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F.E.A.T. - Chattanooga

PO Box 23731
Chattanooga, TN 37422
(423) 296-0092

Volume I
Issue 8
August 1999

Upcoming Meetings

August 10, 1999 - Board Elections
   Guest speaker - Shirley Lewis
   Topic: Parents Encouraging Parents

September 14, 1999 -
   Guest Speaker: Karen Harrison, STEP
   Topic: IEP Workshop

October 12, 1999 -
   Guest Speaker:
To Be Announced

Meeting Time and Place
Second Tuesday of Each Month
 6:30 pm   Room 140
Massoud Pediatric Building
 T. C. Thompson
Children's Hospital

*Parking Directions
(see below)

(see our Group Information)


This Space Available

We need your information for the newsletter. Please fax, email or mail your submission to Phillip Deal prior to the 25th of each month.

Fax: 778-6837
Mail: PO Box 23731
Chatt, TN 37422

Welcome Packets

Welcome Packets are available at all meetings. If you have not received yours yet and are unable to attend the next meeting, please call our FEAT-Chattanooga phone number and leave your name and mailing address and we will send one to you.


Due to scheduling conflicts with Room 140 this month, our regular meeting will be held in the St. Jude Hospital affiliate located on the 5th floor of the Massoud Pediatric Building (same building, different floor). Signs will be posted as a reminder on the day of the meeting.


Meeting Location and Parking-

A The Massoud Pediatric Building now locks electronically at 6:00 p.m. The gravel lot (number 3) where several people parked is now closed. You should now park in the Erlanger Parking Garage and enter
T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital from the parking garage. There is a $1 charge. Below are detailed directions.

  • Enter the Erlanger Parking Garage from the Central Ave entrance (across from the Ronald McDonald House)
  • Park in the Garage (preferably on Level One)
  • While you are in the parking garage, walk toward the elevator on the right.
  • Take the elevator to the 1st floor if you did not park on that level.
  • On Level One, you will see the entrance to T.C. Thompson across a walkway next to the elevator.
  • Walk down the long hallway after you enter the Hospital.
  • At the end of the hallway, turn right.
  • Go through the double doors. (Someone will be posted at these doors starting at 6:15 p.m. to let you in the building. These doors lock electronically at 6:00 p.m. We will ensure these doors are open until 6:45 p.m.)
  • At Dr. Massoud's picture, turn right.
  • At the elevators, go to your left through the double doors. Our meeting room is the second room on the right.

FEAT Board Nominations and Elections

At the August meeting, elections will be held for the five openings on the FEAT-Chattanooga Board of Directors.
A ballot is included with the mailed copy of this newsletter if you are unable to attend the August meeting. Please mail the ballot to the FEAT post office box (listed above). The ballots will be opened at the August meeting and mixed with the other ballots to ensure anonymity. The votes will be counted by the current board members. Notification to those persons elected by the new board at the next board meeting.




Click here for Page 2




National Institutes of Health
Sets $25 million for Autism

Tuesday, July 13, 1999
By Jami Talan

Concerned over reports that the number of autism cases is on the rise, federal health officials have begun several new initiatives aimed at unraveling both the prevalence and possible cause of this puzzling neurological disorder.

Prompted by parent groups that united to pressure legislators, the National Institutes of Health has set aside $25 million for autism research this year, up from $10 million in 1995. And officials say more than 75 investigators from 26 universities are now working with the National Institute of Child Health and Development in Bethesda, Md., on autism studies. "In a few years, we should really have the first strong clues as to what's going on here," said Marie Bristol-Power, who coordinates autism research at the federal health institute. It's important to figure this out."

The first step is to determine the disorder's prevalence in diverse areas, experts say. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is moving toward that goal with pilot studies at its base in Atlanta and in Brick Township, New Jersey, an area that has recorded an unusually high number of cases. Early figures for the Atlanta study are expected to be available in September, officials said.

In the meantime, the CDC hosted a meeting last week that brought together a number of autism experts to look at the epidemiology of the disorder.

A number of factors have already surfaced as possible reasons for the increase.

First, officials say there is a heightened appreciation of the disorder among physicians, which probably translates into an increase in diagnosis. Additionally, the definition of the disorder has changed and expanded since the late 1980's.

