08 academic year had full-time employment within six to eight months of leaving school, the lowest since the annual survey began 23 years ago. At the same time, those programs granted more degrees than ever, about 55,000.

As Taylor’s case shows, even for those with an enthusiastic embrace of new technology and forms of journalism, there is no guarantee of a living….

Starting salaries for reporters have never been impressive — the median pay among recent college graduates at daily newspapers was about $29,000 in 2008, or about $2,400 a month. But income in the blogosphere is even less reliable.

That said, I don’t think the Internet was responsible for the demise of newspapers in the country. After all, newspapers are reliably read in many parts of the world, including Europe and Latin America — in spite of the presence of the Internet.

But something that always irked me — or at least went against everything I learned in journalism school — was the “corporatization” of news. In the late ’90s, I remember a host of non-journalistic entities like AOL and cable companies purchasing newspapers and news organizations. Rather than run these publications like the public service I was trained to believe it was, they were run like a business.

Soon, in-depth news coverage was not as important as earnings every quarter. Reporters, editors and fact checkers were laid off to help the owners of the publication make as much money as possible — even as the quality of their “product” took a hit. Even in my own tech news room in San Francisco, which was owned by a Spanish telecom company, our owners once asked us if there was technology to churn out news stories. In other words, they did not want to pay actual people to do reporting and writing.

Yes, the Internet has created opportunities for anyone and everyone to become a journalist. But I do think there is a market in print for in-depth coverage and strong writing. Who will pay for it — well, that’s the million dollar question. How do they do it in Europe?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

MomsRising ran a trove of healthcare stories by moms. It was a good mixture of anecdote — wow, there are many uninsured moms out there! — and analysis of healthcare systems across the world.

The Associated Press ran a blurb comparing what Americans pay for healthcare compared to other nations. In somewhat related news: Oprah Winfrey said she will not get involved in the healthcare debate or any politics even though she thinks President Obama is doing “a great job,” according to AP.  

Anne Fitten Glenn, aka “Edgy Mama,” wrote a heart-warming story about a 13-year-old girl with autism.

The California State Assembly passed AB 30, a bill that would lower the age to register to vote to 16, according to the think tank New America Foundation. Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar has to sign it for it to become law.

Contrary to right-wing rhetoric of “illegals” and “you lie!,” applications for American citizenship are actually down by 62 percent, according to an article in the Washington Post. The plunge is due to stiff application fees and the souring economy.

Singer Elton John will not be allowed to adopt an Ukrainian orphan with HIV because he is considered too old and not married, according to a story in Salon Wires. John is 62. While he is technically married to film producer David Furnish, the Ukraine does not recognize same-sex marriage.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Should Parents Be Allowed to Pick Their Children’s Teachers?

I don’t think they should and my feelings were confirmed by this Associated Press story:

After doing some research, including sitting in on classrooms, Valerie Gilbert thought she knew which third-grade teacher would be perfect for her son, Stanley.

Impressed by that teacher’s creative, visually stimulating style, the Berkeley, Calif., mother lobbied on Stanley’s behalf. “I did my best to make my opinion known,” Gilbert said.

The school, however, placed Stanley in a different class. And to his mother’s surprise and delight, the year wound up being so successful for him that Gilbert said she is approaching his pending entry into fourth grade in a new way: by vowing to stay out of the process.

“I’m learning to be more open-minded,” she said.

With parents becoming increasingly involved in their children’s lives and educations, Gilbert’s foray into her son’s classroom placement process is not unique, particularly around this time of year when anxieties about the coming school year run high.

While I am very involved in my son’s school, I have always butted out when it comes to teacher assignment. I understand that the school uses various criteria to make up a class, including age, ability and, in our case since we are a Spanish immersion school, Spanish fluency. If I did not trust the administration on this, then perhaps it is not the right school for us.

But maybe I am missing something. Do you think parents should be able to select their children’s teachers?

In related news, the Associated Press ran a trend story on a grassroots effort by parents calling for less, or at least better, homework. What say you, MotherTalkers?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I will be in Oakland this morning to express my support for legislation that would classify the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) a reproductive toxicant under Proposition 65. All products with BPAs would have to be labeled. If you can spare a moment please do come by. The public hearing is at the Auditorium of the Elihu Harris State Building on 1515 Clay Street at 10 a.m..

Speaking of meetings, some of us MTers plan to meet for lunch this Friday at Sadiedey’s Cafe in Oakland. Erin, KarenM, Round Peg, possibly Mamacita, me and the kiddos will be there at noon. Please join the fun if you can!

Lisa in Austin, this is for you: The Texas Freedom Network was quoted in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times for (rightfully) knocking on State Board of Education members who are there not for their qualifications but strong religious opinions. You HAVE to fill us in on where this all ends. :)

Laurie over at Expecting Words wrote a thoughtful post about being sensitive around couples trying to get pregnant.

