Autism | St. Louis Public Radio


Jen Kerner plays a Bird Girl in Christ Memorial's 2016 production of Seussical.
Cindy Tiefenbrunn

St. Louis actor Jen Kerner has played dozens of characters, but in recent years she’s taken on a new role: making the theater experience enjoyable for people who are overwhelmed by loud sounds and bright lights that are part of the typical theatrical experience.

Kerner works in job placement for people with developmental disabilities who often have sensory issues. Four years ago, she began to pay more attention to her own sensitivities during rehearsals for “The Music Man," in which the orchestra seemed noisy and abrasive. Shortly thereafter, a doctor diagnosed her with autism.

Logan and his sister, Ireland, swim at Manchester Aquatic Center on July 16.
Ashley Lisenby | St. Louis Public Radio

Ava Battelle leans into her camp counselor at the back of a big cafeteria called Miller Hall at Wonderland Camp. Parents, including Ava's mom, are registering their kids for another week there. Ava’s counselor, Sydney Dungan, dangles her arm across the girl’s shoulders.

“You don’t get any other experience like this than to live with someone with disabilities for a whole week, getting really close with them, and then just seeing them as a real person and not just as their disability,” Dungan said later.

Dr. John Constantino (left) and Steve Houston (right) talked about understanding autism and the latest research in the diagnosis and treatment of it.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

April is National Autism Awareness Month. On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about the prevalence of autism and discussed the latest research in the diagnosis and treatment of autism.

Mark Regester

When Temple Grandin, famed autism activist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University, was 13 she was employed by a freelance seamstress to do sewing projects. When she was 15, she cleaned 8 horse stalls every day. By the time she finished college, she had carpentry work, sign painting, and farm management under her belt.

Dr. Ken Haller talks about vaccination safety with 'St. Louis on the Air' host Don Marsh on Feb. 10, 2015, at St. Louis Public Radio in St. Louis.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

Rumors of a link between autism and the measles vaccine persist, although the original paper that claimed the link, as well as its author, have been discredited.

Kara Campbell, Kirsten Wylder, and husband James, Scott De Broux, look on at son Thomas, Robin Stricklin as he learns to feel the music.
Provided by Gaslight Theatre

Parents face many twists and turns as they forge through the mystery of their child’s autism. An updated local play about autism also involves unraveling a thorny thriller.

Disney Publishing Worldwide

Washington, D.C. author Ron Suskind and his wife Cornelia Kennedy were devastated when 2-year-old Owen stopped talking and began walking with a drunken gait.

When, how did their son’s regression begin? “It’s like reviewing clues to a kidnapping,” Suskind writes in “Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism.”

Elliot and Kristen Days, Justice, 3, and Zachary, 4
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When Kristen Days’ 1-year-old son Justice stopped saying “mama” and “dada” and no longer waved goodbye, her pediatrician told her not to worry. So did her friends. “Boys are like that,” one said.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In Tom Angleberger's new book, things are going all wrong at McQuarrie Middle School. There's a new emphasis on standardized testing, and classes such as music, art and Legos are cut because of it. In "Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett," the group of kids that readers first met in "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda" have to work together again to figure out what's going on and how to fix it. They're guided, by the way, by a paper finger puppet Yoda.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When Adam Rosen was growing up in St. Louis, he spent a lot of time in support groups. Not for Asperger’s but as a gay teenager. The Asperger’s identity came much later, providing clarity about his other difference: an obsession with composing music.

Andrea and Laurie Dent
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Tossing a high school graduation cap into the air typically signals the launch of a bigger life. But for many young adults with autism, summer after senior year is when the world begins to narrow.

Autism diagnosis gives parents a place to start

Apr 22, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: An estimated 1 in 88 children is diagnosed with some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at age 8. During this Autism Awareness Month, it is a time to spread more awareness about the complexity of this disorder that affects so many children and their families. ASD is a neurodevelopment disorder, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. 

Three main issues that most families struggle with when it comes to ASD are: receiving the diagnosis, handling the perceptions of others, and deciding on a course of treatment.

By Beverly Pack / Via Flickr

Autism is becoming increasingly prevalent.  1 in 88 children is diagnosed with the condition and because it is more prevalent among boys, 1 in 54 boys receive the diagnosis.

The good news is that research is increasing and there are many more treatments from which to choose.

Brain differences found in infants who develop autism

Feb 17, 2012
(Photo: Jason Wolff/UNC)

New research shows that differences in the brain development of autistic children are already visible in infants as young as 6 months old.

Researchers at four study sites nationwide used a type of MRI scan to look at brain development in the younger siblings of autistic children, who are known to be at higher risk for autism themselves.

Ninety-two children were scanned at 6, 12, and 24 months of age, while the children were sleeping.

