The ASF Day of Learning Recap

On Thursday, March 30th the Autism Science Foundation held their 4th Annual Day of Learning in NYC.  If you were not able to attend and can’t wait for the videos of the talks, this week’s podcast attempts to summarize what was presented.

A list of the talks are:

  • Autism Research: Where Are We Now? – Dr. Wendy Chung (Simons Foundation)
  • Housing Options for Adults with Autism – Amy Lutz (EASI Foundation)
  • Improving Communication Between Parents of Children with Autism and Teachers – Dr. David Mandell (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Developing Clinical Biomarkers – Dr. James McPartland – (Yale University)
  • Understanding Modifiable Autism Risk Factors – Dr. Craig Newschaffer (Drexel University)
  • Helping People with Autism Develop Practical Skills – Dr. Celine Saulnier (Emory University)
  • New Technologies to Improve Autism Diagnosis – Dr. Robert Schultz (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)
  • Understanding the Female Protective Effect – Dr. Donna Werling (University of California, San Francisco)

David Mandell’s presentation on parent/teacher communication was based, in part, on this publication:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4676744/

New science for those with little or no language

Even though more than 20% of people with autism have little or no language, research into ways to help this group have really been lacking.  Several efforts to not just understand the abilities and disabilities of this group started a few years ago and we are just starting to hear about what works and what doesn’t work to improve communication in those with little or no language.  This podcast summarizes the evidence, which points to combinations of things, rather than things in isolation, and peeks in on ways in which interventions can be better directed and made more effective.

Old exposures, new diagnoses and more efficient screening for toddlers

This week, two important studies came out on different topics in autism research.  In the first study, an exposure which has been around for decades, PCB’s, a toxic industrial chemical which has been banned from manufacture or use for the past few decades, was linked to autism.  This dispels the myth that only exposures that have been introduced since the observance in the rise in diagnoses are relevant for study.  First author Kristen Lyall gives her perspective. Here is a website on how to avoid PCBs even though they have been banned.

Second, screening for autism in pediatricians offices has always been challenging.  Patients get 10 minutes at most with their doctor, these doctors have to fit in an hours worth of assessments in this time.  So how can you get them to conduct a screening for autism and add in extra questions?  Kennedy Krieger Institute published on a way that seems to work without sacrificing quality.  Hear more about both on this week’s podcast.

New technologies to help people with autism

On request, ASF summer intern Evan Suzman produced this week’s podcast on new technology and how it is being used for good in people with autism.  He looks at Google Glass, wearable biomonitoring devices and a video game that can help teach social skills.  These new technologies can complement those like the iPad which are already in wide use.  This was a topic that many listeners wanted to hear more about.  Some of the technology is still experimental, but promising.

Lessons from the Autism Society meeting

Last week, the Autism Society (www.autism-society.org) held it’s 48th annual meeting in it’s 50th year of existence.  In addition to hearing an update on how people with autism and their families have benefited from autism research over the past decade, participants contributed to panels on experiences of adults, behavioral techniques, technology, the the history of autism.  On this week’s podcast, hear about two of the sessions – how to teach social interaction on the iPad and how to be an effective advocate.