February 11th, 2010
08:51 PM ET

Move to merge Asperger's, autism in diagnostic manual stirs debate

Elizabeth Landau

For Mary Calhoun Brown, the term "Asperger's" is crucial to conveying to schools that although her 15-year-old son has had social difficulties, he has a near-genius IQ and great speaking ability.

"If I call it 'autism,' that's going to raise a lot of red flags for people who don't know him," said Brown, author of the novel about autism "There Are No Words."

Both Brown and her son William are opposed to new guidelines being put forth by the American Psychiatric Association that would make Asperger's syndrome part of the autism spectrum disorders rather than a separate diagnosis. In the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which helps mental health professionals identify specific conditions, it is not listed under autism.

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Filed under: Autism
October 19th, 2009
12:16 PM ET
September 23rd, 2009
02:59 PM ET

Travolta’s heartbreaking testimony

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Movies/09/22/john.travolta.trial/art.john.travolta.gi.jpg caption="John Travolta's son died of a seizure in January 2009 at the age of 16"]
Brittany Kaplan

John Travolta is being forced to reveal personal details about the day his son died—and admitting for the first time that Jett suffered from autism.

Tarino Lightbourne and former Bahamian Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater are accused of trying to extort $25 million from Travolta. It is alleged that the two conspired to extort money in return for not making documents pertaining to Jett’s treatment public.

John and his wife Kelly Preston walked into the Bahamian courtroom together before Travolta took the stand for the prosecution.

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Filed under: Autism
December 3rd, 2008
10:50 AM ET

U.S. Troops sickened by vaccinations – does it help explain autism?

David Kirby

It looks like the CDC may have missed a memo to itself on vaccine safety.

One very contentious issue in the vaccine-autism debate has been whether a certain subset of genetically susceptible children is unequipped to handle the early and intensive US immunization schedule – including kids like Hannah Poling, who developed autism after receiving nine vaccines at once.

The theory is that some people with abnormal immune or metabolic systems might become overtaxed by the fever, inflammation and/or other stresses sometimes caused by multiple vaccines.

Many doctors and scientists scoff at the notion that someone could be injured by getting too many shots at once. They say that people of all ages, including babies, can handle multiple exposures at any given moment.

Click here to read more

Filed under: 360° Radar • Autism • Keeping Them Honest • Military
July 23rd, 2008
05:50 PM ET

The reality of autism

Watch Michael Savage on Larry King Live
Watch Michael Savage on Larry King Live

Editor’s note: Dr. Charles Sophy is responding to recent comments by radio talk show host Michael Savage. Savage said this about autism: “Now the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is in 99 percent of the cases. It's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out.” WATCH SAVAGE ON LARRY KING LIVE

Dr. Charles Sophy
Medical Director, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services
(the nation's largest foster care operation)

Uneducated opinions such as Mr. Savage's are truly reprehensible. There is NOTHING fraudulent about Autism! It is a real medical condition. It is like saying there's no such thing as a broken leg.
It's not that there are necessarily more autistic people in the world now, but parents and medical experts in the U.S. today are more aware of and more apt to explore "unusual" behaviors or developmental delays in babies and toddlers.

Moreover, there is no medicine for autism. So overmedicating or over prescribing for autism is not a possibility. FULL POST

Filed under: 360° Radar • Autism • Dr. Charles Sophy • Medical News • T1
May 14th, 2008
09:02 AM ET

Vaccines and autism

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/03/06/t1home.hannah.poling.cnn.jpg]

Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

Last week, I sat down with Dr. Bernadine Healy at CNN’s Women’s Health Summit in New York City. She is a remarkable person who has been the “first” at many things, including the first woman to head the National Institutes of Health. We talked about many things, including the persistent brain fog patients and their doctors have when it comes to heart disease and women. Everyone should know that heart disease is the biggest killer of women; in fact heart disease kills ten times as many women as breast cancer.

What I wanted to blog about today, though, is her response to a question I asked about autism. She had written a column about the topic in U.S. News and World Report and told me she believes the link between vaccines and autism is “biologically plausible.” Of course, that spurred several more questions from me (click here to watch).

Healy went on to say that many in the scientific world have been quick to dismiss the concerns of parents and have not conducted the necessary studies of causation to definitively rule out a vaccine/autism link. Healy’s comments have become a lightning rod in the medical community – with an infectious disease expert with the American Academy of Pediatrics calling CNN twice yesterday to express concern parents will misconstrue Healy’s comments and stop get their kids vaccinated – and that vaccines save lives.

Read full story

Filed under: Autism • Dr. Sanjay Gupta
April 3rd, 2008
09:37 AM ET

Continuing to place the puzzle pieces

CNN exposes the myths, facts... and new hope for those living with autism.

Today is the first World Autism Awareness Day as designated by the United Nations.  First off, let me say that at CNN we have been preparing for this day for months, and have covered autism stories for years. Since I have been at CNN, I have been covering autism and I have committed myself to this area of reporting and investigation. If you ask most medical reporters, they will tell you the autism beat is sort of the third rail of journalism. It is so rife with controversy and passionate people on different sides of the issue. If you do stories on this topic, you will get criticized. Period.

