AUTISM FIRST STEPS
AUTISM DAILY NEWSLETTER
Friday December 14, 2001
* Scientists discount link between MMR vaccine and autism
* Santa and his Elks delight kids
* Playground leaves children all smiles
* Autistic man tells jury that 3 men kicked him
* Trial pits adoptive parents against state
* Ten-year-old likes 'anything Barney'
Scientists discount link between MMR vaccine and autism
By Lorna Duckworth, Social Affairs
13 December 2001Autism in children is far more common than previously
recognised but there is no proven link with the combined MMR vaccine, a study
concludes today.The review, by the Medical Research Council (MRC), states that
current evidence does not support the theory that the measles, mumps and
rubella jab is to blame for some cases of autism. It accepts that previous
epidemiological studies are imprecise and leave open a "theoretical
possibility" that the MMR vaccine could contribute to autistic disorders
in a small number of children, but the report states that it seems most likely
that autism results from a range of causes, with the strongest evidence being
for a major genetic component where several genes interact to create
susceptibility to the condition.Other risk factors, such as diet, drugs, toxins
and infections have been proposed, but the report states that there is
insufficient evidence to confirm any of them.What is clear, the authors say, is
that "many more people than has been generally recognised" are
affected by autistic disorders, which range in severity from autism to the
milder Asperger syndrome.Six in every 1,000 children under eight are affected
by the condition, which is characterised by difficulties forming social
relationships, problems with communication and with the imagination. The
prevalence of the condition among adults is not known, although charities have
estimated that 500,000 people in the UK are affected.The report, headed by
Professor Eve Johnstone, a psychiatrist at the University of Edinburgh, was
commissioned by the Department of Health amid controversy about what was behind
an apparent increase in the condition.The MRC says that changes in diagnostic
practice and greater awareness among parents and professionals are the most
likely causes.Current evidence suggests that people with autism have larger,
heavier brains, with cellular abnormalities in a number of regions. Studies
have reported under-activity in areas of the brain associated with planning and
control of complex action, and with processing socio-emotional information. But
little is still known about the condition, which was first described in the
1940s. Also from the Science section.
Santa and his Elks delight kids
By MARY KAY DIRICKSON
THE SUN HERALD BILOXI - The best part of Christmas may be found when giving is
indistinguishable from receiving.All 133 students of the Harrison County Child
Development Center traveled to Biloxi Elks Lodge 606 for their annual Christmas
party Wednesday morning. The Elks gave presents to the students, the students
put on a play for the Elks and no one stopped smiling for hours.The Development
Center, part of the Harrison County School District, teaches mentally and
physically disabled students from all over the county. Students range in age
from infants to 21-year-olds and have disabilities as varied and difficult as
Down syndrome and autism.But on Wednesday morning, no one was thinking about
disabilities. They were thinking about Santa and Christmas and presents.The buses
traveled in a police-escorted caravan, stopping traffic between the Gulfport
school and the Biloxi Town Green.The caravan stopped at the Town Green so that
the party's two sets of kings and queens could get off their buses and ride to
the Elks Lodge in Big Red, a 1968 Cadillac convertible. "They're all just
kids," said Senior Airman Stacy Graves. "They didn't ask for whatever
happened to them. They're just kids and it's wonderful they have a chance to be
just kids."Graves is a member of the 255th Air Control Squadron of the
Mississippi Air National Guard, which has adopted the school. The children held
the attention and smiles of every airman, parent, Elks Lodge member, teacher,
Mercy Cross High School student, police officer and firefighter in the building."I
like talking to the kids," said Mercy Cross senior Erin McKeown.
"They're so enthusiastic about life."Cris Pujol, a student who will
be 16 in January, played a train conductor during the Christmas play. He loves
Christmas. "Decorations. Decorations everywhere," he said, and smiled
and looked away.McKeown and the other Mercy Cross students come to the
Christmas party every year to mix with the students and help serve lunch.After
the students performed the play, they ate lunch and received presents from Elks
Lodge members.Elks Lodge member David Poulos, who organized the party, said the
event would be nearly impossible without the help of the Biloxi and Gulfport
police and fire departments, Mercy Cross and the Air National
Guard."Christmas is a time when everyone tries to be better," Graves
said. "Even adults."
