Kyle at age 3, and Kyle today

Kyle’s Treehouse, originally a resource about autism, has evolved into a community, where hundreds of thousands of visitors learn from each other every year. So, join in the conversation and welcome to Kyle’s Treehouse.

Two-Minute MRI Diagnosis?

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Determining whether a child has autism or not has been, up to this point, primarily based on factors outlined in the DSM. It’s based on meeting certain criteria and there’s no medical test, such as a blood test, that can be taken to provide a diagnosis. But with the evolution of technology and research, we’re learning of more and more ways medical diagnostic tools may one day play a large role in the detection, and ultimately diagnosis, of autism.

One such potential tool, according to recent research published in Clinical Psychological Science, is a brain-imaging technique, similar to a MRI, that could detect autism in only two minutes. The scanning process can show the brain’s response to thoughts of ‘self-perspective’ – such as recognizing ‘your turn.’ It showed that there was a subdued response in the brain among those with autism – and the more subdued the response, the more severe the autism symptoms.

While it wouldn’t be able to take the place of a full evaluation, and it will certainly require much more research, this may be a way to aide in the clinical diagnosis in the future, offering us a little more insight into how our brains are processing information.

You can check out more on this research here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Autistic Siblings Not Necessarily Similar

Nature Medicine - siblings studyIn a recent report published by Nature Medicine, scientists have found that most siblings with autism do not share the same genetic risk factors and are as distinct in their behaviors as any brothers and sisters – which is a surprise to many.

As discussed in this New York Times article, scientists analyzed genetic material from 85 families using an approach called whole-genome sequencing. And they found that 30% of the 85 sibling pairs in the study shared the same mutation, while about 70% did not.

By having different mutations, this means that the impact, and symptoms, of autism can vary greatly, even among with closest of relatives. (One family is discussed in the NYT article as an example – two brothers sharing an autism diagnosis, one will approach strangers, the other is much more shy; one loves computers, the other doesn’t; one brother is continuously on the move, while the other usually parks himself in the same place.)

The saying of “if you know one person with autism, then you know one person with autism” really holds true, even when it comes to individual families.

Read more about the study here.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

She Knows What Causes Autism

We live in a world where we’re trying to isolate a cause for autism. There are literally studies coming out every day with a new potential trigger. We’re seeing the results of some of the hysteria from this as measles – a possible deadly and once-eradicated disease – is now being spread since people are opting to not vaccinate their children in fear of autism. (Check out our last post for more on the need to vaccinate your children.)

So when we came across this beautifully written piece by Carrie Cariello entitled “I Know What Causes Autism,” it was a good reminder to take a step back for a moment. While it’s often complicated, she captures what is needed for a delicate emotional balance and does so in a remarkable way.

Read more from Carrie Cariello’s on her blog.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Still Considering Not Vaccinating Your Child?

Even with the President and many, many others speaking up the last few days urging parents to vaccinate their children, there may still be parents – maybe even you – that are hesitating vaccinating their children for fear of autism. This has been a fear ever since a study came out years ago linking the MMR vaccine to autism – this study was debunked, retracted from the medical journal it had appeared and the lead researcher on this study lost his medical license. But the fear remained. And children have gone unvaccinated – which has led to an outbreak of measles—a disease that should no longer exist.

Even today, Autism Speaks came out with their position on the matter, saying, “Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.”

So to help address any concerns a parent on the fence might be having on the matter, CNN covered the top myths on vaccines vs. the truth. You can read the article in its entirety here, but here’s the summarized version:

Myth 1 – Vaccines cause autism.
Truth: The one study (mentioned above) that linked autism to the MMR vaccine was fully debunked. Thorough studies have since been conducted showing no link between autism and vaccines.

Myth 2 – They contain poisons (through mercury in the vaccines).
Truth: Studies have shown there is no connection between Thimerosal and autism/major side effects. However, the majority of children’s vaccinations no longer contain it.

Myth 3 – Doctors are profiting from them.
Truth: A 2009 study that is sourced actually claims that up to a third of doctors lose money when giving vaccines.

Myth 4 – They have too many antigens.
Truth: People are getting inoculated with less antigens than 30 years ago.

Myth 5 – The diseases they protect is from are extinct.
Truth: If you’ve seen the news, you’d know that’s not true. We had more than 600 cases of measles in 2014 and we’ve already seen more than 100 cases in January of this year.

