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tv   America Tonight  Al Jazeera  February 24, 2016 2:30am-3:01am EST

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that really take just a reminder you can always keep up-to-date with all the latest news on our website aljazeera.com. one of our top stories, turkey is saying it's not optimistic on the ceasefire. read about that on aljazeera.com [ ♪ ] thanks for joining us on "america tonight". i'm joie chen. for all the efforts to sundays and help, one of the most confounding diagnosis is autism. research found more boys live with autism and they are five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed. but the focus on boys may make it give for girls living with autism to get the help they need. "america
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tonight"'s michael oku found a group trying to fill the gap with training. know. >> it's girls night out it is prime. >> on this night out the main event is conversation, building confidence. a challenging task for these daunting. >> she's a senior in high school and will graduate real soon. i try to express what i feel. but the problem it because of autism. i have this in me that constantly blocks every worth.
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well, i just realized that i'm not alone, and that there's some girls that are willing to help me pull through. >> the young women are in a trail-blazing programme here. one that teaches girls with autism social skills and personal care. everything from getting dressed to exercising good hygiene. >> what was your world like before that. >> i felt a little more alone. and i felt like an island. >> let's get closer to tell each other. >> reporter: it's a pretty simple concept, yet one of the only programs in america that offers social support specifically to girls with autism, a group that for years has been overlooked. when did you notice that nicole
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was a little different to some of the other kids. >> she was about 17 months old, 16, 17 month old when i first became concerned that there was - there was a problem. she wasn't responding. >> in the months which followed, clair's suspicions grew. family and friends insisted her daughter was fine, she saw a different nicole. >> reporter: was there a moment when you decided okay, i've got to get this checked out professionally. >> nicole, i had a parents day out. first day i went to pick her up. first day she was there. the teacher there pulled me aside in an interview, and said there's something wrong. i don't think nicole is hearing me. i think she was prepared for me to be crazy or ballistic. i said thank you.
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you are the first person to confirm what i've been seeing, no one else would confirm this, and that was really what did it. i took her to a couple of different doctors, and they diagnosed her as deaf. diagnosis. >> i wasn't satisfied that that was the whole problem. >> reporter: she reached out to clinics in kansas city, it would be a year and a half before a battery of tests begin. nearly two years after a misdiagnosis with death, doctors concluded nicole had autism. >> a 30, 40 page agreement that i had to fill out, you know. which was scary, daunting and confirming.
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the questions would read have you seen your client twirl. >> i'm like yes. >> have you seen her - you know, your... ..nobody had ever told me. i'm like yes, yes, yes, yes. >> these were very specific questions validating everything you had seen up to this point. >> exactly. and it was shared that there are signs of autism in nicole. and i remember as dreadful as this sounds being relieved that there was a diagnosis. i wanted support. i needed help. >> reporter: do you suspected if she was a boy she may have been diagnosed earlier. >> this is a little girl, i don't think it sparked that it could be autism. >> reporter: nicole is a college sophomore studying to be a graphic artist. her misdiagnosis is common for a woman with autism.
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girls are diagnosed two years later than boys. the science of why is unclear. because autism is over 4 times likely in boys than girls, the majority of research, tests and therapy based on the male experience. we have been studying primarily males. 85% of participants in intervention studies are male. >> reporter: renae jamieson is a clinical professor in the university of kansas? kansas city, and the creator of girls night out or the gno programme. there are more boys with autism than girls, a 4-5:1 ratio. now we are wondering if it's higher in males because we are missing higher functioning females or they present or look different from boys with autism. >> reporter: while there is debate on why the rate of autism
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is higher in boys, jamieson says one thing is clear. the needs of boys and girls with autism are different. especially during adolescence. the social norms and expectations are more complex, based on conversation. that gets harder for you. and you are - you have to navigate relationships and friendships. i don't really like it. >> helping girls with autism navigate the dynamics of female relationships can be tricky. >> therapies are based on decades old research done for boys. >> when i think that i'm surrounded by boys with autism, i kind of feel a little out of
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place because boys, as they say, boys are from mars, girls from venus. >> playgroups are a big thing, most are boy oriented. legos or video games. >> did you say that's it, i have to go and find an association or organization that deals specifically with girls. >> i did, i did. i couldn't find anything. >> reporter: when a girls night out email was suggested, she could tell it would be different. >> there were women, a plan that renae had before the class or the social group even started. she sent an email with plans of going to a beauty place or a make-up place. of getting hair done.
