Thursday, November 15, 2007

Autism News Articles Nov 3-11th 2007

Autism News Articles
November 3rd – November 11th 2007
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From A Listmate
(This notation is accompanied by a pdf attached to this email message)

Hello Folks,

As many of you know, on November 3, 2007, there was a rather bizarre article in the Globe and Mail titled "Autistics: We don't want a cure" suggesting that some people who claim to be autistic do not want to be cured, etc. One of the leading spokespersons for this "autism is a culture, not a disease" and "neurodiversity" movement is Michelle Dawson, who was quoted in the article.

While Dawson claims to be autistic and to speak for all those with autism, there was a rather interesting front page article about her in the Le Devoir newspaper in early 2006 which revealed, among other things, that her parents did not notice anything particularly unusual about her when she was growing up; she was living on her own and working at the age of 17; and she "self-diagnosed" herself at the age of 31 after reading an article in a magazine to which she had a subscription. Many of us wish that if our own kids have to have autism, that it be the kind of autism that Dawson has. Many people who are very familiar with autism in fact suspect that she probably suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, and possibly has some other problems.

Regrettably, Dawson has done a lot to thwart our attempts to get treatment for our kids who are nowhere near as functional as she is. Dawson intervened at the SCC in the Auton case (2004) and was specifically referred to in the dreadful decision by the Chief Justice. Similarly, the final report of the Senate Committee on Mental Health (the Kirby Report of several years ago) had a few pages on autism which repeatedly quoted Dawson and her views. More recently, she appeared as a witness before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs during its hearings on funding for the treatment of autism and was referred to by one Senator as "brilliant". Furthermore, she is very active on the internet and has been particularly active on autism groups (e.g. the Yahoo ones where she is able to post messages).

Throughout Dawson's lobbying to sabotage our efforts to get treatment for our kids she has repeatedly used misleading or false arguments. Regrettably, as many of us know, trying to debate with her is a serious waste of time...she does not listen or try to understand and keeps escalating the debate using distorted quotes or misrepresentations of one's arguments, etc.

Dawson and her fan club provide the politicians with the argument that because there is a lack of consensus and unanimity in the autism community, and since autistics themselves are opposed to treatment, their is nothing that the politicians can do, etc. How should our community respond? While responding does risk drawing attention to her false arguments and giving them more credibility than they deserve, there is a need to provide those who do not have sufficient background to dissect and dismiss the false arguments with the facts and analysis to come to their own conclusions. Accordingly, several years ago, a website was created to shed light on these false arguments called "Autism: A Debilitating Disease, Not a Culture". It created quite a stir within the Dawson camp, and was immediately criticized by her and her cohorts as being a "hate site". There is nothing resembling hate on the site, only a discussion of myths and facts, and the analysis of arguments. The website was subsequently taken offline (another victory for the Dawson crowd). However, the contents are attached.

If anyone is in contact with the journalist who wrote the Globe piece, please feel free to forward this attachment to them, and to others who appear to be excessively influenced by the "neurodiversity" and "autism is a culture" fringe, so as to provide them with some background on the issues.

