Health Desk

When An Autism Diagnosis Comes In Adulthood

Mar 27, 2016

Earlier this year, Weekend Edition profiled three families and their experiences after a child was diagnosed with autism. At the time, we also asked listeners to share their own stories.

Among the responses were many from people who didn't get diagnosed until they were adults. Some had suspicions about their condition growing up. For others, the diagnosis was a revelation as much as it was a relief.

Here are three that struck a chord. (These first-person stories have been edited for length and clarity.)

John Consentino

Carolyn Rossi has been a registered nurse for 27 years, and she's been fiercely protective of infants in her intensive care unit — babies born too soon, babies born with physical and cognitive abnormalities and, increasingly, babies born dependent on opioids.

On a terrace outside his Havana apartment, Eduardo Martinez nurtures a small schefflera tree. On a Friday afternoon in January, he looks up at its leaves fondly.

"I got it when I was in the sanitarium. I put it in my living room and it began to grow until it reached the ceiling," he says in Spanish through a translator.

When he left the sanitarium in 1996, he took a clipping from the plant. "It was so small," he says. "But it has turned into this forest that you have here — so this is a memento from that time."

The world is in danger of running out of vaccines for a deadly disease: yellow fever. A major outbreak in the African nation of Angola has already depleted the stockpile that world health officials had set aside for emergencies. It's unclear whether new vaccines can be made in time — even as officials worry that the epidemic could spread through Asia and beyond.

It's just before dawn in Piracicaba, a small city in southeastern Brazil, when a large white van pulls over to the side of the road. A door slides open, revealing stacks of crates jammed with plastic pots. Each pot is buzzing with mosquitoes.

"There's about 1,000 mosquitoes in each of those pots," says Guilherme Trivellato, who works for Oxitec, a biotech company that owns the van. All together, there are more than 300,000 mosquitoes swarming inside those pots.

"That's how many we're going to release today," he says.

This story is first in our four-part series Treating the Tiniest Opioid Patients, a collaboration produced by NPR's National & Science Desks, local member stations and Kaiser Health News.

"We're not afraid of the terrorists," says Salimata Sylla.

Scientists announced Thursday that they have built a single-celled organism that has just 473 genes — likely close to the minimum number of genes necessary to sustain its life. The development, they say, could eventually lead to new manufacturing methods.

Around 1995, a few top geneticists set out on a quest: to make an organism that had only the genes that were absolutely essential for its survival. A zero-frills life.

It was a heady time.

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The Zika virus was likely spreading in South America — silently — long before health officials detected it, scientists reported Thursday.

The findings, published in the journal Science, suggest an air traveler brought the virus to the Americas sometime between May and December of 2013, or more than a year before Brazil reported the first cases of Zika in early 2015.

I've been trying to get the perfect crust on my fried chicken for a while now. To be specific, I've been working on a dish called Chongqing Sichuan spicy chicken or chicken with chilies. This can be one of the most transformative experiences to ever come out of a wok, and I've been chasing a crisp, almost glassy crunch on my chicken for a long time.

In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, every morning, a medical specialist known as Chewa (a name that means brave in Swahili — but his bosses call him Mchapakazi, the hard worker) gets excited about his job. For two 40 minute sessions, punctuated by a nap and some recreational time with co-workers, he will test smears of human mucus for the presence of tuberculosis by sniffing deeply at each of 10 samples, then letting his supervisors know when he senses the disease in one.

There are lots of good reasons for women to space their babies at least two years apart. Studies show higher risks of premature birth, pregnancy complications and delivery problems, as well as higher death rates in the early years when babies are born very close together.

But in countries where there aren't a lot of family planning options, women end up getting pregnant again sooner than they'd like.

Eliza Catchings has been seeing doctors at the Christie Clinic in central Illinois since 1957. But just after receiving this year's WellCare Medicare Advantage member card, the insurer told her the clinic was leaving WellCare's provider network and she would have to choose new doctors.

"I was terrified," said Catchings, 79, who gets care for diabetes and heart problems. But she was helped by a little-noticed change in federal policy.

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The Department of Labor is issuing a long-awaited and controversial rule Thursday aimed at better protecting workers from inhaling silica dust.

The new rule dramatically reduces the allowed exposure limits for workers in a slew of industries, from construction to manufacturing to fracking.

Funny how feelings about sleep change over the years. Many children fight bedtime and are still getting up once or more during the night well into childhood. Meantime, adults often feel they can never get enough sleep and, if they're anything like me, have vivid fantasies about napping.

Now a study suggests that parents' own sleep quality may bias how they perceive their child's sleep issues.

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A one-of-a-kind statute that criminalized drug use by pregnant women is now on track to expire in Tennessee. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN reports that the so-called fetal assault law didn't work as planned.

When California's aid-in-dying law takes effect this June, terminally ill patients who decide to end their lives could be faced with a hefty bill for the lethal medication. It retails for more than $3,000.

On the sixth anniversary of the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, the federal health law was back before a seemingly divided Supreme Court Wednesday.

"The Flint water crisis is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice."

That's how an independent task force opened its final report on the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint.

It concluded that primary responsibility for the crisis in Flint, Mich., lies with a state environmental agency called the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality — though it said others are also to blame.

A Key Lesson From Ebola: You Can't Forget About Politics

The Ebola virus marks a milestone this month. It has been two years since the first case was confirmed in West Africa, the start of a devastating epidemic that claimed more than 11,000 lives. The anniversary is making health workers think about what the world has — and hasn't — learned from the experience.

A diabetes prevention program being tested by the YMCA of the USA has proved successful at reducing the risk of developing the disease, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

So the Obama administration wants Medicare to pay for the services for beneficiaries at high risk of developing diabetes.

In India, spring officially begins with the festival of Holi. The date is not fixed, but follows the lunar calendar. It's celebrated on the full moon day, the poornima, closest to the spring equinox – March 24 this year. The spring festival, also called the festival of color, is marked by celebrations that involve bonfires, colored powder and supersoakers.

Montana's new Medicaid expansion just got its first progress report, and it is exceeding expectations.

Initial projections were for about 23,000 of the state's estimated 70,000 Medicaid-eligible residents to take up the new coverage in its first year. Instead, in the first quarter, since its rollout on Jan. 1, enrollment is at 38,298.

Experiencing the world as a different gender than the one assigned to you at birth can take a toll. Nearly all research into transgender individuals' mental health shows poorer outcomes. A study looking specifically at transgender women, predominantly women of color, only further confirms that reality.

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The fix is broken.

Two years ago Congress created the Veterans Choice Program after scandals revealed that some veterans were waiting months to get essential medical care. The $10 billion program was designed to get veterans care quickly by letting them choose a doctor outside the VA system. Now Congress and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are pushing through new legislation to fix the program.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that all fast-acting opioid pain medicines will be required to carry its strongest warning about risks, including the risks for abuse, addiction, overdose and death.

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