Halloween's ghosts and goblins have been replaced by scores of candy brought home by trick or treaters. The leaves are falling and temperatures are dropping. Winter approaches, and GRASP again has several articles from the media to share with you in our newsletter. Sit back, read and learn…

In this issue:

  • Burbank resident Michael Bledstein sets his sights on a career in film production.
  • Exceptional GRASP member Charu Suri performs in New Jersey
  • Clinical research: Income has no effect on rates of autism
  • Job Market Tough for Young Adults with Autism
  • Teenage wasteland
  • New anti-bullying initiative to offer telephone hotline after school hours
  • The Happiness Project: 7 Tips to Know If You're Boring Someone
  • Research finding may aid therapy for autism
  •  Unvaccinated behind largest U.S. measles outbreak in years
  • A video tribute to mark the passing of Steve Jobs

Yvona Fast
Support Groups Manager
The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, Inc.
666 Broadway, Suite 825
New York, NY 10012


Burbank resident Michael Bledstein sets his sights on a career in film production. 

By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com


October 30 2011


Ask Michael Bledstein to name a favorite movie and he reels off his top-10 picks — in alphabetical order.

“I just love every decade and genre in cinema,” said the 27-year-old Burbank resident.

It is an uncanny ability that has served Bledstein, who has Asperger’s syndrome, well as he pursues his dream of becoming a film editor at Video Symphony, a Burbank-based production school that prepares students for careers in media and entertainment.

And it is one that he might not have shared with a stranger even just 18 months ago, before a collaborative effort by members of his support cadre to provide him with the structure and tools needed to thrive in an academic and professional setting.

“He has really blossomed here,” said Keri Giddens, a coordinator with Tierra Del Sol, a Sunland-based organization that serves special-needs clients. “Many parents of children with autism come in and they think there is nothing in this world for [their] child, or it has to be special to autism. Here, Michael has come into a place that is for the general public and he is doing wonderful.”

Bledstein’s early weeks at Video Symphony were filled with social land mines — he struggled to communicate directly with the school’s staff, relying instead on Giddens to speak on his behalf. Further, he hesitated to interact with fellow students, spending the lunch hour by himself.

Spurred by his interest in the curriculum, Bledstein stretched himself, working to improve social skills required in his chosen field. He even subjected himself to a mini-make-over, letting Giddens taking him shopping for clothes appropriate for a hip film editor, including a pair of Converse tennis shoes.

Months later, he looks as comfortable as any of the other 20-something artistic types moving through the halls of Video Symphony.

“Because he had the motivation of something he has a passion for, he has made all this positive change in his life,” Giddens said. “He will go up and talk to people, he works on social skills outside of the school. He is really phenomenal.”

Not the least of his recent accomplishments are his editing skills – last month Bledstein beat out a dozen fellow classmates to win the top prize in a video editing contest sponsored by Video Symphony and Road Angeles, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating drunk driving.

“I changed my mind about where I wanted it to go nearly everyday, even the day before it was due I threw in an introduction at the last minute,” Bledstein said.

The win was well deserved, his teachers said.

“What I noticed that is different about his cut as opposed to the other cuts is he tells more of a story, which in editing is everything,” said Kurt Mason, a Video Symphony staff member who developed the contest. “He dug into the footage a little deeper.”

Bledstein is moving closer to a completely independent lifestyle – he already has own apartment in downtown Burbank. And now he has his sights set on editing film professionally, a job suited for someone with his personality and skill set, members of his support system said.

It has been a joy to watch her son take his passion for film and transform it into a marketable skills, his mother Linda Fried said.

“I am just really glad that Michael has come a long way and that he is doing so well, it makes me really happy,” Fried said.

The complete article can be viewed at:


Travel and autism
Concert will fund trips for children and adults with special needs

by Carolina Roberts
Reporter staff writerHudson Reporter

Oct 02, 2011

When Charu Suri was a girl she had very little interaction with other children.

“I was just playing the piano for 9-10 hours a day,” she said last week.

Although she wasn’t officially diagnosed with autism while living in India, she had great difficulty understanding people and reading their cues. To this day, she struggles with these issues, including understanding emotions and sharing sympathy.