Andrew Kavchak

From a Listmate
Autism 'epidemic' largely fuelled by special ed funding, shift in diagnosing
Provided by: Associated Press
Written by: Mike Stobbe, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Nov. 4, 2007
ATLANTA - A few decades ago, people probably would have said kids like Ryan Massey and Eddie Scheuplein were just odd. Or difficult.
Both boys are bright. But Ryan, 11, is hyper and prone to angry outbursts, sometimes trying to strangle another kid in his class who annoys him. Eddie, 7, has a strange habit of sticking his shirt in his mouth and sucking on it.
Both were diagnosed with a form of autism. And it's partly because of children like them that autism appears to be skyrocketing: In the latest estimate, as many as one in 150 children have some form of this disorder. Groups advocating more research money call autism "the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States."
Indeed, doctors are concerned there are even more cases out there, unrecognized: The American Academy of Pediatrics last week stressed the importance of screening every kid - twice - for autism by age two.
But many experts believe these unsociable behaviours were just about as common 30 or 40 years ago. The recent explosion of cases appears to be mostly caused by a surge in special education services for autistic children, and by a corresponding shift in what doctors call autism.
Autism has always been diagnosed by making judgments about a child's behaviour; there are no blood or biologic tests. For decades, the diagnosis was given only to kids with severe language and social impairments and unusual, repetitious behaviours.
Many children with severe autism hit themselves or others, don't speak and don't make eye contact.
Blake Dees, a 19-year-old from Suwanee, Ga., falls into that group. For the past eight years, he has been in a day program with intense services, but he still doesn't talk, he's not toilet-trained, and he has a history of trying to eat anything - even broken glass.
But he's not a typical case.
In the 1990s, the autism umbrella expanded, and autism is now shorthand for a group of milder, related conditions, known as "autism spectrum disorders."
The spectrum includes Asperger's syndrome and something called PDD-NOS (for Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified). Some support groups report more than half of their families fall into these categories, but there is no commonly accepted scientific breakdown.
Gradually, there have been changes in parents' own perception of autism, the autism services schools provide, and the care that insurers pay for, experts say.
Eddie, of Buford, Ga., was initially diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions. But the services he got in school were not very helpful.
His mother, Michelle Scheuplein, said a diagnosis of autism brought occupational therapy and other, better services.
"I do have to admit I almost like the idea of having the autistic label, at least over the other labels, because there's more help out there for you," said Scheuplein.
"The truth is there's a powerful incentive for physicians and schools to classify children in a way that gets services," said Dr. Edwin Trevathan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many with Asperger's and PDD-NOS succeed in school and do not - at first glance - have much in common with children like Blake Dees.
At a recent gathering of families with Asperger's children in the Atlanta area, parents told almost comical stories about kids who frequently pick their noses, douse food in ketchup or wear the same shirt day after day.
Such a frank, humorous exchange was once a rarity. Doctors for many years believed in the "refrigerator mom" theory, which held that autism was the result of being raised by a cold, unloving mother. The theory became discredited, but was difficult to dislodge from the popular conscience.
Even in the early 1980s, some parents were more comfortable with a diagnosis of mental retardation than autism, said Trevathan, director of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
Today, parents are more likely to cringe at a diagnosis of mental retardation, which is sometimes equated to a feeble-mindedness and may obscure a child's potential.
And increasingly, professionals frown at the term: The special education journal Mental Retardation this year changed its name to Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities.
The editor said that "mentally retarded" is becoming passe and demeaning, much like the terms idiot, imbecile and moron - once used by doctors to describe varying degrees of mental retardation.
In contrast, autism has become culturally acceptable - and a ticket to a larger range of school services and accommodations.
In 1990, Congress added the word "autism" as a separate disability category to a federal law that guarantees special education services, and Education Department regulations have included a separate definition of autism since 1992.
Before that, children with autism were counted under other disabling conditions, such as mental retardation, said Jim Bradshaw, an education department spokesman.
Something else changed: The development of new stimulants and other medicines may have encouraged doctors to make diagnoses with the idea of treating them with these drugs.
Perception of the size of the problem changed, too.
Fourteen years ago, only one in 10,000 children were diagnosed with it. Prevalence estimates gradually rose to the current government estimate of one in 150.
That increase has been mirrored in school districts. Gwinnett County Public Schools - Georgia's largest school system - had eight classrooms for teaching autistic youngsters 13 years ago; today there are 180.
Some researchers suggest that as autism spectrum diagnoses have gone up, diagnoses of mild mental retardation have fallen.
U.S. Department of Education data show that the number of students with autism rose steadily, from about 42,500 in 1997 to nearly 225,000 in 2006. Meanwhile, the number of students counted as mentally retarded declined from about 603,000 to about 523,000.
CDC scientists believe education numbers are misleading, because they reflect only how kids are categorized for services. They say there's no clear evidence doctors are substituting one diagnosis for the other.
Some parents believe environmental factors - ranging from a preservative in vaccines to contaminants in food or water - may be important contributors. (The last doses of early childhood vaccines containing the preservative thimerosal expired in 2002, although some children's flu shots still contain it.)
Dr. Gary Goldstein, scientific adviser to the national advocacy group Autism Speaks, said the explanation for the rising autism prevalence is probably complex. Labelling and diagnosing probably play a role, as do genetics, but he believes the increase surpasses those two explanations.
"I'm seeing more children with autism than I ever would have expected to see," said Goldstein, who is chief executive of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a treatment centre for pediatric developmental disabilities in Baltimore.
Whether it's because of genes or the environment (or both), autism has hit the Massey family hard. Chuck and Julia Massey, of Dacula, Ga., have three sons with Asperger's.
The youngest, Ryan, was first diagnosed after he was slow to develop speaking ability. His brothers - Trevor, 14, and Morgan, 16 - had learning and behaviour problems and were later diagnosed with Asperger's, too.
All got special education services and were treated with medications. Morgan has improved, or matured, or both, and is now a social kid in mainstream classes at a Gwinnett County high school. Trevor seems to be making the same transition, his mother said.
Ryan is the most extreme. He still has uncontrollable tantrums and must attend an Asperger's-only sixth-grade classroom that teaches social skills along with traditional subjects.
In a recent interview at the family's home, Ryan acknowledged he still has anger control issues. One of the three other students in his class is particularly irritating. Ryan said the way he reacts is by "grabbing his throat."
But on this night, Ryan was calm. He described himself as happy, and paced the room telling jokes, like a nervous stand-up comedian. ("Why didn't the skeleton go to the party? He didn't have the guts," he said, eyes fixed on his audience.)
Having three Asperger's boys under one roof has at times been very intense, Massey said, noting a replaced dining room window.
Ryan acknowledged it's been educational living in a house full of Asperger's kids. Asked to name something he's learned from his brothers, he replied, "Swears."