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ideas of social out foots that they'd love to do. >> by this time, the girls - ado less aned, they wanted to be part of the group. it's all in the community. >> it's not in my office. where we are teaching social skills. >> thatta girl, that's perfect. >> disguised as activities as fitness, hair or make-up. jamieson's therapy targets abilities like conversation or work skills such as organization. it also includes girls without autism, trained to act as peers, but there to reinforce skills that the girls should be learning. >> i made a friend named grace, anne,
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hannah, breanna. >> reporter: with each passing event. abby makes more friends. 16-year-old abby's story is not typical. diagnosed as deaf. >> i go to a school with a lot of boys who have autism. i didn't have much friends and that changed. it feels like my friends are b.f.f.s towards me. we have the same conversation. i want friends, i want in. i want to have the social piece of being a teenager.
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>> now, because of gno abby's social calendar is full. >> i show you have in, this and this, you are busy with your social calendar. it's fun. i want her to go some place where she can be independent, have the support, but not feel like someone is following her around or it's therapy, that it's fun, and that's what this is provided for her. >> it makes me happy so i don't feel alone. >> reporter: that feeling of loneliness is specially bad for young adolescence girls. her? >> no words can describe. here is a group of girls that i can relate to, talk to. before i was - i was different.
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i felt a little out of place because i knew i was different. and i so badly wanted to be like those girls. how is it. i'm getting closer to normal. i felt lost before, now i feel found. because if we are watching closely, no girl has to be an island. next year we keep the focus on autism and the kids on the run. why are parents so desperate to keep them. people living with autism. it could turn out to be a new b.f.f. hot on "america tonight"s website.
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a steady flow of trouble. did flint's water crisis play a role in an outbreak of legion air's disease. that's at aljazeera.com/americatonight. >> "inside story" takes you beyond the headlines, beyond the quick cuts, beyond the soundbites. we're giving you a deeper dive into the stories that are making our world what it is.
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for families of kids living with autism growing up produces challenges.
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it's not a fatal diagnosis, but the mortality rate is twice as high as the rest of the population. how could that be, and why isn't the government willing to do more to protect people living with autism from the impulses. >> savannah. peak a boo. >> in her brief life, savannah market reached beyond the experts expectations. when savannah was diagnosed with autism at two, they told her mother not to expect too much. >> she's never going to look at you, talk to you, you'll never here i love you. and thankfully i had amazing people in my life that said don't give up. never ever give up. you fight. >> intensive therapy helped, so did her mother's nearly constant attention. >> i did everything i could for
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her. i thought she was safe. >> reporter: you wanted to do everything to keep her safe. >> i showered for her. that morning. they remember a bright sunny sunday. she was in her dress when she put noodles in the microwave. >> kids with autism like things like that, like to watch the noodles spin in the microwave. >> reporter: 4 minutes, enough for the single mum with a toddler and preteen at home as well. 4 minutes, just enough to answer the call of nature. >> by the time i flushed the toilet i could hear the front door close. i knew something was wrong. painic hit. i ran downstairs. she wasn't by the microwave. i ran out the front door screaming here name and couldn't find her. >> reporter: savannah and her
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2-year-old brother tommy, who didn't have a disability didn't respond. they got past a barbed wire fence and into a pond not 50 yards from their home. tommy had been wearing a bicycle helmet that kept his head above water and kept him alive. the desperate mother couldn't breathe life back into savannah. i - it was just - i... her. >> i've got to keep here alive and do this. i did that until the mets came. i kept screaming you have to save her, you have to save her. >> reporter: savannah's story is a case of what autism experts bolting. >> they wait for a chance to bolt. for my son certain sounds make him run away. if you are unprepared, you may not catch him in time. instant.
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>> in an instance, it's a fight or flight response. >> laurie mcill way nose it first hand. her son bolted out of school. >> there was a wake up call for us. kids with autism are fascinated with certain topics. for him it was highway exit signs. he headed on foot to the highway. >> the crisis led her to track how common it is. >> my name is lowry mcillwaine. i'm the cofounder and board chair... >> reporter: and what may save more children. kids may make a break for it. happens every day, every week. >> 35%, wonder once a week. >> 35%. >> and 23% try multiple times per day.
