Sweet and scary times at the CPD

October 27, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

photo of a pirate father and son

This week, the CPD staff had a chance to enjoy the moment.


Gild picks out candy

It’s still educational fun; the children at Up to 3 had a positive experience talking to people.


Group photo of trick or treaters

The staff enjoyed the adorable kids.


A Harry Potter look-alike reaches for candy

So families, thank you for sharing your children with us for a little while!


group of costumed kids

Have a happy Halloween!

Public & School Partnership brings tradition of volunteerism to the CPD

October 16, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

Photo of volunteers in a room full of donated goods.

Volunteers Jason Jensen, Monique Marsh, and Jason Parker help with Sub for Santa in 2016.

Every Tuesday, Ann Egeland puts on a hip outfit and goes back to school. It’s not that she’s fashion-conscious, but as a former teacher and current volunteer with Public & School Partnership’s community and senior volunteer program, she knows: Seventh grade girls notice everything.

She loves them for it.

“I absolutely adore seventh and eighth graders,” she said. “They’re still little kids and they’re trying so hard to crack the shell to be adolescents. … If we can help by making the school a little more friendly, I think that would help.”

Egeland is one of many volunteers with the Public & School Partnership, which recently became part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.

PSP focuses on providing services to underserved and at-risk populations in Northern Utah by helping them access resources, especially those needed for educational success. The program utilizes full time AmeriCorps VISTA Members, as well as community and senior volunteers, to bolster programs and provide services in local schools and community centers.

photo of Rikki

Rikki Wheatley-Boxx

“Our program seems to work best for people who want a change or are in a transition period in their lives,” said Rikki Wheatley-Boxx, PSP’s Director; whether it’s moving from high school to college, college to employment or employment to retirement “It gives them [volunteers] a ton of professional development and professional experience,” Wheatley-Boxx said. “Our job or college-related placement rate is around 95 percent.”

The VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) members receive a $1,026 per month living stipend in exchange for their full-time service with a local partner site. These sites include many schools, The Family Place, the Logan Family Center, Stokes Nature Center, the Northern Utah Native Connection, and USU’s education outreach program. Upon completion of their one-year service commitment, VISTA Members are eligible to receive an educational award of $5,815.

VISTA members and community volunteers provide a variety of services focused on helping all students, including those in need of tiered interventions. Their projects include providing support in counseling centers, increasing parent involvement, coordinating tutoring and mentoring programs, and increasing school attendance.  Additionally, they connect students and families to resources that help address food insecurity, mental illness, parenting, and healthy relationships.

It is making a difference in the community. Kris Hart, a counselor at Mountain Crest High School in Hyrum, has seen their impact firsthand in a school where one in four students is food insecure.

VISTA volunteers created a program called The Giving Place that has opened a food pantry and offered school supplies and clothing to students. It has collected donations from local businesses and organizations, and shared them with students and their families.

“We’ve noticed a change in behavior because the kids aren’t hungry,” Hart said. Last year the Giving Place collected and distributed 11,000 pounds of donated goods.

Volunteers also band together to help out other community groups for an annual service project. “Our company is made up of about 22 people, and so we split the project into two days with eight hour shifts,” said Dawna Webb, a VISTA volunteer currentl

photo of Ann

Ann Egeland

y serving at Mountain Crest High school. “That way we don’t overburden them with volunteers, but we give our entire group time to serve with them.”

Last year they helped Sub for Santa. “It was an incredible opportunity to see firsthand the impact we were able to have with the families involved with it,” Webb said.

Egeland enjoys seeing the impact of her work on individual students. The former educator is there for the girl or boy who quietly struggles in the back of the room over a math assignment, and she knows what they need. They don’t need to feel stupid in front of their teacher or peers or family members. They just need a friend to help them with math.

“The best pay you can get is when they have that ‘Aha!’ moment when they get it, and they know they can handle it,” Egeland said. “It’s wonderful. I really look forward to it.”

For more information on the Public School Partnership, or to find out how to get involved, visit their website.


CPD issues paper urging monitoring of vitamin D levels in pregnant women

October 12, 2017 by JoLynne Lyon

Many Utahns are deficient, with potential consequences for mothers and children

photo of a pregnant woman

In light of chronic and sometimes serious health conditions that stem from vitamin D deficiency in  prenatal development, and noting that a majority of Utahns are not getting enough of the vitamin, the Center for Persons with Disabilities has issued a statement urging physicians of pregnant mothers to test for deficiency and correct low levels.