From a listmate

Breaking News
Collective Voice of the Autism Community in Canada Calls on Government to Take Steps to Establish National Autism Strategy
For immediate release: OTTAWA, Nov. 5, 2007: The Conservative Government has provided its response to the Standing Senate Committee recommendations on Autism in its Response to the Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Pay Now or Pay Later: Autism Families in Crisis, tabled on October 17th, 2007… a growing stakeholder Alliance calls on the Canadian government to embrace the recommendations of its Senate and to show the leadership we so badly need to address this crisis as other countries have done...

CHANGE in Shirley Sutton’s Workshops from AO- Sudbury Chapter

Sensory Strategies and Picky Eaters

Workshops with Shirley Sutton
Shirley Sutton BSc. OT, OT Reg.(Ont.) has worked with children and teens with special needs for 30 years. She currently has a private practice in Collingwood and also works for Children’s Therapy Services in Simcoe County, in Early Intervention. She is well known as a presenter across Canada. She is also known for her co-authorship of the book, Building Bridges through Sensory Integration (OT for Children with Autism & Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders by Yack, Sutton and Aquilla 1998) and Learn to Print & Draw A Visual-Kinesthetic Program by Wahl and Sutton. Her special interests and training include developmental disorders (including autism), sensory integration, and early intervention.
Please visit her website at

WORKSHOP A: Sensory Strategies for Parents, Teachers and Therapists: November 30th, 2007
This is a 6 hour workshop with a one hour break. 2 pm to 9 pm (childcare available from 5:30pm-9pm)
• Overview of sensory processing challenges in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
• Current theories about how sensory difficulties relate to common functional problems (attention and behaviour issues, motor planning difficulties)
• New research on sensory defensiveness (over responsivity to sensory input)
• How to choose sensory equipment for sensory programs/sensory diets, and low cost alternatives for home and school programs, suggestions for environmental adaptations.
• Participants are encouraged to read chapter 2 & 3 of “Building Bridges” or visit prior to this workshop to familiarize themselves with sensory processing /sensory integration .
Fee: $20.00 Autism Ontario Members, $30.00 Non-Members. Supper 5-6pm on your own.

