MSNBC Host Suggests Colorado Shooter James Holmes Has Autism

Joe Scarborough MSNBC

As details continue to emerge about Colorado ‘Dark Knight’ murder suspect James Holmes, many media figures are beginning discuss his background, upbringing, mental health and overall state-of-mind. Unfortunately, this has invariably (and predictively) once again exposed the ignorance associated with autism.

Such is the case on yesterday’s "Morning Joe" program, when MSNBC host Joe Scarborough irresponsibly suggested that Holmes, and others like him, were autistic:

“Most of it has to do with mental health. You have these people that are somewhere, I believe, probably on the autism scale," he stated

Scarborough went on to say that he did not want to "generalize," despite having done just that. He also noted that his own son has Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. However, having a family member on the autism spectrum does not excuse one from making ignorant and irresponsible statements.

First of all, there is absolutely no evidence that James Holmes has autism. Being a recluse and loner are not sole qualifiers for a diagnosis.

Scarborough’s comments were not surprising and I was actually wondering how long it would take before someone linked James Holmes to the disorder. As we have previously discussed in the past, any time a high-profile crime is committed and the suspect is described as "quiet" or "reserved," the autism label soon follows.

The fact is, there is no evidence to suggest that those with autism have a propensity to commit violent acts and studies have actually proven that those with autism spectrum disorders are no more likely to commit crimes than their neurotypical counterparts (Barnhill, 2007; Griffith, 10 May 2006). 

It’s extremely disheartening to see the level of ignorance that still exists, especially in this instance involving a parent of someone on the spectrum. Scarborough did not even get his terminology correct when referring to "the autism scale," a term hardly (if ever) used. Presumably, he intended to say "the autism spectrum."

Hopefully, Scarborough educates himself a bit further and retract his statements, which should include an apology to the autism community. 

We have a hard enough time fighting intolerance, misconceptions and discrimination, and the last thing needed is an influential media figure making armchair diagnoses about people they know nothing about.

Watch Scarorough’s comments below.  They come between the 8:00 and 9:00 mark.

Autism Conference to Shed Light on Treatment Options

AutismOne / Generation Rescue Conference

Courtesy: AutismOne / Louis Felix Photography

Next week (May 23rd – May 27th), parents, educators, physicians and individuals with autism will be converging on a Chicago-area suburb for a conference aimed at educating attendees about the disorder and its treatment options.

The 2012 AutismOne / Generation Rescue Conference will be held at The Westin Lombard Yorktown Center and feature over 130 speakers, six of which will be featured. 

The main purpose of this event (as in previous years) will be to provide education and support for families and professionals working and dealing with autism. In addition to the speakers, there will be presenters, authors and exhibitors, as well as official credits and units available for doctors, nurses, therapists and first responders (CME). Child care will be provided for families with children.

Thousands of people are expected to turn out for the five-day event, which promises to focus on biomedical treatments and other strategies that parents and their health care teams can implement.

Registration is $25 per person and covers materials and processing fees for all general session tracks and lectures.

Despite your opinion about biomedical treatment options for autism (good, bad or indifferent), this conference will be an excellent opportunity to network with many other individuals within the autism community who are sharing similar challenges. I personally will not be attending but have heard nothing but positive things from those who have attended in previous years. If you live close to the Chicago area or can swing the travel costs, you may want to consider checking it out.

For more information, including a full schedule of events and speakers, visit

Italian Court Links MMR Vaccine to Autism


An interesting (and largely unreported) story out of Italy has been making the rounds this past week, once again giving new life to the contentious autism-vaccine debate. In the Italian Court of Rimini, a child has been compensated with a fifteen-year annuity due to an “established” link between an MMR vaccine and autism-like symptoms.

According the report, the unnamed youngster received a prophylaxis trivalent MMR vaccine back in 2004 and developed adverse symptoms shortly thereafter. The child continued to regress the following year, and is now said to be “100% disabled.” The parents of the child were also awarded reimbursement for their court costs.

