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Autism Speaks Provides Sleep Strategies and Treatment Strategies to Dental Professionals

NEW YORK, N.Y. (February 21, 2012) – Autism Speaks, North America’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today released theSleep Strategies for Children with Autism: A Parent’s Guide and Treating Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Tool Kit for Dental Professionals, both available for free download on Autism Speaks Tools You Can Use webpage.

Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep through the night, so sleep experts in Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN) and the companion Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P) have addressed how to help improve sleep for children and teens affected by ASD. The Sleep Strategies Guide helps families select ideas that have the best potential to work well with their lifestyle. It recommends that families implement their sleep plan when they have the time and energy to see if it will work, trying one small change, and then slowly incorporating other changes. With consistent routines and persistent effort, families often see changes in their child’s sleep patterns over several weeks.

“If your child or teen with ASD has difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, know that you are not alone,” said Autism Speaks Vice President of Clinical Programs Clara Lajonchere, Ph.D. “The goal of the ‘Sleep Strategies’ tool kit is to empower families with effective strategies to create less stressful, more effective and consistent routines that can significantly improve quality of life for both the child with autism and their families.”

Individuals with ASD may present with dental conditions resulting from behaviors associated with ASD or diets often higher in carbohydrates which can lead to dental decay. ATN dentists and therapists developed the Tool Kit for Dental Professionals after observing that dentists, despite being well-versed in strategies for treating children, often feel unprepared for interacting with patients with the special sensitivities and medical issues often associated with autism. Recognizing the need for dental professionals to have the most up-to-date information about individuals with ASD and how to facilitate a successful office visit for children with autism, this new Tool Kit for Dental Professionals helps dentists, dental hygienists and their office staff better serve the needs of this growing patient population using behavioral approaches. The companion Dental Guide, which provides important information about oral health and dental hygiene for families, previously published by Autism Speaks is also found on the Tools You Can Use webpage.

“By bringing the Tool Kit for Dental Professionals to the attention of their family dentist, families can help dental professionals stay up to date on autism spectrum disorders and help make visiting the dentist a positive experience for their child,” says ATN Medical Director Dan Coury, M.D. “Families may also find its information helpful in managing situations inside the dentist office and beyond,” he adds. “The recommendations in this tool kit are for behavioral issues that can appear in a variety of situations, including going to the doctor, visiting other unfamiliar settings or simply trying to follow a certain time schedule.”

The ATN tool kits were inspired by the success of the popular Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families. In 2011, ATN and AIR-P published the first of its tool kits to provide guidance to families and providers. Taking the Work Out of Blood Work: Helping Your Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder – A Parent’s Guide” and the companionprovider’s guideoffer clear guidance for families and medical providers to help make necessary medical procedures less stressful. The ATN and AIR-P also produced the Medication Decision Aid Tool Kit to help families understand more of the choices and considerations involved in considering medications in collaboration with their child’s doctor. These tool kits are free of charge and available to download at Tools You Can Use. Additional tool kits in development are also listed there.

Development of these toolsis the product of on-going activities of the Autism Treatment Network, a funded program of Autism Speaks, and its participation as the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P). AIR-P is supported by cooperative agreement UA3 MC 11054 through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Research Program to the Massachusetts General Hospital.

About the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network
The Autism Speaks’ Autism Treatment Network (ATN) is the nation's first network of hospitals and physicians dedicated to developing a model of comprehensive medical care for children and adolescents with autism. The ATN, currently a network of 17 sites in North America, offers families care from doctors and other health professionals highly experienced in helping individuals with autism and providing treatment for associated conditions such as gastrointestinal and sleep disorders. ATN doctors and other health professionals are dedicated to finding better ways to manage the health of children with autism and sharing their increasing knowledge across the wider medical community. The ATN provides direct patient care through a comprehensive, coordinated care model at its network of collaborative clinical teams providing ongoing care to children and families. The ATN works to develop and share best practices to improvecare, developing standards and guidelines for evaluating and treating physical conditions associated with autism, and to sharing these standards with a wide variety of other clinical programs, utilizing its common protocol for a multidisciplinary and comprehensive evaluation of children with autism. Some of these best practices are integrated into tool kits modeled after the highly successful Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit. These free resources include practical guidance to parents and practitioners on making blood draws and medical procedures less stressful and a Medication Decision Aid, and can be found at Tools You Can Use. In addition, the ATN maintains a patient registry, a database of anonymous clinical data about participating families and patients that can be used to evaluate and track patient care in network facilities. ATN clinicians also conduct clinical research projects directly aimed at improving children's health and healthcare, serving as the Autism Intervention Network for Physical Health (AIR-P) for the Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) Combating Autism Act Initiatives.

About Autism
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 110 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 600 percent increase in the past two decades that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $173 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks’ Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $316 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a Grandparent’s Guide to Autism, and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 29 states thus far, with legislation continuing to advance in more states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 85 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.

About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association. He served as Vice Chairman of General Electric; and as the Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years and is a graduate of the College of Holy Cross and the University of Virginia School of Law. He also serves on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, EMI Group Global Ltd., and AMC Networks Inc., and is a Trustee of the New York Presbyterian hospital.  Suzanne Wright is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the CHILD Magazine Children’s Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women’s Division and The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 Heroes and Pioneers category, a list of the most influential people in the world, for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They have also received the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the NYU Child Advocacy Award, the Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and the American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award.  In the past couple of years the Wrights have received honorary doctorate degrees from St. John’s University, St. Joseph’s University and UMass Medical School.