Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011–2012

23 03 2013

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Health Resources and Services Administration released a report titled “Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011–2012”. The report presents data on the prevalence of diagnosed autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as reported by parents of school-aged children ages 6–17 years in 2011–2012. Data was drawn from the 2007 and 2011–2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, which comprises independent, nationally representative telephone surveys of households with children.

Last year, the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network estimated that 1 in 88 children had been identified with ASD. The CDC now estimates that in 2011–2012, about 1 in 50 school-aged children, or 2 percent of children ages 6–17 years have some form of the disorder. Since the average school bus holds 50–55 children, that means, statistically speaking, on average there is one child with parent-reported ASD on every school bus in America.

Click HERE for the full report.

Happy holidays!

 





Brain Awareness Month by NIMH Director

12 03 2013

This is the time of March Madness, Daylight Savings Time, and what Emily Dickinson famously called the “month of expectation.” March is also Brain Awareness Month, an annual celebration with school visits, community lectures, and lab tours to introduce the public to the mind-blowing world of neuroscience. A list of Brain Awareness events can be found at http://www.dana.org/brainweek where you will also find that March 10 -16 is the peak for related public events around the world.

Since NIMH began focusing on mental disorders as brain disorders nearly two decades ago, educating people about the brain has been a priority for us.1 We often say that with the powerful tools of neuroscience, we can now use the brain to understand the mind, fulfilling the original vision that Freud had for a scientific psychology. But we have to remain humble about our understanding of the brain, because even our most powerful tools remain pretty blunt instruments for decoding the brain. In fact, we still do not know how to decipher the basic language of how the brain works.

A few numbers can help to define the challenge. The human brain is thought to have close to 86 billion neurons, each making on average about 10,000 connections. In contrast to most animals, our brains are largely made up of a heavily folded cortex, accounting for 80 percent of brain mass and about 100,000 miles of axons that provide the highways between neurons.2

How many different kinds of neurons are there in the brain? We really don’t know. Unlike the heart or kidney, which have a small, defined set of cell types, we still do not have a taxonomy of neurons and neuroscientists still argue about whether specific types of neurons are unique to humans. But there is no argument that neurons are only about 10 percent of the cells in the human brain. Most of our brain cells are glial cells, once thought to be mere support cells but now understood as having a critical role in brain function. Glial cells in the human brain are markedly different from glial cells in other brains, suggesting that they may be important in the evolution of brain function. As one hint to their function, an NIMH-supported study reported last week that human glial cells (but not mouse glial cells) transplanted into the mouse brain improve memory.3

How does the brain work? Again, we really don’t know. We have a very detailed understanding of how the heart pumps and the kidney filters, but how the brain encodes, stores, and retrieves information is still largely a mystery. We have known for over a century that most of the cortex is organized horizontally into six precise layers and much of the cortex has vertical mini-columns, but how this matrix of horizontal and vertical structures computes information is not really clear.

Neuroscientists talk a lot about brain circuits. In fact, the word “circuit” is probably misleading. We do not know where most circuits begin and end. And unlike an electrical circuit, brain connections are heavily reciprocal and recursive, so that a direction of information flow can be inferred but sometimes not proven. We believe there are “emergent properties” of the brain that convert electrical signals into memories or dreams, but how this happens is still a mystery. Recent studies have shown that diffuse waves of synchronization across the brain may be critical for attention or learning, but we are just learning about these slow waves of activity, and whether they occur at the “speed of thought” is still debated.4

Of course, the spectacular images from MRI and PET scans have already given us maps for perception and fear and language and many other functions. As scanners have improved their resolution from 1.5T (tesla) to 3T to recent 7T magnets and the protocols and analytic approaches have evolved, we now can map the cortical real estate associated with complex tasks like decision-making and face recognition. But these approaches even with the best current technology are still a 30,000 foot view of the action. Jay Giedd here at NIMH estimates that each gray matter voxel – the individual 3D pixels of 1 cubic mm that make up the scan – contains about 90,000 neurons, 400 meters of dendrites, and 4.5 million synapses. Each scan has over 650,000 voxels. And the actual measure is not neural activity per se but local blood flow, which changes slowly relative to the speed of thought.

