Friday, February 22, 2013

Folic acid supplements and autism

A recent study claims that women who take folic acid supplements before conception are at a lower risk of having an autistic child. In Association Between Maternal Use of Folic Acid Supplements and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Children the authors found that the odds of a child being autistic were 40% lower if the mother took prenatal folic acid supplements. The researchers used the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study(MoBa). A couple of points need to be raised: the report focused on autistic disorder, not ASD’s in general. The number of individuals with Asperger syndrome or PDD-NOS were low, limiting the ability to detect differences. Given that limitation, they found no decreased risk for AS and PDD-NOS with pre conception folic acid supplementation. Here is part of the abstract: Results At the end of follow-up, 270 children in the study sample had been diagnosed with ASDs: 114 with autistic disorder, 56 with Asperger syndrome, and 100 with PDD-NOS. In children whose mothers took folic acid, 0.10% (64/61 042) had autistic disorder, compared with 0.21% (50/24 134) in those unexposed to folic acid. The adjusted OR for autistic disorder in children of folic acid users was 0.61 (95% CI, 0.41-0.90). No association was found with Asperger syndrome or PDD-NOS, but power was limited. Similar analyses for prenatal fish oil supplements showed no such association with autistic disorder, even though fish oil use was associated with the same maternal characteristics as folic acid use. Conclusions and Relevance Use of prenatal folic acid supplements around the time of conception was associated with a lower risk of autistic disorder in the MoBa cohort. Although these findings cannot establish causality, they do support prenatal folic acid supplementation. The overall prevalence is somewhat low at 0.1-0.2%, but recall that they are focusing on autistic disorder, not ASD’s in general (especially in the abstract). A 40% reduction in autism risk is quite large if real. How does that stack up against other studies? There was a study just last year in the U.S.: Maternal periconceptional folic acid intake and risk of autism spectrum disorders and developmental delay in the CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment) case-control study, which also found a 40% lower risk of autism with Folic acid supplementation

 Read more here. 

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Researchers Detect an Anti-Autism Advantage in Females

A new, preliminary study suggests that developing females are much better able than males to fight off genetic pressure to develop symptoms of autism. The findings aren't definitive and don't point to a treatment or cure. In the new study, published online Feb. 18 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers aimed to figure out how females fared who were born into families that appeared to have a higher genetic risk of autism symptoms. The study authors looked at more than 3,800 pairs of non-identical twins from Great Britain and more than 6,000 pairs of non-identical twins from Sweden. They then tried to figure out how a family risk of autism symptoms (not diagnosed autism itself) affected the twins. They found evidence that it takes greater family risk -- meaning a higher genetic load -- for a girl to develop autism symptoms. In other words, girls appeared to be more resilient against the threat of autism symptoms compared to boys. "There's more pressure on them to get it, and once they get it, it's more obvious than in their relatives," said Zimmerman.

 Read more here. 

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Study: Behavioral therapy for children with autism can impact brainfunction



Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for before-and-after analysis, a team of researchers including a UC Santa Barbara graduate student discovered positive changes in brain activity in children with autism who received a particular type of behavioral therapy.


Work completed at Yale University's Child Study Center used fMRI as the tool for measuring the impact of Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) 末 therapy pioneered at UCSB by Lynn Koegel, clinical director of the Koegel Autism Center 末 on both lower- and higher-functioning children with autism receiving PRT for the first time. fMRI allows researchers to see what areas of the brain are active while processing certain stimuli 末 in this case human motion. Comparing pre- and post-therapy data from the fMRI scans of their 5-year-old subjects, the researchers saw marked 末 and remarkable 末 changes in how the children were processing the stimuli. Findings from their study, "Neural Mechanisms of Improvements in Social Motivation After Pivotal Response Treatment," are published in a recent issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

"The cool thing that we found was that these kids showed increased activation in regions of the brain utilized by typically developing kids," explained Avery C. Voos, first-year graduate student at the UCSB-based Koegel Autism Center, and one of the lead authors of the Yale study. "After four months of treatment, they're starting to use brain regions that typically developing kids are using to process social stimuli.



Read more here. 

