£20M Given to Scottish University for Autism Research
Today the BBC has reported that the University of Edinburgh has been awarded £20 million to be used for studies into autism. They hope that this will bring about "new diagnostic tools, better therapeutics and new interventions".
The BBC said: "Edinburgh University researchers hoping to develop new treatments for autism have received a £20m funding boost from a US philanthropic foundation.
"The Simons Foundation has given the cash for studies into the biological mechanisms that underpin changes in brain development linked with autism.
"Autism spectrum disorders affect about 75 million people worldwide.Symptoms include altered social interaction, communication and restricted and repetitive behaviour. The Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain will be based at the university\'s Patrick Wild Centre for Research into Autism, Fragile X Syndrome and Intellectual Disabilities.
"Centre director Prof Peter Kind said: "This is an amazing opportunity to bring together a range of scientific and clinical expertise at the university with the aim of understanding how the brain develops on multiple levels, including molecular biology, neural circuitry, genetics, behaviour and cognition. "By combining these approaches, we will learn how a healthy brain matures and gain valuable insights into the developmental origins of autism.
"Using this knowledge, we aim to deliver new diagnostic tools, better therapeutics and new interventions to the clinic that will address the causes and consequences of autism." Scientists will use advanced techniques to probe brain development in the presence of DNA changes known to cause autism. They will investigate how variations in the wiring of the brain can impact on how it processes information.
"Louis F Reichardt, director of the Simons Foundation autism research initiative, said: "We hope the foundation\'s support will enable them to apply these types of studies to other conditions on the autism spectrum." Foundation chairman Jim Simons added: "We are confident that the great scientists already in place, coupled with the comprehensive facility being developed, will accelerate understanding of autism and hasten the development of meaningful treatments."
"Prof Timothy O\'Shea, Edinburgh University principal, said: "We are tremendously grateful to the Simons Foundation for their generosity and vision."Their investment is a landmark commitment amidst an ongoing effort from donors at all levels to deepen our research programmes and accelerate progress in medical science." "
Autism detectable in brain scans long before symptoms appear
BBC News has reported on an article in Nature International Weekly Journal of Science which claims that differences in the part of the brain responsible for functions like language in children who went on to be diagnosed with autism can be seen as early as 1 year old.
The BBC reports that "The earliest that children tend to be diagnosed at present is at the age of two, although it is often later.
The study, published in the journal Nature, showed the origins of autism are much earlier than that - in the first year of life.
The findings could lead to an early test and even therapies that work while the brain is more malleable.
One in every 100 people has autism, which affects behaviour and particularly social interaction.
The study looked at 148 children including those at high risk of autism because they had older siblings with the disorder. All had brain scans at six, 12 and 24 months old.
The study uncovered early differences in the part of the brain responsible for high level functions like language - the cerebral cortex - in children who went on to be diagnosed with autism.
Dr Heather Hazlett, one of the researchers at the University of North Carolina, told the BBC News website: "Very early in the first year of life we see surface brain area differences, that precede the symptoms that people traditionally associate with autism.
"So it gives us a good target for when the brain differences might be happening for children at high risk of autism."
The study opens up possibilities for big changes in the way autism is treated and diagnosed.
Giving children brain scans, particularly those in high-risk families, could lead to children being diagnosed earlier.
In the long run, it might be possible to do something similar for all infants if DNA testing advances enough to become a useful tool to identify children at high risk.
If it can be diagnosed early, then behavioural therapies such as those that train parents in new ways of interacting with an autistic child can be introduced earlier when they should be more effective.
Prof Joseph Piven, another researcher on the project, told the BBC: "Now we have the possibility that we can identify those who are most likely to go on to to get autism.
"That allows us to consider intervening before the behaviours of autism appear, I think there\'s wide consensus that that\'s likely to have more impact at a time when the brain is most malleable and before the symptoms have consolidated.
"So we find it very promising."
