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June 2011



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Archive for June 2nd, 2011


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 1st 2011

The reality life can get overwhelming at times and some us feel that overwhelm sooner than others. We feel we “should” be able to handle the overwhelm when it inserts itself into our lives, but because we aren’t handling it, then “there’s something wrong with us.” Now that we doubt our ability to handle the situation, we become more overwhelmed and the cycle continues. However, the fact remains, we’re overwhelmed.

From a mindfulness perspective, I might say to see if you can bring a kind attention to the feeling of overwhelm. Inquire into it as if it was the first time you ever noticed it, getting a sense of its shape, texture or depth. See what happens if you just allow it to be and notice what happens next instead of buying into the thought, “I can’t handle this.”

However, sometimes the overwhelm is too great and in my mind, the underpinnings of mindfulness is to figure out what the most skillful action is to take. Perhaps “being with” the overwhelm isn’t what is best in that moment for your stress reduction and well-being and instead we need to “take a break” from it in order to help stop the spiral.

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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 27, 2011

University of Montreal researchers say that the drug metyrapone reduces the brain’s ability to re-record the negative emotions associated with painful memories. In other words, bad memories are effectively blocked from being recalled or remembered.

The team’s study challenges the theory that memories cannot be modified once they are stored in the brain.

“Metyrapone is a drug that significantly decreases the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that is involved in memory recall,” explained lead author Marie-France Marin, a doctoral student.

Manipulating cortisol close to the time of forming new memories can decrease the negative emotions that may be associated with them, the researchers said.

“The results show that when we decrease stress hormone levels at the time of recall of a negative event, we can impair the memory for this negative event with a long-lasting effect,” said Sonia Lupien, Ph.D., who directed the research.

Thirty-three men participated in the study, which involved learning a story composed of neutral and negative events.

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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on June 1, 2011

Surprising new research from the University of Chicago suggests reduced sleep can lower testosterone levels in healthy young men.

While the study involved a very small sample, findings are consistent with emerging research that suggests low sleep duration and poor sleep quality can disrupt the endocrine, or hormonal, system, which is involved in metabolism, growth, tissue function and mood.

The study is found in the June 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Investigators found that men who slept less than five hours a night for one week in a laboratory had significantly lower levels of testosterone than when they had a full night’s sleep.

Low testosterone has a host of negative consequences for young men, and not just in sexual behavior and reproduction. It is critical in building strength and muscle mass, and bone density.

“Low testosterone levels are associated with reduced well-being and vigor, which may also occur as a consequence of sleep loss” said researcher Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D.

According to experts, at least 15 percent of the adult working population in the U.S. gets less than 5 hours of sleep a night.

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ScienceDaily (June 2, 2011) — The protein MeCP2 is porridge to the finicky neuron. Like Goldilocks, the neuron or brain cell needs the protein in just the right amount. Girls born with dysfunctional MeCP2 (methyl-CpG-binding protein 2) develop Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder. Too much MeCP2 can cause spasticity or developmental delay with autism-like symptoms in boys.

Now, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital have found that the neuron needs a steady supply of this protein for its entire existence. A report on this research appears online in Science Express.

MeCP2 was found in 1999 in the laboratory of Dr. Huda Zoghbi, director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at TCH and professor of neurology, neuroscience, pediatrics and molecular and human genetics at BCM and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. A mutation in MeCP2 results in Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that strikes mainly girls. Male fetuses born with the mutation (which results in dysfunctional protein) die before birth, but girls appear normal until they are between 6 and 18 months. Then they begin to regress and their growth slows. They develop abnormal hand motions such as wringing. Their crawling and walking regresses and they eventually lose the ability to speak or communicate. They exhibit some symptoms of autism.

Clearly, MeCP2 is critical to normal mental functioning, but a question remained. Do neurons need MeCP2 throughout life or would they be protected and work properly if MeCP2 is provided only early in life and then discontinued during adulthood?

Journal Reference:

  1. Christopher M. McGraw, Rodney C. Samaco, and Huda Y. Zoghbi. Adult Neural Function Requires MeCP2. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1206593


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ScienceDaily (June 2, 2011) — A recent study has shown that cognitive impairment is evident early on in preschool children with epilepsy, consistent with results of similar studies in older children. Age of onset of first seizure is a significant predictor of cognitive impairment according to this study — the first to evaluate cognitive impairment in children age three to six. The report is available in Epilepsia, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE).

Epilepsy is characterized by recurrent seizures that range from mild staring spells to major convulsions, and frequently develops in early childhood. Studies have found that in the U.S. alone there are more than 325,000 children under the age of 15 who are diagnosed with epilepsy, with 45,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Medical evidence further suggests that early onset of seizures is a significant factor contributing to cognitive impairment in children.