The case is now expected to be put before an appeals court as authorities are said to be concerned about the legal precedent this may set.

So far, reports of this story have been primarily confined to Italian and French news outlets, so it’s impossible to say just how accurate they are due to potential translation issues. However, if everything being reported is in fact true, this will no doubt create a new PR battle between vaccine safety advocates and the pro-vaccine lobby.

For those fluent in Italian, the full court judgment can be read here and the original news report published last month can be read here.

To be continued…

Heavy Metal Icons Team Up for Autism Awareness


Dan Spitz and Dave Mustaine, former members of legendary thrash-metal bands Anthrax and Megadeth, respectively, have recently teamed up on a new project entitled Red Lamb. The self-funded collaboration includes the new single "Puzzle Box," a song co-produced and written by Spitz and Mustaine that addresses the complex issues of autism.

As we previously reported, Spitz and his wife Candi became passionate autism advocates several years ago, shortly after their identical twins were diagnosed with the disorder. During that time, Spitz has used his celebrity to help raise awareness and support, particularly among those within the music community. The platform of music is where Spitz seeks to further advance awareness and acceptance for those living with the condition. He was recently quoted as saying, "It’s time for someone in music to wake the world up to autism. We have Holly Robinson Peete in film, we have vocal people in NASCAR, and of course Dan Marino and others in sports. Now it’s time for someone who lives it to speak the truth to the people in true metal fashion."

Red Lamb also features Grammy award winner Chris Vrenna (of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson fame), Patrick Johansson (drums) and Don Chaffin (vocals).  The band has been described as a combination of hard rock, punk, alternative rock and a "dash of thrash."

Spitz and Mustaine have been long-time friends and their previous endeavors have collectively sold nearly 50 million records. I grew up listening to these and other metal bands, so it’s great  to see these guys stepping up to the plate and helping others in the process. As Spitz alluded to, we need more public figures to use their influence to educate others about autism.  The more this occurs, the more everyone will benefit.

Because Red Lamb is a self-funded project, I would encourage everyone to support them by downloading their album on iTunes here:

Special Needs Student Assaulted by School Workers

School Asault

Two employees at St. John’s Elementary in Darlington, South Carolina have been arrested after the release of a disturbing video that shows them yelling at, pushing and striking a ten-year-old special needs student.

Tomeka Self and Rosanna Dudley have been charged with assault and battery and are scheduled to appear in court next week. 

South Carolina police released the video on Tuesday showing the non-verbal youngster being slapped in the face, pushed and verbally abused as the two women attempt to fit him with a restraining harness. According to reports, the bus driver tipped off police about the incident, prompting them to review the bus’s security footage.

These types of stories are disturbing and no doubt occur more times than we realize. It’s only the increase of security cameras in recent years that has raised our awareness of how widespread the problem actually is.

Hopefully, this trend will continue and create some accountability for educators and school employees who work around special needs children, minimizing or completely eliminating these incidents in the future.

Helpful iPad Apps for Autism and Other Related Disorders

iPad Apps for Autism


It’s been a while since we posted an iPad apps for autism list, so here’s our 2012 version of some newer (and older) apps to consider for individuals with autism and other related disorders:

1) Shoe Tying 1 – Activity App – Teach your child to tie shoes in a fraction of the time with this video modeling program. This app breaks down shoe tying into individual video steps that children can learn in sequence format.  With the aid of the Activity App Shoe Tying 1, you teach the student to tie a shoe off their foot and on a table top where it is easier for you to help. The student learns both the basic skill and the associated language. Once the student has mastered the skill table top, you then transition the skill to tying the shoe on the foot. Currently available for $4.99. 

2) Grace App – Grace is a digital version of the Picture Exchange Communications System, a book that helps those unable to speak to build sentences from relevant images. The app starts with 400 images that were chosen by non-verbal people as communication starters. For example, categories include colors, food and drink, my body, and places. Grace allows the users to build their “photo vocabulary” by snapping their own photos to use within the app. Grace is available for $24.99. 

