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Autism

The Truth About Autism

Your Baby

No Link Between Vaccines and Autism

1.30 to read

A new study slated to appear in the Journal of Pediatrics, says that there is no association between the amount of vaccines a young child receives and autism. Some parents have worried that there may be a link and have opted out of having their child vaccinated or reduced the number of vaccines recommended.

The percentage of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased by 72% since 2007. Some experts believe that changes in the diagnostic criteria may account for some of the increase as well as better screening tools and rating scales.

According to a statement released from the journal, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Abt Associates analyzed data from children with and without ASD.

Researchers examined each child's cumulative exposure to antigens, the substances in vaccines that cause the body's immune system to produce antibodies to fight disease, and the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination, the journal's statement said.

The antigen totals were the same for children with and without ASD, researchers found.

Scientists believe genetics play a fundamental role in the risk for a child developing autism (80-90%), but recent studies also suggests that the father’s age at the time of conception may also be a contributor by increasing risks for genetic mistakes in the sperm that could be passed along to offspring.

Parents have worried about a link between vaccines and autism for decades despite the growing body of scientific evidence disproving such an association.

Source: Luciana Lopez, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/29/us-usa-health-autism-idUSBRE92S0GO20130329

Your Baby

Hearing Test May Help With Autism Diagnosis

1:45

Hearing well is crucial to speech development in young children. A new study suggests that a simple hearing test may help identify children at risk for autism.

Researchers from the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., say they've identified an inner-ear problem in children with autism that may impair their ability to recognize speech.

"This study identifies a simple, safe and noninvasive method to screen young children for hearing deficits that are associated with autism,” said study co-author Anne Luebke, an associate professor in the departments of biomedical engineering and neuroscience.

"This technique may provide clinicians a new window into the disorder and enable us to intervene earlier and help achieve optimal outcomes," she said in a university news release.

There are several methods for testing a child’s hearing depending on their age, development and health status.

For the study, Luebke and her colleagues tested the hearing of children between ages 6 and 17 with and without autism. Those with autism had hearing difficulty in a specific frequency (1-2 kilohertz, or kHz) that is important for processing speech.

The degree of hearing impairment was associated with the severity of autism symptoms, according to the study.

Hearing "impairment has long been associated with developmental delay and other problems, such as language deficits," said study co-author Loisa Bennetto, an associate professor of clinical and social sciences in psychology.

"While there is no association between hearing problems and autism, difficulty in processing speech may contribute to some of the core symptoms of the disease," Bennetto said.

If future research confirms the findings, the study authors say the screening could help identify children at risk for autism earlier and perhaps get them services sooner.

The researchers suggested that if treatments could start sooner, they might have a larger impact, as the child grows older.

"Additionally, these findings can inform the development of approaches to correct auditory impairment with hearing aids or other devices that can improve the range of sounds the ear can process," Bennetto said.

According to kidshealth.org, there are symptoms of hearing loss you can look for in newborns and older children:

Even if your newborn passes the hearing screening, continue to watch for signs that hearing is normal. Some hearing milestones your child should reach in the first year of life:

•       Most newborn infants startle or "jump" to sudden loud noises.

•       By 3 months, a baby usually recognizes a parent's voice.

•       By 6 months, a baby can usually turn his or her eyes or head toward a sound.

•       By 12 months, a baby can usually imitate some sounds and produce a few words, such as "Mama" or "bye-bye."

As your baby grows into a toddler, signs of a hearing loss may include:

•       Limited, poor, or no speech

•       Frequently inattentive

•       Difficulty learning

•       Seems to need higher TV volume

•       Fails to respond to conversation-level speech or answers inappropriately to speech

•       Fails to respond to his or her name or easily frustrated when there's a lot of background noise 

The hearing test is noninvasive, inexpensive and does not require a child to respond verbally, so it could be adapted to screen infants, the researchers said.

The study was published in the journal Autism Research.

Story sources: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/news/20160801/hearing-test-may-predict-autism-risk-sooner-study

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/hear.html#

Daily Dose

New Autism Study

1.15 to read

A study just released in the journal JAMA Pediatrics revealed that pregnant women who have their labor “induced or augmented” have an increased risk of delivering a child who will develop autism. 

The retrospective study out of Duke University and the University of Michigan (both very well respected medical schools), showed that the percentage of mothers who had their labor either induced or augmented was higher for children who were later found to have “a designation for autism” within the school systems in North Carolina.  The rates of autism were highest for mother’s who had their labors both induced and augmented.  The study found that in this case there was a 23% greater risk of bearing a child who would later be diagnosed with autism than with those who had neither induction or augmentation.  This association was also higher in boys.

So, what does this all mean?

This does not mean that there should never be an induction or augmentation to a woman’s labor. There will continue to be cases in which it is appropriate to induce a woman’s labor when necessary for the health of the mother or her unborn child. One example being when an induction may be appropriate is when a mother’s blood pressure is becoming problematic and puts her and the baby at risk.