For the present study, researchers reviewed medical data and psychological evaluations for 64 preschool children (3 to 6.11 years old) with active epilepsy in order to determine the frequency of cognitive impairment and the epilepsy-related factors contributing to the impairment. Children in the study group had a mean age of five, with seizure onset between 0 and 75 months. “Our study is the first to examine cognitive performance in preschool children with epilepsy,” said lead researcher Kati Rantanen, a PhD candidate at the University of Tampere in Finland.

The study showed that the prevalence of epilepsy was roughly 3 per 1,000 children, which is consistent with prior studies in Finland and other developed countries. The team identified 27 children with focal seizures, 31 with generalized seizures, and 6 with unclassified seizure types. More than half of the children (64%) were receiving monotherapy of an anti-epileptic drug for seizure control. The seizures were well-controlled in 37% of children, partially controlled in 16%, and poorly controlled in the remaining 47% of participants.

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Article Date: 02 Jun 2011 – 3:00 PDT

Commenting on the Panorama investigation into abuse at a unit for people with learning disbailities (Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed, shown on BBC1 on 31 May 2011), Dr Ian Hall, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of the Psychiatry of Learning Disablity, said:

“The practices shown in the Panorama documentary are appalling, and must never be used when supporting people with learning disability. People with learning disability should always be treated with dignity and respect. If they talk about being treated badly, then this must always be taken seriously, by everyone, including hospital managers and regulators.

“People with learning disability do sometimes behave in a way that challenges services and carers. Treating people with dignity and respect goes a long way to preventing such behaviour. Where such behaviour does occur, there are established good practice therapeutic guidelines for managing it. There is absolutely no place for punishment, or inhuman or degrading treatment in the management of such behaviour.”

In June 2007, the Royal College of Psychiatrists published a College Report detailing good practice guidelines for supporting people with learning disabilities who are at risk of receiving abusive or restrictive practices: CR144 – Challenging Behaviour: A Unified Approach.

Royal College of Psychiatrists



NAS: More Regular Independent Inspections Of Care Services Needed

In response to BBC One’s Panorama investigation into the abuse of vulnerable adults in care, broadcast at 9pm on Tuesday 31 May, The National Autistic Society (NAS) is calling on the Government to recognise the failings in the current system of inspection. Please sign our petition to call on the Government to take urgent action to address the failings in the current system of inspection.

The Government must ensure that inspecting bodies are properly resourced to ensure care providers are held to account for the services they provide to vulnerable adults. The NAS is concerned that under the current ‘light-touch’ inspection system, which has seen a reported 70% drop in inspections over the past year,  early identification of care quality issues is not guaranteed.

Carol Povey, Director of the NAS Centre for Autism, says:

I and my colleagues at the NAS found last night’s programme shocking and deeply upsetting. It is completely unacceptable that any form of abuse by care support staff takes place in any care service. Careful recruitment, regular inspections and detailed staff training plans are essential but organisations also need to ensure they have a culture where abuse is never tolerated, and this needs to come from the top.

She continues:

We all have a duty of care to protect vulnerable adults from harm and to ensure they have the opportunity to live life to the full with dignity and respect. This programme demonstrates that the current system is failing some of our most vulnerable people but we have concerns that it has taken yet another undercover investigation to bring this particular instance of abuse to the attention of the authorities. We believe that full accountability of services is required to end abuse of this kind now and in the future.

The NAS is calling for immediate safeguarding procedures to be implemented throughout adult care services under a robust and rigorous inspection system.

  • *All organisations have to create working cultures where abuse is unacceptable and clear polices and procedures are in place to report abuse and wrongdoing.
  • *It is vital that individuals working in adult social care have the right attitude to work with vulnerable adults and that they are trained in safeguarding and managing challenging behaviour.
  • *Robust and rigorous recruitment procedures are essential.
  • *Specific on-the-job training should be regularly assessed and refreshed.
  • *Staff must have relevant and specific knowledge of the disabilities they are dealing with to help support individuals appropriately.

We have produced a Q&A for families who are concerned about the issues raised in the Panorama programme and want to know more about how people in adult services should be well-supported and kept safe.




The National Autistic Society has launched new telephone numbers for the following services:

Education Rights Service: 0808 800 4102
Autism Helpline: 0808 800  4104
Parent-to-Parent Service: 0808 800 4106

Calls to these numbers are free from landlines and most mobiles.