“Travel helped me in meeting more people and getting me out of my comfort zone and my shell,” said Suri, who has become a world-traveler.

Suri began playing the piano at age 5, and started giving recitals by age 9 in Chennai, India. When she was 14, she won an international piano competition, then was voted “most promising performer” five years in a row by visiting professors from the Trinity College of Music, London.


“We want to increase awareness of autism.” – Charu Suri.


Suri won a scholarship to Princeton University at age 16. She earned her master’s degree in music composition at Manhattan School of Music. Suri currently serves as musical director at Park United Methodist Church in Weehawken and also as freelance pianist for Off-Broadway musicals and concerts.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m., Suri and other world-class musicians will hold the first “Autism Benefit Concert,” an evening of classical music, to finance trips for children and adults with special needs.

The concert will be held in Weehawken, at Park United Methodist Church, 51 Clifton Terrace. “We want to increase awareness of autism, and raise funds to enable those who want to come on our trips, come for free,” said Suri.

Travel and autism

Suri and her husband have created a company called Sensory Travel Network that plans and organizes trips for autistic children and adults.

The company plans one-day and weekend trips around the tri-state area to parks, beaches, and farms. At parks, like Harriman State Park, Bear Mountain, or the Shawangunk Mountain Range, they organize hiking lessons with the rangers to observe local fauna and flora. They get close to the water, with cautious supervision.

“Water is very therapeutic,” Suri said. “Participants have complete supervision, a ratio of two to one,” she added.

At farms and petting zoos, they interact with horses and other animals and pick veggies and fruits. “Animals are very calming to autistic kids and adults,” she said. “We’ll need to be careful when encouraging them to pet the animals, because some can have extreme sensory processing difficulties, so our initial recommendation will be to just visit and see the petting zoos.”

Suri said it is good to start with small trips and not do too much too soon.

“Long trips bring discomfort and changes make them very nervous, so it has to be gradual,” she said. Participants receive detailed itineraries and photos of the precise location of activities so they can become acquainted with where they are going. “Each person should bring their own food, as most [autistic persons] have a particular diet,” said Suri. She also provides snacks and refreshments.

The trips intend to help participants socialize and make friends. They also introduce different ways of learning.

“Autism is characterized by repetition and inflexibility,” said Suri. During the trips the participants are presented with other ways of learning by hands-on experience, rather by linear learning, memorizing facts, and repeating words from textbooks.

The performers

Suri will be one of the performers at the benefit. Other performers run the gamut of musical disciplines. Erika Dyer, mezzo soprano, has a degree in voice performance from Boston University. Sonia Montez is a singer and guitarist who began her career at age 6 at “El Coro de los Niños de San Juan.” Sun Young is an autism music therapist who earned her bachelor’s degree in composition and her master’s degree in Music Therapy at New York University.

The Brandy String Trio will also perform. It includes Eric Cooper, cello; Pedro Vizzarro Vallejos, viola, and Audrey Lo, the violin.

“One in 110 people have autism across the United States,” Suri said. “We are doing this benefit to help them. There are a lot of residents in the area with autism. This is a way to help friends and family to raise awareness so that they know they are not alone, that we understand them, that we want to make them feel an active part of society.”

For additional information about the benefit, call (201) 867-9161. The benefit is free of charge, but donations are encouraged.

For more information about the trips, you can go to www.sensorytravelnetwork.com. For donations and volunteer opportunities, you can contact Charu Suri at (917) 825-8399

Read more: Hudson Reporter - Travel and autism Concert will fund trips for children and adults with special needs


Clinical research: Income has no effect on rates of autism

via SFARI News by Jessica Wright on 10/25/11

Equal opportunity: A Utah-based study contradicts previous reports showing that children with autism are more likely to belong to wealthy families.

A large epidemiological study in Utah that relies on tax information and health records shows that income level does not affect the odds of having a child with autism or intellectual disability. The results were published 8 September in Autism Research1.

Several studies have shown that socioeconomic factors such as parental age, income and race can affect the odds of having a child with autism. However, the significance of these results is difficult to interpret.