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Autism risk up in premature births

PREMATURE babies born earlier than 32 weeks have higher rates of psychiatric disorders at age seven than babies born at full term, Melbourne researchers have found. A study of 177 children born prematurely and 65 born at full-term found a quarter of the premature children met criteria for a psychiatric disorder at age seven, which was three times the rate for full-term children. The most common diagnoses among premature children were anxiety disorders (11 per cent), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (10 per cent) and autism spectrum disorders (4.5 per cent). Advertisement Lead researcher Karli Treyvaud, of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, said the rate of autism among children born pre-term was about four times higher than recent Australian population estimates

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Autism Inc.: The Discredited Science, Shady Treatments and RisingProfits Behind Alternative Autism Treatments

The road parents must navigate is made more perilous by medical professionals willing to prescribe all sorts of treatments, from hyperbaric oxygen chambers and chelation therapy (which removes heavy metals with chemicals) to shelves full of dietary supplements and other alternative remedies they say can treat, even cure, autism. At best these treatments remain unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; at worst they are downright dangerous. To compound the problem, a host of celebrities act as unpaid marketing reps for these unproven treatments, touting a pervasive (but incorrect) belief that autism is caused by childhood vaccines. This misinformation campaign has led, in the last few years, to a decline in the number of children receiving lifesaving inoculations. And Texas has become a center for alternative autism treatment and the anti-vaccine crusade.

 Read more here. 

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Using Video Modeling to support people with Autism - Missoula, April13th

In this session, our presenters will use a high-powered lens to develop evidence-based strategies to support people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Strategies will include the highly effective video modeling and video self-modeling strategies as well as story-based interventions, self-regulation, promoting, special-interest supports and Role Playing. Participants will engage in hands-on learning using Flip Cams and other technology with a comprehensive planning system. Flyer attached. 

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10 Biggest Myths About Autism From Moms Who Know

1. Moms of kids on the spectrum are "Refrigerator Moms." The term comes from the '50s, when there was an assumption that autistic behaviors stem from the "emotional frigidity" of a child's mom, and it's a complete myth. As Erin Mast, committee chair of the Central NY Community of Autism Speaks and mom behind A Million Pieces for Autism, says, "I am NOT a refrigerator mom. I loved my kids from birth and continue to love them today." 2. Autistic kids have no empathy. "This is not the issue," says Shannon Rosa, editor ofThinking Person's Guide to Autism and mom of a boy with autism. "The issue is generally processing social signals and body language. Autistic people are often more empathetic than non-autistics, plus have fewer filters to protect themselves from other people's emotional states." 3. Autistic kids need to be taught to make eye contact. "Um, no!" Rosa says. "Eye contact is physically painful for many autistics. Others can either make eye contact or talk, but not both at the same time. Responses come in many forms, other folks need to learn to respect that. If I ask my son a question, and he responds verbally, that's good enough for me."

 Read more here. 

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Monday, February 11, 2013

DSM-5 Provides New Take on Neurodevelopment Disorders

A major change to the description and organization of criteria for autism and related disorders tops the major revisions clinicians can expect to see for neurodevelopmental disorders in DSM-5, to be published in May. “The DSM-5 Neurodevelopmental Work Group spent a great deal of time evaluating the reliability and validity of the separate DSM-IV diagnoses and concluded that there was no evidence to support continued separation of the diagnoses,” Susan Swedo, M.D., chair of the Work Group on Neurodevelopmental Disorders, told Psychiatric News. The new criteria describe “deficits in social communication and social interaction” and “restrictive and repetitive behavior patterns”—the two principal symptoms associated with ASD—along with an expanded number of specifiers. The latter can be used by clinicians to specify features of the disorder with which some individual patients may present, such as if the autism is accompanied by intellectual impairment or is associated with a known genetic/medical or environmental/acquired condition. In addition, the criteria include three levels of severity for both principal symptoms to indicate the level of supportive services required by an individual patient. The three levels are “requiring support,” “requiring substantial support,” and “requiring very substantial support.” For instance, for the symptom of “deficits in social communication and social interaction,” a patient requiring “very substantial support” would be one who has “severe impairments in functioning, very limited initiation of social interactions, and minimal response to social overtures from others.” Similarly, for “repetitive/restrictive behaviors” a patient requiring very substantial support would be one who exhibits inflexibility of behavior and extreme difficulty coping with change, as well as “great distress/difficulty changing focus or action.” Swedo noted also that the DSM-5 criteria indicate that symptoms must be present in the “early developmental period,” reflecting research that has shown the disorder is evident as early as age 24 months.

