10/17 - Latest in Autism News

Less than one month ago, Christopher Cornelius was asked a very simple question, to which he gave a heartbreaking answer.

The question: Some of my friends are?

The answer from the 11-year-old New Jersey boy: No one.

But what a difference a month makes.

After his dad took a photo of the school assignment and posted it to his Facebook page, it quickly went viral. And thousands stepped up to be Christopher's friend.

His father, Bob Cornelius, estimates his son has received between 4,000 to 5,000 letters. So he's started "Christopher's Thank You Campaign" and a GoFundMe page to finance the postage and supplies for the family to respond to people who reached out to them. The goal is to raise $3,000.

"At this point, we have received thousands upon thousands of letters of support based upon the Facebook post that went viral about two and a half weeks ago," he wrote on the page. "If you recall, my son, Christopher, who is on the autistic spectrum, when asked on a school assignment to list his friends, wrote 'No One.'"

Though Christopher has received letters from people in all walks of life, "by far, the largest contingent is other children," the father said.

Bob Cornelius told ABC News, "He loves the letters and presents, and I love that conversations that have happened around dinner tables, in classrooms and in churches all over."

October 14, 2016, ABC News

10/10 - Latest in Autism News

Autism Center robbed two nights in a row

Alpine Autism Center is having an unlucky streak of events over the past few years. The center was spared during the Waldo Canyon Fire, but last year suffered major flood damage. Now they've been the victim of robberies two nights in a row.

The Alpine Autism Center is located in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. On Thursday and Friday night the center got robbed, and the thieves left mysterious notes behind.

"We went through the Waldo Canyon Fire and the building was saved," said Todd McLane, Alpine's Director of Operations. "We had a flood last August --devastated the building. We were displaced for almost seven months. We're still trying to get back on our feet and we just can't get a break. Now we have people coming in the building, stealing the equipment, and the only people they're hurting are really our kids."

On Friday, Alpine Autism Center staff realized laptops, desktop computers, and iPads were stolen overnight. On Saturday, McLane noticed cash was stolen and office files rummaged through. Police found no source of entry from the first robbery, the second robbery saw the thieves dropping in from the roof.

"There was an access panel up in the ceiling... they dropped down through a door that apparently was not locked. [They] came through the ceiling right here and dropped down to the floor and got into the building," McLane said. 

The thieves used a makeshift wood latter to get on the roof, getting away with over $10,000 worth of cash and equipment.

One of the biggest losses was a collection of iPads with special software to help non-verbal students communicate.

"The particular information that is on the equipment is lost now, and we're going to have to start over. So even coming into the center on Monday is going to be a setback for us," McLane said.

McLane said he thinks the thief could be someone that knows the building well. But they didn't just steal, they also left something behind.

"They left a note on one of the computer monitors," McLane said. "It said 'No hard feelings.'"

Three notes have been given to police. The third was on a picture removed from the lobby wall and placed in another room.

"Found in our storage room and it had a note stuck on it," McLane said. "The note said, 'no bad deed undone... sorry.'"

News 5 is working to get images of the notes left by the thieves. Anyone who may have seen suspicious activity in the Mountain Shadows Neighborhood Thursday or Friday night should contact CSPD.

Oct 09, 2016 12:48 AM, By Ted Skrobac


9/26 -Latest in Autism News

The language of senses

Sight, touch and hearing are our windows to the world: these sensory channels send a constant flow of information to the brain, which acts to sort out and integrate these signals, allowing us to perceive the world and interact with our environment. But how do these sensory pathways emerge during development?

Sight, touch and hearing are our windows to the world: these sensory channels send a constant flow of information to the brain, which acts to sort out and integrate these signals, allowing us to perceive the world and interact with our environment. But how do these sensory pathways emerge during development? Do they share a common structure, or, on the contrary, do they emerge independently, each with its specific features? By identifying gene expression signatures common to sight, touch and hearing, neuroscientists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, discovered a sensory "lingua franca" which facilitates the brain's interpretation and integration of sensory input. These results, to be published in Nature, pave the way toward a better understanding of perception and communication disorders.

The ability to detect and sort various kinds of stimuli is essential to interact with surrounding objects and people, and to communicate correctly. Indeed, social interaction deficits in people living with autism appear to be partly due difficulties in detecting and interpreting sensory signals. But how does the brain interpret and integrate the stimuli sent by our five senses? It is this very question which Denis Jabaudon, Professor at UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and his team have addressed. 'We studied the genetic structure of tactile, visual and auditory pathways in mice,' explains Laura Frangeul, the study first author. 'By observing neuronal gene expression in these distinct pathways during development, we detected common patterns, as if an underlying genetic language was bringing them together.'