The researchers fed the brain scan images into an artificial intelligence. It was able to predict which children would develop autism with 80% accuracy.
Dr James Cusack, the director of science at Autistica, said the approach was "highly innovative and exciting".
He added: "Early, accurate diagnosis is the key to families being able to access the support they need.
"We\'ve still got some way to go, but one day, through continued investment in research, we may be able to diagnose autism in babies using innovative approaches like brain imaging."
Carol Povey, director of the National Autistic Society\'s Centre for Autism, said: "It\'s possible that MRI scanning of this type could be developed to help families who already have an autistic child to access earlier diagnosis for subsequent children.
"This would mean those children could receive the right support as early as possible."
However, she warned that autism was manifested in many different ways and "no single test is likely to be able to identify potential autism in all children".
The study also pours further cold water on the debunked claims that the MMR jab causes autism.
One of the reasons the link took hold was that autism tends to be diagnosed around the time that the vaccine is given to children."
It is much more than just making coffee! Students run coffee shop from their class.
From www.scnow.com http://www.scnow.com/news/local/article_30a6344c-ba7e-11e6-9490-f7ef3436e7cf.html
" FLORENCE, S.C. – Business is booming at Wilson High School.
Since October, students from the self-contained autism class have been running a coffee shop, Fill My Cup, for the first week of every month. The students sell coffee to their peers and teachers twice a day: once before school starts and again during lunch hours.
Rebekah Andrews, the autism class teacher, got the idea for the coffee shop at the beginning of the school year. To prepare students for life after high school, the class partakes in job-site outings three times per week and community outings once a month. The problem, however, is only two students can participate in job-site outings at a time. Andrews wanted to create something that could get the whole class involved at once.
“The coffee shop was something that I thought of just because people like coffee and it’s easy to serve and figure out how to work the coffee makers,” Andrews said. “It’s done really well so far.”
Andrews has made sure the students have been involved in every part of running the business: from advertising and serving customers to counting revenue and sorting deposits. They even get a paycheck at the end of each week.
“They get a check for two dollars a week,” Andrews said. “We do lessons on budgeting and how you need to save your money toward something.”
The students have the opportunity to cash part of their check and buy something from the school’s vending machines, or save it for a larger purchase at the end of the year. Andrews says this real-world experience is important for her students. It’s one thing to tell students how to budget, but it’s another to physically show them.
“Until they actually have money in their hands and they know, you can’t teach those kinds of experiences,” she said. “It’s given me a lot more at my fingertips to be able to prepare them for society.”
Although each coffee only costs a dollar, the class has quickly been able to raise approximately $1,000. Andrews hopes to use this money toward a life-skills lab. She wants to work with local businesses and have the students complete in-house tasks that each business requests.
For now, however, the students have been focusing on continuing the success of the coffee shop.
“They’ve loved it,” Andrews said. “It’s been an opportunity for them to feel more like part of the school and give them a voice and a way for them to communicate with peers in their age group, whereas normally they’d be in my class all day and wouldn’t get that interaction. So it’s really done a lot more for them than just making coffee.” "
PECS Coffee Morning 19th October
Marks & Spencer Launches Autism-Friendly School Wear
PECS and the MEHAYO Centre, Tanzania
PECS and the MEHAYO Centre, Tanzania
Late last year PECS UK were contacted by Jennifer Lee Bannister who is a teacher in Tanzania. Jennifer wanted to help a school there by introducing PECS, she wondered if we would be able to donate any PECS Resources which of course we were happy to do. Below in her own words is an account of her experience implementing PECS.
“I am a teacher working in an international school in Tanzania. I have been travelling to and fro from Tanzania since the age of 18, and it has, literally, become my second home. I secured my current teaching post in August 2012, and was introduced to a local charity called the MEHAYO Centre.
The town of Morogoro, surrounded by the Uluguru mountains and fields of crops, is the home of the MEHAYO Centre, a charity run by a wonderful lady fondly known as Mama Linda whose tireless efforts to provide a loving refuge to disabled children and young adults is awe-inspiring.