Playground leaves children all smiles
Journal staff writer With smiles and laughter,
more than 20 children Wednesday, clad in winter jackets and mittens, explored
Falls Church's new playground for people with disabilities.
The brightly colored playground was unveiled officially at
Frady Park, 111 N. Cherry St., becoming one of a growing number of Northern
Virginia offerings that cater to people with disabilities.
``In the playground world, all are required [by the Americans
with Disabilities Act] to be [50 percent] handicapped-accessible," said
Cathy Salgado, program supervisor of the Falls Church Recreation and Parks
Department. ``At the city's seven parks with playgrounds, we were replacing all
the equipment [and] this was the last opportunity to use Poured-In-Place
The technique was put to good use Wednesday, as children from
the adjacent Falls Church Child Care Development Center ran along the red and
blue rubber surfacing that cushioned their falls.
``My kids were probably the first to fall," said Sandy
Watts, interim director of the child-care center and mother of autistic boys
Teddy, 1, and Jason ``Junior," 3.
``It's so wonderful to have a playground for kids with
special needs," she said. ``Here they can fall and be safe. Most
playgrounds have wood chips [that have] an uneven surface."
One of the swings at Frady Park is also
handicapped-accessible, with larger enclosed seats and red handlebars that
allow children to swing themselves.
For a lot of children with special needs, Watts said,
swinging is so calming, but with normal swings they can easily fall.
``It's a safer swing, and the handles are great," she
said. ``It can be used for [physical] therapy, especially for kids who don't
have leg movement. The whole thing about this playground is it's not only fun,
[but] it helps them develop [and] be inclusive with other children."
Falls Church City Councilwoman Robin Gardner agreed.
``It's wonderful for both the center and the city," she
said as she rocked a double stroller with her 6-month-old twins, Emma and
David. ``It's a great place to integrate both groups [disabled and not]."
Officials from the Parks and Recreation Department spent
$63,000 to tear down the existing playground and purchase the materials needed
from Cunningham and Associates of North Carolina, whose workers installed
playground equipment over the past several weeks.
The play area comprises a solid structure elevated about
three feet with ramps for easy access and games on panels, such as steering
wheels, tic-tac-toe games and alphabet letters
Autistic man tells jury that 3 men kicked him
By Tim Bryant
Of the Post-Dispatch
12/12/2001 10:32 PM
An autistic man told a federal jury Wednesday that he was trying to get to his
job at Pizza Hut when police officers handcuffed him, then kicked him.
"Right here, right," said the man, Christopher Currinder, tugging at
the side of his shirt to show where the blows landed.
Federal prosecutors allege that two Bellefontaine Neighbors police officers
kicked Currinder after he already had been subdued by other officers who had
suspected him of stealing a purse.
Currinder, 38, of Overland, testified he had gotten off the bus to shop at an
Aldi's supermarket before heading on to Pizza Hut, where he has worked 11 years
as a dishwasher and janitor.
Officers Gary Bequette and Kevin Rehg are charged with excessive use of force
in the incident Dec. 20, 1999. Bequette also is accused of tampering with a
witness he allegedly told not to speak with the FBI. The officers' trial in
U.S. District Court could go to the jury today.
Currinder testified that three officers took part in the attack, contrary to
what other witnesses said earlier - that two officers kicked Currinder.
On Tuesday, a customer at the Steak 'n Shake restaurant across a parking lot
from the Pizza Hut told jurors she saw two officers kick Currinder after he was
But on Wednesday, a Steak 'n Shake district manager, Dennis Dickey, testified
that he watched for about 10 minutes and never saw any of the dozen or so
officers present hit the handcuffed suspect.
Bequette, 60, joined the Bellefontaine Neighbors force in 1982. Rehg, 41, joined
in 1997. Both are suspended with pay pending the outcome of the trial.