WORKSHOP B: Peter, Peter, Picky Eater Dec. 1, 2007 9:00 am to 12noon (childcare available)
This morning workshop will review the sensory and motor factors that contribute to “picky eating”.
• See simple and effective sensory, motor and behavioural strategies
• See case studies of real children and how the picky eating was helped
• Review realistic expectations at specific developmental levels
• Learn the “Stair Steps to Success”, to improve a child’s variety of foods.
Fee: $10.00 Autism Ontario Members, 15.00 Non Members.

Registration: Contact AUTISM ONTARIO Sudbury & District Chapter
Voicemail: 222-5000 ext. 2685 or 523-4785 OR by e-mail:
*NOTE: Inability to pay for above workshops should not be a barrier to participation. (Financial assistance is available to families unable to pay full fees for these workshops).Sensory strategy and Picky Eaters workshops will be held at 662 Falconbridge Road, Sudbury Ontario. Please inquire about videoconferencing options.

FROM a Listmate- IF you went to the event, send comments for posting to AFA wants to hear how this went!

November 7, 2007

For Immediate Release

“Paralysis by Analysis”

Vancouver, BC – Canada’s no longer so new Conservative government has convened a so-called ‘National Autism Research Symposium’ in Toronto later this week. “For what purpose one wonders,” asks Jean Lewis, a founding director of FEAT-BC [Families for Early Autism Treatment of BC]. “Like the ‘Child Health Summit’ held in Ottawa last April, this is another invitation-only talk-fest. It is designed to produce photo-ops and sound-bites that assist the government in a cynical exercise aimed at manufacturing a societal consensus concerning an approach to autism treatment and its funding; one that suits its transparently manipulative agenda. The exercise is sure to fail.”

This month marks the third anniversary of the Auton decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, in which the jurists stated unequivocally that the question of funding for autism treatment was for parliament and the legislatures. “In three years, all that Canada’s myopic political class and their blinkered bureaucratic acolytes have produced has been delay, disingenuous news releases and, in the case of Ontario, outright mendacity,” states Dr. Sabrina Freeman, founder and executive director of FEAT-BC. “In three years, how many children have been diagnosed with this devastating condition? How many opportunities to provide substantive help, and to learn, have been lost? How many families have come asunder? How much needless suffering has been inflicted, all due to a lack of political will to do the right thing?”

While the federal government and its apologists parrot the public relations mantra that ‘more research is necessary’, Canadian courts found, over three years ago, that science-based, proven effective, treatment for autism is available. In 2006, the United States Congress voted unanimously to put $945 million into combating autism. Recently, the Australian national government has pledged $190 million to this cause. Why is our federal government out of step? Could it be because autistic children and their exhausted parents have to date been absent from the electoral battlefield? If so, that’s about to change, according to Lewis.

“The reckless disregard of this Conservative federal government with respect to these disabled children and their desperate, and often destitute, families verges on the criminal,” says Jean Lewis. “Their callousness is breath-taking and will, come the next federal election, be met with a perfect political storm. That’s not a threat, it’s a promise.”


For further information, contact: Jean Lewis at 604-925-4401 or 604-290-5737, and .


National Autism Research Symposium

Four Points Sheraton Hotel
6257 Airport Road • Mississauga, Ontario L4V 1E4 • Canada
Phone: (905) 678-1400

Thursday November 8th 2007
Windsor room

6:30 PM Welcome from the organizers – Dr. Michael Kramer, Scientific Director, Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

6:45 PM Is Anybody Really in Charge Here? A Call to Coordinate Diagnostic Procedures with School Supports for Kids with Autistic Spectrum Disorders – Daniel Share-Strom, college student

7:00PM Autism: Now What? – Jennifer Overton, parent and playwright

7:15 PM Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Recent Advances and Outstanding Research Questions – Susan Bryson, Dalhousie University

7:30 – 9:00 PM Cash bar and reception

Friday, Nov. 9th 2007
Kingston room

7:00 AM Continental breakfast

8:00 AM Welcome – Dr. Michael Kramer

8:05 AM Welcome – Hon. Tony Clement, Minister of Health, Government of Canada

8:20 AM Introduction of facilitator – Dr. Barbara Beckett, Assistant Director, Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, CIHR

8:25 AM Overview of symposium – Susan Goodman, Facilitator, Policy Planning Plus Inc.

