Is broccoli the key to an effective autism treatment?

Credit:  Puamelia on Flickr
Autism symptoms improved significantly in individuals after receiving sulforaphane, a chemical derived from broccoli, according to a study published online on Oct. 13.  

Sulforaphane improved social and communication skills and lessened repetitive behaviors, report researchers from MassGeneral Hospital for Children and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Forty males with autism between the ages of 13 and 27 participated in the study.  Twenty-six participants received daily doses of sulforaphane.  The rest of the participants received a placebo.

Over half of the males who took sulforaphane showed substantial improvement in social interaction and verbal communication.  In addition, repetitive and ritualistic behaviors lessened. These improvements were lost when the participants stopped taking sulforaphane.

Credit:  Linda Aslund on Flickr
Researchers were particularly impressed that this chemical appeared to target the "basic mechanisms of the disorder." "We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some of the underlying cellular problems,” says researcher Paul Talalay, M.D.

Adding broccoli to your children's diets is unlikely to help their autism symptoms. Talalay cautions that it would be extremely difficult for an individual to eat enough broccoli to reach a therapeutic dose of sulforaphane.  

The study "Sulforaphane treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)" is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

5 Reasons Your Child Should Get a Flu Shot

Credit:  US CDC

1.     A flu shot is recommended for all children over 6 months by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  

2.     Children are at a greater risk for getting the flu because their immune systems are still developing.

3.    Flu can cause serious complications in children with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions.

4.     Over 100 US children died from the flu last flu season.

5.     The risks of a bad reaction from the flu shot 
are very low.

Be sure to check with your child's doctor before getting the flu shot.

For more information about the flu and the flu vaccination see the CDC's website.


©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Irish Foster Care Association National Conference

Why We Care
14-16 November 2014 at Johnstown House Hotel, Enfield, Co Meath

Dr James Reilly, TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, will launch the conference on Saturday morning followed by a plenary focus on Aftercare with a panel of key stakeholders.

For further details of the full conference programmes for adults, young people and children, please see attached brochure or register via our website, Registration deadline: 6 November.

The Irish Foster Care Association is a ‘rights based’, child centred organisation that promotes family-based solutions for children and young people in 'out of home care'. The Irish Foster Care Association believes in the highest standard of excellence in all foster care services and is committed to achieving its goal through advocacy, support, education and working in a spirit of partnership and cooperation.

Parent coaching interventions improve children’s autism symptoms

Credit:  Poul-Werner Dam on Flickr
Young children’s autism symptoms improved when their parents used the PLAY Project Home Intervention Program, according to research released Oct. 2. Using this program also benefited parents because they had fewer symptoms of depression, report researchers Richard Solomon M.D. of the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Center for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and colleagues.

Study details

The research, a clinical trial, involved 128 families that had a child with autism. Researchers divided the families into two groups. In one group, children received treatment from community services such as occupational therapy and speech and language therapy. In the second group, children received treatment from community services and through the PLAY Project. After one year, the families receiving treatment through the PLAY Project showed:

  • greater improvement in parent-child interactions
  • decreased symptoms of depression in parents
  • moderate to large improvements in parents' ability to "sensitively respond and effectively engage their children"
  • moderate to large improvements in the children's interaction skills, with "increased shared attention and initiation."

The PLAY Project Explained

The PLAY (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters) Project is a home based early intervention program. Parents receive training from PLAY Project consultants who come to their homes. The Play Project consultants assess children and then develop specific PLAY programs for parents to follow with their children. The programs are "a set of techniques and activities designed to help children reach these outcomes:

  • increased caregiver/parent and child interaction
  • increased social interaction of children with autism
  • improved social-emotional development of children with autism
  • improved autism-related diagnostic category/symptoms including behavioral compliance."

More information is available on the PLAY Project's website.


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©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Indifference & lack of empathy as a toddler may lead to antisocial behaviour later

Credit:  Mindaugus Danys on Flickr
Preschool children whose behavior is inconsiderate and apathetic are at risk for later behavioral problems, according to researchers from the University of Michigan.  Young children who show a lot of oppositional behavior, ADHD like behavior or "callous and unemotional behavior" are most likely to display this behavior at the beginning of primary school.

If this type of behavior goes unchecked, the child may become aggressive or violent as an adult. "Adults who are aggressive or violent have often shown early-starting behavior problems as young children, said Rebecca Waller, the study's lead author. Thus, a focus on understanding the emergence and development of behavior problems before they become severe is important for creating new treatments that could help prevent children following a lifetime of violence or crime."

This antisocial behavior can be corrected with appropriate interventions.  "The good news is that we know from other work that early interventions are very successful and helpful with early child behavior problems," said Luke Hyde, the study's co-author. "If parents or teachers are concerned about a child's behavior, they should seek out a mental health provider such as a clinical psychologist, who is trained in a treatment called Parent Management Training. This treatment is very effective and can help a child learn better behavior, particularly early in childhood."

The study "Differential associations of early callous-unemotional, oppositional, and ADHD behaviors: multiple domains within early-starting conduct problems?" is published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Increased risk of hip fractures in children with autism

Credit: By Mikael Häggström via Wikimedia Commons
People with autism are at a higher risk of getting a hip fracture than people without the disorder, according to new research presented at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) 2014. 

This risk is three times higher in males with autism between the ages of 3 and 22. In addition, adult women with autism are at a higher risk of fractures in their spine and upper extremities.

"A higher risk for fracture, particularly for fractures associated with significant morbidity, such as hip and spine fracture, is concerning in this population, given difficulties expressing pain, sitting still, and cooperating with the intense rehabilitative therapies after surgery," co-author Madhusmita Misra, MD, MPH said.

Credit: Juanitosaur via Wikimedia Commons
This research is consistent with an earlier study linking autism and low bone mineral density.  Researchers are also investigating the role parts of the central nervous system, such as the cerebral cortex, play in the regulation of bone metabolism. 

“Both children and adults with ASD are at increased risk for hip fracture, and women with ASD are also at risk for fractures of the upper extremity and spine,” Misra told Endocrine Today. “We are still in the process of determining the factors that contribute to this increase in fracture risk. However, until these determinants are known, it is important to optimize weight-bearing activities, as well as calcium and vitamin D intake in this population.” 

"Brief Report: Bone Fractures in Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders" is published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action