Autism: Antibodies carried by Mother Linked

Image Courtesy of UC Davis MIND Institute
Image Courtesy of UC Davis MIND Institute

Autism awareness is one of the most well-known platforms in the world. A day is dedicated in early April for World Autism Awareness Day. This year, over 90 countries participated in the Light It Up Blue campaign where prominent landmarks were bathed in blue light to show support, unity, and awareness. Approximately 1 in 88 children in the United States alone are affected by autism.

Autism is one disorder that falls into a group of disorders. Up until recently, autistic disorder fell under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders, which also included Asperger’s disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. The authority on how autism is classified is the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  In 2013, changes to the DSM-5 regarding autism have taken effect. In the DSM-5, the three independent diagnoses of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified have been merged under the name Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), making the previous group title Pervasive Developmental Disorders obsolete. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a term that has been used by physicians and the community to describe an individual with autism.

Image Courtesy of Fox News
Image Courtesy of Fox News

The cause of autism has been the topic of debate for many years. In the 1990s and early 2000s, vaccines were thought to be a cause but have since been disproved via numerous studies as quoted by the CDC. In 2008, an immunologist, Dr. Judy Van de Water from the University of California, Davis, discovered a group of auto-antibodies in mothers of autistic children. Recently, her team identified six proteins that these antibodies bind to, rendering inappropriate brain development. Dr. Van de Water’s recent study has shown there is a link between maternal antibodies and autism, known as maternal autoantibody-related (MAR) autism.

The study consisted of 395 mothers, 246 moms of children diagnosed on the spectrum and 149 moms of typically developing children. Twenty three percent of the 246 moms tested positive for antibodies that recognized two or more of the proteins that directly affect brain growth. Only 1 percent of the 149 moms of typically developing children tested positive for the antibodies. It is known that maternal antibodies transfer to a fetus and maternal IgG can be detected in fetal circulation at 13 weeks of gestation in humans. During early brain development, the blood-brain barrier is not fully established, allowing the auto-antibodies that attack fetal brain proteins to cross over. This study has shown a high specificity for the risk of autism of children born to mothers who carry these antibodies.

Image Courtesy of Google Images
Image Courtesy of Google Images

Currently, there is no way to control the production of these antibodies in mothers; however, Dr. Van de Water’s team is hopeful that their discovery will lead to a test that can predict a child’s risk of developing Autism Spectrum Disorder if it is suspected, allowing for early intervention; and a mother can be tested before becoming pregnant to asses her chance of having children with autism. If she tests positive, this new information may lead to a block for the antibodies.

There is no cure for autism but this newest study brings hope that one day the prevalence of autism will decrease and treatments will evolve to prevent the disorder from being passed on.

Miss You Can Do It Pageant

Image Courtesy of Miss You Can Do it Pageant
Image Courtesy of Miss You Can Do it Pageant

You don’t always expect to find much on a hog farm besides the usual tractors and mud and the animals.

Born on a hog farm in Davenport, Iowa, Abbey Curran spent more time with sheep than she did playing with the Barbie dolls as young girls normally do. Her clothing choices leaned more towards jeans and her parents never cut her much slack when it came to chores, the life of a typical farm girl. But for Abbey Curran, life was made a little bit more difficult when she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of two.

Despite her disability Abbey Curran was determined to succeed, and it was this determination that helped her become Miss Iowa in 2008, and to go on to compete for the title of Miss USA. As a woman with a disability Abbey Curran understood the difficulties young girls with special needs and disabilities faced, and she wanted to give them the opportunity to participate in pageants just like she had. The Miss You Can Do It Pageant was born.

Image Courtesy of Miss You Can Do it PageantGirls, and people in general for that matter, who are born with disabilities often have a hard time participating in normal activities sometimes. They don’t have the same opportunities as those without disabilities. The Miss You Can Do It Pageant allows girls age 5-25, with special needs and challenges, a chance to participate in a pageant. The pageant takes place in Kewanee, Illinois, and attracts girls from all over the US. Contestants can enter online at missyoucandoit.com until July 1st, where the first 50 to sign up and submit a money order and their photo, have their spot secured for the contest. The girls are given a real competition where they compete in casual wear, evening gown, and interview segments.

Image Courtesy of Miss You Can Do it Pageant
Image Courtesy of Miss You Can Do it Pageant

The pageant drew the attention of Ron Davis, who created a documentary that follows thelives of several girls as they prepare for the pageant. The documentary airs throughout July on HBO Family East and West and is available On Demand. This year the Miss You Can Do It Pageant celebrates its 10th Anniversary, and takes places on Saturday, July 27th at 5:30 pm.

You can find the show on HBO on:

Wed. Jul. 24, 11:30PM ET                        HBO Family East

Thu. Jul. 25, 2:30AM ET                     HBO Family West

7:30AM ET                   HBO2 East

10:40AM ET                       HBO2 West

Sat. Jul. 27, 8:25AM ET                             HBO2 East

11:25AM ET                        HBO2 West

Sources:

http://tv.nytimes.com/2013/06/24/arts/television/miss-you-can-do-it-showcases-challenged-girls.html?_r=0

http://www.glamour.com/inspired/blogs/the-conversation/2013/06/miss-you-can-do-it-founder-abb.html

http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20196230,00.html

 

 

 

The Miracle League: Bringing Baseball to Children and Young Adults with Disabilities in Your Community

Image Courtesy of Miracle League
Image Courtesy of Miracle League

One of America’s favorite pastimes is baseball. The Miracle League brings the sport to children and young adults who have disabilities. The idea for the Miracle League came about in 1997 when Coach Eddie Bagwell invited his team member’s sibling, who had a disability, to play on their team. The ball kept rolling in 1998 and the Coach continued to invite children with disabilities to play baseball. The first year produced 35 players. By 1999, the team expanded to more than 50 players. It was during this baseball season that the team knew they had something special and had to continue to grow; there was a need to open the door to other disabled children to participate in team sports. The Miracle League was formed and in April 2000, a fully accessible, custom-designed sports complex was open for business.

Image Courtesy of Miracle League
Image Courtesy of Miracle League

The complex was funded by a non-profit, the Rotary Miracle League Fund, Inc., whose objectives are to raise funds to build accessible complexes and to help bring Miracle Leagues across the country. The Miracle League was the first of its kind so it created a model of its own. The kids can wear uniforms, every player bats once an inning, players are safe on bases, all players score runs before the inning is over, and each team and player wins every game. The community comes together as “buddies” to assist players.

Image Courtesy of Miracle League
Image Courtesy of Miracle League

Since 2002, the popularity of the Miracle League caught the eye of local and national media attention. They were featured in local papers and television networks such as NBC, ABC, FOX, and other Atlanta affiliates. Nationally the Miracle League was featured on CNN, MSNBC, Fox Sports, and HBO’s Real Sports. Editorial pieces include People, Family Circle, Rotary International magazines, Paula Deen, TIME, Sports Illustrated, among others. The Miracle League also won many awards including the prestigious Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award and being inducted into The Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

There are 250 Miracle League Organizations across the country including Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia. To find out if a league already exists in your community or to start a league, contact Diane Alford Diane@miracleleague.com or Stephanie Davis Stephanie@miracleleague.com at the Miracle League World Headquarters located in Georgia, office 770-760-1933.

Image Courtesy of Miracle League
Image Courtesy of Miracle League

This is no ordinary league; they do extraordinary things.