8:40 AM State of the science
• Autism Genetics: What We Know Now and Why It Is Important – Dr. Stephen Scherer, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
• Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders: Current Rates, Time Trends and Surveillance – Dr. Eric Fombonne, McGill University
• Neurophysiology and cognition – Dr. Laurent Mottron, Université de Montréal

9:40 AM Qs and As – the state of the science

9:50 AM Health break

10:10 AM Panel discussion: Research perspective on early intervention – moderated by Dr. Susan Bryson, Dalhousie University
• The Behavioural/Developmental Continuum of Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review – Veronica Smith, University of Alberta
• Outcomes for Children in the Ontario IBI Program – Dr. Nancy Freeman, Surrey Place Centre
• Early Intervention Outcomes in British Columbia: Two- and Five-Year Follow-up – Dr. Pat Mirenda, University of British Columbia
• Effectiveness of the Nova Scotia EIBI Model: Preliminary Data – Dr. Isabel Smith, Dalhousie University
• Developing Clinical Practice Guidelines for Intensive Behavioural Intervention in Ontario – Dr. Peter Szatmari

11:40 AM Screening and diagnosis
• Screening and diagnosis of ASD: Best practice, recent advances and what does it mean for Canadian families? – Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, University of Alberta
• Screening and Diagnosis in Teens and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The need goes on ...” – Dr. Lillian Burke, Regional Support Associates, Woodstock, ON

12:15 PM Lunch - provided

1:00 PM Complementary and alternative treatments
• Complementary and alternative treatments: a critical review – Dr. Wendy Roberts, Hospital for Sick Children

1:25 PM Adolescent and adult perspectives
• Adolescents and adults: co-morbidity and service needs – Dr. Peter Szatmari, McMaster University
• Interventions for Asperger Syndrome: Current Research and Future Directions – Dr. Kevin Stoddart, social worker, Toronto

2:10 PM Qs and As – screening & diagnosis, complementary & alternative treatments, adolescents & adults

2:30 PM Breakout discussions – choice of 6 subject areas
o Knowledge translation: How do we improve access to and utilization of research findings and information about autism?
o Intervention: What makes interventions successful? What are the research gaps and priorities? How can research better contribute to clinical practice and policy development?
o Complementary and alternative treatments: What do we know about the benefits of complementary and alternative treatments for people with autism? How they can be integrated with mainstream treatments?
o Lifespan issues: What are the research gaps with regards to adolescents and adults with autism?
o Screening and diagnosis: Is there a gold standard? What is the role of families, educators, community organizations etc.?
o Causes: What is the role of genetics and environmental factors? How can this knowledge inform interventions/programs and the daily lives of individuals and families with autism?

