For years, actress Jenny McCarthy spoke publicly about her belief that routine vaccinations
were responsible for her son’s diagnosis of autism in 2005. Now she is backing away from her stance as it appears that her child, Evan, actually suffers from a condition known as Landau–Kleffner syndrome, which is a rare childhood disorder that can manifest in speech impairment and neurological damage.
Thankfully, Evan has made considerable progress. He can now talk, make eye contact, and is developing social skills where before these things didn’t exist for him. And though Ms. McCarthy has reversed her initial position that the MMR shots were responsible for Evan’s autism, she continues to push for more research on the safety and necessity of routine vaccinations. She emphatically states she will continue to be the voice of autism.Hopeful news for children afflicted with autism.
Jenny McCarthy may be able to lend her voice to some good news soon. Scientists state they may have uncovered the path that could lead to the development of drugs that could effectively treat autism. As of now, there are no effective drugs for the disorder (although there are some alternative treatments
that have been promising).
By mutating a single gene, researchers were able to produce mice that have two of the most common autism traits–compulsive repetitive behavior and the avoidance of social interaction. Mutating this single gene – called the shank3 gene - resulted in mice that have impaired communication between brain cells. This same gene has been implicated in human autism. Common signs of autism.
While there are many indicators of autism
the hallmark feature is impaired social interaction. As an infant, the baby may exhibit a lack of response to people or he may intently focus on one item for long periods of time. Children with autism often avoid eye contact and fail to respond when they hear their name called. Because they can’t interpret social cues such as facial expressions and tone of voice, autistic children have a hard time interpreting what others are thinking and feeling so they appear to lack empathy.
Repetitive movements such as rocking and twirling or engaging in self-abuse such as biting or head banging is common. Many times afflicted children speak later than others and they refer to themselves by their name instead of “I” or “me.” Playing with other children is almost impossible for them and they care very little for the interests of other people.
Guoping Feng, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, has stated, “We now have a very robust model with a known cause for autistic-like behaviors. We can figure out the neural circuits responsible for these behaviors, which could lead to novel targets for treatment.”
These new findings are significant in that these genetically altered mice will provide a way to gauge the success of experimental autism drugs before they are tested in humans. While scientists acknowledge that animal research doesn’t always result in beneficial treatments for humans, they are hopeful they will finally find an effective way to help treat autism.