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Colorado Governor Suspends Controlled Burns; Number of Autistic Children on the Rise

Aired March 30, 2012 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: It`s Friday. I`m Carl Azuz. This is CNN Student News. Earlier this week, we asked you to discuss your memory methods. Remember that? Well, today, we`re going to share some of what you had to say.

First up, though, the governor of Colorado has suspended any controlled burns in the state. That`s when a fire is set on purpose to clear away brush. The governor made that decision because --


AZUZ (voice-over): -- of this. It`s a wildfire in the area near Denver. Started out as a controlled burn, but erupted into something much larger. Firefighters have dropped thousands of gallons of chemicals on the fire, trying to get the thing under control. Two people have died because of it. Dozens of houses have been destroyed or damaged.

A family shot this video as it escaped from the fire. It might look like the middle of the night. It`s actually during the day. The smoke from the fire is what made things so dark. And you could see the difference as the car gets past the flames. The whole family made it out OK.



AZUZ (voice-over): From Colorado, we`re heading to Afghanistan. Last week, a U.S. military convoy was driving through a province in the northeastern part of Afghanistan. Some kids were in the road. So a few of the soldiers got out of their vehicles to move the kids out of the way.

Dennis Weichel was one of those soldiers. He noticed a vehicle moving toward an Afghan girl, who went back to pick something up in the road. Weichel grabbed the girl, got her out of the way, saved her life and sacrificed his. Weichel was a member of the Rhode Island National Guard. The state is honoring him by flying its flags at half-staff until his funeral on Monday.



AZUZ (voice-over): Our next stop is the North Sea, which separates the United Kingdom from parts of Europe. Nearly 240 workers had to be taken off an oil rig there because of a leak, but not an oil leak. It was a gas leak. Officials say it seems to have started when workers were sealing a well in the North Sea. The danger with a gas leak is that gas catches more easily than oil does.

Yesterday experts were considering whether to wait for the gas to stop leaking on its own or whether they should drill a relief well or try to plug up the leak.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just the facts. Autism refers to a series of developmental disorders. These usually appear in children before they`re three years old. Children with autism generally struggle with social interaction, language and behavior. There isn`t a cure for autism, but treatment has been shown to offer significant help.


AZUZ: Doctors haven`t identified any one specific thing that causes autism. Because it`s a series of disorders, and because no two children with autism are alike, there are probably many possible causes. According to a new report, doctors do know that a number of children with autism is increasing.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores how the numbers have changed, why it`s significant and what might be some of the reasons for the increase.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Frankie Sanders is a ninth grader who loves to play chess on his iPad, and is trying to pass the test for his driver`s permit. Frankie also has autism. As you may know, that`s a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects language, behavior and social skills. Boys make up the vast majority of cases.

What you may not know is that 12 years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to estimate the total number of cases in the United States. They based it on a count of eight-year-old children with autism in select communities.

If you look back in the years 2000 and 2002, it was about one child in 150 with autism. Two years later, one in 125. Then one in 110. And now the latest report as of 2008, the last time an estimate was performed, one in 88 children has autism. That`s a 78 percent increase just over the last decade. And the question on a lot of people`s minds is why.

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: How much of that increase is a result of better tracking and how much of it is a result of an actual increase, we still don`t know.

GUPTA (voice-over): Researchers have discovered many genes linked to autism, but in most cases genes are only one part of the equation, and genes alone wouldn`t change that fast in just 10 years. There is something else that triggers the problem.

GARY GOLDSTEIN, PRESIDENT, KENNEDY KRIEGER INSTITUTE: We`re talking about infections. We`re talking about social conditions, and we`re talking about exposures to toxicants, things in the environment.

GUPTA (voice-over): Researchers are still looking for answers, but what they do know is that diagnosing children early is critical, as was the case with Frankie Sanders.