A common language with tailored modulations

The Geneva neuroscientists' results thus reveal that during development, the various sensory pathways initially share a common gene expression structure, which then adapts to the activity of the organ attached to each sense. 'This process only takes a few days in mice but could take up to several months in human beings, whose development is much longer and very sensitive to the environment,' underlines Denis Jabaudon.

This genetic 'lingua franca' therefore allows the various sensory pathways to be built according to a similar architecture regardless of their very different functions. It is this shared language that allows the brain to accurately interpret stimuli coming from different sources, and to compose a coherent representation of their combined meaning.

Constant and necessary interactions

Sharing the same building plan also explains how various pathways can mutually balance out, for example when touch or hearing become highly over-developed in people born blind. This discovery also explains why sensory interferences, including synesthesias and hallucinations, can occur in people suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism or schizophrenia.

Denis Jabaudon concludes: 'Our results allow us to better understand how the brain circuits which build our representation of the world assemble during development. We are now able to examine how these findings could be put to use to repair them when they fail.'

September 26, 2016, by Université de GenèveNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


9/20 - Latest in Autism News

Link discovered between touch of individuals with autism, their social difficulties

The sense of touch may play a more crucial role in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than previously assumed. The main findings of the research show that individuals with ASD may have difficulties to determine which tactile sensations belong to the action of someone else.

The sense of touch may play a more crucial role in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than previously assumed. The main findings of the doctoral research of Eliane Deschrijver, which are now published, show that individuals with ASD may have difficulties to determine which tactile sensations belong to the action of someone else.

ASD: social problems and sensory sensitivities

Many individuals with ASD are over- or undersensitive to sensory information. Some feel overwhelmed by busy environments such as supermarkets, others are less sensitive to pain, or dislike being touched.

Large-scale queries in the scientific literature had reported already that the severity of daily social difficulties of individuals with ASD is strongly related to the extent to which they are sensitive to touch, more so than to the extent to which they show visual or auditory sensitivities. To determine why this is the case, Eliane Deschrijver and her colleagues investigated how the brain of individuals with and without ASD uses own touch to understand touch sensations in the actions of others.

Prof. dr. Marcel Brass clarifies: We think that the human brain uses the own sense of touch to distinguish one's self from others: When I perform an action that leads to a tactile sensation, for instance by making a grasping movement, I expect to feel a tactile sensation that corresponds to this. If my own touch tells me something else, the tactile sensation will probably belong to the other person, and not to me. The brain can thus effectively understand others by signaling tactile sensations that do not correspond to the own sense of touch."

Neuroscientific research

In a series of experiments with electro-encephalography (EEG) conducted at Ghent University, the scientists showed that the brain activity of adults with ASD differs from that of adults without ASD while processing touch.

The research showed that the human brain of individuals without ASD indicated very quickly when a tactile sensation does not correspond to the own sense of touch. This means that the human brain is able to signal that a tactile sensation of a finger that touches a surface does not correspond to own touch.

This process occured otherwise in the brain of adults with ASD however. Their brain signaled to a much lesser extent when the external touch sensation did not correspond to their own touch. Those individuals that experienced stronger sensory difficulties showed a stronger disturbance of the neural process, while they were also the ones that experienced more severe social difficulties.

"It is to my knowledge the first time that a relationship could be identified between the way individuals with ASD process tactile information in their brain, and their daily social difficulties. The findings can yield a novel and crucial link between sensory and social difficulties within the autism spectrum," concludes Eliane Deschrijver.

"These findings primarily lead to a better understanding of the complex disorder, and of associated difficulties. It is yet too early to conclude on the impact on interventions. If the results can be confirmed in future studies of other groups with ASD, such as (young) children, they could provide a target for optimizing treatment," according to prof. dr. Wiersema.

The research was conducted within the novel research centre EXPLORA at Ghent University, led by prof. dr. Roeljan Wiersema and prof. dr. Marcel Brass (also promotors of the PhD dissertation). The findings regarding ASD were published online last week in Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience last week, a journal in which the findings regarding adults without ASD were also published in 2015.

September 15, 2016,  by Ghent University.