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It’s the end of another year again. Time to put the Christmas tree and decorations up and look forward to a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year for 2006. But back in December 2004 we wondered if 2005 would be a happy new year for all of us, especially regarding Asperger Syndrome and autism. The answer to that question is that 2005 has been a year full of ups and downs in that department. Some good things have come out of the year, while some not so good things have happened as well. Here are some of the highlights of what has happened in the world of Asperger Syndrome and autism in 2005:


- BBC Radio Four transmits an Afternoon Play called “100% Human”, which is about a family who have a son with autism and a lot of controversy on the way! LINK

- A pre-Berliner edition of the Grauniad (known as the Guardian to those who read the newspaper) published an interview Vernon Beauchamp, the Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society. LINK

- John Knowles, the East Sussex based father of six-year old Robin who has been diagnosed with autism is inspired by his son’s disability to write a special book called “Red Foot Duck and Other Stuff”. The book is all about the quirky side of life with an autistic child. LINK


- Maria Hutchings, a mother of a 10-year old son who has autism and learning difficulties, challenges Prime Minister Tony Blair on the live debate show “The Wright Stuff” on Channel Five. Mrs Hutchings was upset by Labour’s controversial decision to close down Cedar Hall, a school for pupils with autism in the Essex area. "Tony that's rubbish," she said in reply to the Prime Minister before being calmed down by studio staff. Essex County Council denied that there was any threat to close the school down. LINK

- Researchers in America believe they have found a link between asthma and allergy during pregnancy and an increased risk of the child developing autism. The risk was raised further if the mother was diagnosed in the second trimester of her pregnancy, according to Lisa Croen, a scientist at Kaiser Permanente's division of research in California. LINK

- An autistic child's parents have gone to court in an attempt to force their local education board to fund one-to-one tuition for their son. The High Court heard that five-year-old Johnny Nolan has to be taught at home because no school in Northern Ireland can provide the education he needs. The boy, from Holywood, County Down, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2003. LINK


- The mother of an autistic child has accused a council of "constructively excluding" her son from school. Jane Able, from Eastry, in Kent, has been teaching Rupert, 13, at home for the last five months, saying he was "traumatised" by mainstream education. She said Kent County Council had now offered a place at her first choice of special school, but the setbacks now made that place unsuitable. LINK

- A film about post-conflict Serbia - with Jovana Mitic, a young, autistic actress in one of the lead roles - is being shown in London as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. A Midwinter Night's Dream is a dark piece by Serb director Goran Paskaljevic, which focuses on a man, still haunted by his wartime memories. LINK

- A major conference dedicated to the condition of autism is being held in Stoke on Trent. Organised by the North Staffordshire Asperger and Autism Association, it will help the 11,500 people in the area who have autism or a related condition. Speakers will address about 250 workers from social services and education, as well as people who have the condition. The venue is Port Vale football club and the organisers say it will look at treatment and diagnosis. LINK


- Maria Hutchings, the mother of the 10-year old boy with autism has said that she may consider standing as a Conservative Member of Parliament. With only one month before the General Election it seemed unlikely that she would have stood as a candidate. However Mrs Hutchings had spoken to Conservative leader Michael Howard and was to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street. LINK

- Wendy Ainscow, the Birmingham based mother who was driven to despair last year when she had problems coping with her daughter Lisa who was allegedly diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, had tried to commit suicide for a second time. LINK

- An education and library board has agreed to pay for intensive home based specialist therapy for a six-year-old autistic child. The Nolan family from Holywood in County Down had previously been refused funding to pay for the home therapy they provide for their son Johnny. Six children, including Johnny, will now receive annual funding of more than £100,000 from the South Eastern Board. The money will provide them with Applied Behavioural Therapy. LINK


