February 27, 2014 10:00 am Published by Joseph Amodeo
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Feb. 27, 2014 – Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC), a New York-based charity supporting children and adults with autism, has selected Sprint (NYSE: S) as the 2014 recipient of the Change Maker Award for its commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities. Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO, will accept the honor on behalf of the company at QSAC’s annual gala taking place on Tuesday, June 17, at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers (West 26 Street and West Side Highway) in New York.
Each year, QSAC’s Change Maker Award recognizes a company that has made a meaningful commitment to supporting the needs of children and adults with developmental disabilities. Sprint is being honored for delivering innovative accessible solutions that empower individuals with disabilities.
Sprint offers a variety of products and services, including unique, accessibility-themed ID packs for select Android™ devices that are designed to accommodate various accessibility needs. Sprint’s Accessible Education ID pack, among other services, assists individuals with autism who are working to improve their socialization and communication skills.
“Sprint’s efforts to expand access to technology embodies our hope for more tools and resources to assist individuals with disabilities in achieving greater independence, empowering them to contribute more meaningfully to their communities,” said Gary Maffei, executive director of QSAC. “By recognizing Sprint, QSAC hopes to encourage others to actively support Sprint and similar efforts to expand access to technology for children and adults with autism.”
“At Sprint, we recognize how making wireless technology more accessible can reduce, and perhaps eventually eliminate, the communication barriers faced by individuals with disabilities,” Hesse said. “We embrace this challenge and we are proud to receive the 2014 Change Maker Award.”
Past recipients of honors from QSAC have included Pfizer and PIMCO. Each year, QSAC’s gala brings together more than 500 people to increase autism awareness while raising funds to support QSAC’s programs and services for the autism community of New York and Long Island.
Additional details regarding the gala are available online at www.qsac.com/gala. Current sponsors include Accenture, Astoria Financial Corporation/Astoria Federal Savings, Koeppel Auto Group, and Sprint.
Sprint’s corporate responsibility program, Sprint Good WorksSM, is guided by the principle that doing the right thing is good business. More than a statement, it’s also a belief: Good does indeed workSM. That’s why Sprint is committed to anticipating the needs of customers and making award-winning services accessible to all. By empowering seniors and people with disabilities through accessible technology, Sprint is demonstrating how good technology works as a positive force in society.
Download the Press Release (02/27/2014)
Download the Sponsorship Packet for the Gala
February 10, 2014 3:03 pm Published by Francisco Monegro, Ph.D., M.D.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been redefined as a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairment in social communication and social interaction and restricted behavior (DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association, 2013). From the clinical point of view, ASD is a very complex condition commonly associated with psychiatric, medical, and behavioral comorbidities (e.g. seizure disorder, anxiety, mood and sleep disorders, eating and behavioral problems) which have been referred to as “challenging behaviors” (Durand, 2014).
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and antipsychotic and anticonvulsant mediations have been used extensively to treat the “challenging behaviors” in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (e.g. irritability, impulsive aggressive behaviors, and self-injurious behaviors). Unfortunately, evidence-based research of anticonvulsant, Lithium, and antipsychotic medications is limited (Rajkumar, 2012), and there is no FDA approved medication to treat these behavioral problems in autism.
Beta-adrenergic receptor blockers (Propranolol, Nadolol, and Pindolol) have been used since 1977 in the treatment of violent behaviors in psychiatric patients (Silver, et al. 1999). In particular, Propranolol is a non-selective beta-adrenergic antagonist that reduces sympathetic nervous system activity. Recently, Propranolol has been used successfully to treat impulsivity, aggressive behaviors, hyper-arousal, and self-injurious behaviors in individuals with autism and intellectual disability. The mechanism of action of Propranolol is not clear, but may involve central Beta-adrenergic blockade, peripheral effects on the sympathetic nervous system or serotonergic blockade (Weinstock, 1980). Beta-adrenergic receptors are wildly distributed in different regions in individuals with autism such as frontal, parietal, hippocampus, midbrain etc. Genetic studies have identified several factors linking Beta-adrenergic receptor blockage to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Lurong and Nguyen, 2013).
According to Bodner and colleagues (2012), in a study, which compared individuals with autism and non-autistic individuals on a working memory test, using Propranolol and the ASD group performed significantly better than the placebo group (non-ASD). It has been hypothesized that Norepinephrine (NE) levels are increased in individuals with autism, which may play a role in cognitive impairment associated with ASD. Recent research evidence suggests that Propranolol in doses (< 520mg/qd) improves impulsive aggressive behaviors, self-injurious behaviors, and some aspects of learning in individuals with autism and intellectual disability (Lurong and Nguyen, 2013; Rajkumar, 2012; Fleminger, et al. 2008; Simeon and Hollander, 2001; Shroeder, et al. 2002.).