For example, a study published in March shows that, in Australia, children with a diagnosis of autism are more likely to belong to wealthy families than are those with intellectual disability.

This result could reflect a real difference in the prevalence of the two disorders. But it could also be because, as some studies have suggested, individuals are more likely to receive an autism diagnosis if they have better access to health services.

In the new study, researchers used data from the Utah Registry of Autism and Developmental Disabilities Program, which screened the medical records of 26,108 children born in Utah in 1994 to identify children who have autism or intellectual disability — defined as having an intelligent quotient (IQ) below 70.

Using this method, the prevalence of autism in Utah is higher than that based on data from special education programs alone: 7.5 in 1,000 compared with 3.2 in 1,0002.

The 99 children diagnosed with autism in this group are roughly four times more likely than controls to be born to white mothers, the study found. And the 113 children with intellectual disability are half as likely as controls to have mothers with more than 13 years of education.

Males are nine times more likely than females to have autism alone, and about three times more likely than females to have autism with intellectual disability, the study found. This supports previous studies showing that women diagnosed with autism tend to have more severe symptoms and lower IQs.

The researchers also looked at socioeconomic status using tax records to classify families as high- (above $33,203.47 per year), middle- or low- (below $26,500.02) income. In contrast to other reports, children with a diagnosis of autism, intellectual disability or both are no more likely than controls to belong to any one of these groups, the study found.

Changes in a family’s gross income over the first eight years of a child’s life are also not influenced by whether the child has a diagnosis of autism or intellectual disability. This result is in contrast to other studies that have suggested that a diagnosis of autism is a severe financial burden.

The population approach makes it less likely that the findings are the result of discrepancies in access to health services or special education programs, the researchers say. A downside of the screening method is that diagnosis is based on medical records, and not on direct interaction with the children and families, however.


1: Pinborough-Zimmerman J. et al. Autism Res. Epub ahead of print (2011) PubMed

2: Pinborough-Zimmerman J. et al. Matern. Child Health J. 14, 392-400 (2010) PubMed




Job Market Tough for Young Adults with Autism

…But strategies can help individuals learn job skills and prepare for the workforce

By Amanda GardnerHealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- More children are being diagnosed with autism than ever before and now many of these children are graduating from high school and entering, or at least trying to enter, the workforce.

Unfortunately, this critical crossroads is precisely the time that supportive services for this population tend to peter out.

"What we're seeing now is this group of adults with the autism diagnosis who have been more empowered and supported than ever before, but they're leaving behind the school structure and special-ed structure," said Scott Standifer, a clinical associate professor at the University of Missouri's School of Health Professions. "The system of adult disability support is very different, so they're having trouble figuring out and making that transition. The world of work is not the same as the world of school."

The result? People with autism have higher rates of unemployment and, when they do work, tend to earn less.

According to a fact sheet compiled by Standifer based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources, less than one-third of people with a disability aged 16 to 65 were working in 2010, compared with about two-thirds of people without a disability. And people with autism were only about half as likely to be working as people with disabilities in general (33 percent compared with 59 percent).

One study found that almost 40 percent of young adults with autism get no medical, mental health or case management services to help them make the transition into adulthood.

Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 110 children in the United States has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by problems with language and social interactions.

It is these communication issues that may pose the greatest obstacle for adults with autism both to find a job and to keep it, Standifer noted.

"Autism doesn't qualitatively change when you hit adulthood. You've got the same issue with reading social signals, with understanding instructions," said Standifer, whose office provides training and consultation to State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies. "We forget how important social relationships are in maintaining employment."

For instance, one of the most trying parts of the workday for an individual with autism is the lunch break and its almost mandatory socializing requirement. "There's no script. [Individuals with autism] don't know what to do," said Standifer, who organizes an annual "Autism Works" conference.

But even something as mundane as a stapler missing off a desk can also upset a person with autism, who then may not have the skills to express their frustration or confusion.

