Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Legislators vote to mandate autism coverage

New York lawmakers have approved legislation to require health insurance companies to provide coverage for screening, diagnosis and lifetime treatment of autism spectrum disorders.

The bill passed in the Senate last week and in the Assembly on Monday night.

Citing a federal Centers for Disease Control estimate that one out of 110 children is diagnosed with the disorder, sponsors say the measure could increase overall health insurance premiums by as much as 2 percent in New York. The state would join 20 others that already require coverage.

Affected children struggle with social interaction and communication, ranging from mild to severe symptoms.

Sen. Roy McDonald, a Saratoga Republican, said he has two grandchildren with autism. “My guys don’t talk, and it’s a very serious thing,” he said.

Under the bill, which still needs Gov. David Paterson’s signature, state health officials will identify minimum coverage options for clinically proven treatment and therapy. Paterson will review it, spokesman Morgan Hook said Tuesday.

“The new law will prevent denial of coverage on the basis that treatments are educational rather than medical in their necessity, the most common grounds for refusal,” said Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, a Rochester Democrat and bill sponsor. “To that end, it allows families to appeal denials to an independent review panel if an initial grievance to the insurer is unsuccessful.”

Therapies covered by the new scope of insurance must be clinically proven and peer reviewed, Morelle said. Some parents had urged coverage of experimental treatments as well.

The Health Plan Association, which represents insurers, generally opposes mandates because they increase the cost of health care, spokeswoman Leslie Moran said.

“This bill is particularly troubling because it is so far-reaching,” she said Tuesday. “There is no age limit on coverage. There’s no annual or lifetime cap on the amount that would have to be paid for services.”

Moran said many of the services are currently available in more appropriate settings like schools, and insurers don’t believe they should pay for services such as teaching daily living and academic skills. They also think the 2 percent estimate is low - New Yorkers already pay almost $28 billion in annual health care premiums, and that would mean at least another half-billion dollars.

Judith Ursitti, the regional director for Autism Speaks whose son Jack was diagnosed in 2005, said her family’s out-of-pocket costs have ranged from about $60,000 a year initially to about $25,000 to $30,000 now that he is in school and almost 7 years old. “It’s rare that parents are able to access coverage for children or adults,” she said.

Jack, who was diagnosed at the severe end of the spectrum, is speaking after many thousands of dollars and years of therapy, Ursitti said. She and other advocates stressed the importance of early diagnosis and said it should happen between 18 and 24 months, though only about half of insurers reimburse for a simple screening test.

Info from this article found here: http://libn.com/blog/2010/06/23/legislators-vote-to-mandate-autism-coverage/

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another iPad Success Story!

We posted about Danny's success with the iPad earlier this week and now we wanted to post another success story we found.

Shannon Rosa @shannonrosa (on twitter) posted an amazing article on her blog: http://www.blogher.com/ipad-nearmiracle-my-son-autism It is about her son Leo who has autism and all the success he has found with the iPad. Here is a small part of the article:

"My son Leo's life was transformed when a five-dollar raffle ticket turned into a brand-new iPad. I'm not exaggerating. Before the iPad, Leo's autism made him dependent on others for entertainment, play, learning, and communication. With the iPad, Leo electrifies the air around him with independence and daily new skills. People who know Leo are amazed when they see this new boy rocking that iPad. I'm impressed, too, especially when our aggressively food-obsessed boy chooses to play with his iPad rather than eat. I don't usually dabble in miracle-speak, but I may erect a tiny altar to Steve Jobs in the corner of our living room."

Read more of Shannon's article here: http://www.blogher.com/ipad-nearmiracle-my-son-autism Below is a clip of Leo using his iPad :) Go Leo!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wonders of the iPad with Danny!

We sometimes don’t realize the little things we take for granted. Like having a say, a voice, vast vocabulary, and the opportunity to make choices. All qualities that Danny unfortunately does not possess. With a limited vocabulary and conversation capabilities that extend only as far as answering yes and no questions, communication as you can imagine is extremely difficult. Sure, Danny has had experience with the chunky oversized temperamental Dynavox Mt4 augmentative communication device, but nothing compares to the world of opportunity the iPad offers at the mere touch of a screen, literally.

With augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps such as TaptoTalk, Danny’s communication flourishes. Similar to the Dynavox, TaptoTalk allows family members to set up folders with both commands and “wants” essentially, by using pictures accompanied by voice dictations of the word. For example, if Danny is hungry and wants to go to his favorite diner “Taby’s” for a plate of fries, we no longer have to read tell tale signs of hunger on his face and assume its french fry depravation! He can simply press tabs that say “I am Hungry” with a picture of him eating, and then move along to “I want to go to Taby’s,” with a picture of the restaurant. Simple, efficient, and miraculous. Now Danny not only has a voice, but a choice. And we don’t have to drag out that bulky Dynavox and pray there is an outlet close by.

Aside from the AAC TaptoTalk, which undoubtedly is the most useful and important application the iPad can offer Danny, there are other benefits to this wonder pad. As you may or may not know, many Autistic children have a need to “stim” or focus on some act, usually physical, and repeat it multiple times to establish balance, clarity, and comfort. Using games on the iPad, such as memory, Danny’s “stims” have become a lot more productive and mind engaging. We are anxious to try out other educational applications like First Words and iWrite Words to see if they have a similar effect.

All these benefits prevail, on top of the classic functions equip with most iProducts, including the ability to watch movies and listen to music. These two past times are Danny’s favorites. The large screen allows Danny to enjoy his favorite movies, like “The Little Giants” and “Richie Rich” comfortably while in transit. And when he craves sensory stimulation to calm his nerves and subdue his tics, he has his entire music library at his fingertips. We are extremely proud of Danny’s accomplishments with the iPad and simultaneously impressed by his ability to pick up the functionality so quickly.

Most importantly it has given us, his family, a chance to communicate easily, often, and efficiently with our favorite little guy. There is nothing more valuable in this world to us than this. The iPad and accompanying applications have brought us miles closer to Danny, and for that we are entirely grateful and even more so, excited for the future.

-This article was written directly by Danny's sister Kristina.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some Fun News In The World Of Autism!

We found a few fun things to share with you in the world of Autism! Enjoy!

The Albany Chapter of the Autism Society of America is sponsoring an Autism Friendly Film Showing at Colonie Center’s Regal Cinema. They will be showing Pixars "Toy Story 3". The special showing will take place Saturday June 26, 2010 starting at 9:30 a.m. Admission will be $7.50 for ages 12 -59, $7 for children 11 and under and senior citizens ages 60 and over. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

Autism friendly films allow for kids to move around during the film, have the sound lowered and the lights are left on so that children on the autism spectrum are more comfortable. The Albany Chapter ASA is extremely grateful to Mark LeChevet, general manager, for the opportunity to partner with Colonie Center’s Regal Cinema to make this event happen. They have been extremely helpful and accommodating in ensuring the needs of kids with autism are met.

Go here to find a location playing near you: http://www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sensoryfilms

If you are on facebook you can find details here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=130038800347407&ref=mf

Jet Li says he hopes that his new movie about autism offers a refreshing alternative to the historical and kung fu epics that dominate the Chinese industry.

The veteran action star plays an aquarium worker who cares for his autistic son in the low-budget "Ocean Heaven" — his first Chinese-language production since the 2007 release of "The Warlords."

"Nowadays everyone is making blockbusters. Making a 7 million Chinese yuan ($1 million) movie requires a lot of sincerity," Li told reporters in Hong Kong. "This movie is about sincerity. It shows that in this day and age that filmmakers are willing to do something for society."

The actor promoted the movie by visiting the dolphins at Hong Kong's Ocean Park with a small group of mentally handicapped and autistic adults.

"I hope everyone can examine what is the most important relationship in life — the relationship between parent and child," he said.

A noticeably thinner Li said he lost 18 pounds (8 kilograms) from a thyroid condition.

Like Jackie Chan, a fellow kung fu star who crossed over to Hollywood from the Hong Kong movie industry, Li also now juggles careers in Chinese and American films.

His recent Hollywood releases include "The Forbidden Kingdom," which costarred Chan, "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" and "The Expendables."

Information from: http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=10844018

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Mansion Ride For Autism

The Mansion Ride For Autism
9th Annual Ride, Sunday June 13th 2010
A Cycling Event on Nassau County's Gold Coast
Choose 16, 40 or 62 miles

The Mansion Ride for Autism celebrates it's 9th annual event on Sunday June 13, 2010. Just $50 to ride.
Since the all-volunteer Mansion Ride began in 2002, it has served as a platform to unite hundreds of riders.
Collectively, we have raised AUTISM awareness and over $375,000 (net).
100% of those funds are donated to support the education of Children with Autism.

