Children of older men face higher autism risk
BY SARAH GETTY
OLDER fathers are more
likely to parent
children, experts warned yesterday. Men aged 40 and over are more than
five times more likely to have children who suffer from autism than those
born to fathers under 30, they said. However, researchers could not find
a link between a mother's age and the disorder.
The findings provide further evidence that men have a 'biological clock'
when it comes to producing healthy babies, said Dr Abraham Reichenberg, from
the the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. More than 132,000 Jewish
children born in Israel during the l980s were assessed for the study. It
found that, if the father was aged 15 to 29 when their child was born, the
risk of autism was six in every 10,000 children.
But. if the father was aged 30 to 39, then nine in 10,000 children suffered
autism (1.5 times higher), going up to 32 in 10,000 (15.4 times higher) for
fathers aged 40 to 49.
The risk was even higher among fathers aged 50 and over. Dr Reichenberg said:
'This research adds to our knowledge that men also have a biological clock
when it comes to reproducing.Children and people with autism disorders often
display problems with language and social interaction, and show repetitive
patterns of behaviour.
Autism is becoming more common,affecting 50 in every 10,000 childlren
now, a tenfold increase from 20 years ago. Dr Reichenberg said it could he
down to several genetic factors, including mutations in sperm-producing cells,
or discrepancies in how genes are expressed.
[The Metro Sep5,2006]
Daniel Tammet has savant syndrome, a very rare type of Asperger's syndrome
He can perform complex maths calculations at incredible speeds and holds
the European record for reciting
to the furthest decimal point. Daniel speaks ten languages - learning
Icelandic in a week. His biography, Born On A Blue Day, is published
Can you explain how you do such complex sums so quickly?
When I think of a number, I see a shape in my head. Every number up to
10,000 has its own shape, colour and texture. For example, 37 is lumpy
like porridge, whereas 89 is very fine, like mist or falling snow. When I
multiply numbers together, I think of the two shapes side by side in my head.
In between the two shapes there's a space that the two shapes create, almost
like a negative space. I visualise that space as a shape and that's the answer
to the sum. I can translate that picture.
This interview runs on July 17, 2006. What does that look like?
I'd think of it as very small and as a dark purpley colour. The purple
comes from the day of the week, Monday. I was born on a Wednesday, which
is where the book's title comes from. Wednesdays are very blue. July is compact,
but wavy, and the six from 2006 makes it small. All these influences pool
together in my head and show me a new shape or colour.
And numbers also help you to understand emotions?
When adolescence began creeping up on me, I started to develop feelings
for people and I wanted to understand them. For the first time, I wanted
to be part of the normal world and my love of numbers gave me something I
could use as a handle. For sadness, I would think of the number six, which
is a very tiny number, like a black dot. When I think of it, it makes me
feel sad because there's nothing there, just a hollowness. So I think of
myself inside the number six.,crouched inside the darkness and it helps me
to have that emotional feeling of sadness that a person is describing to
You set a European Record by reciting 22,514 digits of the number pi,taking
more than 5 hours.Didn't you drift off?
It was almost a kind of religious experience for me.I did it for the National
Society for Epilepsy.I had epilepsy as a child. I gave myself two months
to learn pi,spending most days just gorging on the numbers.When I came
to recall the sequence,I just visualised a lanscape of numbers. I never felt
You're developing your own language,Manti.Why?
Since childhood,I've often had experiences or feelings that I couldn't
find a word for, so I'd invent my own. It's quite common with autistic people
- they love to play with words. The word Manti comes from Finnish. It means
'pine tree'. And I've created my own words, such as 'kellokult' which means
'lateness' - it literally translates as 'clock-debt'
When did you first realise you were different?
At primary school. I didn't have any interest in mixing with other children
and the feeling was mutual. In a sense, I learned from other children's reactions
to me that I was different in some way. Whenever I felt anxious I would
count to myself in powers of two. Or I would walk around the playground,
which was dotted with trees, and count the leaves. Numbers are very beautiful
to me and they're around me all the time, like constant friends.
Is savant syndrome a blessing or a curse for you?
It's a mixed thing. There are many pluses. The downsides are that I can't
drive a car, my coordination isn't very good and I find emotions difficult.
My childhood was traumatic, too, for me and my parents. I cried constantly
as a baby. And later, I would walk up to a wall and bang my head repetitively
against it, to relieve the tension.
How does it affect your daily life?