MEHAYO is a Tanzanian non-government organisation established with the aim of helping Mentally Handicapped Youth in Morogoro. It is a non-profit making organisation registered as a Trust Fund in October 1998.
Its goal is to improve the quality of life for disabled children and young people, while at the same time creating better awareness of disability among and the local population.
The organisation has 2 centres and provides shelter for 41 disabled residents, ranging in age from 6 to 31 years. Some youngsters and children stay in the MEHAYO hostel permanently, but most of them live at home.
The staff at MEHAYO are enthusiastic and dedicated people, both local and International and most of them are volunteers. They contribute a lot of time, love and energy into the running of this special sanctuary.
It generates income by selling crops and home-made products. Other sources of finance are donations from friends and benefactors and occasional funding provided by international charity foundations.
Mama Linda Ngido, a teacher by profession and founder of the Mehayo centre, teaches at the centre, along with her team of volunteers. Daily activities include cooking, small scale farming, baking, wood working, card making, and drama.
On every visit, I am overwhelmed by the children – they are never without a smile and a welcoming hug!
The children\'s disabilities vary greatly. Most have been affected by malnutrition. Malaria, especially cerebral malaria, is another factor in the lives of the children at MEHAYO. The majority of the children and young people have great difficulty in communicating their needs which can often lead to frustration.
One day, Mama Linda asked me whether I would like to see their classroom. Being a teacher, of course I was thrilled that the children had the opportunity to learn and followed Mama Linda into a simple room decorated with children\'s drawings and crafts. As we left, I noticed some PECS symbols on the wall outside the classroom. Mama Linda explained that she had been given them by a charity based in Ireland, but was unsure of how to use them. This was the beginning of an interesting dialogue between myself, Mama Linda and my school, Morogoro International School.
Mama Linda was very enthusiastic about developing PECS at the centre in order to promote the children\'s communication. I introduced this idea to a group of students at my school who were eager to learn about PECS and make regular visits to MEHAYO. Students of the international school were fascinated by the concept of PECS and we are now planning to make regular visits to MEHAYO so that the children have opportunities to work with PECS as well as have fun with our students!
I have been to MEHAYO to work with a little boy who is about 12 years old and non-communicable. He is always very quiet and shy so Mama Linda and I thought it would be good for him to have a go at PECS on a one-to-one basis with myself. He immediately grasped what was required of him, and before long he was handing me the picture card for the blue dinosaur, his favourite toy, without any assistance at all. This soon became a game between us and it was great to see him smiling broadly!
We are hoping to make these sessions a regular activity, his PECS book is quickly filling up with all his favourite toys!
I would like to thank PECS UK for their kind donation to the MEHAYO centre and for helping this little boy begin his journey of communication and learning.”
PECS Donates Essential Resources to Tanzanian Autism Centre
PECS UK were contacted last December asking if we would be able to donate some resources.
In February 2013, 13 members of the ‘Ascent for Autism’ team scaled Kilimanjaro with the intention to raise funds for autism charities and to promote World Autism Day. All of the team reached the top of Kilimanjaro, a height of 5680meters. 11 of the team went further than reaching the top of the mountain, reaching the Roof of Africa - ‘Uhuru point’ at over 5800 meters, minus 24 degrees and wind speeds of 50kph!
Before the team set off they met with the director of an autism charity. The purpose of the visit was to hear a firsthand account of the challenges for people with ASD in Tanzania, and as gesture of goodwill and in support of World Autism, individual members of the trek each contributed some money and had collected from various organisations within the UK, vital resources that would help with the important work in reaching out to carers, parents and those with ASD across the country.
The director of the charity, Mama Grace, was presented with a PECS resources and manuals kindly donated by PECS UK. It was clear that Mama Grace was thrilled to receive the PECS resources.
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