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    A new link between pregnancy and toxins could make you give your "natural" household products a second look. A study found that pregnant women who live within a mile of places where pesticides are used have a higher risk for having a child with autism. The highest risk is for women in their last trimester, and for those living near a golf course or farm. So what does that have to do with what's in your cabinets at home?

    Well, you may not have much control over how your neighbors treat their lawns and crops. But it turns out, some of those same chemicals linked to autism can be found in your own home, and from the very sources you'd least expect.

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    Inspired by Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield's efforts to give some kids' charities some big press -- and save themselves from the paparazzi? You're not alone! The signs the celebrity couple plastered on their faces, promoting organizations such as Autism Speaks and the Youth Mentoring Connection, have inspired a little boy with autism to stand up for kids like him. 

    If you shared the photo of the celebrities because of their message, you're probably going to want to share the photo dreamt up by Liam, a 7 1/2-year-old who has autism, from Chandler, Arizona. Check out his message to Emma:

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    Fourteen-year-old Dillan Barmache gave an incredibly inspiring speech to his fellow classmates on graduation day at Hale Charter Academy in Woodland Hills, California. Dillian has autism and is non-verbal, but he was able to communicate his message through his tablet computer.

    Dillian's speech was met with a standing ovation from his peers, but what he had to say will inspire us all.

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    Whether they're nodding to stress hormones one week or diet the next, researchers are constantly trying to pin down which genetics and/or environmental factors are responsible for raising a child's risk of autism. The curiosity is understandable, considering that about one in 68 U.S. children has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the latest stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    While much of what we see cropping up in the news is related to moms and pregnancy health, studies are also looking at how fathers are a part of the picture. Here, four ways research has shown men could be contributing to autism risk ...

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    Another day, another study looking at what might cause autism. Though unlike PETA's inflammatory claims that dairy is to blame, the latest findings from the journal Molecular Psychiatry show that autism in boys may be linked to steroid hormones in the womb. Higher prenatal levels of testosterone, progesterone, and the stress hormone cortisol were greater on average in boys who were later diagnosed with autism, according to researchers.

    They explain that they previously knew elevated prenatal testosterone was associated with slower social and language development, better attention to detail, and more autistic traits, but this is the first study that has shown steroid hormones are elevated in children clinically diagnosed with autism.

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    PETA has been dropping jaws with its vegan activist campaigns for years now, but its latest move is causing an absolute firestorm. They've restarted a previous campaign to try to push the point that there's a link between autism and dairy products, in an attempt to scare people into going vegan.

    Back in 2008, they put up an offensive "Got Autism?" billboard in Newark, New Jersey that ended up getting pulled by the advertising company hosting the billboard.

    Check it out ...

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    For many -- if not most -- of us, the term electroconvulsive therapy or ECT brings to mind an upsetting illustration of the therapy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. But for Amy S.F. Lutz, a mom of five whose 15-year-old son Jonah has autism and a history of frequent, unpredictable rages, ECT is a lifesaving treatment.

    Where anti-psychotic drugs failed and may have led to frightening, possibly permanent side effects like dystonia, tardive dyskinesia, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome, ECT has proven both effective and without worrying side effects. Thrilled by the results, Amy wrote Each Day I Like It Better: Autism, ECT, and the Treatment of Our Most Impaired Children to raise awareness about the widely misunderstood therapy.

    Amy recently talked to The Stir about what led her to turn to ECT for Jonah, why there's such a stigma around it -- especially for kids -- and what she advises other moms who feel it may be right for their child.

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    Failing to see eye-to-eye with loved ones -- especially when it comes to how you parent -- can be frustrating and upsetting. But moms with kids who have autism may feel particularly overwhelmed when family members fail to understand their child's autism diagnosis and, in turn, what they're going through. Worse yet when family members or close friends -- either out of ignorance or denial or other emotional issues -- spout off insensitive, misguided assumptions about a child on the spectrum. It's bad enough when strangers don't get it, but when those who are nearest and dearest to the situation blame a mom's parenting or make remarks that come off clueless at best, and heartless at worst, it can feel absolutely devastating.

    Here, moms of kids with autism share 15 of the seriously insensitive things they've ever heard from their loved ones ...

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    For years now, it has seemed like every time a study came out about the "cause" of autism, it lay blame on mom. Well, how's this for a change? Researchers at the University of Texas decided to look at dads and their affect on kids with autism -- specifically how dad's job is linked to their child's risk of being diagnosed as somewhere on the spectrum.

    Got a partner who works in a health care? Married to an engineer or a financial worker?

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    There is something to be said for those small moments, moments where there are things we can fix, Band-Aids to be applied, kisses to be given, Scotch tape, and glue, and staples ...

    And there is something to be said about the needle and thread I hold now in my right hand, as I clutch a little blue and gray sock monkey we found in the back of my almost-4-year-old son Owen’s closet yesterday as I was doing some New Year’s cleaning. He asked to bring it into his crib to join the menagerie of dolls and stuffed animals that have nearly overtaken the space where his little body goes to rest, and I said it was fine, only stopping him when I happened to glance over and saw some stuffing emerging from the little monkey’s right leg.

    I assured my boy that I would fix the monkey’s “boo boo” and return him right after Owen’s nap.

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