In a sense, functional MRI is providing an image of something like the power grid of a city. fMRI slowly maps where and when different parts of the brain wake up, based on blood oxygen metabolism. By contrast, the street map of the brain is being mapped by the Human Connectome Project. Supported by the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, scientists working across the country are building something like a Google map for the human brain. In the first two years of the Human Connectome Project, scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital have created new MRI scanners with greatly enhanced resolution for looking at the geometric structure of the human brain.5 One remarkable claim from that work (still controversial) is that the fiber connections which heretofore looked like a bowl of spaghetti might actually have a relatively simple grid structure, allowing comparisons of connectomes between people. This kind of comparison is already underway at Washington University where the connectome group is obtaining the wiring diagrams of 1200 healthy adults, including 300 twin pairs. Last week, data from the first 68 volunteers were released on the Connectome website.

Whether March for you means basketball, changing clocks, or expectations, I hope you will check out some of the Brain Awareness events. Brain science has become one of the most exciting frontiers of science. When I was a kid, the scientific frontier was “outer space.” Today it seems to be “inner space” that fascinates the boldest and brightest young minds (or should we say young brains). We are still at the beginning of what could be an era of brain exploration, with great promise for understanding more about how each of us thinks and dreams and loves, but perhaps even greater promise for helping people with mental disorders.

References

 1 Insel T. Mental disorders as brain disorders. TEDxCaltech talk 18 January 2013. California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.

 2 Lent R, Azevedo FA, Andrade-Moraes CH, Pinto AV. How many neurons do you have? Some dogmas of quantitative neuroscience under revision. Eur J Neurosci. 2012 Jan; 35(1):1-9. doi: 10.1111/ j.1460-9568. 2011. 07923.x.

 3 Han X et al. Forebrain engraftment by human glial progenitor cells enhances synaptic plasticity and learning in adult mice. Cell Stem Cell. 2013 Mar 7; 12: 342-353. doi: 10.1016/ j.stem. 2012. 12.015.

 4 Salazar RF, Dotson NM, Bressler SL, Gray CM. Content-specific fronto-parietal synchronization during visual working memory. Science. 2012 Nov 23; 338(6110): 109-100. doi: 10.1126/ science.1224000.

 5 Wedeen VJ et al. The geometric structure of the brain fiber pathways. Science. 2012 Mar 30; 335(6076): 1628-34. doi: 10.1126/ science. 1215280.





News about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

1 03 2013

The United Nations Enable Newsletter is prepared by the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (DSPD/DESA) with input from UN offices, agencies, funds and programmes, as well as from civil society organizations, including organizations of persons with disabilities. I hope that you will find it interesting and helpful.

High-level Meeting on disability and development (23 September 2013)
The High-level meeting of the General Assembly on disability and development (HLMDD:http://www.un.org/hlmdd2013) is expected to take place at the level of the Heads of States on 23 September, this year. Prior to the meeting, a draft text of the outcome document will be produced by the President of the General Assembly in consultation with Member States, along with input from organizations of persons with disabilities and other relevant stakeholders, through online discussions and informal consultations. Toward this end, DESA, in partnership with UNICEF will conduct online consultations under the existing platform of the World We Want 2015 from 8-28 March. (http://www.worldwewant2015.org)

Commission for Social Development concludes its session
The 51st session of the Commission for Social Development (CSOCD) met in New York from 6 to 15 February under the theme: “Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all”. Two reports were presented to the Commission at this sessions: “Report of the Secretary General on Mainstreaming Disability in the Development Agenda” (E/CN.5/2013/9) and “Report of the Special Rapporteur to the 51st Session of the Commission for Social Development: Monitoring of the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities” (E/CN.5/2013/10). The Special Rapporteur on Disability, Shuaib Chalklen, also presented his statement to the Commission. (http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=48&pid=38)

Panel discussion on a post-2015 development framework
A panel discussion was organized by DESA in collaboration with the UN Regional Commissions on 12 February, as a side-event to the above session of the Commission. The event entitled: “Toward a disability-inclusive post-2015 development framework: Regional perspectives” was organized with a view to generate input to the outcome document for the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on disability and development to be held on 23 September, this year. Focusing on the role of UN Regional Commissions, the discussion highlighted current efforts to integrate existing international instruments on disability in regional and national policies and frameworks on development. (http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?navid=48&pid=38)

New Enable webpage on Indigenous persons with disabilities
DESA has prepared a new web page to draw attention to issues related to indigenous persons with disabilities. While no global data exists regarding indigenous persons with disabilities, available statistics show that indigenous peoples are disproportionately likely to experience disability in comparison to the general population. Indigenous persons with disabilities often experience multiple discrimination and face barriers based on their indigenous status, as well as their disability. The international community has also recognized that special measures are required to protect the rights of the world’s indigenous peoples. This web page will continue to develop as a hub of news, resources and links related to indigenous persons with disabilities. (http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1605)