Minutes before the fracas at Pizza Hut, another Bellefontaine Neighbors officer
had tried to question Currinder in a theft. A woman had reported that she
believed a man had taken her purse at the Aldi's in the 10000 block of
Currinder denied taking the purse but ran when the officer tried to question
him further. Two officers caught up with Currinder as he tried to get inside
the Pizza Hut on Bellefontaine near Interstate 270.
A Bellefontaine Neighbors officer and a St. Louis County police officer were
able to handcuff Currinder only after spraying him with Mace and pulling him to
After officers arrested Currinder, the Aldi's customer called police to say
there had been no theft of her purse. It was still at her home.
Reporter Tim Bryant:
Trial pits adoptive parents against state
By CAROLYNN McLUSKEY, Helena IR Staff
MISSOULA Missoula resident Mike Maxwell knew something was wrong with his
adoptive son when the 3-year-old began banging his head repeatedly on the
carpeted floor of the Maxwell familys home.
Little did Maxwell and his wife, Kristin, know, that first articulation of
concern about their sons behavior to the family pediatrician would mark the
start of a journey that would ultimately lead them to a Helena District
We hoped that there would be a magic bullet that (the pediatrician) could
prescribe a pill for us and it would all go away, Mr. Maxwell testified in
front of jurors Tuesday in the first day of the couples civil battle against
the State of Montana and the Montana Developmental Center (MDC).
It wasnt to be.
The Maxwells filed a lawsuit in Helena District Court in February 2000
demanding that the state pay for the past and future care of their son relating
to his severe developmental disabilities. The child now 12 years old has
been diagnosed with disabilities including autistic spectrum disorder and
The child was the offspring of a 42-year-old resident of MDC who was raped in
1988 by Lloyd Dean Drummond, one of her caregivers at the state-run facility.
The rape victim was described as being mentally and physically handicapped,
unable to communicate or care for herself.
In 1989, the woman gave birth to the child, who was later adopted by the
Maxwells through Catholic Charities on the assurances that the boy did not
share the same mental conditions that affected his mother, the Maxwells claim.
Drummond was sentenced in October 1989 by former Boulder District Court Judge
Frank Davis to 20 years in Montana State Prison for the rape of the MDC
In 1991, the mother of the rape victim sued the state for damages and was
awarded $1.7 million by a Butte jury.
The state appealed that outcome to the Montana Supreme Court, which ultimately
overturned the verdict and sent the case back to district court for a retrial.
A settlement was reached between the state and the victims mother before the
retrial could take place.
According to a pretrial order filed in the Maxwell case, the state acknowledges
that its negligence was the cause of the rape and pregnancy of the MDC resident
as a result of the hiring of Drummond.
In his opening arguments in the case, the Maxwells attorney, Monte Beck,
encouraged the state to extend that acceptance of responsibility and help the
Maxwells finance the heavy burden of caring for their son, past, present and
Beck said he intends to demonstrate throughout the trial that it is logical to
believe that a severely disabled mother might pass on some of her disabilities
to her child a condition that is directly related to the states negligence
in allowing a rogue employee to be in a position to rape an MDC resident.
The Maxwells seek to maximize (their sons) potential as a human being, he
said of the Maxwells efforts to obtain financial assistance from the state by
means of the civil case.
According to Beck, a professional life care planner hired by the Maxwells
indicates that the boy will have ongoing expenses related to medical and
psychological care, in addition to the financial burden of paying for assisted
living care once the boy leaves home.
The consultant estimates the costs of those services at between $4.5 million
and $10 million over the boys lifetime, Beck said.
Steve Harman, attorney for the state, indicated that the state took
responsibility for its actions in respect to Drummond by immediately
prosecuting him to the full extent of the law.
In addition, he said the state has paid for services for the boy such as
counseling and a classroom aide services supplied to all developmentally
disabled children working their way through the public education system.
Harman encouraged jurors not to sell the boy short.
