Thursday Open Thread

Good Morning, MotherTalkers! What’s happening?

According to a recent study, the largest ever genetic study into autism identified many more new genes involved in the disorder. The hope is to establish whether genetic tests could help in making an early diagnosis.

Another study suggests that babies born slightly early or two weeks late have a marginally raised risk of learning difficulties.

Simon Cowell granted the last wish of a sweet little five-year-old girl. Bethany Fenton wanted to sing in front of the American Idol judge, and did just that by performing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on Saturday, and losing her battle with a brain tumor the following Tuesday.

“He was happy that he was able to do a special something on Saturday night to give her a few precious moments but it is so sad and his heart goes out to Bethany’s mum and dad and he is thinking of them.”

The heart breaks.

On to some more fun news…

Who saw the season finale of Glee? What did you think? My thought…um, why did Vocal Adrenaline win first place? Wasn’t this a “Glee Club competition”?? To me, this was more of a solo with Jesse singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody!! What did you think?

Of course, this is an open thread and you are free to discuss whatever you wish. What else is going on?


Maybe not so “typical” after all…

Hi MTers, I am still kind of reeling from all the events of today.  I needed to come to you ladies, my wise and knowledgeable support system, first before I even told any of my friends.  

Several months ago I wrote a diary about finding the perfect preschool classroom for my son; a mix of autistic kids and typical peers.  My son, who will be 3 next month, was accepted into the classroom as a “typical.”  We’ve visited the classroom several times in preparation for next fall.  Today was another “practice” visit.  I brought my parents and the baby in to meet the teacher.  When we arrived, she dropped bomb #1.  She said, “I need to talk to you…there are some big changes happening next year.  I’m so sorry I would have called but I wanted to tell you in person…”

She’s not coming back next year.  Her husband was just diagnosed 2 days ago with a serious illness (she didn’t specify but I’m guessing cancer).  Due to budget cuts (this is a Head Start program), next year the classroom will be 8 autistic kids and 4 typical instead of the other way around.  That’s a ratio she said she’s just not comfortable with.  She doesn’t know who will be teaching in that room and might not know till August.  The other inclusion teacher’s classroom is moving way across town, and she will be going on maternity leave in October.  I was totally shell-shocked.  There go all my plans for next year.  And then, after we had been there a while, she pulled my mom and I aside and dropped bomb #2.

She said she wasn’t going to say anything because she had assumed she would have all year to work with him.  But she told us the reason she invited him for so many visits is because she’s supsecting he might have a very mild form of Asperger’s.  She suspects this because he is echolalic and not conversational.  This means that when you ask him a question, he repeats the question instead of answering it.  I’ve been noticing this for a while and I wasn’t sure about it.  For example, at a fast food place or playground he will follow the other kids really closely and repeat everything they say, and sometimes the other kids really don’t like it.  But he doesn’t seem to get that this is annoying to other kids or that he’s getting too “up in their face.”  

The teacher (who is awesome, I LOVE her) spent about 1/2 hour with my mom and I explaining what to do next.  My mom is a reading specialist so she kind of understands the teacher “lingo” so I was glad she was there.  We’re going to call the psychologist and request an eval.  Then I’m going to try to get him into a half day integrated preschool at a private school which is affiliated with our public school.  The whole school is integrated, so he will either go as a typical or on the spectrum, depending on the results of the eval.  The teacher even wrote down the specific key words we need to mention to get the right intervention services on board.  She doesn’t want him to go to a regular Head Start classroom with 20 other kids and just get pulled out for an hour to get intervention.  She says the “squeaky” families get into the integrated classrooms so just keep pushing for that and not backing down on it.  She gave me her cell phone and told me to call her and keep her updated on what happens.  Thank God that I found her and at least she had a chance to observe him and warn me about this so we can intervene if need be.  I shudder to think what would happen if I just put him in the local church preschool and we didn’t catch a potential problem until kindy or later.