For instance, newly included in the definition over the last few years are two milder variants, known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and Asperger's Syndrome. PDD also involves problems connecting emotionally with others, language difficulties and restricted interests, but at a somewhat less-disabling level. Children with Asperger's, meanwhile, have normal language skills and average intelligence, but they behave awkwardly in social situations and tend to be obsessive.

But researchers say awareness and definitions cannot account for all of the increase they're now seeing in diagnosed cases of autism. As a result, researchers are looking to prenatal or postnatal environmental characteristics.

For instance, the Brick Township researchers are focusing on possible environmental problems that might explain the unusually high number of autistic children there - about 53 of 6,000 children between the ages of 3 and 10, or one in 500, according to population studies.

Brick Township borders Toms River, a community that has catalogued a curiously high percentage of cancer cases, a cluster some citizens have suggested may be linked to environmental toxins.

The link between autism and environmental toxins has been suggested in the past, experts say: In the 1980s, for instance, the small town of Leominster, Mass., had a suspicious cluster of autism traced to the run-off of chemicals from a nearby sunglasses manufacturer, according to CDC investigators.

At this point, the first step is reviewing health records for the children diagnosed so far and conducting new medical and neurological exams to make sure the diagnosis was correct, said Coleen Boyle, the epidemiologist heading the study. But once that's done, she said researchers will begin analyzing such things as immunization records and the date of the first signs of autism for possible clues.

Pointing to a recent epidemiological study by Swedish investigators who found a much lower prevalence in autism before 1990, the NIH's Bristol-Power said researchers have no choice but to spread as wide a net as possible in trying to determine a cause.

"I don't think it's just better diagnosis, or that autism or PDD is the disease due jour," she says. "There is something else going on, and we are hoping to solve this problem."

Other researchers are trying to determine if the problem is genetic, or whether it may be caused by a toxin, virus or other factor that takes effect in utero, subtly altering intricate brain systems during development.

For instance, Dr. Eric Hollander, director of the Seaver Autism Research Center at
Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhatten, has determined that the autistic children in his program were much more likely to have mothers who were given the drug pitocin to induce labor and delivery, a provocative finding that is opening a whole new area of investigation.

At the same time, geneticists are scouting the genome for new clues - a search, Bristol-Power said, that's been ongoing since 1995, when Francis Collins, the head of the federal human genome project, found autism to be "the most heritable of the complex developmental disorders he had ever seen."

Recently, the search has resulted in the identification of a number of markers for the disorder. And scientists are optimistic the genes themselves will be found soon because of the efforts of organizations such as
"Cure Autism Now," a parent group that's gathered almost 1,200 families for genetic studies.

Other researchers seek to pinpoint physical differences in the brain that might explain the social and language deficits. For instance, Robert Schultz at the Child Study Center at Yale University has found that autistic children do not use the same brain regions to respond to facial expression as unaffected children do.

When he studied these children's brains with scanning devices, he found that they "find nothing special or different about the face, there's no social meaning for them. This could explain why these children have such problems connecting to others."

While no one is sure what happens to prompt autism, many scientists now agree that whatever occurs does so sometime before the 30th week of pregnancy. At that point, researchers say, the frontal lobes and the amygalda area in the autistic brain tend to look less developed - a theory that makes sense, they say, since the frontal lobes are the seat of language, thinking and processing of information, and the amygalda is thought to help regulate emotion.
Copyright©Newsday, Inc. Produced by Newsday Electronic Publishing.





Free STEP Basic Law Workshop -
   including the New Regulations

Date: August 21, 1999
Time: 10 am - 1 pm
Location: Bayside Baptist Church
(Hwy 58 North approximately 6 miles 
north of Hwy 153)

A BASIC Rights workshop, provided by STEP (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) will be held on Saturday,
August 21, 1999    10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

This workshop is designed for parents of children in special education and parents of children who might need special education. If you have previously attended a
Basic Law Workshop, you may want to attend this workshop as it will cover the newly published IDEA regulations. You will receive a copy of the new IDEA regulations, the 1997 IDEA Amendments, the new IEP forms and instructions for their use, and information on new components of the law. Come and learn about Special Education rights so that you can be an informed, prepared participant in the development of your child's IEP.

To register or for more information,
call 800-280-STEP. Space is limited to
30 participants. No children please.