At the 2013 Society of Neuroscience Annual Meeting in San Diego, David Beversdorf’s group at the University of Missouri, Columbia, proposed that Propranolol was better than a placebo in enhancing functional connectivity between certain brain regions and in improving verbal fluency, verbal problem-solving, and non-verbal behaviors in individuals with autism (Zamzow, et al., 2013; Beversdorfd, et al. 1999, 2008). In addition, according to Beversdorf and colleagues (2011), Propranolol has some language benefits and performance on tasks involving cognitive flexibility of access to networks (Narayanan, et al. 2010, Hecht, et al. 2014).
Further studies are needed to evaluate the non-genomic mechanisms, neurobiological mechanism of Propranolol in context-specific anxiety, and cognitive flexibility and functional connectivity.
February 6, 2014 10:04 am Published by Anne Denning, MA, BCBA, Director of Training
The tragic case of Avonte Oquendo prompted Justice Department officials this week to expand a program to help parents obtain tracking devices for children with autism. Avonte, a 14-year-old with autism, was found dead three-months after running away from school. Avonte, who did not speak, was at school in Queens, NY when he ran off on October 4, 2013 at about 12:30 p.m.
The announcement Wednesday means that federal grant funds,which already cover tracking devices for adults with Alzheimers, will also apply to children with autism. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had requested the funds, said the devices were available immediately for parents who wanted them. Avonte’s Law, which Schumer proposed in November, would authorize federal funds for the purchase of tracking devices as well as training in their use. Each device costs about $85, plus a few dollars in monthly fees, the Senator said, adding that hundreds of families with autistic children already have used privately funded tracking devices.
A 2012 study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore found that children between the ages of 4 and 7 with autism were four times more likely to wander away than children of the same age without autism. The study, based on a survey of parents of children with autism, found that 49% of the children had tried to run off at least once after they reached age 4. This same study indicated 56% of parents stating eloping is one of the most stressful behaviors they encounter while caring for their children with autism.
While tracking devices are important, educating and training staff who work with individuals with autism is imperative. Avonte’s wandering behavior is called eloping, which means he left a safe location without permission. Eloping is a potentially dangerous behavior that has led to 22 deaths in just 20 months between 2009 and 2011, according to the National Autism Association.
Some children with autism do not understand the spoken word, therefore may not respond to their name when called. Some children cannot speak without support, so they may not be able to ask for what they want and need without augmentative communication, such as PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or using sign language . If a child elopes without support, or in the case of using sign language, encounters someone who does not speak the language, it could be incredibly difficult or impossible for the child to communicate any personal information, which would ultimately lead to his/her safe return home.
Many children with autism do not have an age-appropriate understanding or awareness of safety procedures, such as checking for cars before crossing the street, walking within a cross walk or avoiding strangers.
All of these stress the importance of addressing the issues surrounding elopement behaviors. All involved in the care and education of children with autism must be specifically trained in keeping children safe as a means to prevent further tragedy.
Below are some links with helpful information.
The Big Red Safety Box is a resource created by the National Autism Association for The AWAARE (Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education) Collaboration.
February 4, 2014 10:55 am Published by Kristen DuMoulin, Ph.D.
The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised with Follow-Up (M-CHAT-R/F; Robins, Fein, & Barton, 2009) is a 2-stage parent-report screening tool to assess risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). M-CHAT-R is valid for screening toddlers between 16 and 30 months of age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children receive autism screening at 18 and 24 months of age, and the M-CHAT-R/F is one of the AAP’s recommended tools.
The primary goal of the M-CHAT-R is to maximize sensitivity, meaning to detect as many cases of ASD as possible. Therefore, there is a high false positive rate, meaning that not all children who score at risk will be diagnosed with ASD. To address this, the researchers have developed Follow-Up questions (M-CHAT-R/F). Even with the Follow-Up questions, a significant number of the children who screen positive on the M-CHAT-R will not be diagnosed with ASD; however, these children are at high risk for other developmental disorders or delays, and therefore, evaluation is warranted for any child who screens positive.
The M-CHAT-R/F is available for free download for clinical, research, and educational purposes at www.mchatscreen.com.