The statement cites numerous studies that show Vitamin D–which is eventually converted by the body into an active hormone–does much more than help strengthen bones. What’s more, prenatal vitamins typically contain much less than is suggested by the Endocrine Society, the world’s largest organization in the field of medicine concerned with endocrine glands and hormones.

“Recent research indicates that low vitamin D levels during pregnancy are associated with various negative health outcomes,” state Thayne L. Sweeten, Ph.D.; Anthony R. Torres, M.D.; Dennis Odell, M.D.; and Matthew Wappett, Ph.D and director of the Center for Persons with Disabilities. The four authors cite studies linking adequate levels of vitamin D with reduced risk of the immunological aspects of asthma in newborns, as well as a lowered risk of preeclampsia and preterm birth in mothers.

Autism may also be linked to a deficiency of the vitamin. “Over the last ten years, at least 15 studies have reported lower than normal blood levels of vitamin D in individuals with autism,” the statement reads. “Related studies show that mothers who give birth to children with autism are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D. …

“It is unknown what role, if any, this deficiency plays in the onset of autism; however, given the wide spread deficiency of this vitamin, we recommend that serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels be measured prior to and during pregnancy in all mothers, especially those who have previously given birth to a child with an autism spectrum disorder.”

The statement follows in its entirety.


Vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy

Position paper from The Center for Persons with Disabilities
Utah State University

Thayne L. Sweeten, Ph.D.
Anthony R. Torres, M.D.
Dennis Odell, M.D.
Matthew Wappett, Ph.D.

Vitamin D deficiency has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. In the Intermountain Healthcare population covering Utah and parts of Idaho, the deficiency affects over 60% of individuals (Anderson, 2010). Vitamin D plays important roles throughout the body and vitamin D deficiency is associated with many disease states including: bone health (rickets), hypertension, renal disease, diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, pregnancy issues and autoimmune diseases (Kriegel, 2011; Wang, 2017). Although vitamin D is important throughout life, adequate amounts are especially vital during pregnancy and in a newborn child (Thorne-Lyman, 2012).

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that vitamin D deficiency is common during pregnancy especially in high risk groups like vegetarians, women living in northern latitudes, those using sun protection, and individuals with darker skin pigmentation. The Food and Nutrition Board in the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine established in 2010 that 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day are adequate during pregnancy and lactation (Food and Nutrition Board, 2010). The Endocrine Society suggests that pregnant and lactating women may require at least 1500-2000 IU/day of the vitamin (Holick, 2011).

Most prenatal vitamin contain olny 400 IU of vitamin D. While this amount may be sufficient to prevent bone problems, it does little to correct the low vitamin D blood levels that are common among pregnant women (Hollis, 2011). Recent research indicates that low vitamin D levels during pregnancy are associated with various negative health outcomes. These negative outcomes are mitigated by maintaining adequate blood levels of vitamin D, obtained by taking 4000 – 5000 IU daily. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (Hornsby, 2017) suggests that 4400 IU/day vitamin D taken in the later stages of pregnancy helps correct the immunological aspects of asthma in newborns. Other studies show that the risk of preeclampsia and preterm birth are significantly reduce when pregnant mothers maintain adequate vitamin D blood levels of 30 ng/ml and 40 ng/ml respectively (Mirzakhani, 2016; McDonnell, 2017).

Vitamin D is known for its role in strengthening and regulating immune responses, and deficiencies are common in a variety of autoimmune diseases. Our research group at Utah State University has studied the immune system in individuals with autism for decades and has noted similarities between autism and autoimmune diseases (Torres, 2016; Sweeten, 2016). Over the last ten years, at least 15 studies have reported lower than normal blood levels of vitamin D in individuals with autism (Wang, 2016; Cannell, 2017). Related studies show that mothers who give birth to children with autism are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D (Chen, 2016; Vinkhuyzen, 2017).

It is unknown what role, if any, this deficiency plays in the onset of autism; however, given the wide spread deficiency of this vitamin, we recommend that serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels be measured prior to and during pregnancy in all mothers, especially those who have previously given birth to a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Deficiencies should be corrected by bringing levels into the normal range, under the care of a health care provider. Vitamin D deficiency is easily treated.