Routine is important to people on the autistic spectrum. I spend a lot of
my time at home, running my website and teaching language courses. In the
morning, I weight my cereal - 45g of porridge - and have
my breakfast. Then I shower and check my e-mails. People write to me
from all over the world about their autistic children and how my story has
helped them.They feel a connection to me.What used to be a barrier is now
BY JAYNE ATHERTON
|AN ARTIST with a remarkable gift has over come the odds to open
his first gallery. Stephen Wiltshire has autism, the condition memorably
brought to life by Dustin Hoffman in the Oscar-winning film Rain Man.
Like Hoffman's character, he is also a 'savant' trapped in a private world
but able to communicate through other means: in his case,
His ability to make minutely detailed drawings of landmarks from memory captured
the nation 's imagination when he was featured in a BBC documentary
20 years ago. The 32-year-old has drawn famous sights in and Italy but his
favourite is the Empire State Building. He said: 'I like high-rise buildings
and skyscrapers and I just love New York City. I like the rush-hour and the
noise. It's very exciting.' When Mr Wiltshire was just 12, the late Sir Hugh
Casson former president of the Royal Academy - described him as 'possibly
the best child artist in Britain'. Psychologist
Sacks, who studied his case, called him 'not merely a savant but a prodigy'.
More than 40,000 people attended his last public exhibition in 2003 and an
original print for sale on his website can cost up to £l,500. His four
published books of drawings have all been best-sellers, with one, Floating
Cities, reaching No.1. Earlier this year, he was made an MBE for services
to art. Today, he opens the Stephen Wiltshire Gallery at the Royal Opera
Arcade in Pall Mall, Central London. His latest picture is on display and
shows Middlesex Guildhall in the capital, which is being turned into the
new Supreme Court. Mr Wiltshire's sister, Annette, said the BBC programme
changed his life and helped to raise awareness of autism. 'It enabled him
to travel and helped him develop his social skills,' she added 'He still
depends on us as a family but he is now able to go out alone.'
unlocks doors for poet
by Eve Dugdale
BEING the chief orator at a series of open-air poetry concerts would be a
daunting prospect for most people. But imagine having a condition which made
communication and social interaction a real difficulty Well that's the reality
for Stuart Vallantine, secretary of Stalybridge based writers' group People's
Performance. Stuart, 27, suffers from a condition called semantic pragmatic
disorder. Likened by some to autism, the condition affects language development.
Despite this, Stuart, of Clayton Street, Dukinfield, has led a series of
open-air poetry events in the remains of Stalybridge town hall and lectured
at a school. 'I felt daunted during the rehearsals when I first started but
then I got used to it. I had to learn to block out the outside noise," said
Stuart, an internet consultant. "The only poetry I'd done before was when
I had to do it at school. Then, in around 2001, I started developing more
of an interest. Whenever I had spare time I'd write. Some subject matters
have been autobiographical. "Once I started writing I became more confident
in expressing myself and found some common currency with other people." Stuart
has won acclaim from the National Autistic Societys' chief psychologist,
Jenny Ravenhill, who has praised his skills. She said "It can be overwhelming
for anyone to stand up in front of a group of people and recite their own
words. For someone with a disorder that affects communication and social
interaction it could produce real anxiety. By using a structured approach
and preparing well for such a recital, people such as Stuart can gain
self-confiience and be able to share their talent with the world." For more
information on the writers' group, which meets at Stalybridge library phone
[The Advertiser 15Feb,2007]
|The 1980s electro
pioneer Gary Numan enjoyed massive
international success with hits Cars and Are 'Friends' Electric? He flew
around the world in a two-seater plane and drifted out of fashion until a
tribute album revived his fortunes in the late 1990s. He is about to embark
on a short British tour. Numan appears in Sky One's The Race reality show
What will you be doing in this racing show?
We're taught to drive cars quickty, ha ha. I've heard there's a monster truck
around, so that'll be good if it happens. I've been going to racing tracks
for fun for years, having a whizz around, so to be taught how to do it properly
every day for a week is just fantastic.
How many cars have you owned in your life?
I've lost count. I've had a couple of great ones - a Ferrari Boxer in the
1980s and a TVR Cerbera. Both were so quick it was almost silly having them
on the roads. I've got a pick-up truck now but my wife's pregnant again so
I'll be getting a people carrier. I can't believe it.
What's the flashest vehicle you've owned?
I had a twin-engine aeroplane in the early 1980s, which was pretty flash.