Augmented labor is sometimes necessary when a mother’s membranes have ruptured and the baby needs to be delivered to prevent infection Each case needs to be looked at individually by the doctor and discussed with the patient, as to risk and benefit.  

But, “elective” inductions because “the weekend is approaching”, or the “doctor is leaving town” or because the mother is “tired of being pregnant”, (while previously discouraged) may now be looked at with an eye toward this study.    In many cases “elective” inductions often lead to c-section deliveries as well.  Other studies have shown that c-sections in the United Sates have been on the rise and that there are more complications in the newborn period for babies born via c-section.  The JAMA study did not look at the method of delivery.

This study is interesting and may be yet one small part of the puzzle of autism.  More research to come, so I will keep you posted!

Daily Dose

Jenny McCarthy on The View

1.30 to read

Do you watch “The View”?  I have enjoyed the show for years, although I must say I probably only see it once every few months (somehow my work schedule is just not conducive to daytime TV watching). So, I was “shocked” to find out that The View recently announced that one of the new hosts is going to be Jenny McCarthy. 

I will be honest, I am not a Jenny McCarthy fan.  I can remember the night that Jenny McCarthy was onLarry King Live discussing her son’s diagnosis of autism and her contention that his diagnosis was caused by his childhood vaccines. Little did I know how her own ideas and words could effect so many other parents and their decisions to immunize their own children.  I mean REALLY, a former Playboy Bunny who felt that all of the science in the world was wrong, telling the world that childhood vaccines caused autism.  Who would believe this, unfortunately a lot of people. Even highly educated people.

Our media staff contacted reprentatives inviting her to appear on The Kid's Doctor radio show, but they never responded.

As a mother, I do understand how any parent would like to be able to pinpoint the cause of their child’s illness and/or disability. But to disavow science and try and to use her celebrity to convince other parents not to vaccinate their children is reprehensible and wrong.  The data is just not there to link vaccines and autism.  PERIOD!

Unfortunately, many young parents who watched Jenny McCarthy did not notice that during the home videos she replayed over and over again on national TV, her child never made good eye contact even as a young baby and did not seem to have socialized and engaged even prior to his vaccines.  That was duly noted by developmental pediatricians, but that does not make national TV.

I have noticed that Jenny McCarthy has really stopped discussing vaccines and has moved on to other topics of expertise for her.....like relationships.  But regardless, the damage that she did during her  “anti-vaccine era” still continues to have legs, and for that reason I will no longer be watching The View. The only way I can express my ongoing concern about her views is to vote with my own TV, and hopefully effect her Nielsen ratings and Q scores. I hope you will as well.  

Daily Dose

Vaccine & Autism Study: "A Fraud"

British Medical Journal says Dr. Andrew Wakefield's landmark study that linked Autism to the MMR vaccine is an "elaborate fraud". Wow, more news just in from the British Medical Journal relating to Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 article on vaccines and autism.  According to the BMJ, Dr. Wakefield’s article was “an elaborate fraud” in which he falsified information for “his landmark” study in which he claimed that the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine caused autism.

In the years since the article was published, thousands of parents have chosen not to immunize their children for fear of autism.  As a result of Dr. Wakefield’s “doctored” data, immunization rates in England dropped dramatically and measles outbreaks occurred causing hospitalizations and even deaths. We also saw outbreaks of measles and mumps in this country in children who had not been immunized. Although some parents think that these diseases have been eradicated, the reality is that immunizations provide the protection to keep the diseases at bay and as immunization rates drop, the diseases may re-emerge. (remember discussions of herd immunity?) The investigation into Dr. Wakefield’s data showed that some of the children that he stated had been “developmentally normal” prior to their MMR vaccine, actually had evidence of developmental delay even prior to immunization.  It was also reported that Dr. Wakefield was paid more than $675,000 by a lawyer who hoped to sue vaccine makers. In a nutshell, he lied and jeopardized many lives. The falsified data and journal article which suggested the link between MMR vaccine and autism has continued to cause some parents to be afraid to vaccinate their children. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control showed that nearly 40% of American parents have declined or delayed a vaccine, many of whom may have questioned vaccines due to the aforementioned Wakefield article. It is somewhat incredible to me that one man and a article that has be denounced and retracted, can still cause parental concern over giving vaccines, and this despite the fact that over 14 independent studies have failed to show a link between vaccines and autism. How is it that one doctor (who has since has his license terminated) managed to cause such an enormous distrust of vaccines?  I am just happy that even further investigation has shown that Dr. Wakefield was not motivated by “the greater good” as we are taught as physicians, but rather by his own personal gain. This latest BMJ article is one more reason to denounce Dr. Wakefield’s studies and move onward to restore the trust in vaccines.  Vaccines have saved hundreds of thousands of lives; we just need to keep up the good work to keep children and adults healthy. Do you have a question about vaccines? Join me and USA Today for a live chat on Monday, 1/10/11 from 2:00pm-3:00pm EST. Details to come.