Anderson, J. L., May, H. T., Horne, B. D., Bair, T. L., Hall, N. L., Carlquist, J. F., . . . Muhlestein, J. B. (2010). Relation of Vitamin D Deficiency to Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Disease Status, and Incident Events in a General Healthcare Population. The American Journal of Cardiology, 106(7), 963-968. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2010.05.027

Cannell, J. J. (2017). Vitamin D and autism, what’s new? Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders, 18(2), 183-193. doi:10.1007/s11154-017-9409-0

Chen, J., Xin, K., Wei, J., Zhang, K., & Xiao, H. (2016). Lower maternal serum 25(OH) D in first trimester associated with higher autism risk in Chinese offspring. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 89, 98-101. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2016.08.013

Food and Nutrition Board. (2010). Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2010/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Calcium-and-Vitamin-D/Vitamin%20D%20and%20Calcium %202010%20Report % 20Brief.pdf
Holick, M. F., Binkley, N. C., Bischoff-Ferrari, H. A., Gordon, C. M., Hanley, D. A., Heaney, R. P., . . . Weaver, C. M. (2011). Evaluation, Treatment, and Prevention of Vitamin D Deficiency: an Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 96(7), 1911-1930. doi:10.1210/jc.2011-0385

Hollis, B. W., Johnson, D., Hulsey, T. C., Ebeling, M., & Wagner, C. L. (2011). Erratum: Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy: Double-blind, randomized clinical trial of safety and effectiveness. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 26(12), 2341-2357. doi:10.1002/jbmr.537

Hornsby, E., Pfeffer, P. E., Laranjo, N., Cruikshank, W., Tuzova, M., Litonjua, A. A., . . . Hawrylowicz, C. (2017). Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy: Effect on the neonatal immune system in a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2017.02.039

Kriegel, M. A., Manson, J. E., & Costenbader, K. H. (2011). Does Vitamin D Affect Risk of Developing Autoimmune Disease?: A Systematic Review. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, 40(6), 512-531. doi:10.1016/j.semarthrit.2010.07.009

Mcdonnell, S. L., Baggerly, K. A., Baggerly, C. A., Aliano, J. L., French, C. B., Baggerly, L. L., . . . Wagner, C. L. (2017). Maternal 25(OH)D concentrations ≥40 ng/mL associated with 60% lower preterm birth risk among general obstetrical patients at an urban medical center. Plos One, 12(7), E0180483. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0180483

Mirzakhani, H., Litonjua, A. A., Mcelrath, T. F., O’Connor, G., Lee-Parritz, A., Iverson, R., . . . Weiss, S. T. (2016). Early pregnancy vitamin D status and risk of preeclampsia. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 126(12), 4702-4715. doi:10.1172/jci89031

Sweeten, T.L., & McDougle, C.J. (2016). Immunological aspects of autism. In C.J. McDougle (Ed.), Primer on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/med/9780199349722.001.0001
Thorne-Lyman, A., & Fawzi, W. W. (2012). Vitamin D During Pregnancy and Maternal, Neonatal and Infant Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 26, 75-90. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3016.2012.01283.x
Torres, A. R., Sweeten, T. L., Johnson, R. C., Odell, D., Westover, J. B., Bray-Ward, P., . . . Benson, M. (2016). Common Genetic Variants Found in HLA and KIR Immune Genes in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10, 463. doi:10.3389/fnins.2016.00463

Vinkhuyzen, A. A., Eyles, D. W., Burne, T. H., Blanken, L. M., Kruithof, C. J., Verhulst, F., . . . Mcgrath, J. J. (2017). Gestational vitamin D deficiency and autism spectrum disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry Open, 3(2), 85-90. doi:10.1192/bjpo.bp.116.004077

Wang, H., Chen, W., Li, D., Yin, X., Olsen, N., & Zheng, S. (2017). Vitamin D and Chronic Diseases. Aging and Disease, 8(3), 346-353. doi:10.14336/AD.2016.1021

Wang, T., Shan, L., Du, L., Feng, J., Xu, Z., Staal, W. G., & Jia, F. (2015). Serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 25(4), 341-350. doi:10.1007/s00787-015-0786-1