The last plane I had was aWWII Harvard. It still had the original gun button
on it. You could get one other person in it but my wife, Gemma, didn't like
it - she got sick. I bought it because I wanted to get into doing aerial
acrobatics at arr shows but I sold it after we had our second baby.
You think you've got Asperger syndrome - why is that?
It was suggested I had it when I was younger but no one knew much about it
then. I've read a lot about it since and I fulfil some of the diagnostic
criteria but not others. I probably only have a mild form. It means you're
unable to interact socially in a way that is generally acceptable. For example,
if people came over for dinner and I saw a magazine I hadn't read, I'd pick
it up, sit in the comer and read it - which I now know is wrong. You also
don't readily understand facial expressions. You don't communicate in the
What impact has it had on your songwriting?
All my early songs were that teenage angst stuff about being misunderstood
by the world but, unlike most teenagers, I really was being misunderstood,
ha ha. I was also on quite heavy prescription drugs for a year when I was
16, which didn't help the situation.
Why have your fans, the Numanoids, stuck by you so loyally over the years?
I can't really speak for them but an aspect of Asperger is you have obsessive
tendencies and I have an obsessive focus when it comes to pushing forward
with my music. I don't get crushed by disappointment. I don't do this for
the acclaim, luckily - I got f**k all for the frrst 20 years - I do it because
I love it. I've had bad record sales and reviews, my career was f**ked in
the early 1990s - no doubt about it - but it's fuel to the fire, as far as
I'm concerned. I've been dropped by more labels than most people have heard
of. Maybe that's why I've got a following, I haven't given up. I've done
some all right songs, too.
You're a bit Gothy these days. Do you have crucifixes and stuffed animals
about the house?
I'm not Gothic but I've got a stuffed Alaskan timber wolf under the stairs.
I'm opposed to hunting but I saw some kids poking it in a shop when I was
on an American tour. It was so undignified for such a wonderful animal. I
bought it and wanted to build a tundra setting in my house with a big mural
of the Arctic behind it to give it a dignified end. It's under the stairs
now. We used to keep it at the top of the stairs where you could only see
its head. Visitors would go to use the toilet, then you'd hear them scream.
It cracked me up every time.
You have a happy family life now. Does it make writing doom-laden, angsty
songs more difficult?
No. Because of Asperger, I see the world as a hostile place. When kids come
along, rather than making it; more cuddly, it makes you worry even more.
You've got this big, hostile world and now I worry about how to keep my kids
safe from it while not freaking them out. It feeds into my style of songwriting
Interview: ANDREW WILLIAMS Metro 6/11/06
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR....GARY NUMAN
|Electro-pop icon Gary Numan marks 30 years in the music business with
a reissue of his second album with Tubeway Army Replicas, and a 5-date tour
during which he is playing the album in its entirety.
Will you play the album straight through, or can we expect surprises?
We're doing the album and all the associated B-sides. Some we've never
played before. I don't want to do the songs as they are on the record aosolutely
faithfully because technology's different, and we can make them sound better.
Do you listen to your older albums often?
I've probably not sat down and listened to Replicas in full since it came
out. I probably don't even have a copy, but my wife's got a pretty good
collection because she's always been a fan.Every time I get an album back
she gets a shrink-wrapped copy of it and puts it away, and I'm not aliowed
to go near it.
Are you lining up more classic album shows, or concentrating on new
New stuff. I have this chip on my shoulder about nostalgia. For a long time
I was called an 1980s pop star, so I'd hardly play any early stuff. But it
dawned on me that it's like I'm sticking two fingers op at my fan base. It
I can go out once every two or three years and do all the songs from one
particular album, it's sort of like striking a bargain with the fans.
What did you make of Sugababes' Freak Like Me, which sampled Are 'Friends'
I loved it. I was really proud that people thought it sounded really
modern; probably prouder than when Are 'Friends' Flectric? got to No.1.
It's your 5Oth birthday on Saturday. Will it be part of the performance?
Oh, It'll be a celebration. I'm 50, I'm still here. I'm quite pleased with
myself. I've got no intention of hiding it.