I’m just overwhelmed with information and decisions.  My son is super bright and he’s not shy so I really didn’t see us having to go down this path.  And it’s premature to be worried about it because the eval may even come back fine.  This just may be some kind of “quirk.”  But even the change of school plan is a lot to process.  And nobody wants their kids to have a label.  But autism spectrum or not, I really want my son in the integrated classroom because I can see that his interactions with other kids are not quite right, and I want him to go to a class where they really focus on social interaction.  And I’m going to sign him up for the summer program (1 day a week) at that school with the other teacher I met before her classroom moves across town.  

Anyway, thanks for listening.  I’m doing ok and I’m not too worried about it, especially since my mom agrees my brother would have definitely had some sort of sensory diagnosis when he was this age and he turned out fine.  But the mama bear part of me is upset at the thought of him struggling to “read” others’ emotions his whole life.  I don’t know very much about Asperger’s and I’m going to resist the urge to Google and just wait to meet with the psychologist.  But if anyone has any stories, info or advice for me, please share!  


Late-Night Liberty: Animal Books Edition

A publisher once told my husband that if he wanted an instant bestseller he should write about Abraham Lincoln — or dogs. This stuck with me as I read the “momoir,” Cowboy & Wills.

Initially, my reaction to this book mirrored that of my husband’s when he learned that authors have struck New York Times bestselling gold by writing about their dogs: Really? Why? But as I read along, I became enamored by a sweet golden retriever in Santa Monica, California, named Cowboy, and author Monica Holloway’s autistic son, Wills. (Seriously, what is cuter than a story — and photos! — of a little boy and his dog?)

Holloway, who has written for a mommy anthology titled Mommy Wars, did a good job setting up her characters that you do care what happens to them at the end. Her book is a quick, easy and satisfying read.

Coincidentally, three of the four books I read on my vacation had to do with animals. One of my book clubs selected a novel by David Wroblewski called The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. This is an incredibly well-written fiction novel endorsed by the literary queen herself, Oprah Winfrey, about a family that breeds dogs at a Wisconsin kennel. Because it was written so vividly and so well, I cringed during certain parts, like, when one of Sawtelle’s dogs was injured. The description of the flesh and tendons of the dog’s paw caused the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. I don’t think I could ever re-read this book based on this detail alone. Nonetheless, if you love dogs or like stories that take place in the great outdoors — think Jack London’s Call of the Wild or White Fang — then this book is for you.

One last word on The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: This is the first book I read on my new kindle. It was an early Christmas gift from DH. I love it, love it, love it. And I don’t say this lightly. I was one of those reluctant book enthusiasts who refused to make the switch. I did not want to look at another computer screen.

But seriously, the e-ink on the kindle is nothing like a computer screen and is as easy on the eyes as a book. It is actually more convenient than a book since it is so thin and even has a handy dictionary. I read a paperback book after I read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and was frustrated that I couldn’t easily look up words. Also, the battery life on the device is amazing. I have gone more than a week without charging it. Okay, that’s enough on my love affair with the kindle…

The book that DID hold my attention from start to finish and I could not put down so I read it in one day was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. This is a slightly older book published in 2007. But I am glad I got to it.

It is a salacious love story that takes place during the Great Depression with a circus as a backdrop. Because Gruen conducted research at the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota, Florida, the reader gets a lot of accurate historical data about the underground world of circus life and a great stampede that took place in the 1930s. The way Gruen goes back and forth between the young male protagonist in the story and his 93-year-old self in a nursing home — is brilliant. This book is a must-read.

What are some of your favorite animal-themed books? Have you read anything good lately?


Iowa GOP senator’s miracle cure for special-needs children

Just teach them how to read in kindergarten and first grade. Then they won’t be “identified” by the state as having special needs.

No, really, that’s what Iowa Senate Republican leader Paul McKinley said in a meeting on Tuesday with journalists from the Des Moines Register.


Q: You know that special education is a federally mandated program and not a program that the state can step away from. But there are other programs that we can step away from such as voluntary pre-school for all four year olds?

McKinley: But they are identified by the state. They identify special Ed students and they have a bounty system which rewards for more special Ed kids. If we taught them how to read in kindergarten and first grade, they would not be identified and we would save $200 to $300 million a year.