Still, perhaps because I am a neurosurgeon, I have been fascinated with the new brain imaging that allows us to peer deep inside the brain of a child or adult with autism and see the changes that may explain the mysterious symptoms. I will continue covering these stories. Maybe it is because I am a relatively new parent of two gorgeous little girls who jumps for joy every time they pass a milestone and grows a little concerned if they seem to be a little behind compared with their friends. Maybe it is because families from all over the world have sent their stories to me about their own family members with autism...


Filed under: Autism • Dr. Sanjay Gupta
April 2nd, 2008
09:26 PM ET

Autism: Shattering stereotypes

When you hear the word “autistic” what kind of image pops into your head? Most of you probably think of a young child, out of control, lashing out, screaming.

Well, I can’t wait to introduce you to a little boy that will shatter all those stereotypes. His name is Dylan Jackaway. He’s five and a half years old and he knocked my socks off from the moment I met him. He has piercing blue eyes that are full of passion and dark hair.

When I arrived at the apartment he shares with his mom, Gwenyth Jackaway, he greeted me immediately and invited me to sit down at his computer with him. I couldn’t resist.


Filed under: Autism • Randi Kaye
April 2nd, 2008
08:15 PM ET

Autism... in the Middle East

While growing up in the Middle East, I rarely saw people with disabilities. Not that they didn’t exist, but society’s judgmental and sometime harsh gaze forced most disabled people to be isolated. To this day, physical and mental disabilities are viewed as stigmas in the Arab world. Their guardians keep them hidden from view out of fear of being rejected or ridiculed.

On April 2, 2008 as the UN officially marked the first World Autism Awareness Day, I was pleasantly surprised to see parts of the Arab world pause and try to understand what Autism is, how to diagnose it and how to help those who suffer from the disorder.

The Dubai-based channel, Al-Arabiya, led the coverage with its anchor revealing a little bit of shock the staggering numbers: "One  in 160 children are diagnosed with Autism in Saudi Arabia alone," she said. Al-Arabiya featured reports on autism centers around the Middle East and young lives affected by the disorder. A reporter said, "Young Rashed and his family know the challenges all too well. So many children miss the chance at a better life because they get the wrong diagnosis which leads them to isolation and a condemned life as misfits."

Specialized websites and blogs were very busy throughout the Arab world.

The Dubai Autism Center asked for donations through a moving video explaining that children with autism are different and yet very much a part of society and in need of help.

The Autism Center in Lebanon recommended books on early intervention and how to communicate with the autistic population.

From Kuwait came an announcement about an upcoming therapist training program. And from Saudi Arabia, an explanation of autism in pictures and poetry and a thank you note that says:  "It is my world awareness day. Thank you for those who remembered me and joined me in celebration!" (see attached)

The State of Qatar boasts a major center for disabilities and autism. The first lady of Qatar was instrumental in establishing World Autism Awareness Day. Yet, on this day, the State's flagship network, Al-Jazeera, stayed away from the subject.

Back on Al-Arabiya, a young girl named Ghalia (which means precious in Arabic) stole the spotlight.  Her profile featured her lovingly kissing her father and reading with her mother. 

Ghalia’s mother said, "It is very hard for us now, but I have no doubt that because of her, we will earn paradise."

But in the here and now, long before paradise, a postcard on a Saudi website asks for compassion, love and opportunities for people with autism. It simply says "I need you to understand me and accept me. I am autistic and I am human." 

-Octavia Nasr, Arab Affairs Editor 

Check out these links to see more about autism in the Middle East. 

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Filed under: Autism • Octavia Nasr
April 2nd, 2008
10:57 AM ET

Imagine you're the pilot, and the cockpit windows start to shatter

And then the cockpit fills with smoke...
That's the real-life scenario Drew Griffin reveals in an exclusive report on 360° tonight: At least 10 times in four years on American Airlines flights of Boeing 757’s. Despite pilots' warnings, the problem is only now being acknowledged.
Also on 360° tonight at 10PM ET: In the presidential race, Dana Bash joins McCain as he storms MD and FL. Candy Crowley's with Obama and Suzanne Malveaux's with Clinton in PA. And Michelle Obama rallies at Carnegie Mellon University.
As we approach Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Soledad O'Brien talks with the one man who was with him on the balcony when he was shot and killed.
In our on-going reporting on our Planet in Peril, Miles O'Brien is there as Congressional discusses whether the struggling polar bear, losing habitat and food as the ice melts, should be listed as engendered.
What are your thoughts about all this? We'd like to know.
On the UN's global Autism Awareness Day: When Gwenyth Jackaway’s son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, she found 7 more mothers who used the same sperm donor. Three of their 12 children are on the autism spectrum, a rate 45 times higher than normal. Randi Kaye examines potential evidence of a genetic link.
And at 11PM ET, see our special hour on autism, and meet Amanda Baggs - she is autistic, smart as a whip and extraordinarily articulate. She also has a razor-sharp humor and, at the end of the day, you'll find her deeply moving.
Thank you for joining us.
– Barclay Palmer, 360° Senior Produder

Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean? 

Filed under: Airline Safety • Autism • Barclay Palmer • Drew Griffin • Raw Politics
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