Thursday, March 31, 2011

Clinic Notes: "Wretches and Jabberers"

Tracy Thresher, who is nonverbal because of autism, and friend Larry Bissonnette call themselves "wretches" and people who can speak they call "jabbers." Their message, the subject of a new documentary being released in 40 cities, is simple. They are intelligent, but intelligent in a different way--a way that requires people to look beyond the "wacky, goofy behavior." Disability does not equal dumb is the message they try to spread as the travel to Sri Lanka, Japan and Finland.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Clinic Notes: Virtual Conversations and Autism

My clinic experience with autism and technology, such as computers and iPads, and reports of children with autism interacting with robots, has led me to believe that effective treatment of autism has to involve technology. So I was glad to see a report this week which found that adults with autism improved when they interacted with a virtual partner. The study was reported in "Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. The adults with autism in the study were high functioning and were given onscreen dialog options for their conversations with their virtual partner. They were able to initiate and maintain a conversation on a variety of topics. Perhaps one day these can be implanted and cue the child to converse appropriately in different social situations.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Clinic Notes: iPad DTT Apps for the Child with Autism

Our third iPad DTT app for teaching letters to the child with autism is now in the iTunes store. Our Facebook page has free redeem codes. I have been treating autism for a long time and I am amazed at how well the iPad works with children with autism. Contact me at and I will send you suggestions for apps from other developers that we use in our clinic.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Clinic Notes: Serotonin and Autism

Serotonin is a neural transmitter involved in a variety of functions. Many pediatric neurologists and neural psychiatrists routinely put children with autism on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI's). The net effect of these drugs is to increase the availability of serotonin at the synapse because theoretically children have low serotonin levels. The SSRI's were originally developed to treat depression and include drugs like Prozac and Zoloft, which are well known. Some animal studies, using mice models of autism have confirmed that these drugs do indeed increase serotonin and alleviate some of the symptoms of autism. But any clinician who regularly treats autism will tell you that they do not always work. It seems to me that the SSRI's work about half the time in children and are well worth a trial. But why don't they work all of the time? In my view, it is because we may very well be dealing with different neurological mechanisms. We put kids who meet certain diagnostic criteria on the spectrum, but since there are no known biological markers for autism we do not know that the same neurological mechanism are the same.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Clinic Notes: Autism in China

Except for a few isolated countries autism seems to be a worldwide problem. We are having our Discrete Trial Training apps translated into Chinese for the Itunes store in China and I have been researching autism in China and how services are being provided. Accurate information is hard to gather, but it seems that autism is common and that there are only a few private facilities that provide treatment. Most Chinese, especially in rural areas, cannot find or afford treatment. The Chinese government has not set up any treatment programs. Interestingly, the main concern of the government is with their "retirement program". Traditionally, in China the children take care of their elderly parents (attractive to companies moving to China) and the government is concerned that the children with autism will not be able to care for their parents when they are old.