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9 Mar

​Book covers and reviewer comments

The author of this book, Naoki Higashida, is a boy who struggles significantly with verbal communication. He prefers to type his thoughts onto a computer, which he finds to be very useful for helping others understand him.

Winner of the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.
– A groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.

-Sparklingly humane book makes the case that there is no such things as neurologically ‘normal’.

Journalists Donvan and Zucker’s tremendous study keeps autism at its center while telling an extraordinary tale of social change. The authors follow evolving cultural responses to autism and autism spectrum disorders, including intolerance, a desperate quest for successful treatments, and the currently high level of awareness — which doesn’t always prevent misunderstanding.

Instead of classifying “autistic” behaviors as signs of pathology, Dr. Prizant sees them as part of a range of strategies to cope with a world that feels chaotic and overwhelming. Rather than curb these behaviors, it’s better to enhance abilities, build on strengths, and offer supports that will lead to more desirable behavior and a better quality of life.

A new book giving a voice to mothers and fathers captures the continuing journey of unconditional love, utmost devotion and hope. The telling is honest and brave. The book consists of stories of nine families coping with autism, most of them active leaders in the autism community. Every story is unique as the parents recount the impact of finding out their child’s condition. (Review by Olive Tripon, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Feb 25, 2017).

This book’s editor is Dr. Lirio Covey, Ph.D., AAAP President. Co-parents from the Manila autism community contributed to this anthology of narratives on living and raising children with autism: Erick Villacorte, Jennifer Cuaycong, Mel Sabino, Evert Malapad, Josephine Palomares, Grant Javier, Sol and Dennis Bautista, Christine Siruelo.

For hard copy and information on price + postage, email adultautismphil, with your address and the book will be sent by LBC. Also available as an e-book on and barnes &

A Societal Response to Autism

18 Jan

The Four As: a long-term perspective

4 As of a Societal Response to Autism.pptx


27 Nov


​Barista training programs have been widely offered and conducted for persons with disabilities. Barista skills which include understanding the features of the coffee bean and becoming expert in preparing and serving this popular beverage provide opportunities for employment and generating income.

Results of a recent “universal review” of multiple studies of the health outcomes of coffee consumption, offer good news. The published review was a mega-review of 201 meta-analyses of coffee and its health effects, recently published in the British Medical Journal (see Poole et al, BMJ 2017; 359:j5024),

Heavy compared to light, and any versus no, coffee consumption was consistently associated with reduced risk mortality due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and with liver, gastrointestinal, kidney, musculoskeletal disorders, and neurologic disorders. The lowest risk reduction was observed with three to four cups of coffee daily. A caveat is on order, however, as some evidence for a harmful association of coffee consumption was observed for pregnancy outcomes, (including low birth weight, and first and second trimester pre-birth) and fractures in women (not in men). These assessments were controlled for smoking. Similar health outcomes were observed for decaffeinated coffee consumption.

Learning and practicing barista skills offer a potentially enjoyable and lucrative business endeavor for persons with disabilities. ​

Autism and Mental Health

19 Nov

Many Young Adults With Autism Also Have Mental Health Issues

NPR <email, October 1, 2017

Tara Haelle

People on the autism spectrum are more likely to have mental health diagnoses as well, which can make the transition to adulthood daunting.

Nick Lowndes/Getty Images

College involved "many anxiety attacks and many trips home" for Daniel Share-Strom, an autistic 27-year-old motivational speaker in Bradford, Ontario. It wasn’t just the challenge of organizing his assignments and fighting the disability office for the extra time he needed for tests. It was also managing all the aspects of daily life that most people not on the autism spectrum take for granted.

"Relationships are so much harder to understand or initiate when by default you don’t really know what certain facial expressions mean or what certain actions mean," Share-Strom says.

Young adults on the autism spectrum are more likely to also have been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition, such as depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than are typically developing people or those with other developmental disabilities, a study finds. And managing those multiple conditions can make the transition to young adulthood especially difficult.

It’s not clear how much biological factors may contribute to the higher rates, but Share-Strom definitely sees environmental factors playing a major role.

"People with autism aren’t immediately born anxious or with depression," Share-Strom says. "The world is fundamentally not built for us, and people are always judging and trying to change you, whether they have the best intentions or not," he says. "Of course that’s going to cause a higher rate of anxiety and depression and even suicide rates. I’d be surprised if it didn’t."

That makes providing resources for these young adults all the more important during that transitional period.