- A TV Plus article about the “Coronation Street” character Roy Cropper is transmitted on ITV1 Teletext page 131 on May Day Bank Holiday. For the very first time the observation was made in the article that the character has traits very similar to Asperger Syndrome. This seems to be the first time that such an observation has been made publicly, although the ASFTHM observation on the fact that Mr Cropper has Asperger Syndrome has been going for many years! LINK

- 11-year old Andrew Cowan from Glasgow, who has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, has taken part in the BBC One quiz show Junior Mastermind, the special children’s edition of the famous “black chair” quiz that has ran for many years on British television. Andrew’s specialised subject was about “Star Wars”. He is one of 20 hopefuls aged between 10 and 11 who was picked to appear on the programme on May 16th. LINK

- Debbie Storey, an Essex woman who had been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, and also had two sons Ben and Sam who had been diagnosed, died aged 41 of kidney cancer after refusing to see a doctor because she feared her sons would be taken from her. The cancer had only been diagnosed two months before. LINK


- A bilingual booklet that gives information in Welsh as well as English about Asperger Syndrome is launched in Wales. The book, which is called “Fy Mrawd Gwern” or “My Brother Gwem” aims to give support to parents of children with Asperger Syndrome. Author Dr Elin Walker Jones said it was a first in the Welsh language and one of only a few in English. Around 250 delegates were attending a conference on Asperger Syndrome at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Monday. LINK

- Autism may be going undiagnosed in women because its effects are less obvious than in men, and the condition may even play a part in anorexia, a scientist said on June 28th. Autism is commonly regarded as being much more common in boys than in girls, but this may reflect differences in the way the disorder affects the female brain, according to Professor Christopher Gillberg, of the National Centre for Autism Studies at the University of Strathclyde. LINK

- Disabled people, including people with Asperger Syndrome and autism experience greater exclusion than black people, the chairman of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) has said. Bert Massie - launching a discussion paper on the future of disability - said discrimination had become "normalised" and "invisible". LINK


- People with autism are to receive cards so that police officers are aware of their condition should they be stopped. West Mercia Police have teamed up with Autism West Midlands to introduce an alert card for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A spokesman said people with ASD often have impaired communication and social interaction skills, which can sometimes lead to serious misunderstandings. LINK

- A school has apologised to the family of a 12-year-old autistic boy, who was left on a beach for two hours when his school minibus left without him. Geraint Shattock was one of seven pupils from a Caerphilly special school taken to Barry Island on Tuesday. When the party arrived back, teachers noticed the boy was not there. Police and coastguards started a search and he was found after 15 minutes. The school said it was "shocked and concerned" and would review procedures. LINK

- Disability Now magazine reports on why people with Asperger Syndrome and autism are being given ASBOs just because they have an impairment they cannot help. Incidents included a 15-year-old boy with Asperger Syndrome who was given an ASBO for just staring into a neighbour’s garden over a fence. LINK


- Actress Helena Bonham Carter is to play Maggi Jackson, who is the mother of seven autistic children in television drama to be screened sometime in the future. The drama was an inspiration on “Supermum” Jacqui Jackson’s children, in which four either have Asperger Syndrome or autism. The drama will be filmed in parts of the northwest including Bolton and Blackpool. LINK

- An autistic man who raped one boy and abused five more had his life sentence quashed at the Court of Appeal. But judges ordered the 20-year-old to go to a secure hospital indefinitely. The man, named only as 'A' for legal reasons, had pleaded guilty at Derby Crown Court to rape, indecent assault and having an offensive weapon. Lawyers challenged his life sentence on the grounds the judge was wrong not to accept the advice of medical experts and had "erred" in imposing the term. 'A' had been jailed for life; with a recommendation he served at least six years and nine months. LINK

- The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is to manage an inquiry into the arrest of a young man with Asperger Syndrome. The 18-year-old man was held on suspicion of causing criminal damage on 15 July and taken to Stourbridge police station. He was released without charge wearing a white paper suit given to him by West Midlands Police, and arrested again the next day, still wearing the suit. His mother complained about her son's treatment, sparking the inquiry. The second arrest was made in Stourbridge town centre, the IPCC said. The man, who cannot be named, was detained on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon. He was again taken to Stourbridge police station, from where he was transferred to hospital under the Mental Health Act. LINK