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>> researchers from the kennedy craiger institute found half of all children on the autism spectrum bolt around age four, up to eight times as often as unaffected siblings. most often they are drawn to roadways or to water. lorry mack ill wane and other parents begged lawmakers to small fixes, swimming lessons, they say it could go a long way in saving lives. >> when you have a child who cannot speak, who does not understand danger or ways to keep themselves safe. they are the most vulnerable people lying in our country today. we thank you for support you give us. >> compounding the pain, suspicion about the parent's role. when a child bolts. >> parents are afraid to dial 911. for fear of being accused of neglect. we had to go out and encourage
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parents to call 911 if the child is missing. days after her daughter dieded in her arms, child protective services concluded that it was both field's fault. in the end she was cleared. health. >> i can't help but thinking where would she be now. she'd beat the odds. she'd talk to me. she'd tell me that day that she left me. i don't know where life would have taken her a heart break indeed. next, the friend helping to break the silence. syria speaks, and how that is changing the lives of young people living with autism.
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a great challenge for people living with autism is the act of connecting, communicating in words or nonverbally, all the thoughts, ideas, fears concealed by the disorder. as experts keyed in on an increase in the last decade has doubled, there's focus on solutions. as "america tonight" tells us, there's evidence technology could make a difference. >> reporter: like so many children with autism gus has trouble communicating with others. except for an unusual friend. >> hi. >> hi. >> hello. >> hello. >> reporter: yes, serie, the i
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phone's virtual assistant. >> okay, here is what's on your calendar. >> reporter: last year gus discovered he could have conversations with serie, and the two have not stopped since. what is your favourite thing to talk to serie about. everything. >> he's always been a loving child. his desire to connect with people is profound. his ability to connect with people is limited. >> reporter: gus's mum said his introduction to sirrie was by accident. you know how buzz feed has 21 things to do with your iphone, and this was a list of the there was goofy things, it was one thing, ask sirrie what plains are above your head. i thought why would anyone in the world need to know this.
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and he said to me so you know who you are waving at mummy. >> which planes are flying over? delta airlines flight 1500. >> reporter: do you ever look up in the sky and wonder what they are doing? >> yes, i do, yes. >> reporter: what do you know about people that develop sirrie. >> one of the things that fascinates me is one of the main developers is a man from norway, he said he named sirrie after a beautiful and well-known weather girl. weather woman's center norway, and talked about how much he loved the weather, one can't help wondering about his own pred elections and maybe if he's some place on the spectrum himself. >> do you ask her about turtles? >> i do. >> reporter: getting information about train schedules and the
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weather is a small part of what sirrie gave gus. what gee gan as a way to get answers developed into a dialogue, something gus never had with anyone else. >> we don't give a lot of thought to the talking - the back and forth conversation that this personnel assistant is capable much. so, you know, i hear - i would be passing his room and he would today. >> reporter: to sirrie. >> and she would answer, very well thank you, just that kind of conversation. and he would of course her for things, and the time that it struck me after a week that he was spending a fair amount of time talking to sirrie was when he said you are a nice computer and you help me, is there anything i can do for you, and she anteback i have few needs. >> and that fade him. -- satisfied him.
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dan smith is a senior director at autism speaks. >> it doesn't require you to make eye contact. that you adhere to all of the norms that dominate in the world, verbal and none verbal. autism speaks put together a grant to ship thousands of ipads across the country. parents responded with enthusiasm. uploading videos of children. >> technologies like sirrie are going to get better and better. more intuitive. teaching social skills better than just the black and white types of interactions you have with sirrie. >> sirrie is the beginning, there'll be things on all of our phones and things like robots
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and other technological inventions that take us to the next level. >> for now, gus is happy with his best friend sirrie. >> i'm not the marrying kind that's "america tonight". please tell us what you think at aljazeera.com/americatonight. talk to us on twitter and facebook. come back, we'll have more of "america tonight"
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>> thank you very much everybody. thank you donald trump's u.s. presidential bid as he celebrates a big win in l.a. you're watching al jazeera live from doha. obama gears up for a fight to push through the closure of guantanamo bay. >> it may be too late to keep it as a whole syria if we wait much longer warnings that syria could break up if the fighting doesn't .

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