"When it comes to mental health diagnoses and use of psychiatric services, there’s a really strong need for the entire developmental disabilities community, but it’s an even bigger need for folks on the autism spectrum," says Yona Lunsky, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and coauthor of the study. "I think sometimes people will dismiss something as being part of autism when, in fact, it’s not," she adds. "There are people with autism who don’t have psychiatric issues."

Lunksy’s study is not the first to find a higher prevalence of mental health conditions among those on the spectrum compared to those with typical development. But it is the first to compare autistic young adults to those with other developmental disabilities. It also uses a standard method of gathering data, relying on diagnostic codes in administrative health data instead of using surveys.

Their data came from two groups of young adults, ages 18-24, in Ontario, Canada.

One group included 5,095 young adults with an autism diagnosis and 10,487 people with another developmental disability diagnosis and no autism diagnosis. (Those with both were excluded.) The other group was a random selection of 20 percent of young adults in Ontario without a developmental disability diagnosis.

They chose age 18 as a starting place because that’s when people switch from child to adult social and mental services in Canada; they ended at age 24 because Canadians with developmental disabilities usually remain in school until age 22, providing two years of follow-up data. In the U.S., public special education services continue until high school graduation or until age 21 in most states, 22 in some others.

Those on the spectrum were more than five times more likely to have a psychiatric diagnosis than typically developing individuals and nearly twice as likely compared to others with developmental disabilities, the study found.

While 52 percent of autistic young adults had a psychiatric diagnosis, 39 percent of those with other developmental disabilities did and 20 percent of typically developing people did. Those with an autism diagnosis were also more likely to visit the emergency department for psychiatric reasons (8 percent) than those with other developmental disabilities (7 percent) or typically developing (2 percent).

By contrast, non-psychiatric ER visits were similar between autistic and typically developing young adults: 26 percent of those on the spectrum and 25 percent of typically developing adults, compared to 34 percent of those with other disabilities. Those on the spectrum were also less likely to have asthma, high blood pressure or addiction disorders than those with other developmental disabilities.

"We weren’t doing the study to look at mental health," Lunsky says. "It’s just what emerged. Unmet needs have a social cost, so we want to be able to recognize both physical and mental health needs for everyone and get them the right care."

That means recognizing that symptoms and behaviors of depression and anxiety may look different in those with an autism diagnosis than in those without, she adds, and caregivers and providers need to understand that.

Indeed, it is especially important to individualize care for youth on the spectrum, according to Lynn Davidson, a pediatrician and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics executive committee on disabilities.

"Transition for youth with autism is a very challenging process," Davidson says. "It is doable, but it takes a lot of preparation and a lot of time on the part of the families, on the part of the patient and on the part of the providers. The earlier one starts, the better."

Research literature suggests that it’s good to start learning daily living skills, such as laundry, cooking, bathing alone and similar chores, around 12 to 14 years old, Davidson says. But she believes that should start as early as possible, depending on a child’s intellectual, social and mental health disabilities.

"Youth on the autism spectrum may need repetitive modeling and experiences so that they get those skills down and become as independent as possible," Davidson says. Too many families, she says, do tasks for their adolescents long past when the teen could do them on their own. Other youth continue to need support for what might seem like basic tasks, so parents and care providers have to work to learn the boundaries and abilities for each person on the spectrum.


13 Jul


​Dr. Susan Sarabia-Reyes, DMD, has joined the Advisory Board of the Association for Adults with Autism Philippines.

Dr. Reyes was one of 15 new medical staff who were introduced on June 24, 2017 at a medical staff meeting of the Philippine Heart Center, located in Quezon City, Metro Manila. She was the only dentist among the newly appointed medical staff. The Philippine Heart Center is a leading medical institution in Asia for the medical and surgical management of heart diseases.

Dr. Reyes was a scholar at the Centro Escolar University where she completed a dentistry degree. She took her hospital dentistry training and an MA degree majoring in Special Education at St. Martin de Porres Charity Hospital.

She was nominated and is now an active member of the Academy of Dentistry International-Philippine Section. In March of this year, she was a presenter at the 29th Annual Meeting on Special Care Dentistry held in North Carolina, USA. Dr. Reyes generously gives lectures locally and internationally regarding awareness and dental management of special needs patients (SNP), specifically autism, down syndrome, and medically compromised patients (cancer, heart disease, and others).

She is a unique professional – one of a few now working in a specialized field, deeply dedicated to serving disadvantaged members of the community, and invaluably experienced by several years of dentistry work abroad. Many of her patients have been first-timers – persons of all ages who have suffered extensive damage to their appearance as well as health because of dental neglect. Because they have received the best quality of care from Dr. Reyes, they become not only much improved in physical health but in appearance as well – able to freely “smile with a thankful heart”.