Q: So what you want to see us do is reduce the number of kids in special education?

McKinley: I want to see us teach kids how to read.

Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan let McKinley have it: “It’s really disappointing to hear an Iowa Senator demean those kids and their families by suggesting that teaching reading earlier would somehow address all of their issues.”

I’m astounded that McKinley seems to believe special-needs children simply weren’t taught to read well enough. Many kids with special needs can read. Some kids on the autism spectrum are even advanced readers, or are gifted in some other area (“twice exceptional” children). Reading doesn’t make their learning disabilities or other difficulties disappear.

If McKinley thinks the state of Iowa artificially inflates the number of special-needs children to secure more funding, how does he imagine parents fit in with this scheme?

I have friends raising children on the autism spectrum, as well as friends whose children have genetic defects, were exposed to drugs in utero or were abused and neglected as infants. My friends could assure the Republican senator that no bounty-hunting bureaucrat invented their child’s condition.

In the real world, parents have fought for schools to accommodate their special-needs children. Some of these parents will be outraged by the implication that their kids just need reading lessons.

Incidentally, at least one autism blog has already linked to the story about McKinley’s remarks (hat tip IowaHedge).

A final note on pre-school funding. McKinley sidestepped the question in his meeting with the Des Moines Register, but some Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate and State Representative Chris Rants, want to eliminate the program that allows thousands of four-year-olds to attend pre-school. Expanding access to pre-school is important for typical-needs kids, but may be even more valuable for children with developmental delays. Earlier diagnosis means earlier intervention and for some children, better long-term prospects. Without state assistance, many of these families could not afford pre-school. Without pre-school, these children might enter kindergarten further behind their peers.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread, including your own stories about clueless Republicans.


**UPDATED 11/18** What do I look for in an early childhood program?

***UPDATE 11/18/09***
Today we visited the integrated classroom and we had a fantastic visit.  We were there from time the kids finished breakfast and free play (9AM) till puppet storytime with the speech specialist at 11:30AM.  We would have stayed later but DS was starting to have a meltdown because he couldn’t play with the toys while the other kids were listening quietly and we didn’t want him to be disruptive.  But the teacher assured us that his behavior was fine for a 2 year old who didn’t know the classroom flow yet :)  Here’s the details of our day if you’re interested:

It truly is a wonderful classroom.  There are only 12 kids, not 20 like I thought.  Two typical kids per autistic kid.  There is one head teacher, one aide, and so many other support people I couldn’t keep track.  They had a great circle time with lots of emphasis on schedule.  They had 2 kids be the “schedule checkers” each day to talk about the upcoming schedule.  Other than that though, it was super flexible, especially for an autistic room.  The teacher decided at the last minute to take a trip to Trader Joe’s across the street in the morning instead of the afternoon (they were buying veggies for making soup tomorrow).  Before she announced that though, she gathered all the kids and they did some yoga relaxation breathing and calmed down before she talked about the change in plans.  

There is plenty of time for free play and different activity stations, including a quiet place with pillows for when the kids get upset and need to chill out.  They go for an outing every day when the weather is cooperating, to the grocery store or pet store or somewhere close by they can walk to.  They have gym every day to burn off steam.  The academic curriculum looks good (phonetic awareness and all that stuff).  Plus a focus on emotions and communicating with others.  Naptime is after lunch, but non nappers can get up after 30 minutes and they go to gym.  Nappers get to sleep till pick-up.  The head teacher doesn’t seem to overly baby them, but she has that grandma vibe and the kids seem to adore her.  The best part: he doesn’t have to be potty trained!!!  They even change diapers!  

So all in all, great program.  We were very happy.  Still debating about letting him go 4 days a week for such a long time, but she said she would save him a spot in the classroom and we can always change our minds over the summer.  We will still probably check out other programs, but this one “feels right.”  So thank you all SO MUCH again for your kind advice and wisdom!