Learn more are visit their website here: http://www.mansionrideforautism.com
Contact The Mansion Ride For Autism here: http://www.mansionrideforautism.com/contact.html

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Study! New Statistic! and the Benefits of Early Intervention!

The new statistic on those being diagnosed with Autism is now 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. Although more children are being diagnosed with autism, early intervention can help them live productive lives. Speaking of early intervention, in recent news researchers in London have found a possible way to detect autism in very young children by way of urine test. Article below and can also be viewed here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100603091641.htm

Autism Finding Could Lead to Simple Urine Test for the Condition

ScienceDaily (June 5, 2010) — Children with autism have a different chemical fingerprint in their urine than non-autistic children, according to new research published tomorrow in the print edition of the Journal of Proteome Research.

The researchers behind the study, from Imperial College London and the University of South Australia, suggest that their findings could ultimately lead to a simple urine test to determine whether or not a young child has autism.
Autism affects an estimated one in every 100 people in the UK. People with autism have a range of different symptoms, but they commonly experience problems with communication and social skills, such as understanding other people's emotions and making conversation and eye contact.
People with autism are also known to suffer from gastrointestinal disorders and they have a different makeup of bacteria in their guts from non-autistic people.
Today's research shows that it is possible to distinguish between autistic and non-autistic children by looking at the by-products of gut bacteria and the body's metabolic processes in the children's urine. The exact biological significance of gastrointestinal disorders in the development of autism is unknown.
The distinctive urinary metabolic fingerprint for autism identified in today's study could form the basis of a non-invasive test that might help diagnose autism earlier. This would enable autistic children to receive assistance, such as advanced behavioural therapy, earlier in their development than is currently possible.
At present, children are assessed for autism through a lengthy process involving a range of tests that explore the child's social interaction, communication and imaginative skills.
Early intervention can greatly improve the progress of children with autism but it is currently difficult to establish a firm diagnosis when children are under 18 months of age, although it is likely that changes may occur much earlier than this.
The researchers suggest that their new understanding of the makeup of bacteria in autistic children's guts could also help scientists to develop treatments to tackle autistic people's gastrointestinal problems.
Professor Jeremy Nicholson, the corresponding author of the study, who is the Head of the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, said: "Autism is a condition that affects a person's social skills, so at first it might seem strange that there's a relationship between autism and what's happening in someone's gut. However, your metabolism and the makeup of your gut bacteria reflect all sorts of things, including your lifestyle and your genes. Autism affects many different parts of a person's system and our study shows that you can see how it disrupts their system by looking at their metabolism and their gut bacteria.
"We hope our findings might be the first step towards creating a simple urine test to diagnose autism at a really young age, although this is a long way off -- such a test could take many years to develop and we're just beginning to explore the possibilities. We know that giving therapy to children with autism when they are very young can make a huge difference to their progress. A urine test might enable professionals to quickly identify children with autism and help them early on," he added.
The researchers are now keen to investigate whether metabolic differences in people with autism are related to the causes of the condition or are a consequence of its progression.
The researchers reached their conclusions by using H NMR Spectroscopy to analyse the urine of three groups of children aged between 3 and 9: 39 children who had previously been diagnosed with autism, 28 non-autistic siblings of children with autism, and 34 children who did not have autism who did not have an autistic sibling.
They found that each of the three groups had a distinct chemical fingerprint. Non-autistic children with autistic siblings had a different chemical fingerprint than those without any autistic siblings, and autistic children had a different chemical fingerprint than the other two groups.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Autism and Theatre, A Great Match!

We are excited to tell our followers that the inspiration for "Danny's Wish", Danny himself is going to be in an upcoming play this weekend! Go Danny!!

We thought this would be the perfect time to highlight an amazing theatre called "International Association of Theatre for Autism".

International Association of Theatre for Autism (IATA)
"An online network uniting professionals and parents interested
in applying theatre techniques to help individuals with autism."

IATA was created to unite professionals and parents interested in using theatre to help individuals with autism. IATA is the first network to bring people from around the world together to strengthen theatre-autism work. The collaborative work of network members will be used to develop best practices, create new techniques, spread the word about theatre interventions for individuals with autism, generate data to support claims of effectiveness, and ultimately increase the quality of life for individuals with autism.

Theatre Aspects
Body Awareness
Emotional Expression
Emotional Recognition
Group Dynamics

ASD/AS deficits

*marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction

*a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people

*lack of social or emotional reciprocity

*failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

Visit their website for more info about the "International Association of Theatre for Autism"