He said the youth plays cello in the school orchestra, ranks above average in
language and reading and is described by his teachers as having a sunny
Past costs related to the care of the boy are clear about $14,000, mainly for
the diagnosis of his maladies, Harman said.
However, no one knows what the future holds for the child.
As we look into his future, lets keep in mind that (the boy) is a work in
progress, Harman said.
The trial is expected to last about a week.
The Democrat's countdown of 50 needy
cases represents a small sample of the 500 households served by the Christmas
Connection.A 10-year-old girl is coping with autism and a seizure
disorder."The child is a bright, red-headed girl," a social worker
said. "She has difficulty communicating her needs, however. She finds
solace in watching colorful television shows."The girl lives with her
38-year-old mother, who's going through a divorce and struggling to make ends
meet."She would be grateful for anything she and her daughter can
get," the social worker said.The girl would be happy with a comfortable
couch and "anything Barney."
Clothing: Girls' pants, underwear (size 10), shirts, coat (10, 12),
shoes (1 1/2 ). Women's pants (14), shirts (L), dresses (14, 16), panties (7).
Other needs: Food, toiletries, cleaning supplies. Couch.
Extras: VCR, Barney items. Food tops wish list
62-year-old Perry woman is struggling to care for an 86-year-old mother, who is
unable to speak, and a 28-year-old son who has developmental disabilities. The
household also includes a 59-year-old man.According to state officials, the
family is having "a very difficult time with finances" as well as
assorted health problems and caregiving demands.Groceries are tops on the wish
list. Family members would also like the means to listen to music - a radio,
television, boom box or cassette player.
Clothing: Women's pants (sizes 18, 18 1/2 ), jeans (36), shirts (16,
18), shoes (8, 9 1/2 , 10), underwear (8 1/2 , 9, 10), dresses, coats (18).
Men's pants (34- or 38-inch waist), shirts, jackets (L, XL), shoes (9, 12),
underwear (34, 38, L, XL).
Other needs: Food, toiletries, blankets.
Extras: Television, boom box, radio or cassette player.HOW TO HELP
Christmas Connection volunteers hope to provide basic needs - along with some
toys and holiday cheer - for about 500 impoverished households. The gift
distribution is coordinated by Catholic Charities with help from many other
groups. Referrals come from about 40 schools and social-service organizations.WHAT
TO GIVE: Food, cookware, heaters, blankets, bicycles, bike helmets, toys,
baby equipment, toiletries, cleaning supplies. Money for rent, utilities and
medical care. Gifts for teen-agers (sports gear, radios, makeup). Warm
outerwear (coats, sweaters, jackets) in like-new condition, labeled for
specific cases. Other items of new apparel - especially socks, underwear and
diapers for children and adults. Boxes, strapping tape, hangers, markers,
snacks for volunteers.
WHERE TO TAKE GIFTS: The main collection center is in the pale yellow
building formerly occupied by Hughes Supply Inc., 3958 W. Pensacola St., on the
north side of the highway between Appleyard Drive and the railroad overpass.
The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. The
last day to bring gifts to the site is Monday.
CHECKS: Make out
to "Christmas Connection Needy Cases," mail to P.O. Box 20165,
Tallahassee, FL 32316. Tax receipts are available on request, so are cards
announcing gifts made in the name of a friend.
WHERE THE GIFTS GO: Donations may be earmarked for a particular case.
Once those needs are met, duplicate items are rerouted to other cases or placed
in a general fund to help other impoverished people. Sponsoring agencies should
submit invoices for rent, utilities or medical care by Jan. 31. Leftover money
will go to needy households through Catholic Charities. All contributions go to
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR: Site preparation, sorting and delivery in
December. Home repairs and follow-up reviews in January.
IF YOU NEED HELP: All cases must be referred by professional social
workers from qualified nonprofit organizations. The deadline is past, but
organizers will consider exceptions in unusual cases. For a guide to other
local resources, call the Telephone Counseling and Referral Service at
TO REACH THE COLLECTION SITE: Call 575-9961.
OTHER DETAILS: Call 222-2180.
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