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autism

I am a man of science. Okay, perhaps not of science, but certainly near it. As a science journalist, I'm science-adjacent. But I consider myself to be bound by logic and facts.

Which is why it was weird when I took my infant son in for his first vaccines and started peppering his pediatrician with questions. I inspected the boxes, telling myself that I was concerned about a recent bad batch of vaccines in Chiapas, Mexico, that made a bunch of kids sick. But really, I was looking for a label that read "not the autism kind of vaccine."

The day Ayden came home from school with bruises, his mother started looking for a new school.

Ayden's a bright 9-year-old with a blond crew cut, glasses and an eager smile showing new teeth coming in. He also has autism, ADHD and a seizure disorder. (We're not using his last name to protect his privacy.) He loves karate, chapter books and very soft blankets: "I love the fuzziness, I just cocoon myself into my own burrito."

"He's so smart but lacks so much socially," says his mother, Lynn.

For the first time in a decade, the classic children's television show Sesame Street will introduce a new Muppet on the air.

Getting the flu while pregnant doesn't appear to increase the child's risk of being diagnosed with autism later on, a study finds, and neither does getting a flu shot while pregnant.

Blackstock surveys his work on the walls of the Washington Athletic Club.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

Seattle artist Gregory Blackstock hasn’t had things easy.

For starters, he's autistic. For years he worked as a dishwasher at the Washington Athletic Club. 

Kate Riley's son has autism and has trouble with responding quickly to directions, a concern when dealing with police.
Courtesy of Kate Riley

Bill Radke speaks with Kate Riley, Seattle Times editorial page editor, about her recent article that explains why she worries about interactions between her autistic son and law enforcement. 

Charles Jones' 12-year-old son, Malik, has autism. When he found out, Jones says, the news came as a shock — and fodder for plenty of fears.

"It was like a shot in the gut," he says. "I thought my son would be nonverbal, that he would never say 'I love you.' But when he started talking he wouldn't shut up."

Lt. Col. Eric Flake, a physician at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wa. in what will be a new autism therapy center with Major Ruth Racine, a nurse practitioner who has a child with autism.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

While stationed in Germany, Army nurse practitioner Major Ruth Racine and her husband carved out a promising educational and therapeutic plan for their seven-year-old son Magnus, who has autism.

“We were in an absolutely fantastic place," Racine said. Magnus got occupational, physical and speech therapy.

"Ca."

When Ranwa Yehia heard her nearly 3-year-old son, Nadeem, making this sound, she got cold shivers all over her body. After three months of saying "cat," Nadeem couldn't say the whole word anymore.

Shortly after, Yehia was told she could no longer bring her son to his nursery school unless the family could get another teacher to shadow him in class.

What was going on with Nadeem?

As the population of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder keeps growing, so does the number of people with that diagnosis who aren't finding employment.

Though many young adults on the spectrum are considered high functioning, recent research shows 40 percent don't find work — a higher jobless rate than people with other developmental disabilities experience.

When An Autism Diagnosis Comes In Adulthood

Mar 27, 2016

Earlier this year, Weekend Edition profiled three families and their experiences after a child was diagnosed with autism. At the time, we also asked listeners to share their own stories.

Among the responses were many from people who didn't get diagnosed until they were adults. Some had suspicions about their condition growing up. For others, the diagnosis was a revelation as much as it was a relief.

Here are three that struck a chord. (These first-person stories have been edited for length and clarity.)

John Consentino

Something was wrong with Nat.

I got the call about my 25-year-old severely autistic son just as I was parking, about to meet a friend for coffee. It was from Richard, the day program director. Like many adults with significant disabilities, Nat spends his weekdays at a day program, an organization that helps his employer so that he can work — he does carriage return at a local Shaw's. When Nat is not working at Shaw's, he is out in the community with support staff and other individuals in his program, volunteering at Meals on Wheels and various activities.

The earlier a child with autism can be identified and get treatment the better, child development specialists say. So there's been a push to have pediatricians give all toddlers screening tests for autism during well child visits.

But the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said Tuesday that there's not yet enough evidence to show that screening all children delivers measurable benefits, a decision sure to frustrate or anger many in the autism community.

Raising kids is rewarding and raising kids is hard. That work is compounded when you have a child with autism. And each of these families experiences the disorder differently.

On Saturday, we heard four parents share the moment they learned their children had autism, and the signs that led them to seek a doctor's opinion. Now, we learn their experience following the diagnoses, the resources they found and help they still need.

