CrossFit Helped Us Face Our Son’s Autism Diagnosis

Annie, my wife, agrees. And if you knew Annie, she doesn’t overstate anything.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of awesome things happen personally (I taught my daughter how to ride a bike… on Father’s Day!) and professionally (my second book came out), but the last year has been tough.

Honestly, we’ve sort of been reeling since Sept. 18, 2012. That’s the day we learned that our son Griffin might be on the autism spectrum. In 2013, after jumping through all sorts of hoops and watching our son be poked and prodded again and again in the name of evaluations, we learned that our little Griffy is autistic.

So much of our hearts and minds have been wrapped up trying to learn what autism means and what to do and how to feel. We struggled. We cried. Nothing we could say or do made it better. Much of whatever free time was left after a day of wiping ends of kids, feeding, bathing, and putting them to bed was spent talking about autism.

We took less photos. We spent less time with friends. We both were depressed.

Full story of parents handling autism at the Huffington Post

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

The False ADHD Controversy

More kids are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than ever before, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 8.8% of children were diagnosed in 2011, compared with 7.0% in 2007.

An uptick was also witnessed in the number of parents choosing to medicate their children with stimulants such as Ritalin. That proportion now sits at two-thirds.

ADHD is perhaps childhood’s most common neurobehavioral disorder. It’s characterized by an array of symptoms, including squirming, excessive daydreaming, forgetfulness, and hyperactivity. Scientists still can’t precisely pinpoint what’s going on in the brain to trigger ADHD, but it’s evident that something is amiss. Children with ADHD generally have reduced brain volume in the left pre-frontal cortex.

But the lack of a conclusive causal mechanism in the brain leads many onlookers to conclude that ADHD is a manufactured condition. Its symptoms are merely side effects of childhood, they argue. But this is not in agreement with evidence stemming from genetics. Thanks to large twin studies, a number of genes have been implicated, particularly those that affect dopamine transporters. The dopamine system of the brain regulates a whole heap of processes, but it’s most commonly linked with reward seeking. As far as ADHD goes, we know that when dopamine levels are driven up within the brain, ADHD symptoms lessen in severity.

Full story of the ADHD controversy at Forbes

 

New Autism Spectrum Australia report shows teens on spectrum struggle at school (VIDEO)

The first ever study to ask high functioning teenage autism sufferers about their own experience with their disability has found less than half the students had good friends.

The study found more than half the students needed support for bullying and discrimination and that two thirds felt lonely and needed help managing stress.

Three in four said they needed more help understanding teachers in the classroom and managing their homework and concentration.

Autism Spectrum Australia surveyed 100 people aged 12-17 with autism and found a shortage of coordinated, appropriate and affordable support services.

Lead researcher Dr Debra Costley said the students in the study had Asperger’s syndrome, were high functioning and had high IQs but had problems with social interaction.

“Their disability is very hard to see,” she said.

At school their peers honed in on their weaknesses such as sensitivity to noise and crowds, Dr Costley said.

One boy was struggling with his lessons because between each class he had to visit his locker which was on the bottom row.

Full story of autism spectrum report at the Herald Sun

Stem Cell Cure Shines From Darkness

Do I visit my youngest sister in what’s left of the day? Or catch the last part of Sunday afternoon on the New England beach?

In terms of preference, it’s never a toss up. Austine is a complete zombie, too disabled to have the most rudimentary conversation. The beach is nice.

Yet today I bring joyous news to her for once: A cure is at hand! Thanks to a pair of Texas researchers, reprogrammed stem cells promise a permanent fix, something the meds have never ever done.

It’s the best news since the hope—false as it turned out—that came with the unscrambling of the human genome. It’s been overlooked in the hue and cry over the Washington Naval Yard shooting by paranoid schizophrenic Alexis Aaron, a story that gets the full 60 Minutes treatment tonight.

“You can essentially fix the problem,” Dr. Daniel Lodge, the senior author of the University of Texas School of Medicine study, declared.

“Ultimately, if this is translated to humans, we want to reprogram a patient’s own cells and use them,” he said of the results found in rats.

In a nice twist, the idea sprang from a graduate student, Stephanie Perez, who noticed that injections had worked for people with motor deficits.

Full story of stem cell cure at PsychCentral

A Suicide Prevention Solution Hiding in Plain Sight

If you were duck hunting, when do you load your guns… When you see the ducks? Of course not.

By the time Homecoming Veterans who need the help the most end up on the doorsteps of their families, for many, it’s already too late.

The solution: Help Veterans before they become Veterans. Help them better prepare for homecoming during the critical months prior to separation from military service and during the dangerous months after they arrive home.

The Decompression Dilemma

The entire military and VA heath systems are operating with a major disconnect for Veterans and their families. A “Catch 22” exists for Veterans who are suffering the most from PTSD and other Combat related mental health issues. It is a major contributing factor to not only Veteran suicide but it explains some of the underlying reason why Veterans and their families are spiraling out of control and falling between the cracks of our society. The “Catch 22”: Warriors are trained to accomplish their mission or to die trying. Adapt, improvise and overcome is the ethos that is galvanized into their being. This Spartan code has been trained into young men and women of every nation since before Homer wrote the Iliad. Remember the old saying? “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Full story of suicide prevention at the Huffington Post

Pot use presents long-term danger to teens’ brains, study suggests

A new study suggests that smoking marijuana may not be as safe as many teen users seem to think it is.

Montreal researchers say they’ve found evidence that pot-smoking interferes with the healthy development of teens’ brains and puts them at risk for developing a dependence to the drug, as well as for mental health problems.

Whether marijuana is addictive or a “gateway drug” to harder drug use has long been up for debate. Researchers at the University of Montreal decided to review more than 120 studies that looked at how pot affects the biology of the brain and the chemical reactions that occur when the drug is used.

They say it’s difficult to confirm that pot use helps contribute to later drug behavior and mental health issues, such as schizophrenia. But they say there is good evidence that the brain changes seen in lab rats given marijuana also occur in humans.

Marijuana interacts with our brain through cannabinoid receptors, which are in brain areas that govern learning, motivation and reward, decision-making, and habit formation. Because the structure of the brain changes rapidly during adolescence, the researchers believe that pot use during this time can greatly influence the way those parts of the brain develop.

Full story of pot on teen’s brains at CTV News

Studying movement and learning in autism

Studying Movement in Learning AutismElizabeth Torres, a computational neuroscientist at Rutgers University, thinks many experts are making a mistake when they focus only on what’s malfunctioning in the brains of people with autism.

She sees autism as a condition of the whole body in which information from all sorts of sensory channels – movement, touch, pain, vision, temperature – is not reaching the brain properly while messages from the brain that tell the body what to do also are not getting through.

"The whole loop is disrupted," she said as she explained two studies published last month in Frontiers in Neuroscience that lay out her theories on the importance of movement as a form of sensation and perception in autism. That loop, she said, plays a huge role in how normal people make sense of their environment and anticipate what’s coming.

The lack of integration between sensory-motor input and the brain may explain why people with autism can become so narrowly focused. "They must live in a very uncertain world," she said, "so the moment they get an anchor in that world, they try to hold on to it as much as possible."

Full story of autism and movement at Philly.com

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/