3) The Social Express – The Social Express™ is engaging, educational software for children and young adults with social learning challenges. The software is designed to teach users how to think about and manage social situations, helping them to develop meaningful social relationships and succeed in life. Available for $89.99. 

4) Choiceworks – The Choiceworks app is a tool for helping children complete daily routines, understand & control their feelings and improve their waiting skills. It can also be customized for teachers in a school setting. It was created with the support of leading hospitals and child development specialists. Available for both iPhone and iPad. $14.99.

5) Scene Speak - Creates visual scene displays for users.  Personalized images can be uploaded to this app from your home computer or through an online image search. The images can then be resized and active “sound areas” can be added. The application allows both the number and size of the “sound areas” to be customized. Spoken messages can be added to the “sound areas” by using the Text-To-Speech feature, with one of five preloaded voices. Available for $9.99. 

6) TapSpeak Button – This app modernizes the idea of a mechanical switch that records and plays messages. The creators have taken the idea and extended it to provide a portable, convenient, and stigma-free tool to use for basic teaching and communication tasks. TapSpeak Button is especially useful for teaching cause and effect relationships.  Available for $14.99. 

7) U-Sync Video Scheduler – The app contains a picture / video scheduler that is controlled wirelessly through the Internet by parents, special education teachers, and therapists, job coaches, adult service providers and others who support people with disabilities. With U-Sync Video Scheduler, changing a user’s schedule is as simple as one mouse click. U-Sync allows caregivers to apply video modeling techniques to help users know what to do, how to do it and when to do it.  Available for $19.99.  

8 ) Proloquo2Go – Provides a full-featured augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) solution for those who have difficulty speaking. It contains text-to-speech voices, up-to-date symbols, powerful automatic conjugations, a default vocabulary and much more. Proloquo2Go, available for iPhone and iPad at $189.99, is considered a good alternative against buying an expensive AAC device.

For more info on these and other autism apps, visit

Teen with Autism Uses YouTube to Display Unique Skills

Autism Basketball

First there was Jason McElwain. Now, another young man with autism has taken to YouTube to show off some unique basketball skills.  

In a recently uploaded 48-second video, 17-year-old Karl Garay can be seen spinning a basketball from the palm of his hand and then keeping it going using the same hand. 

Garay’s father, who I’ve known for six years, told me the self-taught trick evolved from his son’s love of spinning and motion and began “out of nowhere.” The special talent has been an excellent icebreaker in social situations and also has been a great form of self-expression.

Diagnosed with autism at an early age, Karl has had communication difficulties much of his life, but this has not stopped him from pursuing the things he loves.

Once again, this video is a reminder that we should never place limitations or boundaries on those with autism. Each individual has their own set of talents and abilities and as parents, teachers or caregivers, it’s our responsibility to help unlock these gifts, allowing them to reach their fullest potential.

Donald Trump Jumps Into Autism-Vaccine Controversy

autism vaccines

Donald Trump is a well-known celebrity entrepreneur who has never been afraid to speak his mind. Earlier this month, he decided to weigh in on the autism-vaccine controversy on Fox & Friends, a weekday morning program on the Fox News Channel. 

On Autism Awareness Day, Trump made his weekly appearance and was asked about the dramatic rise in cases of autism over the past several decades. The conversation quickly focused on the autism-vaccine debate, when Trump shared his "theory" that autism is caused by vaccinations.

He cited anecdotal evidence, including a family he knows who had a two-year-old child that had "lost it" one month after being vaccinated.

When challenged by host Gretchen Carlson that most physicians disagree with his theory, Trump admitted that his opinions were controversial, but said he could care less what others thought.

The autism-vaccine controversy is something that stirs up tremendous emotions on both sides of the debate and his comments have already been heavily criticized as irresponsible.

Ironically, Trump’s opinions are in direct conflict with Autism Speaks’ official position on vaccinations, an organization he claims to support through various fundraisers.

