Hip hip hooray for toddler interventions for autism

As always, good news and bad news in autism this week.  First the good news:  an intervention given between 9-14 months of age in children with a high probability of having an autism diagnosis improved autism symptoms at 3 years of age.  Now the bad:  mothers who experience severe childhood abuse are more likely to have a child with an autism diagnosis.  Why?  A new study explains it might have a lot to do with autism traits in the parents.  We would love to hear your thoughts on the results, please provide them in the comment section.

And now….the 2016 year end summary of autism science

The year 2016 was eventful for many reasons.  In this 20 minute podcast, we review some of the scientific discoveries that highlighted findings in causes, understanding, and treating ASD.  Featured more this year is studies on the sibling of individuals with ASD, so we are calling 2016 “The Year of the Sibling”  This review includes genetics, gene x environment interactions, diagnosis, the broader autism phenotype, and early interventions and the role of parent-delivered interventions in long term outcome.  It also highlights the important role of studying brain tissue from individuals with autism to better understand people with autism across the lifespan, including those with known causes and unknown causes of ASD.  We hope you find it informative – please send comments to ahalladay@autismsciencefoundation.org

A scary halloween story about the media misrepresenting science

How long do you have to study an intervention to see if it works?  Many scientists agree that it isn’t just about what happens in the short run, but if those interventions can be sustained for long periods of time.  In the case of very early interventions, it is now clear that treatment for about a year can change the trajectory of symptoms so those improvements are sustained, maintained or lead to even further improvements for 6 years after the initial intervention has stopped.  This important finding was hidden by the BBC getting the headline wrong and hiding the true value of the research at the end of the story.  This week’s podcast outlines the contribution of parent-implemented intervention and research studying autism even before symptoms emerge in improving trajectories rather than just immediate outcomes.  Happy Halloween!

Unfortunate new risk discovered for people with autism and their siblings

In addition to risks of anxiety, ADHD, mood disorders and other psychiatric issues, people with autism (and their siblings) show increased risk of substance abuse issues.  This information comes from a large scandanavian registry study that included over 26,000 individuals with ASD.  On this week’s podcast I discuss what this means for people with autism and their family members.

A focus on the siblings of people with ASD

Two studies recently add to an ever growing literature around undiagnosed siblings of individuals with autism.  While in autism features there is evidence of the “broader autism phenotype” in female siblings, there is no evidence of elevated sensory symptoms in those with a brother or system with autism.  The more we understand about the psychological and psychiatric features of siblings with autism, the more they can be supported to deal not only with their siblings challenges, but with theirs as well.

Is the broader autism phenotype really so bad?

In this week’s podcast we explore autism and autism-esque symptoms in family members, particularly siblings.  Siblings can show mild features, called the broader autism phenotype, all the way to an increased risk of mental illness including emotional and behavioral problems, ADHD and tic disorder.  This week we revisit the study of a large number of siblings in Finland and a new project looking at milder impairments in a smaller number of siblings with an older brother or sister with autism.  Also – as a special treat, highlights from the DUP15 meeting in Maryland this past week.