Study Links Chemicals to ADHD and Autism

Even Harvard now agrees

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Parents, educators, health care professionals, and others are perplexed by the incredible increase in cases of ADHD and autism. A new study performed by Harvard University suggests that toxic chemicals may be to blame. Furthermore, the researchers say the implementation of a global prevention strategy to control the use of toxic substances is urgently needed.

“The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard School of Public Health.

Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai performed research in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants.” Developmental neurotoxicants are chemicals that can cause brain deficits. Their latest study updates their previous findings about those chemicals and adds six newly recognized neurotoxicants:

1. Manganese (metal — intellectual function impairment and impaired motor skills)
2. Fluoride (found in toothpaste — decreased IQ)
3. Chlorpyrifos (pesticide — possible cognitive delays)
4. DDT (pesticide — possible cognitive delays)
5. Tetrachloroethylene (solvent — associated with aggressive and hyperactive behaviors)
6. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants often found in clothing and bedding)

Co-author, Dr. Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, also predicts that many more chemicals will be identified as neurotoxicants in the future. The authors believe these chemicals are part of a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that cause disruptive behaviors, autism, and damage societies as a whole.

The authors propose the formation of a new international watchdog organization to provide mandatory testing of industrial chemicals to evaluate their potential developmental neurotoxicity.

“Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” they write.

“The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international,” said Grandjean, lead study author. “We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children’s brain development—now is the time to make that testing mandatory.”

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Video Game Addiction in ADHD Boys More Likely

Autistic boys too

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Research published in the online July 29 issue of Pediatrics reports that “Children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and those with ADHD may be at particularly high risk for significant problems related to video game play, including excessive and problematic video game use.”

Here’s what the researchers found:

*Boys with ADHD were also more likely to spend more time playing video games than other kids.

*More children with autism and ADHD had video game systems in their bedrooms than did typically developing boys.

*Boys with autism were also more likely to play role-playing games.

*Autistic boys played video games twice as long as non-autistic boys, 2.1 hours a day compared with 1.2 hours a day.

This confirms prior research. Other prior research suggests that many video games reduce attention spans, promote impulsive behavior, increase the likelihood of obesity, and greatly reduce social interaction.

It is safe to say that video game usage should be kept to a minimum. Use it as a reward system and not as a two to four hour entertainment system. Its use should be considered dessert (think small portions) and not the main course.

Autism and ADHD

What’s the link?
The study was published in Autism: The International Journal and Practice.

Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that nearly one-third of children with autism also have ADHD.

The researchers found that school age children (4 to 8 years) with both autism and ADHD had significantly greater social and cognitive problems compared to children with autism alone.

“We are increasingly seeing that these two disorders co-occur and a greater understanding of how they relate to each other could ultimately improve outcomes and quality of life for this subset of children,” says Dr. Rebecca Landa, senior study author and director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger. “The recent change to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to remove the prohibition of a dual diagnosis of autism and ADHD is an important step forward.”

The study was published in Autism: The International Journal and Practice.

Vaccine Court Awards Millions to Two Children With Autism

Reported in The Huffington Post
Are vaccines causing autism?

The Huffington Post reports that two distinct cases of autism related to immunization have been compensated collectively for over $2,000,000. Millions of dollars are to be placed in annuities to help with expenses over the life of the children who developed Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) after their measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations. Both children developed encephalopathy which is characterized by speech delay and global developmental delay.

The trial between the children’s parents and the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which has come to be known as “vaccine court,” heard evidence that the children developed rash-like skin reactions and neurological problems in the autism spectrum. In vaccine court, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acts as the defendant and Justice Department attorneys act as their counsel. Fighting the federal government is quite difficult and one of the parents whose fight lasted over five years said, “”I don’t understand why they fought so hard. We had the evidence: the EEG, the MRI, everything was consistent with encephalopathy, post-vaccination. How can government attorneys claim what our doctors said happened, didn’t happen? …She has seizure problems and autoimmune issues… And it’s a constant fight when you have a vaccine-injured child. It’s not just the disability, it’s the ignorance. The hatred from the medical community towards families like ours is intense.”

While it is paying out on claims of autism caused by vaccinations, the HHS has never concluded in any case that autism was caused by vaccination.

These are complex, compelling cases, and it is strongly recommended that you read the full one page story at the Huffington Post.

ADHD & Fetal Development


Obviously, being pregnant can be stressful in itself, but current research shows that stress can affect fetal development which may lead to long-term problems including ADHD.

Dr. Vivette Glover of Imperial College London, surveyed pregnant women at her hospital. Of these, nearly one quarter felt anxious and depressed due to stressors including work, money, arguing with spouse, and moving to accommodate a larger family. When compared to their non-stressed counterparts in this research, the babies of the stressed mother had lower birth weight, lower IQ, slower cognitive development, and more anxiety. Lower birth weight has been an indicator for coronary heart disease in later life.

