This year, as every year, there was plenty of autism news. There were, of course, big headline stories about vaccines and the celebrities and researchers who believe (or don't believe) in an autism-vaccine connection. There were media events and media depictions of autism. There were research findings. And there were a couple of sad losses to the autism community. These are my top picks for the year, in reverse chronological order (and not in order of importance).
Following nine vaccines in one day, young Hannah Poling (then a toddler) developed a set of severe symptoms which, in the long run, led to an autism spectrum diagnosis. In 2002, the Polings filed suit for damages in the Federal Vaccine Court, and two years ago the court determined that Hannah was, indeed, vaccine injured.
Today, we know how much the court finally offered in their settlement. According to CBS news, a lump sum of over $1.5 million will be paid out to cover the costs of pain and suffering and lost income.
For years, the autism community has insisted that sensory dysfunction is a symptom of autism. Now, a new study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine is the first to actually show the differences in sensory integration in the brain.
A new study suggests that antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft, often prescribed to children and adults with autism, are ineffective in managing autistic symptoms.
Dr. Ivar Lovaas, a clinical psychologist, passed away yesterday. Lovaas was best known for his work in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a treatment method based on the principles of behaviorism. Over the years, ABA has become the medically approved "gold standard" for autism treatment.
This summer, we read about OSR1, an autism-related product which was removed from the market by the FDA. Was it merely a gentle antioxidant which could, potentially, help kids with autism by decreasing free radicals? Was it a drug which has no potential impact on autism at all? Or was it a powerful and risky chelating drug?
Nature published a research study conducted by a huge collection of geneticists at institutions around the US and UK. The group analyzed the genome-wide characteristics of nearly 1,000 individuals with autism, and discovered an array of inherited and genetic differences which are more common among people with autism than among the general population.
BBC News, USA Today, and various other major publications announced that Andrew Wakefield had been "struck off the medical register" by the UK's General Medical Council. Wakefield is the doctor whose research first sparked the controversial theory of a link between autism and the MMR vaccine - and Wakefield remains at the center of ongoing (and vitriolic) clashes within the autism community. This event followed a retraction of Wakefield's controversial research paper by the prestigious British medical Journal "The Lancet."
Vaccine Wars, a Frontline news event, fanned the flames of vaccine controversy. In The Vaccine War, "FRONTLINE lays bare the science of vaccine safety and examines the increasingly bitter debate between the public health establishment and a formidable populist coalition of parents, celebrities, politicians and activists who are armed with the latest social media tools -- including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter -- and are determined to resist pressure from the medical and public health establishments to vaccinate, despite established scientific consensus about vaccine safety."