 Read more here. 

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Prenatal Inflammation Linked to Autism Risk

Researchers have found more evidence that inflammation during early pregnancy increases autism risk. The new study found high autism rates among children born to mothers with elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). High CRP is an established marker of body-wide inflammation. “Elevated CRP is a signal that the body is undergoing a response to inflammation from, for example, a viral or bacterial infection,” says study leader Alan Brown, M.D. “The higher the level of CRP in the mother, the greater the risk of autism in the child.” The analysis found that autism risk increased by 43 percent among children of mothers with CRP in the top 20th percentile. This means that their CRP levels were higher than 80 percent of those tested. Autism risk increased by 80 percent among children of mothers with CRP in the top 10th percentile (higher than 90 percent of those tested). The findings add to mounting evidence that an overactive immune response can alter brain development during pregnancy. However, Dr. Brown emphasizes that the vast majority of mothers with increased CRP levels will not have children with autism.

 Read more here. 

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Sensory integration therapy for autism spectrum disorders: A systematicreview

Abstract Intervention studies involving the use of sensory integration therapy (SIT) were systematically identified and analyzed. Twenty-five studies were described in terms of: (a) participant characteristics, (b) assessments used to identify sensory deficits or behavioral functions, (c) dependent variables, (d) intervention procedures, (e) intervention outcomes, and (f) certainty of evidence. Overall, 3 of the reviewed studies suggested that SIT was effective, 8 studies found mixed results, and 14 studies reported no benefits related to SIT. Many of the reviewed studies, including the 3 studies reporting positive results, had serious methodological flaws. Therefore, the current evidence-base does not support the use of SIT in the education and treatment of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Practitioners and agencies serving children with ASD that endeavor, or are mandated, to use research-based, or scientifically-based, interventions should not use SIT outside of carefully controlled research. Highlights ► Research involving sensory integration therapy to autism was reviewed. ► Out of 25 studies, three studies had positive results. ► Serious methodological flaws were found across studies. ► The evidence-base does not support the use of SIT in the treatment of autism.
 Source 

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Study: Eating Troubles Putting Kids With Autism At Risk

Kids with autism are five times more likely than other children to experience food-related problems ranging from mealtime tantrums to extreme pickiness, issues with potentially long-term health consequences, researchers say. Though many parents have long indicated concerns about the eating habits of their children with autism, a new analysis of existing research on the issue is believed to offer the first comprehensive look. In the review of 17 studies, researchers at Emory University and the Marcus Autism Center found that kids with the developmental disorder face serious risks of feeding and nutrition problems. In addition to being pickier eaters, kids with autism often have mealtime rituals and other extreme behaviors surrounding feeding, the study found. What’s more, they have lower intake of calcium and protein and more overall nutritional deficits than other children, the researchers report this month in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Read more here. 

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Autism Q&A: Introduction to Alternative and Augmentative Communication

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty with communication. Typically, those with Asperger’s Syndrome, or high functioning autism, have difficulty getting their message across or sustaining conversation. Others with autism have trouble developing speech and might not ever fully develop spoken language. Therefore, many individuals with ASD will need alternative means in order to communicate. This Q and A will provide an introduction to Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices for individuals with ASD.

 Read more here. 

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Managing Volunteers with Autism Syndromes


Top tips when managing volunteers with ASD



  • Be supportive and understanding. Individuals with ASD often struggle to find employment and may need additional encouragement to help build their self-esteem.


  • Don't assume! Every individual is different.
    The better you understand your volunteer, the better you can involve them in the museum.


  • Be clear. Individuals with ASD may struggle with indirect or implied messages. Give instructions clearly and precisely and reinforce them with written task sheets.


  • Be clear about social rules in your workplace such as start times, dress codes, phone usage and breaks. Again, don't rely on unspoken expectations.


  • Be aware of team relationships. Some individuals with ASD may be looking to work closely with others and to build on their social skills. Others may want an opportunity to work alone.

Several studies implicate prenatal factors in the development of autism

Several studies published in the last week have implicated various prenatal factors that may lead to the development of autismspectrum disorder (ASD). One study, published Thursday in theJournal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, contends that prenatal exposure to an antiepileptic drug called valproate, which has been previously linked to congenital defects, has now been linked to an increased risk for the development of ASD.

 Read more here. 

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