Hi MTers!  I need your help on the subject of preschool/ early childhood programs.  I have mentioned this here before, but we’re investigating our city’s public preschool program for next year.  (I don’t know what the appropriate term is – preschool, early ed?  I’m just going to say preschool, ok?) My son will turn 3 in June.  I found out about a wonderful classroom where autistic and “typical” kids are integrated.  I love that idea and I am hoping it will be great socialization for my son, plus a good life lesson about getting along with different types of kids.  The teacher of this classroom is highly recommended by several people I know, one with both an autistic and “typical” kid who went through it.

The integrated program used to be half day 4 days a week, but now it is full day (about 8AM to 2PM with breakfast, lunch, and nap).  The city did away with all of the half day programs last year.  As a mostly SAHM with a flexible schedule, I just hate the thought of sending him to school every day so early.  I know he would be fine, but I am home and I want to spend time with him!  

I talked to the teacher on the phone this afternoon and she is very warm and friendly and she seems flexible.  I asked her about the possibility of him going 3 days a week.  She said 3 days is pushing it in terms of him missing out on the curriculum, but she has many families who do 4 days a week and she is totally cool with that.  She said most people take Fridays “off.”  She also invited me to come see the classroom, and she invited me to bring my son with me!  I thought that was great!  He will get to participate with the other kids and do a “trial run” to see how we feel about it.  My DH and I are really looking forward to setting up this visit.

So here’s my question to you all: what should I look for in this program?  I know that there will be between 20 and 25 kids, probably about 75% “typical” and 25% autistic.  There is 1 teacher and 1 aide, plus aides for any individual autistic kids who need one on one attention.  The teacher did warn me that there is a particular kid who is in her class under a very special circumstance who is very severely disabled, so things might be a little “loud” in her words.  But that child will be in kindergarden next year, and she said that it is a special exception.

I am still a little panicky at the thought of “letting him go” but my DH is very gung-ho about preschool at age 3.  I’m hoping this visit really clarifies things for me, but I’m keeping my options open.  At this point I’m thinking all or none for next year, since I would hate to put him in a non-city program for 1 year and then switch schools at age 4, and then again at kindergarden.  Our ultimate goal is one of the city magnets for kindy, which is why we are going with the city preschool (it’s a weighted system).

I don’t have any experience with preschools, so I don’t have a baseline criteria to go by other than my intuition!  Especially since this is an integrated classroom, your input is much appreciated!  Thanks!


Wired magazine on vaccines

If you can stand another discussion about vaccine safety and autism, Wired magazine has an interesting article this month.    ((I only say “if you can stand” because, as an autism professional, I think and talk about this all the time.  I can never tell if people outside of the autism world think about it or are interested))

The article is written as a piece about Paul Offit, a pediatrician who invented the vaccine for the rotovirus and is a vaccine advocate.  He is,  therefore, vilified by anti-vaccine advocates.  As the personification of the pro-vaccine “camp”, Dr. Offit has been the target of verbal attacks, threats, and lots of negative press.

In this article, the writer and Dr. Offit frame the discussion as one of science vs. pseudo-science.

He boldly states — in speeches, in journal articles, and in his 2008 book Autism’s False Prophets — that vaccines do not cause autism or autoimmune disease or any of the other chronic conditions that have been blamed on them. He supports this assertion with meticulous evidence. And he calls to account those who promote bogus treatments for autism — treatments that he says not only don’t work but often cause harm.

Paul Offit. “People describe me as a vaccine advocate,” he says. “I see myself as a science advocate.

Dr. Offit has several major points.  First, he is unequivocal that the science does not demonstrate a link between vaccines (or any component of them) and autism or any other disorder.  Second, that the risks of not vaccinating are much huger and more significant than the risks of vaccination.  Finally, that a variety of people, with  a wide range of knowledge and motives, are drawn to or pushing pseudo science in making the link between autism and vaccines.  