While I applaud Mr. Trump for speaking out on behalf of parents who feel vaccines may have played a role in their children’s autism, his ignorance on this issue is painfully evident. As such, it’s probably best to let vaccine safety advocates who are better informed to address the media in the future.

Autism Symptoms Checklist: What You Need to Know

Autism Symptoms

April is Autism Awareness Month, so we thought it would be a good idea to repost our autism symptoms checklist below. Some of this information may already be well known to many, but it wasn’t for us when our son was younger. He received a delayed diagnosis, mainly due to our ignorance about autism at the time. Had we come across a list like this sooner, we would have been able to provide much-needed intervention at an earlier age.

Remember that autism is a complex neurological condition, so it’s very important to consult with a licensed medical professional if you suspect you or a loved one may have the disorder.

Please Tweet, Share and +1 this info so others may have it available for current or future reference:

Autism Symptoms
The severity, frequency, and grouping of the following symptoms will determine where (if at all) an individual will fall on the autism spectrum.

• Repetitive behaviors (may want to watch the same program over and over again)
• Unresponsive to commands or questions ("in their own world")
• Delayed speech & language development (non-verbal, especially by age 3)
• Lack of imitation of others or imaginative play
• Indifferent to the feelings of others
• Hypersensitivity to light & sound (covers ears when music is played or covers eyes when going outside)
• Self-stimulatory behaviors (rocking, jumping up and down, hand flapping)
• Echolalia (Repetition or echoing of a word or phrase just spoken by another person)
• Unusual emotional responses (inappropriate laughing or crying)
• Frequent temper tantrums / meltdowns
• Responds adversely to physical affection, hugs, kisses, etc.
• Shows no interest in making friends
• Does not initiate conversation
• Very poor diet (may eat only starches)
• Frequently walks on tip-toes as a toddler
• Socially withdrawn or socially awkward
• Shows little expressive language
• Clumsiness (falls or trips often)
• Improper use of pronouns, statements, and questions
• Unusual tone or rhythm of speech
• Self Injurious Behavior (head banging, scratching/biting self)
• Frequently makes irrelevant remarks
• Difficulty with abstract language and concepts
• Preoccupied with one or only a few narrow interests
• Need for sameness (adheres to routines)
• Severe tantrums when routines are disrupted
• Shows an attachment to unusual objects such as car parts, branches, leaves, etc.
• Fascination with spinning objects or spinning one’s self
• Very good at rote memory tasks such as repeating lists of items or facts

Study Links Autism to High Fructose Corn Syrup

High Fructose Corn Syrup

A new study released this past week has once again linked the consumption of processed foods to health complications, giving food safety advocates even more cause for concern. The April 10th publication of the Clinical Epigenetics Journal reported a link between high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and autism in the United States. According to the study, the rise in autism rates "is not related to mercury exposure from fish, coal-fired power plants, thimerosal, or dental amalgam but instead to the consumption of HFCS.”

The study, led by former FDA toxicologist and whistleblower Renee Dufault, found that a deficiency of zinc, triggered by the consumption of HFCS and other processed foods, interferes with the body’s ability to eliminate toxins such as mercury and pesticides.

High fructose corn syrup has long been suspected of having an adverse impact on health and has been purportedly linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and liver disease. The fructose-laden ingredient has even been reported to facilitate the growth of cancer cells.

Dufault made news in 2009 with another study (which was referenced in these new findings), also linking high fructose corn syrup to mercury. Many HFCS proponents and some in the autism community will immediately (and predictively) discount these new findings, but regardless, they still warrant further research.

With autism rates now at a mind-blowing 1 in 88, there are many who are desperately looking for a definitive cause and a silver bullet theory. Whether or not there is something to these new findings remains to be seen, but we must not give up on our quest for the truth.

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Important Disclaimer

All information in this site is presented for support and educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for medical treatment or visiting a licensed medical physician.

Visitors who desire to apply or use any information listed herein are urged to consult with licensed healthcare professionals first. All information is deemed reliable but its accuracy can't be guaranteed.

Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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