Families of people with autism as well as employers and co-workers can all help to make the employment experience a positive one for these individuals. Here are some tips:

·        Families should start preparing for their teens' transition into adulthood and the work force well in advance, perhaps even as much as two or three years before graduation. "People with autism are often so anchored in routines that it is important to have new, productive routines in place for them well before they hit graduation and leave school behind," Standifer said.

·        Find a job that matches their more general abilities and strengths. Although it's hard to generalize, people with autism often do well doing gardening, simple bookkeeping, merchandising (such as folding or organizing clothes in a department store), as well as in library and school settings, said Charles Archer, CEO of the Evelyn Douglin Center for Serving People in Need, in Brooklyn, N.Y., an organization that helps people with disabilities live independently.

·        Take advantage of local vocational rehabilitation counselors, more of whom are cropping up all over the country, Standifer said.

·        Find jobs with consistent routines. "Individuals with autism need a workplace that is structured, that's non-judgmental, that provides ongoing training and very, very strong levels of consistency either in work and/or communication," said Archer.

·        Create accessible work environments. This might include providing written instructions for a task rather than verbal ones.

More information

Autism Speaks has a transition toolkit for young adults with autism.

SOURCES: Scott Standifer, Ph.D., clinical associate professor, School of Health Professions, University of Missouri-Columbia; Charles A. Archer, CEO, Evelyn Douglin Center for Serving People in Need, Inc. (EDCSPIN), Brooklyn, N.Y.; University of Missouri, news release, Oct. 11, 2011

Copyright @2011 HealthDay. All Rights Reserved.





Teenage wasteland

via SFARI News by Deborah Rudacille on 10/11/11

Teenage years are fraught with drama under the best of circumstances. For some children with autism, they can be downright harrowing.

The self-consciousness that is the hallmark of adolescence places an exceptional burden on young people with autism, as they become aware that they are different from others their age.

According to a new study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, many respond by withdrawing socially, even as some of their core symptoms, such as repetitive behaviors, and other difficulties, such as irritability and hyperactivity, begin to improve.

The researchers followed 142 children from age 3 through early adulthood. Based on the two gold standard tests for diagnosing the disorder, they identified three groups: 65 children with classic autism, 27 with a broader autism spectrum disorder and 24 who either have a developmental disability or who were referred for autism but did not receive a diagnosis.

Parents of all 142 children filled out the Aberrant Behavior Checklist, a 58-item questionnaire that assesses the children’s puberty, medications, seizure history and maladaptive behaviors, such as anxiety, depression, aggression and hyperactivity, that are often associated with the disorder.

The parents first filled out the checklist when their children were 9 years old, then every four months between 13 and 18 years of age.

The researchers reported that between 9 and 18 years of age, children in all three groups became significantly less hyperactive, although those in the autism group showed the biggest change. They also found significant improvement in irritability among children in the autism group.

Strikingly, however, those with less severe forms of autism became markedly more socially withdrawn compared with children in either of the other two groups.

Individuals with higher intelligence quotients (IQs) in this group reported feelings of loneliness and difficulty forming friendships. Those with lower IQs showed more symptoms of depression.

In all three groups, those with the highest scores on the Aberrant Behavior Checklist at younger ages, regardless of diagnosis, continued to exhibit more maladaptive behaviors as they aged compared with their peers. Young people with lower nonverbal IQs generally showed more maladaptive behaviors.

The findings are an important reminder, the researchers say, that there is a continuing need for support services and interventions for individuals on the spectrum as they become teenagers and young adults.

Social withdrawal and loneliness are aspects of social functioning that are not typically picked up by diagnostic instruments, they point out. But they may have a considerable impact on an individual’s quality of life in adolescence and adulthood.

Teenagers are famous for retreating to their rooms. But eventually, most come out and rejoin the world. Teens with autism may need a bit more coaxing.


New anti-bullying initiative to offer telephone hotline after school hours

Service will eventually include text message and online chat assistance

October 19, 2011

A new anti-bullying campaign launched on Oct. 19 will offer students counseling by mental health professionals for incidents both inside and outside the classroom. The service will begin by offering a telephone hotline in the afternoon and evening, and next January adding assistance through text messaging and online chat.

