…..may be overestimating the risk of drowning and suffocation in those with ASD. The study claims a higher rate of drowning and other accidental deaths in people with autism, which is true, but the magnitude of the effect they found was astronomical and misleading given the methodology. They counted people with autism off of information on their death certificate. Not everyone with autism has this code listed on their death certificate – so likely this number is underestimated and the risk of drowning overestimated. The shocking results call for things like swimming lessons in those with autism and other drastic safety measures. People with autism ARE at a higher risk of drowning and we should all pay attention. Ways to prevent accidental death in people with autism are needed and the overall message should be the same. But the numbers themselves are probably a little off.
This week the Infant Brain Imaging Study, or IBIS, published it’s 2nd study on the emergence of changes in the brains of individuals with autism. While red flags for autism can be seen early, a diagnosis of autism is not typically made until after 24 months of age. Using a baby sibling research design, scientists showed increases in the size of certain areas of the brain between 6-12 months. This opens up opportunities for even earlier diagnosis of ASD in the future. Also, a group at Stanford shows the emergence and disappearance of co-morbid symptoms in autism, such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and ADHD, which are dependent on sex and age. Together, these studies show that autism begins very very early and symptoms and behavioral and biological features change over time.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
There is an ongoing debate about why people with autism avoid eye contact. There is data to support both, but as this behavior emerges very early, it’s important to look at data from preverbal children to understand the origins of changes in eye contact. Many scientists also feel that avoiding eye contact snowballs over the lifespan and deprives people with autism from developing social skills. Infants don’t even know why they avoid eye contact so at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, researchers are using eye tracking technology to answer this question. The findings have clear implications for early intervention strategies.
Overall, the scientific research examining the efficacy of oxytocin treatment in autism spectrum disorder has been mixed. On a previous podcast, studies in the way the oxytocin receptor was turned on and off were explained which may account for variability in treatment response. This week, two studies in Japan show that specific mutations in the oxytocin receptor product predict who will respond to oxytocin treatment and who will not. Therefore, the oxytocin story is one of the first examples of using genetic findings to push better treatment on an individual level, otherwise known as precision medicine.
While still rare, there are cases where an autism diagnosis is not made until adulthood. Why have these people been missed and what do they need? How did they go for so long without anyone recognizing that they needed help? A new study from the lab of Dr. Francesca Happe in the UK investigates the characteristics and features of people who were referred for a diagnosis after 18 years of age. Hear more about how they managed in this week’s podcast.