Sat. Academy 1,Oxford Road,Greater Manchester 7.30pm, £19. sold out,
Tel: 275 2930. www.numan.co.uk Wednesday,
Match 5, 2008 www.metro.co.uk
Clues to autism
DUPLICATIONS or deletions of portions of the genome may cause many - if not
most - cases of autism. Such errors can alter the number of copies of particular
genes in the regions affected. These copy-number variations are 10 times
as common in autistic children as in other children. A team led by Jonathan
Sebat of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York, examined
118 families that have one autistic child and 99 families with children who
are not autistic. Ten per cent of the autistic children, but only 1 per cent
of the other children, had copy-number variants in their genomes that didn't
appear in their parents (Science, DOI: 10.1126/ science.1138659). The copy-number
variants tend to affect different genes in each autistic child. This suggests
that autism is not caused by a simple genetic defect.
[New Scientist 24 Mar 07]
|WHAT IS IT?
Asperger Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder first identified in
1944 by Dr. Hans Asperger. It affects social and communication skills and
forms part of the autistic spectrum. It can manifest itself in a mild or
a severe form and individuals with the disorder can exhibit a variety of
characteristics. People with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills,
have difficulties with change and therefore prefer sameness. They often have
obsessive routines and usually have a special interest that absorbs them
to the point where it dominates their time and conversations. People with
AS do not see the world the way others do and consequently their behaviour
may appear odd or even eccentric but to them, it isn't.
They may experience sensory sensitivity such as, touch, taste, noises and
smells, to the extent that ordinary sensations can be unbearably intense.
Understanding emotions in themselves and others is extremely hard for them
and can increase their feelings of anxiety and stress. Literal interpretation
can also cause problems with understanding others and can at times totally
However people with AS have a normal IQ level and in some cases show exceptional
talent and skill in a specific area.
Be aware of the following behaviour:
Obsessive desire for the preservation of sameness
Naive, inappropriate one-sided interaction
Lack of empathy
Pedantic repetitive speech
Poor non-verbal communication
Clumsy and ill-coordinated movements and odd postures
Inability to interact with peers
Lack of desire to interact with peers
Lack of appreciation of social clues
Socially and emotionally inappropriate behaviour
Limited use of gestures
Peculiar stiff gaze
Hypersensitivity to stimuli.
Intense absorption in a certain subject
Relationship to objects
May be a slow and deliberate worker
HOW MAY IT AFFECT MY STUDENTS?
Due to the student with AS having a lack of understanding of how to behave
in relation to others, socially and emotionally, and their inability to form
relationships with their peers, it may result in the student becoming isolated
within the classroom. It is therefore important for the other students in
the class to be aware of the behavioural traits associated with Asperger's
so that they understand why friendly overtures may not be reciprocated. It
should also be stressed that, due to the nature of the condition, this behaviour
is not meant personally in any way whatsoever. It should also be mentioned
that the student with AS may, from time to time, need to leave the classroom
and go to a quiet room in order to be able to cope with processing and absorbing
the information received in the lesson. It should also be pointed out that
the student with AS does not realize that he/she is behaving differently
from the rest of the group. As far as the student is concerned their behaviour
is perfectly normal to them and they may feel that it is the other students
who are behaving strangely.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP STUDENTS WITH AS?
Keep to a routine. Try and avoid last minute room changes or staffing changes.
Give step by step instructions.
Put lesson objectives on the board at the beginning of the lesson.
Provide a list of these objectives.
Only have one person talking at any one time in lessons.
Give the student time to analyse and think.
Let the student know what to expect and what is expected of them.
Let the student work in a pair rather than a group.
Use colour/shape coding.
Let the student have access to a quiet room/space.
Be aware of lighting. Use natural bulbs instead of fluorescent bulbs.
Be aware of noise distraction.
Have a flexible approach with teaching learning strategies.
Have a non-confrontational style.
Allow the use of-a tape recorder so that instructions can be followed more
Be misled by an apparent lack of ability due to communication difficulties.
Assume that the student understands what is recognised by people without
AS, as "normal" speech patterns.
Forget that the student does not have a recognised perception of reality
to help them understand everyday life.
Ignore the signs that a student may be experiencing pressure overload. This
can manifest itself as "rocking" motions or talking too much or too little.
Assume that the student is deliberately being rude. It is simply part of
Forget that the use of metaphors will almost always lead to a misunderstanding
by the student.
Forget that structure to the day is important in order to bring out the student's
Rely on the student having understood everything that has been covered in
AS can manifest itself in several different ways and in varying degrees of
severity. AS can also overlap with other conditions such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia,
EBD and ADD/ADHD. Staff are not expected to be experts in dealing with the
student who has this condition and Additional Support staff are always willing
to assist by providing extra support for the student and/or more in-depth
information about the condition.
Woman who thinks like a cow