The BRAVE (Building Respect, Acceptance, and Voice through Education) campaign is being launched by the UFT in collaboration with the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA-NYC), the New York City Council, and community groups. It will connect students with clinicians and mental health professionals who can provide supportive listening, crisis intervention, suicide risk assessments and advice on crisis de-escalation.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “Every student deserves a safe and nurturing learning environment. We joined with the City Council and the DOE to create the Respect for All program, which provides training for staff and students in resisting bullying, and manages the reporting of bullying incidents in schools. Our hotline and additional training through the BRAVE campaign will add to this by providing a place kids can turn to when school is over.”

“Bullying is a growing issue in young people’s lives, and the Mental Health Association of New York City is proud to be a partner in the BRAVE line. We are thrilled to extend our expertise to help kids manage the emotional challenges that arise from bullying and cyber-bullying by adding this innovative initiative to our family of confidential crisis services that includes LifeNet, the addiction Hopeline, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” said Giselle Stolper, President and CEO of MHA-NYC. “We look forward to working with UFT to help make the BRAVE campaign a life saving resource to the 1.1 million public schoolchildren that call this city home.”

“The City Council has long been committed to ending bullying in our schools,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “That’s why we created the Respect for All initiative in partnership with DOE in 2007, and why we held a cyber-bullying summit this summer, but there’s always more we can do. It takes a village to fight bullying and the BRAVE campaign expands training for educators and resources for students, both of which we know are effective ways to reduce bias-based harassment. It’s efforts like these that help New York City remain a national leader in bullying prevention.”

“Every day, young people are all too often subjected to the harmful effects of bullying. They see it, they hear it, and of course they fear it,” said City Council Education Committee Chairperson Robert Jackson. “I applaud UFT’s BRAVE initiative which so well complements the goals of the New York City Council’s Respect for All policy by providing a wrap-around approach to this devastating phenomenon. This initiative will make it easier for a student to have the courage to seek the help they need before it becomes too late.”

“Principals and teachers work every day to build safe and respectful school cultures and implement activities that support the Respect for All initiative,” Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott said. “The new BRAVE campaign builds on this support for anti-bullying programs.”

"I am excited to partner with the UFT, New York City Council, New York City Department of Education, Mental Health Association of New York City, and community groups, and I believe this initiative will have a positive impact by providing our school children with a needed resource in the fight against bullying. I want to commend President Michael Mulgrew and the members of the UFT for creating this initiative,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

“Serious criminal acts can result from harassing tweets or texts within and around schools,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said. “Being smart on crime means addressing cyber-bullying at its inception and providing appropriate tools to curb it. Since I took office, we have conducted nearly 60 cyber-bullying presentations in Manhattan schools for students and parents. The services provided by the UFT’s BRAVE program will enhance our crime prevention efforts by pro-actively addressing cyber-bullying in our schools.”

“I commend the UFT for taking this initiative to help victims of bullying in our schools.”

“The anti-bullying hotline will be a tremendous resource for students who are being intimidated. It will compliment the implementation of the Dignity for All Students Act, a measure my colleagues and I proudly supported. This law becomes effective next year, and it will prohibit harassment against students in school so that all of our young people can learn in a setting that is respectful, safe and free of bullying,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“To give our children the world class education they deserve we must first give them a school environment free of harassment and discrimination. The BRAVE campaign is another step forward in making our schools safer, and our students stronger and better prepared for a bright future. The Democratic Conference, guided by the passion and leadership of my close friend Senator Tom Duane, has worked tirelessly to support anti-bullying initiatives and will continue this fight until all children have a safe and respectful school environment,” said State Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson.

“As the sponsor of the Dignity for All Students Act, I enthusiastically support the UFT’s commitment to establishing and operating the anti-bullying hotline. Far too many students suffer from daily acts of intimidation, and they frequently have no one to turn to for help. Thanks to the UFT, students who are being harassed will now be able to receive professional assistance. The hotline and the Dignity for All Students Act let the victims know they matter and deserve the same level of respect and civility afforded every other member of their school’s student body. They also send the message that a school culture that tolerates bullying is unacceptable,” said Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell.