On the first point

To be clear, there is no credible evidence to indicate that any of this is true. None. Twelve epidemiological studies have found no data that links the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine to autism; six studies have found no trace of an association between thimerosal (a preservative containing ethylmercury that has largely been removed from vaccines since 20011) and autism, and three other studies have found no indication that thimerosal causes even subtle neurological problems. The so-called epidemic, researchers assert, is the result of improved diagnosis, which has identified as autistic many kids who once might have been labeled mentally retarded or just plain slow. In fact, the growing body of science indicates that the autistic spectrum — which may well turn out to encompass several discrete conditions — may largely be genetic in origin. In April, the journal Nature published two studies that analyzed the genes of almost 10,000 people and identified a common genetic variant present in approximately 65 percent of autistic children.

One of the problems in this part of the debate is the way that science works.  We can’t prove a negative.  We can’t prove that vaccines don’t cause autism.  All we can do is test a hypothesis, and then say whether the data supports that hypothesis or not.  That careful talk is heard by non-scientists as uncertainty or (worse) deception.

On the second point

In certain parts of the US, vaccination rates have dropped so low that occurrences of some children’s diseases are approaching pre-vaccine levels for the first time ever. And the number of people who choose not to vaccinate their children

In the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, Jason Glanz, an epidemiologist at Kaiser’s Institute for Health Research, revealed that the number of reported pertussis cases jumped from 1,000 in 1976 to 26,000 in 2004. A disease that vaccines made rare, in other words, is making a comeback.

Getting the measles is no walk in the park, either — not for you or those who come near you. In 2005, a 17-year-old Indiana girl got infected on a trip to Bucharest, Romania. On the return flight home, she was congested, coughing, and feverish but had no rash. The next day, without realizing she was contagious, she went to a church gathering of 500 people. She was there just a few hours. Of the 500 people present, about 450 had either been vaccinated or had developed a natural immunity. Two people in that group had vaccination failure and got measles. Thirty-two people who had not been vaccinated and therefore had no resistance to measles also got sick. Did the girl encounter each of these people face-to-face in her brief visit to the picnic? No. All you have to do to get the measles is to inhabit the airspace of a contagious person within two hours of them being there.

Sometimes people argue that there is herd immunity – it’s OK to not vaccinate your child because everyone else is vaccinated.  There are a couple of problems with this logic.  First, non-vaccinated kids seem to cluster (ie, some neighborhoods have more nonvaccinated kids than others) so the risk of disease is higher.  Second, not all vaccines “take” so there’s already some burden on the herd immunity just from vaccinated folks.

There’s also the overall notion of risk,and parents’ rights to protect their kids

And he wants Americans to be fully educated about risk and not hoodwinked into thinking that dropping vaccines keeps their children safe. “The choice not to get a vaccine is not a choice to take no risk,” he says. “It’s just a choice to take a different risk, and we need to be better about saying, ‘Here’s what that different risk looks like.’ Dying of Hib meningitis is a horrible, ugly way to die.”

The author of this article is pretty obvious about her disdain for the antivaccine advocates, and makes no attempt to discuss what their motives would be.  Maybe this is because it’s Wired Magazine, and their readers are presumed to be scientists or at least science-oriented.  While I agree with Offit’s position, it almost takes away from his point for the article to be so dismissive.  

OTOH, in the context of the loss of credibility for science and the growth of pseudoscience in the US, the vaccine debate becomes very compelling and interesting – not exclusively an “autism issue” but a symptom of a larger issue in our nation.


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers! How are you?

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here is what we recently discussed here at MotherTalkers:

Gloria sparked a discussion on eating disorders and picky-eating children.

I put up a thread about mothers-in-law, which definitely sparked a long discussion. Do you get along with your MIL?

France started a pilot program that pays students in vocational training programs to attain good grades, according to Time magazine. We had a similar discussion some time ago about parents who pay their children to get A’s. What do you think? Have you or do you pay your children to do well in school?

From the Independent in the UK: This is a heartwarming story about the father of an autistic son who turned his grief into a profitable and global IT company staffed with all autistic employees.

How did you choose your children’s names? Parents magazine had an article to help parents choose names for their children. We had our own discussion on how we came up with our children’s names.

