Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Sounding the Alarm: Battling the Autism Epidemic" documents the increase in reported cases, medical research into causes

The one hour documentary “Sounding the Alarm: Battling the Autism Epidemic”, directed by John Block, presents several families and is often difficult to watch.  There is one kid with both Down Syndrome and autism.  Another has OCD, and though quite developed physically, is actually hard to control.

Much of the early material comes from Bob Wright, of Autism Speaks (link ).  There is a typical history of a little boy, Christian, who loses his communications skills suddenly over a 4-month period between ages 1 and 2.
A family in South Carolina moves to Indiana, where grants for treatment, which costs about $2400 a month, are more available.
The percentage of children (boys outnumbering girls 4 to 1) has diagnosed with autism has risen sharply since the 1970s, and the obvious question is whether this is the result of better reporting, or whether it is really increasing.
The causes seemed to quite varied, and genetics may play only a minor role (which we already saw in earlier films about ALS).  One factor could be that parents have children when the parents are biologically older.  Researchers at the Martinos Imaging Center at MIT point to inflammation of cells in the brain, and the possibility of fetal antibodies from the mother, which might be possible to treat.
The film covers the issue of “aging out”, and how autistic teens will be placed as adults.  Some live in group homes. According to the film, about 60% become employed.  The film presents a carwash owner in Florida employing autistic young men as attendants.  Some seem to likely the regularity and repetitive jobs.

The film has a brief excerpt from "Rain Man" (1988), with Dustin Hoffman.  

The film doesn’t cover Asperger syndrome and the controversy about placing it within the autism spectrum.  Some people have said that I am in that spectrum.  I worked for 30-plus years as an individual contributor in information technology and was quite stable economically, compared to many people.  But I tend to shun many relationships and personal manipulations that others want.  As a blogger and columnist now, I produce a lot of content which has the potential to influence or affect people when I don’t have a real personal stake in others now.

I’m quite struck by the potential personal aspect of disability.  When I worked as a substitute teacher in the mid 2000’s, I twice was unexpectedly put into situations with people with a wide range of severe disabilities, some of the autism but mixed with other problems, probably wrongfully, in special education.

Autism could strike any family.  What if I had indeed married and had children?  I might have had a slightly greater risk than average of having an autistic son. 

One good question would be whether music therapy could help with autism, as it has for elderly people with dementia. 

I couldn’t find an official site (Virgil Films) but here is a review from the Autism Women’s Network, link with valuable comments.

The film could be compared to CNN's "Autism Is a World" (2004), which traces the experiences of a female actually in college.  

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