Again, you can get the full article here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

The Vaccination Debate

 

NBC ObamaTo vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is the question. Or, at least that’s the hotly debated topic that has once again been put on center stage.

The reason for the current onslaught of media attention comes from President Obama’s recent push for parents to vaccinate their children. During an interview with NBC, the president said, “There is every reason to get vaccinated – there aren’t reasons to not.” He went on to say, “I just want people to know the facts and science and the information. And the fact is that a major success of our civilization is our ability to prevent disease that in the past have devastated folks. And measles is preventable.”

In regards to speaking specifically about the measles, we as a country are currently faced with a measles outbreak. And this is where the heads are butting. There are a certain percentage of parents that are choosing not to vaccinate their children – whether it’s for religious purposes, or due to a belief that vaccinations, specifically the MMR vaccination, can cause autism.  And with this drop in vaccinations, diseases, like the measles, are re-emerging, creating a public health concern.

While we can certainly sympathize with those that are anti-vaccination because we know it’s fear and their concern for their children is what’s at the heart of their decision – we need to take a step back and look at the information, particularly if you’re a parent that’s on the fence about vaccinating your child. So here are some quick facts:

  • The 1998 study that had originally linked autism to the MMR vaccine – and was published in The Lancet – was completely debunked. The Lancet retracted the study and the lead researcher on the study lost his medical license. There have been many thorough studies since, however, that have shown there is no relation between the MMR vaccine and autism. (Check out this article for more info on those studies.)
  • With people opting-out of the MMR vaccine, measles is making a comeback. There were more than 600 cases of measles in the U.S. in 2014. And, already in January of this year, there have been about 100 cases. This is a disease that had once been declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000. (check out this article).
  • Millions of lives have been saved by vaccines.

With all of that said, however, the question remains how much is the government able to put mandates on vaccinations – and if they do, what is the penalty for not complying. Also, most pediatricians follow standard vaccination schedules, which often groups vaccinations together (sometimes up to 4 or 5 at a time) during certain check-ups. Many parents are asking to alter the schedule with the idea of spreading the vaccinations out over time.

While the science is clear – vaccinations save lives – it’s an emotional debate that will likely continue, and in the end we all want what’s best for our children.

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Someone who has a very personal, heartbreaking story to share on this topic is Roald Dahl, and we invite you to read his words here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

 

 

 

 

Prison Inmate with Special Mission

Another great story that we saw here (from an ABC News story), and wanted to share with you…and this is a true example of how one’s past doesn’t define their future.

Meet Chris Vogt, who is serving a 48-year sentence in prison. And what could have been a bleak existence has turned into a positive experience for not only him, but for Zach Tucker, a nine-year-old with autism. Chris has made it his mission for help improve the lives of children with autism – so he has worked on a specialized dog training program at the prison that will cater to those with special needs. Check out the video for this very heart warming story.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Teen Helps Parents of Children with Autism

This amazing video was created by Michael Whary, an Ohio teen who is truly making a difference. Michael, who has autism, is working to become an Eagle Scout – and to do that, he needed to complete a service project that benefits the community. So he took the opportunity to create a video that aims to help parents of children with autism, sharing how autism doesn’t make him different, it makes him Michael.

And we can say we’re quite impressed! Also, speaking of achievements, not only is Michael working to become an Eagle Scout, he’s (as noted here), a member of his school’s track and field team, ROTC and marching band. (Keep in mind that Michael’s family was told that he would never ride a bike or drive a car – and you’ll see he can do both quite well!)

We invite you to check out Michael’s video!

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Look At Me

Look At Me
Technology has become a great tool that has helped many touched by autism to communicate, work on social skills and it also can be an overall learning aide. And now Samsung has released a new app called Look At Me that claims it can help children learn how to better maintain eye contact.

The app, which is available on Google Play, was developed by doctors and professors at Seoul National University Bundag Hospital and Yonsei University Department of Psychology. As discussed in this article, Look At Me uses photos, facial recognition technology and games to help children identify emotions and communicate with other people. The team that created the app had conducted a clinical trial and said that 60% of the 20 children that participated showed improvement in making eye contact.

Check out the app here.

Lynsey, Community Manager