Kindergarteners take turns on the tricycles at the EEU gym class.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

Cinthia Portugal is a mom of 4-year-old twins with autism, and she is scrambling to find a kindergarten for her sons.

Taking antidepressants during the second or third trimester of pregnancy may increase the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder, according to a study of Canadian mothers and children published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

But scientists not involved in the research say the results are hard to interpret and don't settle the long-running debate about whether expectant mothers with depression should take antidepressants.

'Sesame Street' has included children and a new character with autism.
Screenshot from YouTube

Jeannie Yandel talks to Dr. Wendy Stone is a professor of psychology and director of the READi lab at the University of Washington. Dr. Stone was a consultant for Sesame Street as they created their first character with autism, Julia. Julia is also a character in their digital storybook, "We're Amazing, 1,2,3!"  

Dr. Raphael Bernier of the UW Autism Center hopes a new autism study will help researchers identify biomarkers that are indicators of autism.
University of Washington

Researchers may have a handle on the genetics of autism, but they haven’t developed medical tests to diagnose it. A new nationwide study hopes to change that.

KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

Holly Connor of Mercer Island started learning to read and write Braille in preschool.

Now 10, she’s one of North America’s fastest readers and writers in her age group – when it comes to Braille.

The hunt to find genes that cause autism has been a long slog, one hampered by a lack of technology and families willing to be tested.

But the effort is starting to pay off. On Tuesday, researchers at more than 50 laboratories said they had identified more than 100 genes that are mutated in children with autism, dozens more than were known before.

  Ross Reynolds speaks with novelist David Mitchell about what he says is the most important book he's done: a translation of a memoir by a young autistic Japanese boy. In the book, "The Reason I Jump," the boy explains the behaviors that may seem strange to outsiders. Mitchell himself has a child with autism. He talks about what he learned from doing the translation.

KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

At the Alaska Airlines ticket counter at Sea-Tac Airport, parents Ron and Christine Vega wait for their boarding passes.

Their son, Gibson, 5, carries a blue backpack that has essentials for a mock airplane trip: snacks, things to keep him preoccupied and a white cloth towel that helps him deal with stress.

An Autistic Teen's Guide To Impersonating Michael Jackson

Aug 27, 2014
Courtesy of Lorenzo Manuel

It was homecoming dance at Roosevelt High School, and the Roosevelt football team had just been crushed. As it started getting late, the energy sunk even lower. People were mostly slow dancing; it was all Taylor Swift at that point.

Just then, a familiar tune started to play. The thinning crowd began to roar. A spotlight came on. As the first lyrics of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" shook the room, a skinny kid with short brown hair and a sparkly glove began to dance.

It’s the season of summer camps, but kids with autism or ADHD are often left out because of behavior issues. But next week, they’ll get have another option, through a joint program between UW Autism Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

O.S.T. and L.H. – their initials in court documents – are minors diagnosed with autism. Their families sued Regence, the health insurance company, for not covering all therapies related to their condition.

The symptoms of autism may not be obvious until a child is a toddler, but the disorder itself appears to begin well before birth.

Brain tissue taken from children who died and also happened to have autism revealed patches of disorganization in the cortex, a thin sheet of cells that's critical for learning and memory, researchers report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Tissue samples from children without autism didn't have those characteristic patches.

Traditionally, research has focused on women's "biological clock." But in recent years, scientists have been looking more and more at how the father's age at conception might affect the baby, too.

A study published Wednesday hints that age really might matter — in terms of the child's mental health.

Chloe Burton

Chloe Burton had a great year in kindergarten.

Although she has autism, she had no problem learning in a general education classroom alongside her peers.

But in first grade, things went downhill. Chloe wandered the classroom instead of finishing her work.

KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

As educational practice catches up with federal law that requires students learn in the least restrictive environment, an increasing number of students with autism and other disabilities are learning alongside their typically-developing peers in mainstream classrooms.

"The Autistic Brain" With Temple Grandin

Jun 13, 2013
Temple Grandin's book "The Autistic Brain."

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, repetitive interests or behaviors, and occasional cognitive delays. The number of kids with autism in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years. It's estimated that one in 88 children currently has autism.

Temple Grandin is an activist for autism rights. In her latest book, she talks about genetic research that links brain science and behavior, as well as sharing her own experiences growing up with autism. She spoke at Seattle’s Town Hall on May 20, 2013.

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