ROY SANDERS, FATHER OF FRANKIE SANDERS: Frankie was diagnosed when he was 15 months old. He immediately began to get speech therapy and occupational therapy and physical therapy. He was placed in a group with kids who were typically developing.

GUPTA (voice-over): All that hard work is paying off. Frankie is now 15. He attends a regular high school and plays on the football team.

GOLDSTEIN: We can diagnose autism at two years of age almost always, but in 90 percent of the children; by three, certainly. And we actually can diagnose it at 18 months in many children.

GUPTA (voice-over): But according to this new report, most cases are diagnosed late, after age two or three. That`s when therapy has been shown to help the most, especially with speech and communication.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is small, this is big. Keep going.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Ms. Christenberry`s and Ms. Groves` social studies classes at Gilmer Intermediate School in Gilmer, Texas.

What famous author said, "Anything`s possible if you`ve got enough nerve"? Was it Suzanne Collins, Maya Angelou, J.K. Rowling or c? You`ve got three seconds, go.

Those words of encouragement came from J.K. Rowling. That`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: Pearls of wisdom, powerful, encouraging words like the ones you just heard from J.K. Rowling, we have more for you now as we wrap up our coverage of Women`s History Month.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An escaped slave herself, Harriet Tubman helped lead hundreds of other slaves to freedom by way of the Underground Railroad in the 1800s. Tubman believed anyone can make a difference.

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."

Arguably one of the best women to play the game of soccer, Mia Hamm won World Cup championships and Olympic gold medals. Based on her athletic skills and fierce determination.

"I`ve worked too hard and too long to let anything stand in the way of my goals. I will not let my teammates down and I will not let myself down."

Sonia Sotomayor began dreaming of a legal career from a young age. Now she`s the third woman and the first Hispanic to serve as a United States Supreme Court justice. She says everyone has the chance to succeed.

"I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge, regardless of their background or life experiences."

Because of her fight for democracy and human rights in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel peace prize. But she also spent years living under restrictions. Her strategy for when you`re dealing with struggles?

"If you`re feeling helpless, help someone."


AZUZ: On our blog this week, we asked what you do to help yourself remember information.

Calista uses music. "I will make it up to a song that gets stuck in my head easily," she writes, "then replace the lyrics with what I have to remember."

Panchas says, "For unknown reasons, I can memorize how a rhythm or tune sounds after hearing it just a few times, and keep it in my memory for a long time."

Finding rhythm also helps Zara memorize something. "I`m a dancer, so rhythms have always been what I remember best."

Erick`s method: he tries to connect what he has to remember to everything that he has in his room.

For Quinlan, it`s reading something forwards and backwards. "I pretty much do that a couple of times, and then I know it."

Casiana imagines pictures of what she tries to remember.

Marla makes it into a funny story, like remembering groceries. "Mom needs bananas to feed to her monkey that rides a bologna-eating water buffalo." All right.

And Jovaughn says creating words or phrases out of the first letter helps, such a 09241 can be "Zack needed to forgive Omar."


AZUZ: Animal videos can be an endless source of entertainment, so can smartphone apps. So today, we`re putting them together.


AZUZ (voice-over): First up, an elephant who knows how to use a smartphone. This is what happens when you put your tusk in technology.

An apps that shows bugs to a lizard -- it`s either a fun game or the world`s meanest diet.

iPad, scratch pad, same difference.

Next one we have more of a serious story, this right here. Quit monkeying around, all right?

And a quick piece of advice for you: if you get your frog hopping mad, don`t get your thumb anywhere near its mouth. Ow!

And finally -- well, at least someone thinks their sense of humor is a scream.


AZUZ: All right. You probably didn`t think animals should use technology. Turns out for those guys, it`s just second nature. The "app- ortunity" for puns, of course, is endless, but writing them all down would be a beast.

All right. Quick congratulations to Valley Vista High in Surprise, Arizona. Someone there got our social media question right. We hope you enjoy the weekend, and we will see you in April.