- Parents of autistic children tend to be more highly qualified than parents of children with other mental problems, according to a controversial study for the Department of Health. It also links a wide range of "clinically recognisable" mental health problems in youngsters to divorce and family breakdown. The study of 7,977 children found that one in 10 children between the ages of five and 16 had a mental disorder. LINK

- 67-year-old Wendolyn Markcrow of Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 36-year-old son Patrick who also suffered from autism and Down Syndrome, at her home in March. She denied murder and admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. LINK

- A boy who officials tried to take into care after turning him down for special schooling has been offered a place after the BBC highlighted his plight. Luton Borough Council refused 13-year-old Curtis Thurland, who has a form of autism, special education. Now Essex Autistic Society has offered Curtis a conditional place at the new £6m Doucecroft School in Colchester, which helps children with autism. LINK


- ITV1 transmits an episode of “The Brief”, part two of a four part legal drama series, which featured a character diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. The character had been accused of murdering his mother and was eventually convicted of the crime. The episode seemed to be groundbreaking, as it seems to be one of the first television dramas to feature a character with Asperger Syndrome as a suspect of a crime. Tom Burke played the controversial character. LINK

- People involved in the administration of criminal justice must raise their awareness of autism and Asperger Syndrome because the justice system just seems to completely ignore autism, a leading charity says. Research by the National Autistic Society shows that over 90% of police and solicitors have no training to help them to understand autism. The result is that those who have the disability are often misunderstood. Almost 80% of solicitors and more than 90% of police officers do not think that the legal profession has a high enough level of understanding of autism. LINK

- An investigation into how an autistic woman managed to fall off a pier while out with a carer is under way. Brixham coastguards were alerted on Tuesday night when the 24-year-old got through railings at Torquay's Princess Pier and fell into the sea. She was rescued following a full-scale search involving coastguards, lifeboat and a police helicopter. The woman, who is a resident at the Westbrooke Grange in Lummaton Cross, was taken to Torbay Hospital. LINK


- BBC 1 transmits an episode of the daytime drama "Doctors", which features an autistic boy called Joe who is accused of being abused by his sister, Emma. An episode of Casualty featuring Don, a child with Asperger Syndrome whose mother is electrocuted, is also transmitted, five years after a character with Asperger Syndrome appeared in its sister drama series Holby City. LINK

- A mother who says her son tried to kill her denied she had attempted to persuade him he was autistic to get him out of her house. Christopher Farren-Hill, 43, of Mount Gould Road, Plymouth, denies attempting to murder Sylvia Coates last year. Mrs Coates, 71, told Exeter Crown Court her relationship with her son had deteriorated before the incident. LINK

- A bid to reach out to people with autism from ethnic minorities will be held in Birmingham on Thursday. The National Autistic Society and the Afiya Trust want to bring together families affected by autism and the professionals who support them. Councillor John Hood, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, will give an address. LINK


- 18-year old Kieron Smith, who had been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Lauren Pilkington-Smith, who was attacked with a blunt instrument. Lauren's grandfather had found her body, covered with leaves, a few hours after she was murdered by Smith. LINK

- Abnormal activity in neurons that help individuals imitate others may underlie some of the social deficits found in autism, US researchers believe. A Nature Neuroscience study found autistic children had less brain activation in an area involved in understanding others' state of mind. LINK

- Helen Bonham Carter stars as Maggi Jackson, the mother of four autistic children in the BBC 2 play "Magnificent 7" on Tuesday 13th December. The factual drama was based (and influenced) on Blackpool mother Jacqui Jackson and her offspring, who either have Asperger Syndrome or autism. LINK