"Bullying is one of the greatest obstacles facing our students today and any effort that will help provide students with the safe environment they deserve is welcome. School should be a place where all children have the opportunity to realize their potential and I applaud the UFT for taking action to help them do so. Most importantly, I applaud everyone involved for showing those who are bullied that they are not alone," said Senator John Flanagan, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

“Bullying, whether in the schoolyard or in cyberspace, inflicts short and long-term harm and poisons the learning environment of a school. The BRAVE Campaign empowers students, teachers, and parents to fight the problem of bullying and provide support to victims,” said New York City Comptroller John C. Liu.

“As parents, my wife Chirlane and I do everything we can to keep our kids safe. But we know it takes support both inside the classroom and out to prevent bullying,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “BRAVE is a powerful initiative that lets any student know that help is never more than a phone call away. I applaud and thank the UFT for this important step in the fight to keep every child safe.”

Students can call for services in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and other languages via real-time translation. It will operate Monday through Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The phone hotline will be active beginning Oct. 19 and the online chat and text message service will launch Jan. 3, 2012.

The campaign will also hold monthly workshops for parents and school personnel in every borough, and encourage schools to develop anti-bullying programs. BRAVE will focus on topics like recognizing and preventing bullying, cyber-bullying, LGTB bullying, conflict resolution techniques, peer mediation and student communication skills.

The campaign will encourage schools to design, or enhance, their anti-bullying programs by partnering with community groups and mental health professionals and parent workshops will be held in every borough to involve local parent and community groups.

The BRAVE Campaign will be funded by a UFT grant of more than $50,000 in its first year.

Hotline: 212-709-3222
Monday through Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.



The Happiness Project

7 Tips to Know If You're Boring Someone

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness.

by Gretchen Rubin

Don’t get me started on happiness...

Published on October 6, 2011 by Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project

In a movie I love, a quirky documentary called Sherman's March, the documentary maker’s former high school teacher tells him, “As people get older, they get more like themselves. And you’re getting more boring.” I’ve never forgotten that.

Like most people, probably, I have several pet subjects that I love to talk about – subjects that are sometimes interesting to other people, and sometimes not. Don’t get me started on happiness, or the screening procedures in airports and buildings, or children’s literature, or Winston Churchill, unless you really want to talk about it. (I do manage to be very disciplined about not talking about my children too much, except with grandparents.)

I made a list of signs to look for, as indicators that I might be boring someone. Just because a person isn’t actually walking away or changing the subject doesn’t mean that that person is genuinely engaged in a conversation. One challenge is that the more socially adept a person is, the better he or she is at hiding boredom. It’s a rare person, however, who can truly look fascinated while stifling a yawn.

Here are the factors I watch, when trying to figure out if I’m connecting with someone. These are utterly unscientific – I’m sure someone has made a proper study of this, but these are just my observations (mostly from noting how I behave when I’m bored and trying to hide it):

1. Repeated, perfunctory responses. A person who says, “Oh really? Oh really? That’s interesting. Oh really?” is probably not too engaged. Or a person who keeps saying, "That's hilarious."

2. Simple questions. People who are bored ask simple questions. “When did you move?” “Where did you go?” People who are interested ask more complicated questions that show curiosity, not mere politeness.

3. Interruption. Although it sounds rude, interruption is actually a good sign, I think. It means a person is bursting to say something, and that shows interest. Similiarly…

4. Request for clarification. A person who is sincerely interested in what you’re saying will need you to elaborate or to explain. “What does that term mean?” “When exactly did that happen?” “Back up and tell me what happened first” are the kinds of questions that show that someone is trying closely to follow what you’re saying.

5. Imbalance of talking time. I suspect that many people fondly suppose that they usually do eighty percent of the talking in a conversation because people find them fascinating. Sometimes, it’s true, a discussion involves a huge download of information desired by the listener; that’s a very satisfying kind of conversation. In general, though, people who are interested in a subject have things to say themselves; they want to add their own opinions, information, and experiences. If they aren’t doing that, they probably just want the conversation to end faster.