Daily Dose

Dispelling The Vaccine and Autism Myth

Dr. Sue discusses the link between vaccines and autism.After interviewing Alison Singer, co-founder of The Autism Science Foundation on the radio show this weekend, I thought it was imperative to re-iterate that The Lancet, a well respected British medical journal (somewhat like our JAMA), retracted the study done in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that first suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

It is extremely rare for a journal to retract an article, which means that the study will no longer be considered an official part of scientific literature. This is just another step towards dispelling the decade long myth that linked the MMR vaccine to the development of autism. If you do recall, Dr. Wakefield’s study was even sited by “noted vaccine expert” Jenny McCarthy when she too took it upon herself to personally link her son’s autism to his vaccines. Hopefully, she has read the latest retraction by The Lancet as it seems that Dr. Wakefield falsified data that was used in his study. Dr. Wakefield and two of his colleagues have also been found by the General Medical Council of the U.K. to have “acted dishonestly and irresponsibly” in conducting their research. It was the longest trial in history for the GMC to conduct and Dr. Wakefield was found to have more than 30 charges against him. Unfortunately, Dr. Wakefield continues to “practice” in an autism clinic outside of Austin, Texas.  How he can legally do that that really escapes me! Why is the medical board in the United States allowing that? This story has been developing since 2004 when 10 of the 13 co-authors of Dr. Wakefield’s paper disavowed the study after a journalist reported that Dr. Wakefield had several conflict of interests as well as had used unethical methods in obtaining data, both of which made the study invalid. Despite that, parental fears as well as sensationalized media reports (back to Jenny McCarthy), caused enough public hysteria to cause parents to “opt out” of the MMR vaccine. Due to decreased immunization rates in UK and other European countries, measles cases have risen to record numbers and there has even been a death in an unvaccinated child secondary to a measles infection. In the first 6 months of 2008, measles cases were reported in the U.S. having been “imported” by un-immunized children who unknowingly acquired measles while vacationing in Europe, and subsequently infected other un-immunized children.  Fortunately, that “mini-epidemic” did not continue to spread as had been feared, but never the less there were over 130 cases of measles in the U.S. that year, higher than reported for decades. Measles outbreaks continue to be problematic in other countries as well, and should be on the radar screen for anyone who is traveling outside of the United States. The scientific evidence dispelling the link between vaccines and autism is compelling. The scientific community has never been able to replicate Dr. Wakefield’s results (now known to be falsified) and millions of research dollars have been spent to “undo” the damage and anti-vaccine sentiment which started with the Wakefield article. We now need to re-focus the research dollars on finding the causes of autism. Scientists have made recent breakthroughs on the genetic link to autism and will continue to try to understand how genes may be involved in development of autism. These are vital areas for funding research, rather than continued pre-occupation by some to discredit the science behind life saving vaccines. Bottom line, get your child vaccinated, read good science and pray that more vaccines are developed to prevent disease. It is a matter of life and death. That's your daily dose. We'll chat again tomorrow! The Autism Science Foundation

Daily Dose

Update on Autism

1:30 to read

Every parent watches for their baby’s first smile.  After the smiles are giggles and laughs and before you know it your baby is saying "dada" and "mama" and their vocabulary begins to explode. Suddenly you realize that your child is putting words together and may even start telling you what they want!  These developmental milestones all typically occur in the first 2 years of life.

Developmental screening is an important part of your visits to your pediatrician...especially for the first 2-3 years of life.  In many practices a parent fills out some sort of developmental screening questionnaire prior to their “well-baby” visit asking age appropriate questions....such as “does your child babble?”, “does your child point at objects?” “does your child play patty cake?”  “does your child put 2 words together?”.  During the check up your pediatrician is also watching how your child is interacting with their parents as well as with the doctor. I sometimes find that parents are “hard graders” and do not give their child credit for some milestones that I think they are actually doing when I am examining them.  Remember, there is a wide range of normal in the first several years of life. Not every baby does every thing at the same time!

Socialization and interaction is a very important part of early childhood development, but for some babies making eye contact and developing language skills is delayed. In fact,  for some children socialization and language seems to develop later and seems to be “different” than that of other children. These so called “red flags” in a baby’s development may be early signs of autism.  

The diagnosis of autism is typically not made until a child is between 18 months- 3 or 4 years of age.  The diagnosis of autism is based upon observation of a child’s communication and social interaction and for older children on their activities and interests. There is NOT a single test to diagnose autism.  In other words, your doctor cannot do a blood test to definitively diagnose autism spectrum disease (ASD). The diagnosis of ASD relies upon characteristic behaviors seen in a child, not on one milestone.

If you have concerns about your child’s development make sure you bring them up with your child’s pediatrician.  While it is hard for a parent to “wait and see” what happens over several months some babies will achieve their language and social skills later than others. Just like learning to read...some children do it earlier than others.

The most important thing is that you interact with your baby in those early years!! Talk, sing, read aloud and engage them in early play....as we know that every child needs that same stimulation.  

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