This is an important development as it will support more people to access the information, advice and support that they need; one in seven calls to our Autism Helpline are now from mobile phones. The new numbers also offer enhanced confidentiality as the mobile networks will not itemise calls to these numbers on bills.

Our Autism Helpline is for people with an autism spectrum disorder, family members and carers. It offers impartial, confidential advice, information and support around autism and related issues, including diagnosis, early intervention, therapies, behaviour management, education, housing, benefits and community care. Our helpline advisors can also search for local support in your area or direct you to appropriate services.

People who wish to book a telephone appointment with our Welfare Rights Service and Community Care Service can do so via the Autism Helpline.

Our Parent to Parent Service is a confidential telephone service providing emotional support for parents and carers of an adult or child on the autism spectrum. A parent or carer can call the service at any time and leave a message on the 24-hour answer phone. A volunteer will then call them back as soon as possible, at a time which suits them, including evenings and weekends

Finally, our UK-wide Education Rights Service provides information, advice and support on educational provision and entitlements to help guide parents and carers through education law and through what can often be a complex and difficult process. Our trained volunteers also help parents prepare appeals to educational tribunals.





In the series Born To Be Different, Channel 4 has, for the last 11 years, been following the lives of six remarkable children all born with a disability. Zoe, Emily, Hamish, Shelbie, Nathan and William all face different challenges as they pass the milestone of their tenth birthdays.

William, 11, has tuberous sclerosis and also has complex epilepsy, severe learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorder, challenging behaviour and ADHD. During the three programmes he has the joy of his tenth birthday, a huge milestone for the whole family. Finally the family are able to adapt their home to make it more suitable for William, who has variable mobility due mainly to his epilepsy. His behaviour then shows significant deterioration, his SEGA brain tumour has grown and is causing headaches and irritability. The family face the trauma of invasive brain surgery to remove the tumour. William has spent so much time in hospital over his life he has a significant fear of any medical procedure.

William has very high care needs and two years ago Paula (his mother and main carer) was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Family life goes on regardless and the documentary shows the joy and challenges of raising a child who was ‘Born to Be Different’. As Paula says,

With MS you are advised to get lots of sleep and avoid stress, I guess whoever gave this advice had never met William.

The Davises admit that life with William can be really tough but his winning smile always carries them through.

Programme 1 Thursday 9 June 9.00pm
Programme 2 Thursday 16 June 9.00pm
Programme 3 Thursday 23 June 9.00pm




The news (25 May 2011) reports that four police officers now face misconduct hearings for failing to identify Fiona Pilkington and her family as vulnerable, which resulted in the death of both her and her disabled daughter, Francecca.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has published a report saying there were policies in place that could have identified the level of harassment the Pilkington family were subjected to, but that these had not been followed properly. The report also shows that, despite contacting the police more than 30 times over ten years of abuse, Leicestershire Police failed to pick up on the events as ongoing harassment.

Tragically, the situation that the Pilkington family found themselves in is one that far too many people with disabilities experience. Over half of people with autism (56%) have found themselves either bullied or harassed as an adult.

The National Autistic Society believes this is wrong and has to stop. We are working with Mencap to tell the Government that more needs to be done to stop disability hate crime in its tracks. All too often, instances of disability hate crime are not being picked up and, when perpetrators are put on trial, sentences are failing to take account of that motivation of hate. While it is too late for the Pilkington family, we are working to make sure that abuse and harassment are no longer part of a disabled person’s life.

If you would like to support our call to the Government to ensure sentencing for disability hate crimes is taken as seriously as for other hate crimes, please sign our petition.



Photo: a classic John Swannell fashion shoot


John Swannell, world renowned fashion, beauty and royal photographer, appeared on Sunday’s ITV Tonight programme to talk about a lecture he will be giving in aid of The National Autistic Society (NAS).

During the programme, John discusses his experiences raising his son, Charlie, who has Asperger syndrome, and some of the famous faces he has photographed through the course of a fascinating career. John hopes that the lecture, which takes place at The Royal Geographical Society on 7 June, will help to raise funds for the NAS and awareness of autism and some of the struggles families can face, particularly during the stage of transition to adulthood.

The lecture entitled ‘My World in Pictures’ will take the form of a journey through John’s photographic career, from his first days as an assistant at Vogue Studios through to his time working for publications such as Harpers & Queen, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times and Tatler. John will talk about his experiences of photographing some of the world’s most well-known faces, how fashion has changed over the years, and the amazing places across the world John has visited throughout his career.

The lecture will take place at The Royal Geographical Society on 7 June. Tickets will cost £15 with all proceeds going to charity. Find out more about the event, including how to buy tickets.