6. Body position. People with a good connection generally turn fully to face each other. A person who is partially turned away isn’t fully embracing the conversation. I pay special attention to body position when I'm in a meeting and trying to show (or feign) interest: I sit forward in my chair, instead of lounging back, and keep my attention obviously focused on whoever is speaking, instead of looking down at papers, gazing into space, or checking my phone.

Along the same lines, if you’re a speaker trying to figure out if an audience is interested in what you’re saying:

7. Audience posture. Back in 1885, Sir Francis Galton wrote a paper in 1885 called “The Measurement of Fidget.” He determined that people slouch and lean when bored, so a speaker can measure the boredom of an audience by seeing how far from vertically upright they are. Also, attentive people fidget less; bored people fidget more. An audience that’s upright and still is interested, while an audience that’s horizontal and squirmy is bored.

I often remind myself of La Rochefoucauld’s observation, “We are always bored by those whom we bore.” Perhaps unfortunately, I don't believe it's always true, but it's often true: If I’m bored, there’s a good chance the other person may be bored, too. Time to find a different subject.

Have you figured out any ways to tell if you’re boring someone? If you're worried about it, here are 7 topics to avoid if you don't want to risk being a bore. What other strategies do you use?

* Looking for a good book? Please consider The Happiness Project (can't resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller).
Order your copy.
sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook



 Research finding may aid therapy for autism

Daily News Wire Services

Posted: 10/10/2011 05:56:28 PM PDT

Updated: 10/20/2011 10:10:16 AM PDT

PASADENA -- Caltech researchers announced today they believe they have evidence to demonstrate a common behavior in high-functioning people with autism -- that they do not seem to care what other people think of them.

The research, which is documented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that people with autism lack what is called "theory of mind," a skill for figuring out one's social reputation. Psychologists say the skill motivates people to be nice to others.

In an experiment, Caltech researchers asked people with and without autism to make monetary donations to UNICEF while sitting alone in a room and when with other people in the room watching.

"People (without autism) donated more when they were being watched by another person, presumably to improve their social reputation," said Keise Izuma, a Caltech postdoctoral student who was one of the study's authors.

In contrast, people with autism gave the same amount of money regardless of whether they were being watched.

"The effect was extremely clear," Izuma said.

In a control experiment, people with and without autism performed better on basic math skills while others were watching them perform the tasks.

"It showed us that in people with autism, the presence of another person is indeed registered, and can have general arousal effects," said Ralph Adolphs, a Caltech psychology and neuroscience professor who led the study. "It tells us that what is missing is the specific step of thinking about what another person thinks about us."

Adolphs said the research gives doctors and scientists a much more precise picture of how people with autism process social information and could lead to better therapies. He said the findings are also important in helping the general public better understand the psychology of autism.


Unvaccinated behind largest U.S. measles outbreak in years

The largest U.S. outbreak of measles to occur in 15 years -- affecting 214 children so far -- is likely driven by travelers returning from abroad and by too many unvaccinated U.S. children, according to new research.

By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay

The largest U.S. outbreak of measles to occur in 15 years -- affecting 214 children so far -- is likely driven by travelers returning from abroad and by too many unvaccinated U.S. children, according to new research.

The finding could highlight the dangers of a trend among some U.S. parents to skip the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine for their children, out of what many experts call misguided fears over its safety.

Dr. Andrew Pavia, professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah and spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), said, "The good news is that we are seeing introductions of measles that are being contained as small outbreaks."

Pavia credits containment to high levels of vaccination and thevacci rapid response by public health officials. However, if an outbreak occurred in a "really susceptible population the outcome could be very different," he said.

"What would happen in an area with a lot of vaccine refusers? Then you might see a much larger outbreak," he said.

Several measles-related studies were unveiled at the annual IDSA annual meeting, currently being held in Boston.

In the first report, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers chronicled the nation's ongoing outbreaks in 2011.

Most of those sickened were not vaccinated against the disease, CDC researchers said.

Before the vaccine became available in the 1960s, some three to four million people contracted measles every year. Of those, 48,000 were hospitalized, 1,000 were permanently disabled and about 500 died, the CDC said.