My World: The United Nations global survey
Make the voices of persons with disabilities heard… LOUD!
Vote for the changes that would make the most difference to your world! MY World is a United Nations global survey asking you to choose your priorities for a better world. There are 16 priority areas in the survey, plus one more for you to decide, which can be made disability-specific. For example: Freedom to make my own decisions; Being included in the community by removing architectural and attitudinal barriers; Including persons with disabilities in all development plans, programs and activities. You decide! Forward, translate and send this around the world!Results will be shared with world leaders in setting the next global development agenda. Tell them about the world you want, because your voice matters!
Vote at: http://enable.myworld2015.org

HRC – Work and employment of persons with disabilities
The fifth interactive debate of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on the rights of persons with disabilities will take place on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 in Geneva, focusing on the issue of work and employment of persons with disabilities. The debate will bring together experts in the field of promoting employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, including: representatives of a organization of persons with disabilities (DPO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the private sector, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and a social entrepreneur. Presentations by panelists will be followed by an interactive discussion among Human Rights Council Member States and observers. The debate will seek to identify good practices in promoting employment opportunities for persons with disabilities in both public- and private-sector workplaces. It will also contribute to raising awareness of the challenges that persons with disabilities continue to face in employment, and to highlight the measures that States and employers can take with a view to ensuring that persons with disabilities enjoy access to, retention of and advancement in employment on an equal basis with others. The panel and its web cast will be made accessible to persons with disabilities through real time captioning and sign language interpretation. (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/Pages/Workandemploymentofpersonswithdisabilities.aspx). As requested by the HRC, OHCHR has also prepared a thematic study on the work and employment of persons with disabilities (A/HRC/22/25). (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/Pages/ThematicStudies.aspx)

HRC – Side-event on Inclusive Education
As a side-event to the 22nd session of the HRC, UNICEF and the Permanent Missions of Finland and Spain will co-organize a side-event titled: Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities: Examples from Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS region, on 1 March, in Geneva, Switzerland. Speakers include: H. E. Mr. Zarko Obradovic, Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development of Serbia; H. E. Mr. Pance Kralev, Minister of Education and Science of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; H. E. Ms. Vesna Vucurovic, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports of Montenegro; Ms. Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director; and Mr. J Patrick Clarke, Chief Executive Officer of Down Syndrome Ireland, representing the International Disability Alliance.

OHCHR – General Discussion on women and girls with disabilities
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will hold a half Day of General Discussion on Women and Girls with Disabilities on Wednesday, 17 April 2013. Women and girls with disabilities experience multiple forms of discrimination, which hinder their meaningful participation on an equal basis with others in all spheres of life. The Committee has invited persons with disabilities and their representative organizations to submit their inputs to the Committee. (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/CRPDIndex.aspx)

WHO – JPMH Mental health and human rights: Call for papers
The Journal of Public Mental Health (JPMH) announces a call for papers for a special issue on mental health and human rights, to be published in 2013. Accepted contributions include original research papers, systematic reviews, policy analyses and case studies. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse launched the QualityRights (QR) Project, which aims to improve the quality and human rights conditions in mental health and social care facilities and empower civil society organizations to advocate for the rights of people with mental and psychosocial disabilities. This call for papers aims to inform the core objectives of QualityRights. JPMH hopes to attract papers from academics, practitioners and activists in resource-scarce countries. Papers submitted for this special edition should be marked with “QualityRights” in the title. The manuscript selection process will follow the Journal’s peer-review procedures. Submit articles to http://emeraldinsight.com/products/journals/journals.htm?id=jpmh before 1 June 2013.  Informal enquiries to: Leeknifton@gmail.com. Information on WHO’s QualityRights Toolkit is available at: http://www.who.int/mental_health/publications/QualityRights_toolkit/en/index.html.

