News by Region

Charges possible over autistic teenager's death


An inquest into the death of a profoundly autistic Canberra teenager at Canberra Hospital in 2008 has heard that a person may have committed an indictable offence that led to the tragedy.

NSW Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon yesterday suspended the inquest, which began at Queanbeyan Local Court on Monday, to allow the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the person in question.

Jack Sullivan, 18, died on February 18, 2008, at Canberra Hospital.

The economic value of informal care in 2010

The foreword to this report says "the value of informal care has increased to exceed $40 billion per annum in 2010, 33% higher than in 2005". It says this is based on $31 per hour replacement costs. Probably, some of the value is estimated based on conjugate/centre-based care - so better care would be more expensive.

This report is not autism/ASD specific ... but is contains valuable and relevant material.

Alternative Biomedical Treatments for Autism: How Good Is the Evidence?

Research on only one treatment is rigorous enough to earn an A grade

Image: Photograph by Joi, courtesy Flickr

By Nancy Shute October 7, 2010

Parents who research treatments for autism are confronted with a bewildering array of options, almost all of which have never been tested for safety and effectiveness. Organizations like The Cochrane Collaboration, which reviews the quality of evidence for medical treatments, are putting more effort into evaluating popular alternative treatments.

So far, the most comprehensive review of alternative autism treatments comes from two pediatricians: Susan Hyman of the University of Rochester School of Medicine Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong and Susan Levy, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Their 2008 analysis gave each treatment a letter grade for the quality of the research conducted up to that point; the mark, however, is not a ranking of the treatment's safety or effectiveness.

Girls with autism or ADHD symptoms not taken seriously

When girls with symptoms of autism or ADHD seek professional medical help, their problems are often played down or misinterpreted, and there is a real risk that they will not get the help or support they need. As such, more training is needed in this area, particularly in the public sector, reveals a thesis from the University of Gothenburg.

Socioeconomic Inequality in the Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence from a U.S. Cross-Sectional Study

Maureen S. Durkin, et. al.



This study was designed to evaluate the hypothesis that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children in the United States is positively associated with socioeconomic status (SES).


Autism coal link study stalled by government

Debra Jopson October 4, 2010

A researcher who has found strong evidence that autism is caused by mercury poisoning has been refused access to data that could point to emissions from coal-fired power stations.

The director of the Swinburne Autism Bio-Research Initiative, David Austin, said the data on autism incidence by postcode could quickly answer the question of whether mercury emissions from power stations are implicated in babies and infants developing the disorder.

Mother branded mentally ill after complaint

Louise Hall, September 30, 2010

A MOTHER who raised serious concerns about the care of her intellectually disabled daughter at a group home was taken to the Guardianship Tribunal where the state government tried to strip her parental rights.

Documents obtained under freedom of information show disability bureaucrats tried to portray the mother as mentally ill and unfit to make decisions about her daughter, then 19.

Autism school study 'the right step'

BY MONIQUE EBRINGTON — 28 Sep, 2010 12:00 AM
WESTERN suburbs parents have welcomed state government funding for a feasibility study for an autistic school catering for prep to year 12 students.

At present, Western Autistic School has campuses in Deer Park and Niddrie, but children can attend for only four years before going into mainstream or special schools.

Altona North resident Mark Websdale said a recent meeting with Education Minister Bronwyn Pike was a step towards a new school.

Mr Websdale is a member of Autism Schools Action, a group of parents in the western suburbs who have been lobbying MPs on the issue for several years.

"We have been quite frustrated over a long period of time to get no apparent result," Mr Websdale said.

Autism’s First Child

As new cases of autism have exploded in recent years—some form of the condition affects about one in 110 children today—efforts have multiplied to understand and accommodate the condition in childhood. But children with autism will become adults with autism, some 500,000 of them in this decade alone. What then? Meet Donald Gray Triplett, 77, of Forest, Mississippi. He was the first person ever diagnosed with autism.

Parents gave up autistic son

September 29, 2010 Carol Nader

AFTER five years of struggling with the relentless demands of a little boy with severe autism, Anna finally snapped. She drove him to a hospital and asked child protection workers to meet her there and take him.