In 2007, research in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry indicated that being stressed during pregnancy is as detrimental for the baby’s development as smoking or being obese. Glover’s research reveals why and how this happens: stress produces the hormone cortisol. An abundance of stress can actually diminish the barrier enzyme that inhibits cortisol from reaching the fetus. Costisol impacts fetal brain development.

According to Glover, “People used to think that if something was congenital, apparent at birth, it had to be genetic. In fact it can be an in-vitro reaction of genes and environment.”

Glover also contends that her research shows stress greatly increases the likelihood of a child having ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), cognitive delay, autism , anxiety and depression. 

Glover’s research reinforces previous data from the UK where stress was shown to increase the risk for development of ADHD. In that research, the women who experienced the most stress doubled the chances of developing ADHD.

“The organs are forming during the first trimester of pregnancy, but the brain is developing all the way through,” Glover explains. “The organs are sensitive while they are forming and, once formed, they are harder to change.”

“In evolutionary terms, stress perhaps prepares the child for survival in a stressful environment. If a child is anxious and has attention deficiency, it will be very alert to danger. This may once have been adaptive, beneficial for the child, but it isn’t any more,” Glover says.

Significantly, Glover’s research implies that the changes may be on a genetic level so that it may be passed on generation to generation.

Therefore, it’s important to realize that taking care oshutterstock_3753070f ourselves during pregnancy is more important now than ever. Small efforts like seeking health services early, meditating, eating a balanced diet, taking pre-natal vitamins, and laughing are good practices.

Minimizing stress by maintaining a consistent schedule both at work and at home is a good idea.


Autism and Parents Education

LONDON, UK: The Daily Telegraph reports of a highly controversial study indicating that parents of autistic children tend to be more highly educated than parents of children with other mental problems. Researchers found that 46% of parents of autistic children achieved a General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) compared to 35% parents of other children in the study. A GCSE is the name of a set of British examinations, usually taken by secondary school students.

The study, conducted by the Office for National Statistics, was an attempt to closely examine children with autism as well as to determine whether mental disorders were rising.

Researchers found that autistic children were also less likely to live in poor families. However, many autistic children live in families where neither parent worked. While only nine percent of parents with autistic children earned less than £200 per week, 20 percent of other children lived in homes with a weekly income of less than £200 per week.

Researchers suggested that the unusual combination of high educational status and low economic activity among parents of autistic children “reflects their heavy caring responsibilities.”

Seven percent of US children are suspected of having ADHD while the British study indicates on two per cent had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and only one per cent had a less common disorder, such as autism. As is true in the US, boys were more likely to have a mental disorder than girls.

“The prevalence of mental disorders was also greater among children and young people in certain families, such as lone parent families (16 per cent) compared with two-parent families (eight per cent) and in step-families (14 per cent) compared with those with no stepchildren (nine per cent).

Dinah Morley, deputy director of Young Minds, the children’s mental health charity, said the figures were a wake-up call to the “tremendous cost” of divorce.

“We can’t turn the clock back to a time when all children stayed with their birth families,” she said. “But we can start to be more aware that these things that adults do impact very deeply on children. I think it is a wake-up call to adults to be more aware when they decide to divorce of the tremendous cost to the children. It is important for society to think how in the future it is going to support children better.”

However, statisticians emphasised that while there was a link between divorce and mental health problems in children, it was not clear whether the divorce followed the diagnosis of the mental problem or whether it may have triggered it in some way.

They added that mental health problems in children were also more common where the parent had no educational qualifications (17 per cent) compared with those who had a degree (four per cent) and where a parent was an unskilled manual worker (15 per cent) compared to a doctor or lawyer (four per cent).

One per cent of children aged 5-16 had autistic spectrum disorder.

The majority – 82 per cent – were boys. Almost all the children had a physical complaint as well (89 per cent compared with 54 per cent of other children).

Tim Loughton, the shadow Health Minister, said: “The Government urgently needs to make it easier to identify problems early on in schools and to provide appropriate treatment. That does not mean admission to adult wards or excessive reliance on the chemical cosh of drugs.”

(Source: Daily Telegraph, September 1, 2005)

He Is Still a Typical Teenager

The following story is from the Pay particular attention to the section where ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and dyspraxia are described; they are notably different than our perceptions in the States.

The Lost Boy Who Found Happiness


LAST week it was my son’s 13th birthday. We’d barely finished breakfast but he was already on the back lawn, punting a new football back and forth while keeping up a lively running commentary on his imaginary match. And at the weekend, he will host his football party at the local five-a-side club.