Like so many school districts across the country, the Washington-area Loudoun County high schools have had to slash their budgets. Student athletes now pay $100 for each sport. Starting in the spring, students will have to pay $86 to take an AP test. But nothing has stoked the ire of families like the county’s new parking permit fee for students, which shot up to $200 from $25, according to the Washington Post.

In case you missed it, Susan Klebold, mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, wrote a chilling article about the shootings for Oprah magazine.

Fellow MotherTalker Erin wrote a fun column about her favorite childhood books. What were yours?

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


Friday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

A 6-year-old boy believed to have been lifted thousands of feet off the ground in a homemade balloon was found alive hiding in his attic, according to CNN.

The National Center for Education Statistics just released the average math scores on a standardized test for 4th and 8th graders in the United States, according to the Associated Press. AP listed the test scores by state. The scores are out of a possible 300.

From the bizarre files: A woman in Columbus, Ohio, was recently arrested for causing a riot at a Burlington Coat Factory, according to AP. The woman, Linda Brown, rode up to the Burlington Coat Factory in a rented limousine and told people at the store that she was going to pay for their purchases up to $500 since she had won the lottery. Turns out she hadn’t won anything and did not even have money for the limo. People were upset and began looting. The limo driver turned her in to police.

What is up with rage towards children? A 76-year-old Washington state man was charged with misdemeanor assault for hitting an autistic boy at a library, according to Salon Wires.

Layaway is making a comeback, according to an article in the Washington Post.

Non-Toxic Kids is running an essay by Joyce Cooper-Kahn PhD and Laurie Dietzel PhD, authors of the book Late, Lost, and Unprepared. They doled out tips on how to help disorganized children organize their lives.  

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


Danish Co. With All Autistic Workers Goes Global

Here is a wonderful story about the father of an autistic son who turned his grief into a profitable and global IT company staffed with all autistic employees.

I spotted this piece in Slate, but the original source is the Independent of the UK:

Inspired by the talents of his son Lars, who once stunned his father by reproducing from memory a road map of Europe, Mr Sonne set up Specialisterne (Specialists in English) six years ago, concerned at the exclusion from the workplace of people with autism and realising that the traits of “high functioning“ autistics were in demand among computer software companies.

Mr Sonne, 49, a father of three, said: “I wanted Lars [to have] the same chances as his brothers. When you say autism most people think of the film, Rainman, and the common perception is that anyone with such a condition is unemployable.

“I came to realise this was very far from the truth. As long as someone with autism could feel comfortable in a workplace and have the social confidence to perform a job then they would have skills that made them more capable than others to perform certain tasks which required large degrees of precision, focus and memory recall.“

After remortgaging his home and recruiting six employees with the version of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome, Mr Sonne persuaded his previous employers, the Danish communications company TDC, to grant him a contract testing mobile phone applications and games.

When it became clear that the team could repeatedly test the software at a level which “generalists“ – Mr Sonne’s term for people without ASD – could not sustain, demand for Specialisterne’s services and its “consultants“ took off. The company was employed to test the Danish version of Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Centre and its client list ranges from CSC, a global IT services company, to Nordea, Scandinavia’s largest bank.

Mr. Sonne and his Danish company, which are opening a branch in Glasgow, have received widespread support from the autistic community.

The company counters any concern that it is ghettoising its workers by pointing out that 70 per cent of its staff work on the premises of the client. A Specialisterne support worker ensures that the most suitable environment – a lack of sudden and loud noise, clear instructions and an average working week of around 25 hours – is provided by the host.

It is a recipe for success (the company made a profit of £100,000 last year which was ploughed back into the charitable foundation that owns Specialisterne) that Mr Sonne intends to repeat in Scotland. It is understood that software and data-inputting companies north of the border have already expressed interest in the company’s services.

The National Autistic Society (NAS), which is working with the Danish entrepreneur and other bodies in Scotland to set up the venture, said the company’s groundbreaking techniques could be a vital tool to help people with autism into work. Research to be released by the charity this week shows that 80 per cent of autism sufferers who receive incapacity benefit would like to work. Just 15 per cent of Britain’s 500,000 autistics are in full-time employment.

Very cool.


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.