Unfortunately, "we have experienced an increased incidence of measles this year," said Huong McLean, lead researcher and CDC epidemiologist. "Typically we see 60 to 70 cases a year, this year we have 214 as of Oct. 14."

Among those people infected, 86 percent were unvaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown. Thirteen percent were under one year old -- too young for vaccination.

Throughout the United States, 68 of the patients have been hospitalized, 12 with pneumonia.

 Most of these cases occurred among people who traveled overseas to Western Europe, Africa or Asia, where vaccination rates are lower, and the disease is an ongoing problem, the researchers note.

McLean said that the vaccination coverage in the United states remains relatively high, about 90 percent. "However, measles is very contagious and can spread quickly in communities where people aren't vaccinated," she said.

"The vaccine is very safe and effective in preventing the disease," McLean said. The MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles), is designed to be given to infants 12 to 15 months old with a second shot given when the child is four to six, according to the CDC.

The Minnesota Department of Health released figures on a state outbreak, which started in March with an unvaccinated child, aged two and a half , who had traveled to Kenya. The child attended a drop-in Minnesota child care center. Overall, 21 people were infected and 14 hospitalized.

"Health care providers together with public health and community leaders must address growing vaccine hesitancy to ensure high immunization rates in all communities," Pam Gahr, a senior health department epidemiologist, said in an IDSA news release.

Not only is measles highly contagious, it's also expensive to contain its spread, according a third meeting presentation.

Dr. Karyn Leniek, deputy state epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health, said an outbreak occurred when one unvaccinated high school student, who had been to Europe, brought measles back with him.

Although only nine people became infected, the cost of containing the outbreak was about $300,000. Costs included infection control in two area hospitals and intervention by local and state health departments. Costs also included physician and staff time, vaccines, immunoglobulin and blood tests, according to the study.

Containing the outbreak meant contacting 12,000 people about possible exposure and quarantining 184 people, including 51 students. Of the teens not vaccinated, including the European traveler, six were unvaccinated due to personal exemptions.

"Personal exemptions include philosophical or any other unspecified non-medical exemption," the researchers noted.

"It is always a concern to have a large number of unvaccinated people in close proximity," Leniek said in an IDSA statement. "Our goal is to have as many people vaccinated as possible to protect those who cannot receive the vaccine and who are not fully immunized."

Another Thursday presentation centered on a large measles outbreak in Quebec, Canada: the largest since 1989, with 757 cases as of October 5.

That outbreak started with 18 people who traveled abroad, most to Europe. Among those infected, 505 had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was not known, and 70 had received only one doses of the vaccine, according to the report.

"This outbreak is being fed largely on unvaccinated or undervaccinated people, but we were concerned that a significant number had received the recommended two doses of MMR vaccine," Philippe Belanger, an epidemiologist at Ministere de la Sant et des Services Sociaux du Quebec, Montreal, said in the releases.

To keep measles at bay, Pavia said public health officials should be on the outlook for measles and the high level of vaccination needs to be maintained.

"The ongoing fear of the measles vaccine and the myths about measles vaccine and autism just won't go away -- and put us at continuous risk," Pavia said. One such myth, according to most experts, is that the shot might cause autism in children. That notion spread after a British researcher, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, published a study in The Lancet in 1998 claiming a link. The research was later discovered to be fraudulent, however, and the journal has since retracted the article.

Pavia stressed that when parents decide against vaccinating their child, their action may affect other kids, as well.

"Your child might get measles and do well. But if you are the one who brings measles back into the community and your child infects someone else in the classroom who can't be vaccinated because of being immunocompromised, you might be responsible for the death of another child or an infant who can't be vaccinated," he said.

On the Web:

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/measles.html, the U.S. National Library of Medicine has more information on measles.

Copyright 2011 HealthDay. All Rights Reserved.

For more information about reprints & permissions, visit our FAQ's. To report corrections and clarifications, contact Standards Editor Brent Jones. For publication consideration in the newspaper, send comments to letters@usatoday.com. Include name, phone number, city and state for verification. To view our corrections, go to corrections.usatoday.com.

Posted 10/21/2011 9:27 AM | Updated 10/21/2011 12:04 PM



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