Press Releases


April 18, 2011

Milwaukee, WI - (April 18, 2011) As part of Autism Awareness Month, Robert MacNeil returns to PBS NewsHour with a six-part series to look at autism today. MacNeil, who has an autistic grandson named Nick, will explore the autism issue from the latest thinking on causes, the treatments, and the effect on families who are looking for answers. The series begins tonight on MPTV at 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on Channel 36.1 and, on Channel 10.2, it airs at 9:00 p.m.

This is the first time in his career as a reporter that MacNeil has included his family in a story. MacNeil said his grandson Nick "moved him deeply" and that is why he wanted to include Nick in this important series.

MacNeil and producer Caren Zucker, who has a 16-year-old son with autism, traveled to different locations where research on causes, treatments, and policy decisions are being made. The series is about their findings, as well as the stories of parents with children and adults that have autism.

Monday, April 18 An introduction to Nick and autism as a whole body experience: MacNeil introduces us to his daughter and his grandson Nick so we can see firsthand how autism affects the family. Nick's sister Neely is there to help shed light on how siblings are affected. The idea of autism not only being a brain development issue but a whole body experience is also explored.

Tuesday, April 19 Autism Prevalence: why are the numbers of children with autism increasing? MacNeil goes to the MIND Institute in Sacramento to learn about the wide range of behaviors that make up the autism spectrum. Then two views are presented as to the cause of the rise in autism. Anthropologist Richard Grinker argues the autism diagnosis is being used for disorders that were formerly known by different names. Scientist Irva Hertz-Picciotto will discuss how environmental issues along with reclassification have also increased the number of cases.

Wednesday, April 20 Autism Causes: The increased number of autism cases has given rise to an increase in the reported causes of autism. MacNeil speaks with four of the leading researchers in this field to discuss their work.

Thursday, April 21 Autism Treatment: The burden of treating autism falls on the school system. Education is the main form of treatment and in this installment MacNeil visits two schools in New York, a public school in the Bronx teaching 700 children with autism and a charter school in Manhattan as a model of possibilities in educating children with autism. With only 30 students, the Manhattan school can use one-on-one teacher/student ratios employing intensive Applied Behavioral Analysis, the gold standard treatment for autism.

Monday, April 25 Adults with Autism: MacNeil profiles Zachary Hamrick in Mahwah, New Jersey, about to turn 21, as his family contemplates the uncertain future now facing hundreds of thousands of young people like him.

Tuesday, April 26 Autism Policy: The NewsHour series ends with a discussion of the public policy issues raised in the series, including the enormous discrepancy in the quality and availability of services for children and future adults in what the federal committee that determines research priorities for autism now calls a "national health emergency."

"I know firsthand the difficulties facing parents and children with spectrum disorders. My son David was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when he was six years old. He's 16 now and early intervention helped. What we found hard, though, was getting information -- and a series like this can help shed light on new ideas and treatments." ~Caren Zucker

For more resources and a video of the first installment see the PBS NewHour Autism Now website.

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