Monday, December 26, 2011

Los Angeles Times: Discovering Autism

The Los Angeles Times produced a series of articles called “Discovering Autism”. The series is in four parts and represents was researched for years. The articles are: Autism boom: an epidemic of disease or of discovery?Autism rates have increased twentyfold in a generation, stirring parents’ deepest fears and prompting a search for answers. But what if the upsurge is not what it appears to be? Warrior parents fare best in securing autism servicesPublic spending on children with autism in California varies greatly by race and class. A major reason: Not all families have the means to battle for coveted assistance. Families cling to hope of autism ‘recovery’An autism treatment called applied behavior analysis, orABA, has wide support and has grown into a profitable business. It has its limits, though, and there are gaps in the science. Autism hidden in plain sightAs more children are diagnosed with autism, researchers are trying to find unrecognized cases of the disorder in adults.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top Ten Autism Research Achievements of 2011

The young but burgeoning field of autism research continued its exponential rate of discovery in 2011—fueled in no small part by the joint commitment by government health agencies and private organizations to support this vital work. Our Top Ten Autism Research Achievements of the year include game-changing discoveries in how frequently autism recurs in families and the extent to which “environmental,” or non-genetic, influences increase the risk of autism in those who are genetically predisposed to this developmental disorder. Autism research also went global as never before in 2011, beginning with a study in South Korea that used community screening to discover a far higher prevalence of autism—1 in 38 schoolchildren—than standard surveys of medical records would have revealed. Meanwhile, the increased pace of genetic discoveries moved autism research into the realm of translational research—with basic science advancing to a level that makes rational drug design possible. Research also delivered immediate benefits with evidence that adequate folic acid around the time of conception may lower autism risk and the validation of a method for screening at one year that may enable earlier intervention to improve children’s outcomes. As never before, our list of the year’s Top Ten Autism Research Achievements only scratches the surface of a tremendously exciting year of discovery. We hope you’ll enjoy. Table of Contents (Order does not imply relative importance.) It's More than Just Genes...Population Screening Reveals Dramatically Higher Autism Rates...Baby Siblings at Risk...De Novo Genetic Changes Provide New Clues for Autism...Different Forms of Autism Share Striking Brain Similarities...Prenatal Vitamins Before and After Conception May Decrease Autism Risk...Gene Knockout Mouse May Offer Leap Forward in Autism Animal Models...Tweaking Electrical Activity in the Brain Impairs & Restores Mouse Social Behaviors...More Evidence Linking Immune System to Some Forms of Autism...Earlier Autism Screening Shows Promise... Shows Promise...

 Click here for a PDF of the Top Ten Autism Research Achievements of 2011 


Sunday, December 18, 2011

More Evidence that Melatonin Eases Autism-Associated Insomnia

When taken regularly, a nightly dose of melatonin helps children with autism and insomnia fall asleep, according to a pilot study published today. The 24 children, ages 3 to 9, who completed the 14-week treatment, differed somewhat in the dose they required. Yet in all cases, a nightly regimen of melatonin (1 – 6 mg) helped with sleep onset within a week’s time. The group data indicated that benefits generally lasted for the length of the study, with no significant side effects. Parents also reported improvements in their children’s daytime behavior and reductions in their own stress levels.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Differentiating Between Real Science and Fake Science

Pseudosciences are usually pretty easily identified by their emphasis on confirmation over refutation, on physically impossible claims, and on terms charged with emotion or false "sciencey-ness," which is kind of like "truthiness" minus Stephen Colbert. Sometimes, what peddlers of pseudoscience say may have a kernel of real truth that makes it seem plausible. But even that kernel is typically at most a half truth, and often, it's that other half they're leaving out that makes what they're selling pointless and ineffectual. If we could hand out cheat sheets for people of sound mind to use when considering a product, book, therapy, or remedy, the following would constitute the top-10 questions you should always ask yourself -- and answer -- before shelling out the benjamins for anything, whether it's anti-aging cream, a diet fad program, books purporting to tell you secrets your doctor won't, or jewelry items containing magnets:

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Autism researchers make exciting strides

Teaching young children with autism to imitate others may improve a broader range of social skills, according to a new study by a Michigan State University scholar. The findings come at a pivotal time in autism research. In the past several years, researchers have begun to detect behaviors and symptoms of autism that could make earlier diagnosis and even intervention like this possible, said Brooke Ingersoll, MSU assistant professor of psychology. “It’s pretty exciting,” Ingersoll said. “I think we, as a field, are getting a much better idea of what autism looks like in infants and toddlers than we did even five years ago.” In the current study, Ingersoll found that toddlers and preschoolers with autism who were taught imitation skills made more attempts to draw the examiner’s attention to an object through gestures and eye contact, a key area of deficit in autism.

 Link to full article.


Research identifies key autism intervention window

The behaviour of pre-school children with autism improves the most in the first six months of early intervention, research at RMIT University has shown. Dr Helen Chau investigated early intervention in pre-school children with autism or developmental delay as part of her PhD research at RMIT, comparing the effectiveness of intensive, one-on-one therapy sessions with more traditional centre-based early intervention approaches. Examining the impact of generic centre-based programs, autism-specific centre-based programs and home-based applied behaviour analysis (ABA) programs, Dr Chau found most behaviour improvement occurred in the first six months, irrespective of the early intervention approach taken. “Children who attended either home-based or centre-based early intervention for six months demonstrated a larger reduction of autism-related behaviours than in the following six months,” she said. “The different approaches both had benefits - centre-based programs tended to improve social competence, while home-based programs improved self-help skills. “While more hours of intervention per week was generally associated with more effective developmental outcomes, it was not clear from my research that the home-based programs led to substantially better outcomes for children with autism, compared with centre-based intervention.”

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Autism Speaks Releases ATN Visual Supports Guide

Autism Speaks Releases ATN Visual Supports Guide Pictures, photographs and other visual supports can greatly improve communication for children, adolescents and adults who struggle with understanding or using language. Today, Autism Speaks is pleased to introduce Visual Supports and Autism Spectrum Disorders, a guide for parents, teachers and medical professionals. This easy-to-use guide is for you if… √ You are a parent, caregiver or professional who is looking for visual tools to help someone with autism communicate.√ You have heard that visual supports may help your child, student or patient and want to know more about them. The guide is particularly helpful for those who have autism and … √ are non-verbal,√ have difficulty understanding social cues,√ have trouble following spoken instructions, or√ are anxious or act out when presented with surprising or unfamiliar situations.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Living Life With Autism II: Perspectives

“Today people approach autism like some new thing that’s totally unprecedented that we can get rid of. It’s not new or novel, nor a public health epidemic. We are focusing too much on causation and cure. Of the $314,000,000 spent on autism research in the country, less than 1% goes to researching needs of autistic adults. We as a community have a problem with the focus being on the cure. The solutions offered are not in line with what we need and want."

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Looking Normal Is Not Functioning



Prozac May Lessen Autism Symptom in Adults

The antidepressant Prozac appears to be useful for treating a defining symptom of autism spectrum disorder -- repetitive, compulsive behavior. In a newly published study involving autistic adults, half of those who took Prozac (fluoxetine) experienced meaningful declines in repetitive behaviors. Earlier studies by the same researchers showed the antidepressant to be effective for reducing repetitive behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), although a study from another research team failed to show an effect with the antidepressant Celexa (citalopram)

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