Dr. Reyes currently practices at East Avenue Medical Center where she is the only dental staff member with surgical training and expertise. She can be reached at 63-922-818-8030 and be emailed at

Explaining autistic persons’ reluctance to engage in direct eye contact

26 Jun

Why do persons with autism have difficulty engaging in eye contact?

by Lirio Sobrevinas-Covey, Ph.D.

Limited engagement in eye contact is commonly seen among persons with autism. It is widely considered to demonstrate the individuals’ lack of social interest and indifference – a core criterion of autism spectrum disorder.

A study from the Athinoula A Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging in Massachusetts suggests the cause is neurological based behavior rather than an indication of social indifference.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques to compare responses of persons with autism versus non-autistic controls to faces conveying emotions, the researchers found an uncomfortable and stressful over-stimulation experienced by the autistic persons, but not the controls, when asked to gaze at the eye –region. This differential reaction did not occur in the free-viewing condition – when gaze is not focused on the eye-region.

The authors state that – “our results show that this behavior is a way to decrease an unpleasant excessive arousal stemming from over-activation in a particular part of the brain.”

Says Nouchine Hadjikhani, an associate professor of Radiology at Medical School and the lead researcher – “forcing children with autism to look into someone’s eyes in behavioral therapy may create a lot of anxiety for them. An approach involving slow habituation to eye contact may help them overcome this overreaction and be able to handle eye contact in the long run, thereby avoiding the cascading effects that this eye-avoidance has on the development of the social brain.”

Reference: “Look me in the eyes: constraining gaze in the eye-region provokes abnormally high subcortical activation in autism”, Nouchine Hadjikhani, Jakob Åsberg Johnels, Nicole R. Zürcher, Amandine Lassalle, Quentin Guillon, Loyse Hippolyte, Eva Billstedt, Noreen Ward, Eric Lemonnier & Christopher Gillberg, Scientific Reports, doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-03378-5, published online 9 June 2017.


10 Jun

Does your child with autism have difficulties with sleep?

by Lirio Sobrevinas-Covey, Ph.D.

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by shallow breathing and frequent breathing pauses during sleep. Breathing pauses can occur 30 or more times an hour, and normal breathing can start again, sometimes with a loud sound. The quality of sleep is poor, and the person will feel tired and sleepy during the day.

Sleep apnea is known to occur more frequently, up to about 50% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

It has been reported that sleep difficulties may be a cause of behavioral problems in children. Overall, children need good quality sleep for the proper development of the brain.

A common treatment for sleep apnea is adenotonsillectomy (AT) which involves the removal of the adenoids and tonsils. It is one of the most common surgical procedures performed on children. AT is usually performed on an outpatient basis. The patient goes home from the hospital the same day as his or her surgery, although overnight hospital admission is sometimes done in special circumstances such as when there is a co-occurring medical condition.

Evidence of improved attention and behaviors after AT for sleep apnea led a group of pediatric researchers in Japan to evaluate the effect of AT in children with ASD.

Measures of several behavioral indices taken at two time points, six months apart, were taken from two groups of children with autism. The study group was comprised of 30 children with autism and sleep apnea ; the comparison group comprised 24 children with autism without sleep apnea (regarded as the control group representing the natural course of the target behaviors).

Assessments using the Children’s Behavioral Checklist were made contemporaneously for the treated group and the control group before the AT treatment and six months later. The researchers found no changes over the two time points in the control group of children with autism and no sleep apnea. By contrast, in the children with autism and sleep apnea who were treated with AT, thought problems, social problems, attention problems, and aggressive behaviors were significantly decreased, suggesting an important beneficial effect of AT.

Why sleep problems occur more often in children with ASD is unclear. Some hypotheses include malfunction in the body’s 24-hour biological clock (the circadian rhythm), effects of medications taken for autism symptoms, and dysregulation of the hormone melatonin which is involved in the sleep cycle. Also hypothesized is a shared neurobiological etiology of sleep apnea and autism.

The study results suggest an important role of adequate sleep quality in the mental development of children with ASD and, relatedly, attention to and treatment of sleep difficulties in the clinical care of children with autism.

It bears noting as well that, whereas AT is the first-line choice for pediatric sleep apnea, as with any surgical intervention, it also carries some risks.

Citation: Kids With Autism Who Have Adenotonsillectomy for OSA Show Behavioral Improvement – Medscape – Jun 06, 2017.

Reference: Murata E, Mohri I, Kato-Nishimura et al, Evaluation of behavioral change after adenotonsillectomy for obstructive sleep apnea in children with autism spectrum disorder, Research in Developmental Disabilities, 65, 127-139, June 2017.

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