World Bank – Disability & Development training course
The World Bank’s core course on Disability & Development aims to provide participants with an in-depth understanding of the conceptual and practical issues involved in the development and implementation of inclusive economic and social policies that are relevant for persons with disabilities. The course aims to help increase knowledge on disability, its social and economic relevance and development policies and programs responsive to the needs of persons with disabilities; increase understanding of the main issues involved in the process of including disability into development to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to all mainstream policies and services and to eliminate “disability disadvantage”. Deadline for registration: Friday, 1 March 2013. (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/disability2013http://www.worldbank.org/disability/corecourse)

UPCOMING EVENTS
(Send us information on major international disability events for possible inclusion in the list below)

27 February to 1 March: Seminar on Indigenous peoples
The “International Expert Seminar on Access to Justice for Indigenous Peoples including Truth and Reconciliation processes” held at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, New York, will contribute to the work of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Agenda Item 12 of the seminar covers: “Indigenous Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities and Access to Justice”. (http://hrcolumbia.org/indigenous/seminar)

11 March: ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival at UN HQ
The Permanent Mission of Sweden will sponsor the screening of the film: “The Importance of Tying Your Own Shoes” at UN Headquarters in New York. Film synopsis: When Alex gets a job as the leader of a local theater group for persons with disabilities, his outlook on life begins to change. Through the theater group’s work, Alex comes to appreciate that every person has his or own talents, which can grow if given the opportunity and support. (Lena Koppel / 100 min.) The event is being organized by ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival, the UN Department of Public Information (UNDPI) and DESA.  (http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/idpd/reelabilities_11march2013_un.doc)

4 to 15 March: Commission on the Status of Women, 55th session
The fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at UN Headquarters under the priority theme: “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.” The review theme chosen is “the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS (agreed conclusions from the fifty-third session). (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/57sess.htm)

21 March: World Down Syndrome Day
In 2011, the General Assembly declared 21 March as World Down Syndrome Day (A/RES/66/149). This year at the United Nations the World Down Syndrome Conference 2013 will be organized at UN Headquarters in New York on 21 March, under the theme “The Right to Work”. This year’s Conference will focus on the rights of persons with Down syndrome to work in open, inclusive and accessible environments. It will help raise awareness on the importance of promoting early development and education, proper medical care, and providing for independent living in communities. The multi-stakeholder event will be organized in collaboration with Down Syndrome International, the Missions of Australia, Brazil, Poland, India, DESA and other partners. (http://www.un.org/en/events/downsyndromeday;  http://www.worlddownsyndromeday.org)

2 April: World Autism Awareness Day
The United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day (A/RES/62/139) to highlight the need to help improve the lives of children and adults who suffer from the disorder so they can lead full and meaningful lives. (http://www.un.org/en/events/autismday/)

17 April: General Discussion on women and girls with disabilities
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will hold a half Day of General Discussion on Women and Girls with Disabilities. (see OHCHR above)

29 to 30 April: 29th Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity
The theme for the 29th Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity: “Being in Community”, embraces the ideals of all people living together harmoniously and happily in a barrier-free world without fear of exclusion from social, economic or political life. (http://www.pacrim.hawaii.edu)

20 to 31 May: 12th session, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
The session will be held at UN Headquarters, New York and include a review year of the Forum. (http://social.un.org/index/IndigenousPeoples/UNPFIISessions/Twelfth.aspx)

6 to 7 June: M-Enabling Summit 2013
The second M-Enabling Summit 2013: Global Summit on Accessible Mobile Technology for Senior Citizens and Users of All Abilities is organized by the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict) and E.J. Krause and Associates (EJK) in cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), ensuring substantial participation for leading international mobile service providers, policy makers, apps developers and manufacturers. (http://www.m-enabling.com)

27 to 28 June: Symposium on Disability, Technology and Rehabilitation in Low and Middle Income Countries
The Symposium to be held at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, will focus on improving and increasing access to technology and rehabilitation products and services with the goal of ensuring full inclusion and participation for persons with disabilities in low-resourced communities in low and middle income countries.  The keynote speaker will be Chapal Khasnabis, Disability and Rehabilitation Team, World Health Organization. (http://idtr.uwctds.washington.edu/workshops/2013)

2 to 3 July: Include 2013: Global Challenges and Local Solutions in Inclusive Design
The event will be organised by the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Hong Kong Design Centre and the School of Design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. (www.hhc.rca.ac.uk/4989/all/1/include-2013.aspx)

2 to 13 September: 10th session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
(Details forthcoming)

9 to 11 September: 6th International Urban Design Conference
The Conference will be held at the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park.  The conference “UrbanAgiNation” urbanisation | agitation | imagination will examine the future Density and Infrastructure requirements in cities. The call for abstracts is now open. (http://urbandesignaustralia.com.au)

23 September: High-level meeting on disability and development
(See item above).

16 to 18 October: 2nd International Conference of the WFD
The 2nd Conference of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) will be held in Sydney, Australia under the theme: “Equality for Deaf People”. (www.wfdsydney2013.com)

3 December: International Day of Persons with Disabilities
The details and theme for 2013 are forthcoming.
(http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=111)

OTHER NEWS
(DISCLAIMER: The information below is provided by civil society organizations and others for informational purposes only. This does not constitute endorsement of, or an approval by, the United Nations of any of the products, services, or opinions of the organization or individual. The United Nations bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of their statements and opinions.)