Morning headlines: February 2, 2012

Feb 2, 2012

STL Mayor Chief of Staff: removing dome roof won't work

The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission gave the Rams a plan Wednesday calling for $124 million in upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome. The lease with the team requires the Dome to be in the top 25 percent of NFL stadiums or the Rams can leave in 2015.

The CVC's plan includes a new scoreboard, replacing 1800 seats with 1500 club seats and installing windows to allow more natural light.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 18, 2011 - Raising a child with autism or other learning disabilities is always a challenge.

Dealing with trying economic times, and struggling to navigate the often bewildering maze of education bureaucracy at the same time, make a tough task that much harder.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 14, 2010 - As proponents of services for children and families watched another legislative session end with more budget cuts and no consideration of raising revenue, many wanted to offer lawmakers this message: This is not a responsible way to run state government.

"This year, we really had to cut into the meat of our budget," says Ruth Ehresman, director of health and budget policy for the Missouri Budget Project.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 13, 2010 - The Legislature's passage of the bill mandating insurance coverage for treatment of autistic children is one action that -- after several years of debate -- appears now to be a uniter, not a divider.

The bill's final version mandates coverage of up to $40,000 a year for behavioral therapy for autistic children through age 18.

A conversation with Areva Martin

Apr 30, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 30, 2010 - St. Louis native Areva Martin wears many hats. She’s a self-published and commercially published author; individual rights lawyer; president and co-founder of Special Needs Network Inc. (SNN), a nonprofit launched to support families with special needs children, and a regular contributor on "Dr. Phil" as well as other television shows. But her most recent trip home had her wearing the hat of award winning author and autism crusader.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 28, 2010 - Jeanie Raybuck, 18, has a lot in common with others on the cusp of adulthood. She enjoys music, pizza and long walks. Recently, she tried parasailing during a family vacation -- and loved it.

Now living in her own house, away from her parents, Raybuck is learning to cook and do laundry and is thriving in her newfound independence. But in many ways, Raybuck's needs differ greatly from those of other young adults. She has autism and requires round-the-clock care.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 17, 2010 - When a tussle with 6-year-old Lucas sent his father Marty Johnson of O'Fallon, Mo. to an urgent care facility, Johnson came to a realization. Soon he would no longer be able to control his son physically.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 15, 2010 - Until age 4, Charles Quigless, an angelic-looking child with a wide, gapped-tooth smile, had only his hands, feet and a variety of noises with which to communicate. When Charles was diagnosed with autism at age 3, his parents hit the ground running, knowing they had only a small window of time in which he could learn language.

To bolster the five to 10 hours a week of services offered by the St. Louis school system, Angela Quigless and her husband, both professionals, spent as much as $1,200 a month out-of-pocket for additional therapies. But their son's schedule still fell short of the 25 to 40 hours needed for successful early intervention.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 16, 2009 - While this year's veto session passed without any substantive action, lawmakers are bracing for what could be a very difficult battle next year over the state's budget.

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a number of bills over the summer, including bills to repeal restrictions against riding motorcycles without a helmet and to allow the state's Public Defender Commission to have greater control of its caseload. The first-term Democratic chief executive also struck out several line items in the state's budget in an effort to prepare for a difficult budgetary year.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 6, 2009 - Later this morning, Gov. Jay Nixon -- who was honored earlier this week as an example for fellow Eagle Scouts -- will be stopping by St. Louis' Judevine Center for Autism to announce that he's renewing his quest to make insurance coverage available for Missourians with autism.

According to his office, the governor will make "a significant policy announcement" regarding autism coverage during three stops today: Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 23, 2009 - On June 2, Aaron Likens, 26, drove confidently from his home in St. Louis to New York, certain that landmarks and streets would appear exactly as his GPS promised.

As he negotiated his way into Manhattan, the first-time New York driver was undeterred by honking cabbies, the loss of his satellite signal and a wrong turn that somehow landed him on Staten Island. But had he needed to stop for directions -- that would have been scary.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 22, 2009 - After giving birth to her first child, Sheri Briley of Florissant tried everything she knew to calm her very fussy baby. She put him in an infant swing, but he hated it. Her mother advised placing him in his baby carrier on the running dryer, hoping the white noise and vibration would soothe him. That didn't work, either.

"He would scream bloody murder," Briley remembered.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 22, 2009 - Every parent at the May 2 graduation at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., was beaming, but none more so than Dick and Jan Hellwege. For many years, they weren't sure if the idea of their daughter Emily earning a college diploma was a possibility -- or just a wish.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 19, 2009 - Almost everyone is familiar with profound autism. They've seen and heard stories of toddlers who tragically lose their language and regress into a private, rocking, sometimes head-banging world in which they're fascinated by objects and indifferent to people.

'Voices of Autism' explains the silence

Jul 15, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 15, 2008 - One summer about 30 years ago, when Anne Spollen was 15, she first met “the silent, green-eyed boy who moved in next door.”

“He doesn’t speak,” his mother whispered to her. “No one knows why.”