No different from any other 13-year-old boy, you might think. Except that all this would have been unthinkable six years ago. Ball skills of any kind were beyond him, he was having problems completing or even starting tasks at school and had great difficulty relating to his peer group.

As a result, his self-esteem was in his boots, he felt himself to be friendless and he was miserable much of the time.

We knew our child was bright: his vocabulary and general knowledge were impressive, his reading age was way above his actual age, and his ability to memorise poetry, song lyrics and times tables was staggering. He was articulate and unfailingly polite. Yet, night after night, he tearfully struggled through his homework, knowing what he wanted to write but unable to commit it to paper. It was as though there was a disconnection between his brain and his hand.

His teacher said that she’d never seen a child like him. She only just managed not to call him lazy but he was so slow at everything, from changing for PE to starting any task in his illegible, awkward scrawl. The learning support teacher was called in and noted that he was unusually disorganised, hesitant in many of his actions and had problems with sequencing. However, as he was clearly not dyslexic, she couldn’t help any further.

By this stage our child was chewing the cuffs of his blazer, shredding his skin with his nails and banging his head with his fist or against walls “to make it work properly”. Our happy-go-lucky toddler had turned into a child who was shunned by others, left out of games because he was clumsy, over-loud and couldn’t be relied upon to catch or stop a ball. Fortunately, the new school year brought with it a new teacher whose first degree was in psychology (and who is now an educational psychologist). Within days she called us and asked us to get him tested, and by the end of that term we were told that our child was dyspraxic with a notable visual-motor dysfunction and accompanying ADHD, an assessment later agreed by the NHS.

Often found to co-exist with dyslexia, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) or Asperger’s syndrome, dyspraxia is thought to affect about ten per cent of the population to some degree, with boys being four times as likely as girls to suffer from it.

According to the Dyspraxia Foundation, it is “an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. This affects the way in which the brain processes information, resulting in messages not being properly or fully transmitted. Associated with this there may be problems of language, perception and thought”.

As far as we know, children and adults with the condition are wired up slightly differently to what we consider as the norm. Why this should be is still subject to research but it is likely that there are multiple causes. For some, metabolism and diet are implicated, particularly the manner in which essential fatty acids are broken down. It is thought that some children simply do not get enough of the right kind of movement practice while they are babies. Others believe that some children retain primitive reflexes and fail to develop postural reflexes.

Getting a diagnosis is a struggle. As parents, we expect teachers to recognise the condition, but many are not trained to do so. Even if children are referred by their schools, there are simply not enough paediatric occupational therapists and educational psychologists to go round. Assessment waiting lists are long. We know that we are very fortunate to have been able to fund private therapy to help our child. Without it, I doubt he would be the happy 13-year-old he is today.

In the years since that initial diagnosis, we’ve relocated to Glasgow, where our child now attends a private school that recognises his specific learning difficulties but does not diminish its performance expectations. Instead, it accommodates interventions to help him. He uses a writing slope, sits near the front of the class and uses a computer to complete assignments. He used a scribe for several of his S1 exams, an experiment deemed so successful that he’ll use one for most exams in future.

He still has his difficult days but, as he put it at breakfast on his birthday: “That’ll be my hormones!”

In other words, he has what is recognised as a specific learning difficulty, but he is still a typical teenager.

Mairiona McInally-Kier is a volunteer co-ordinator with the Dyspraxia Association in Scotland. For more information, visit

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Autism and Play Attention

Earlier this year, the Boston Globe carried and Associated Press article by Michael Felberbaum regarding Play Attention and Autism.

Educators have made significant progress over the last few years training autistic children. One of the most difficult aspects of training is teaching cause and effect relationships. Autistic students who have violent tendencies frequently do not comprehend the consequences of their actions. They may strike first never knowing the damage that may ensue. The exact foundations of autism are not known. However, research regarding chemical/biological foundations is being carried out. I strongly suggest reviewing work by Dr. Jaak Panksepp, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical College of Ohio at Toledo.

A special education teacher, Linda Creamer, specializes in working with autistic children in Greensboro, NC. Cited in the AP article, she uses Play Attention to teach cause and effect. Students control video exercises by attention alone using feedback technology. If attention is lost, students lose control of the video exercises. They get immediate feedback regarding their behavior and its relationship to attention. If they strike the desk out of frustration, they immediately see the effect on the screen characters as the screen characters are no longer under their control. This presents a teachable moment. It presents an environment where the student realizes the significance of his actions and allows Linda to talk about strategies to decrease the behavior. It also presents a physiological or kinesthetic perception to the student that can be learned (relaxation) and transferred to other situations. Linda has kept students from being institutionalized using this technique.