They came and collected her boy. She returned home to a strange quiet in the house. She thought it would be for the best, that he'd be somewhere safe.

Principals slam resources for disabled

Jewel Topsfield; September 15, 2010

VICTORIAN principals are fed up with monster workloads and the state government's failure to properly support students with disabilities.

Less than three months from a state election, a survey shows that principals' assessments of both the state government and the Education Department are the most negative since 2005.

Unsustainable workloads dominate their concerns about their personal situations - principals work an average of 59 hours a week - while the lack of resources for disadvantaged students is their chief gripe about their schools.

Autistic kids 'caged' at school

STUDENTS with intellectual disabilities are being "caged" inside a fenced-off area at a Hobart school in a security measure parents and advocates have slammed as inhumane.

There have also been reports of another Tasmanian school making its special-needs students wear bright red hats so they can be easily counted within the school yard.

Action for Tasmanian Autistic Children secretary Roger Law said several parents have complained to him about their autistic children who attend Howrah Primary School being confined at recess and lunch each school day in a fenced area away from the other children.

The school has about 10 students with special needs, mainly autism.

Mums' disability parking victory

CARERS of children with autism and other intellectual disabilities have won the right to apply for disability parking permits thanks to a campaign by two northeast mums.

Helen Howson, of Modbury North, and Allison Dix, of Banksia Park who between them have three autistic boys successfully lobbied the Federal Government to have non-physical disabilities recognised in a new Australian Disability Parking Scheme.

Autistic student sues over test

Jewel Topsfield September 10, 2010

A 17-year-old student with autism is suing the Education Department for discrimination because his teacher refused to modify questions in his maths tests.

Lewis Walton, who received an A-plus in general maths and B-plus in maths methods in year 11, said his scores plunged in VCE specialist maths because his language difficulties meant he struggled to interpret open-ended questions that related to real-life situations.

A plea for some real political action for children with disabilities

So many issues haven’t made it on to the election radar. Indigenous health, rural and remote health, preventative health…and the list goes on.

While there has been some talk of improving services for children with a disability, Bob Buckley, Convenor of Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia, would like to see far more action.

He writes:

“Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott raised services for children with a disability in the election campaign but their promises must be practical to win my vote.

MRI scans could diagnose autism

Ten minutes in a brain scanner could be all it takes to diagnose autism. So says Christine Ecker at the Institute of Psychiatry, UK, who has developed software that identifies the anatomical signatures of the condition.

Ecker's team carried out MRI scans on the brains of 20 adult males with autism, 20 with attention-deficit disorder and 20 healthy controls. They used a machine-learning tool called a support vector machine (SVM) – which analyses data and identifies patterns – to identify key differences between the groups, such as in the cortical folding and curvature of the brain.

Group calls for more help for autism

Petrina Berry, August 15, 2010

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been criticised for not doing enough for children with autism during this election.

Autism Queensland says Labor's proposal to give teachers cash incentives for improved attendance and literacy and numeracy results will not change outcomes for students with autism and Asperger's syndrome.

Ivar Lovaas: pioneer in treatment of autism dies

A respected and revered pioneer in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders has died. Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas passed away in California.

Dr. Lovaas expanded on the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) which helps people with autism learn to function in day-to-day society. His work began in the 1960s and helped thousands of children with autism across the globe. ABA is evidence-based treatment that proves successful in about half of the patients treated, and can offer the chance for a more productive life.

In Reno, Deborah Schumacher's son, Cliff, was the first child to receive treatment from Dr. Lovaas. In the early 1990's, Schumacher said she knew "something was clearly not developmentally right" with her little boy, "but i didn't know what was wrong." She learned of Dr. Lovaas's methods and classes at UCLA, and moved to southern California with Cliff when he was three years old.

"He got 42 hours a week of one-on-one work in the beginning," she said. "That only took-- in his case-- about a year and a half and he went from being non-verbal to being able to handle first grade."

"You have Dr. Lovaas a cheerful bouyancy and a dead seriousness about what's at stake here, and that's the life of a child," said Patrick Ghezzi, Ph.D., who uses Dr. Lovaas's treatments to help children with autism in Reno.


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