New “COMPASS” on Human Rights Education
The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Education Manual “COMPASS”, a new, revised version now includes “Disability and Disablism” as a theme, as well as a 10-page background text on the topic produced through a multi-stakeholder partnership of the CoE, UN, European Disability Forum, IFHOHYP and other DPOs. COMPASS also includes training activities on disability and disability rights. (http://eycb.coe.int/compass/download_en.html)

Ibero-American Year for Workplace Inclusion of Persons with Disability
The XXII Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Governments held in Cadiz in November 2013 agreed to declare the year 2013 as the “Ibero-American Year for Workplace Inclusion of Persons with Disability”. This idea first came from an agreement initially signed by the Vice-presidency of Ecuador, the Employment Ministers Iberoamerica, the Ibero-American Secretariat (SEGIB) and the Ibero-American Social Security Organization (OISS). To support their proposal to the Ibero-American Summit, SEGIB and OISS presented the results of a study, which described the situation of persons with disability in Iberoamerica and the barriers they face to access the labour market (http://segib.org/es/node/4788http://segib.org/cumbres/files/2012/03/11-COMESP-INCLUSION-DISCAPACIDAD-ESP.pdf)

Funding opportunities for disability policy scholars  
The Center for Studying Disability Policy (CSDP), through the Disability Research Consortium (DRC) and the Social Security Administration (SSA), is funding disability policy scholars.  Applications are being accepted for three grants that offer funding opportunities for graduate students and new researchers conducting disability policy research, under the Disability Policy Research Summer Scholars Program, the Disability Policy Research Dissertation Scholars Program, and the Disability Policy Research Emerging Investigator Award Program. Deadline: 8 March 2013. (http://www.disabilitypolicyresearch.org/DRC/DRC_grants.asp)

Inclusion International Launches Global Report on Article 19
Inclusion International launched a new global report entitled: “Inclusive Communities = Stronger Communities”. The report confirms that most adults with intellectual disabilities live at home and do not have the support they need to live and be included in their communities. It reveals that families are the major source of support. The report highlights that transforming communities to be inclusive and ensuring that people with disabilities are included in mainstream programmes are essential for securing the rights of people with intellectual disabilities. (http://www.inclusion-international.org)

Strengthening the voices of the users and survivors of psychiatry
WNUSP, an international representative network of the voices of users and survivors of psychiatry, is working to ensure that the views and opinions of all users and survivors of psychiatry around the world are respected and upheld. Find out more about its new project “Strengthen Our Voices!” (http://www.wnusp.net)

LCD New publication on inclusive education
Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) has recently published “Inclusive Education – An Introduction”. Every child in the world has a right to education. However, children with disabilities are still disproportionately excluded from school. In an inclusive school, disabled children do not study in separate classes; all children learn together in the same classroom using materials appropriate to their various needs. This publication explores LCD’s approach to inclusive education and highlights their projects in Africa and Asia that support children with disabilities to get the education that they, and all children, deserve. (http://www.lcint.org/?lid=5136)

A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities
Women with disabilities often discover that the social stigma of disability and inadequate care are greater barriers to health than the disability, itself. This Handbook, developed with the help and experience of women with disabilities in 42 countries, can help women with disabilities overcome barriers, improve their general health, self-esteem and ability to care for themselves, as well as increase their participation in their communities.
(http://en.hesperian.org/hhg/A_Health_Handbook_for_Women_with_Disabilities)

DPI convenes meeting on youth with disabilities in India
Disabled People’s International (DPI), India, organized a 2-day National Convention for Youth with Disabilities on 7 to 8 February in New Delhi. Around 50 young students with disabilities from the top colleges and universities, including engineering, medical, law, media and design institutes, participated in this first-ever initiative. The objective of the event was to reach out to young people with disabilities and inspire the next generation leaders of, not just the Indian disability sector, but also those who would be agents of change in other fields. The Convention was inaugurated by the Government Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment. DPI has also launched its new website. (www.dpi.org)

CONTACT INFORMATION

Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD)
Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)
S-2906, United Nations, New York, NY 10017, USA.
Website: www.un.org/disabilities
Email: enable@un.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/United-Nations-Enable/196545623691523
Twitter: http://twitter.com/UN_Enable