3:30 PM Health break

3:45 PM Reporting back from breakout sessions – Rapporteurs

4:45 PM Wrap-up – Susan Goodman, Barbara Beckett

5:00 PM Adjourn

From A listmate

Autism Clinical Trials

Autism Clinical Research Trial, and you can find out more by going

from a listmate

Ohio Lawmakers Push Autism Coverage Bill
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Fully insured health plans would be required to cover diagnosis as well as treatment for autism under an Ohio House bill advocates say would expose autistic children to early treatment that will benefit them the rest of their lives.
The proposal, which has bipartisan sponsors, is modeled after the two-month-old mental health parity law that requires health insurance providers to cover certain psychological conditions. Currently, many health plans cover the diagnosis of autism but not treatment.
"I just feel like taxpayers shouldn't have to pick up the tab," said Tamara Heydt, a mother of two autistic children, 9-year-old Gavin and 11-year-old Garrett. "My insurance should have to pay for it. Insurance companies pay for other neurological disorders. I feel like it's discrimination."
The family spent $60,000 on treatment in one 18-month period.
The Heydts were able to stave off bankruptcy because her children qualified for Medicaid waivers after their diagnosis. The family is insured through Medical Mutual of Ohio.
Joseph Gibbons, director of government relations for Medical Mutual, said his company doesn't cover autism treatment and doesn't believe any employer who buys insurance has ever asked for the coverage.
Insurance industry officials want more details about the House bill, which is being sponsored by Republican Rep. Jon M. Peterson and democratic Rep. Ted Celeste, both of suburban Columbus. Insurance officials are concerned the bill would lead to more mandates based on a disease or health condition.
"Each individual has the belief that their cause is the one that the government needs to find the solution to," said Kelly McGivern, president of the Ohio Association of Health Plans. "We believe employers who buy policies should make the decision."
Continuing treatments, involving such things as speech therapy, a psychologist working on socialization skills and home health aides, aren't covered, said Jacquie Wynn, director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Autistic children, she said, need 30 hours to 40 hours of intervention a week.
Wynn said 30 percent of families who come to the center for treatment leave because they can't afford it.
"There's a cost savings in the reduction of aggressive behavior or the self-care skills they learn," she said. "With short-term, early intervention in their early years, you see the payoff in their lifetime."
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch,
Autism: The Epidemic?
By Kent Erdahl
Story Published: Nov 8, 2007 at 11:30 PM CST
Story Updated: Nov 9, 2007 at 7:55 AM CST

Autism is now the fastest growing childhood impairment in the country, affecting one in 150 children according to the latest CDC report. One Iowa mom has made it her mission to do something about it.
Life has been full of appointments for Lin Wessels and her son Sam but each one has become a little easier since doctors made a dreaded diagnosis three and a half years ago.
"(The doctor) said we have your diagnosis and it is autism," Lin says. "And I was choking back the tears and I said to her, 'So now what?' And she said, 'So now you need to go out and educate yourself on your son's condition.'"
Lin did just that, learning ways to work with Sam on his physical, sensory and social development. But despite Sam's progress, she grew frustrated with the lack of research and political attention paid to why autism cases are increasing. So like many other Iowans, she decided to take sam to meet some presidential candidates.
"Sam posed the same question to each candidate," Lin says. "'How will you help me and all the others like me? I have autism.'"
Lin is asking candidates to look into a connection between autism and a preservative in vaccines containing mercury. Sam tested positive for mercury poisoning this summer, but the connection has yet to be proven medically.
"I don't believe it's the only cause of Autism I believe it's a major factor," Lin says.
Because of her belief, Lin asked other parents of autistic children to send her their mercury test results in hopes of sharing them all with Senator John McCain on a trip through her hometown of Rock Rapids.
"Senator McCain promised to help all those with Autism," Lin says. "He promised to help find the cause. We are holding him to his word."
The day after Lin put out a request she had 30 lab results from parents across the country, and within ten days time she had 208 from 35 states.
"They want their government to know this is my child and this happened to my child," Lin says. "So I became their spokesperson."
On October 26th, Lin, the spokesperson, stood and asked Senator McCain for one more appointment.
"Would you commit to meeting with a special task force of parents such as myself?" Lin asked. "Anywhere, any time, you name the place, we'll be there."
"Yes ma'am and I will do it at your convenience either here or Washington D.C. or some other geographic location that is most convenient for the people that you want me to meet with," McCain responded.
That appointment is now official, Lin Wessels and a group of parents are scheduled to meet with Senator McCain in Washington on November 20th.

From a Listmate

Check out Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks, Press Updates, Autism Speaks Named Offical Charity of Z100 Jingle Ball 2007 Concert at Madison Square Garden

From an Email message:

Hi, I am a full-time teacher with 18 years of experience. I teach severely challenged teenagers with autism in Peterborough, Ontario. I have 3 children of my own, one of them having autism. I am keenly interested in broadening the awareness and understanding of educational issues, particularly, special education and autism. I have written an eBook entitled,
Been There. Done That. Finally Getting it Right. A Guide to Educational Planning for Students with Autism: Lessons from a Mother and Teacher
The book is a personal/informative look (from the perspective of a parent and teacher) at educating students with autism. I would like to share a free copy to someone that has an interest in education and autism. Would you or anyone you know be willing to read it? Thank you in advance for your time.

Jennifer Krumins

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