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US Autism & Asperger Association, Inc. December 4 , 2006

Welcome to USAAA Weekly News, an email newsletter that addresses a range of topics on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Asperger's Syndrome.

Speaker Spotlight for Autism Vancouver Biennial Congress 2007

Autism Vancouver Biennial Congress 2007, March 1-4, 2007, has assembled leading experts on autism spectrum disorders, with presenters from England, Canada, and the United States. Speakers will focus on ways to improve the quality of life for the affected individuals and their families/caregivers by conducting presentations in the areas of educational and biomedical interventions, research, adjunct therapies, diet and nutrition, and family issues.

Speakers include Dr. Temple Grandin, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, Dr. Jeff Bradstreet, Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, Dr. Phillip DeMio, Dr. Stephen Shore, Shannon Kenitz, Dr. Lauren Underwood, Dr. Barry Prizant, Stan Kurtz, Dr. Diane Twachtman-Cullen, Dr. Teresa Bolick, Dr. William Shaw, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, and Julia Berle (mother to Baxter who recovered from autism).

Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh will present, "Bringing Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy and Biomedical Treatments Together," Friday, March 2nd at 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm. For the entire schedule, click here.

Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, Founder and Executive Director of The Center for Autism and Related Disorders, has dedicated over 25 years to the study and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Through her research, curriculum development and treatment implementation Dr. Granpeesheh helped demonstrate the effectiveness of intensive, early Applied Behavior Analysis intervention. Dr. Granpeesheh earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from UCLA in 1990, and was licensed by the Medical Board of California in 1992. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

In 1990, Dr. Granpeesheh founded The Center for Autism and Related Disorders CARD), and through its fourteen offices she has helped thousands of children affected by Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and PDD-NOS. CARD services include assessments, supervision, parent/teacher training, and one-on-one behavioral therapy. Through Dr. Granpeesheh’s vision of helping as many individuals with autism as possible, CARD has become an industry leader in administering effective multi-disciplinary treatment plans. Dr. Granpeesheh is also on staff at Thoughtful House Center for Children, located in Austin, Texas.

Shannon Kenitz's keynote presentation, "Hope and Possibilities,"is Friday, March 2nd at 11:00 am - 12:30 pm. For the entire schedule, click here.

Shannon Kenitz, Executive Director of the International Hyperbarics Association, knows firsthand the heartbreak and struggles of having a child with a disability. Her youngest daughter, Grace, was diagnosed with a very rare mitochondrial disorder that kept her in the hospital virtually for the first three years of her life. Grace more recently has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Hear from a mother, Shannon, who did not accept the recommendation to cease life-prolonging measures. And because of that, Grace progressed to feed herself, recover from blindness, and at almost 7-years old, walk for the first time on January 20, 2006. Shannon was a guest on The Montel Williams Show in 2006 and has a book and movie forthcoming.

"The most awful day of my life"

by Chantal Sicile-Kira, USAAA Advisory Board Member

“Mom, don’t leave me with people we don’t know,” my son spelled out. So started the most awful day of my life. My son’s most awful day had taken place one week earlier, but he could not get the courage to tell me about it until some time had gone by.

I am sharing this private piece of information (without giving anymore detail) with you for three reasons. The first is that parents need to be aware that although they may think they are leaving their child in a safe place in caring hands with trained and vetted staff, bad stuff can happen. The truth of the matter is that people who are looking for powerless and potential victims, look for work or to volunteer in places that provide services to the elderly, the disabled or the sick. Our non-verbal autistic kids are perfect targets.

Secondly, it is very important that you do your utmost to teach your child a way of communicating. Communication is power, as my son’s experience proves. Until 2 years ago, my son could not communicate except to tell me his basic wants or needs. Through RPM – the Rapid Prompting Method , he was able to learn, slowly but surely, how to spell out on a letter board. This is also how he writes his school reports and takes tests. Although he was unable to prevent ‘the sad, sad story’ (as he now refers to the incidents) he was able to communicate to us and the authorities, and this has empowered him.

Thirdly, even if you think your child does not understand, explain to him or her, (many times if he or she needs it) with pictures and with words, the different parts of the body and where it is appropriate to be touched by others, and where it is not. They need to know this for their safety. Teach them to let you know if someone has touched them inappropriately and some way to communicate it to you. It’s important that they understand the value of communication and the right they have to be treated respectfully and to never be a victim. Communication is power.

For additional information on the Rapid Prompting Method, click here.

To link to Chantal Sicile-Kira's website, click here.

Service dog placements for children with autism; Complimentary educational DVD's available

North Star Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to place assistance dogs with children who face challenges. To date they have helped over seventy-five families around the country to meet their children's social, emotional and educational goals through the use of well-bred and trained North Star dogs. Over half the children they serve are on the autism spectrum, although they also partner North Star dogs with children who face a serious illness or who have suffered a loss. They use a different model of placement than the traditional assistance dog model that most people are familiar with, and this is due to the different roles that North Star dogs play.

The pups they select to partner with children on the autism spectrum are carefully bred; they have a genetically heightened ability to read the social cues of their children, which helps to strengthen the communication that develops between them. North Star puppies are handpicked for both temperament as well as soundness, and are raised in puppy raising homes with supervised contact with their children as early as possible. North Star's strongest commitment is to finding the optimal fit between child and dog, and then to support this team as they grow together. The inclusion of a child with autism's siblings is a unique feature of North Star's philosophy of placement, for they feel that most important group a child with autism should be fully integrated into is within is his or her own family.

North Star Foundation Executive Director Patty Dobbs Gross has written a book entitled THE GOLDEN BRIDGE: A Guide to Assistance Dogs for Children Challenged By Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities (Purdue University Press/July, 2006). This book can be ordered directly from the publisher at Patty has also produced several DVDs about the work they are accomplishing at North Star Foundation. These DVDs include “Raising Your North Star,” about how they select and train the pups they use in North Star's work, “Northern Lights,” about how they incorporate their dogs into children’s therapeutic programs, and “Home Before Dark,” which documents their work with children on the autism spectrum. These DVDs are available to families of children with challenges free upon request, as education is an important part of their nonprofit mission. North Star's website is, and Patty can be reached at her e-mail address at

Early treatment urged for Autism; Estimated five million autistic residents in China
by Bai Xu and Liang Peng

THEY sit in the classroom, appearing no different from other children. But a close look finds them wearing straight faces all the time. They neither talk nor even have eye contact with their teachers and classmates. They are autistic. In Zhengzhou, capital city of central China's Henan Province, the Kangda Training Center is home to over 60 such children aged from three to six.

"If not treated timely and properly, they might shut themselves in their own world and lose the communication ability all life long," said Zhang Gui'e, 43-year-old director of the training center, who has been working on autism since 1997.

Full story, click here.

In This Issue :
› Speaker Spotlight for Autism Vancouver Biennial Congress 2007
› "The most awful day of my life," by Chantal Sicile-Kira
› Service dog placements for children with autism; Complimentary educational DVD's available
› Early treatment urged for autism; Estimated five million autistic residents in China

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