The Associated Press ran a fun back-to-school story — already? — about fashion trends like peace signs and neon. Also in AP: Some students are completing their college degrees in three years to save money on tuition.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Sorry all, I am woefully behind on my news reading. So please fill me in! But this item caught my eye:

President Barack Obama just signed legislation that gives the federal food and drug administration unprecedented power to say what goes into tobacco products, to make public the ingredients of such products and to prohibit marketing campaigns toward children, according to the Associated Press.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

My heart goes out to the victims and family of the DC rail transit collision yesterday. Here is the Associated Press story on it.

This past weekend, I attended yet another birthday party with yet another interesting twist. The party was for a boy in Ari’s class and a girl in the other mid-kindergarten class and they were celebrating their 5.5-year birthdays. They both have birthdays around Christmas when everyone is on vacation so their parents celebrate it in the summer instead. It left me wondering: For those of you with children that have birthdays on winter break, how do you celebrate it?

This story about a 10-year-old’s dying wish to see the movie Up was heartbreaking. The girl, Colby Curtin of Hungtington Beach, California, died the night after she got to see an advance copy of the movie in her home, according to the Associated Press.

In case you missed it, Pizza Hut changed its name to The Hut, according to MSN Money.

A flight attendant offered 8 tips to travelers this summer at Open Salon.

Thank you to Maria Niles at BlogHer for the mention of my Donna Brazile story last week. Maria and I sat together at the press table for the 35th annual fundraising luncheon by a woman’s and girl’s organization called Equal Rights Advocates. I agree that ERA is a worthy cause to contribute to. Their heartfelt video of the girls they have helped, especially around barriers to sports, and their impassioned plea made me give them my credit card number.

Finally, in an effort to bring more original content to MotherTalkers, I will be conducting a Q&A with two dads: Jeremy Adam Smith, author of the new book The Daddy Shift, and Patrick Donohue who heads the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation. If you have questions for either of these men please drop them here.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Survey: Most Americans Self-Identify as “Pro-Life”

I try to stay away from this debate because of how poisonous it has become — on both sides. I feel like there is no room for grey. For example, I do not think that an embryo is a human being, therefore I support embryonic stem cell research and birth control. OTOH, whenever I read accounts of late-term abortion (second trimester and beyond) my stomach turns.

Still, I do not know the personal circumstances of all the women who have abortions and feel uncomfortable with the government making that decision for them. So I would probably fall more on the “pro-choice” side of this raucous debate.

That said, I would love to read the specific questions posed to people in this gallup poll. According to the polling outfit, 51 percent of Americans now consider themselves “pro-life,” according to the Associated Press.

The findings, obtained in an annual survey on values and beliefs conducted May 7-10, marked a significant shift from a year ago. A year ago, 50 percent said they were pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life — in the new poll, 42 percent said they were pro-choice.

The new survey showed that Americans remained deeply divided on the legality of abortion — with 23 percent saying it should be illegal in all circumstances, 22 percent saying it should be legal under any circumstances, and 53 percent saying it should be legal only under certain circumstances.

The findings echoed a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center, which reported a sharp decline since last August in those saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases — from 54 percent to 46 percent.

In related news, President Barack Obama received “long, enthusiastic and sustained cheering” at the Catholic Notre Dame University this weekend where he received an honorary degree, according to the New York Times. Apparently, the cheering outweighed the voices of anti-abortion protesters who tried to disrupt the event, according to the Times’ play-by-play, which also included the protests.

Here is the AP transcript of Obama’s speech, which was appropriately about understanding.


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Remember that piece I wrote about Michelle Obama and her call for more family-friendly policies in the workplace? Here are more details about her speech and the questions she fielded in MomsRising. Apparently, one man in finance stood up and said to Obama, “Show me the dollars saved by these programs.“ As Ellen Galinsky in MomsRising pointed out, “If someone assumes that ‘presence equals productivity,’ they dismiss even dollars and cents arguments.”

The Detroit Public School District will close 29 schools in the fall to help trim a $300 million deficit, according to Salon Wires. Yikes.

Two eastern Oregon women who were switched at birth met for the first time at the age of 56, according to the Associated Press.

Here is yet another letter about a husband viewing Internet porn in Berkeley Parents Network. The link includes all the advice given throughout the years.

Wichita State University just won a $6.6 million federal grant to help detect fertility in women over the age of 35, according to a statement released by the university. The scientist behind the 5-year project hopes to develop a fertility kit that is as accessible and accurate as a home pregnancy test.

Chris Cillizza from the Washington Post was the most recent pundit to jump on Elizabeth Edwards and speculate her motives for talking about her husband’s affair. Um, she just wrote a book?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

In case you missed it, the Associated Press ran photos of the Ohio mom who had the first face implant in the country. She was disfigured after her husband shot her in the face in 2004. He is currently serving a prison sentence for the crime.

The Washington Post ran a roundup of the latest state to legalize gay marriage (Maine) and other states with impending bills or court rulings — New Hampshire and California respectively.

In celebrity gossip break: Reality TV star Jon Gosselin of Jon & Kate Plus Eight fame is denying an affair with a Pennsylvania third grade teacher, according to the Associated Press. The alleged affair is splashed on the cover of US Magazine.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?