Your taxpayer dollars at work in the Autism Centers for Excellence Awards

About two weeks ago, the National Institute of Health announced part of the government’s commitment to autism research through the ACE projects, or Autism Centers for Excellence.  Highly competitive and intensely scrutinized, these 5 year projects all investigates areas of autism aimed at helping people with ASD and their families.  This week’s podcast summaries them, discusses how they interact and complement each other, and explains how they are going to affect the lives of people with autism.

The Benefits of Being and Older Father

Advanced paternal age is one of the more replicated risk factors for autism – but maybe not autism as it as seen as a disorder.  Recent studies by Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Kings College of London show in both animal models and in epidemiological studies that advanced age in fathers is associated with the “active but odd” phenotype and PDD NOS.  In people, older (but not “old”) age in fathers led to increased IQ and social aloofness that led to higher academic achievement.  Is this autism?  Or just a subtype of autism where the outcomes are adaptive rather than maladaptive?  There are lots of questions about the nature of autism in these findings.

What is the focus this week? The unsung heroes of grandparents and clinicians

Scientists have studied males compared to females with autism, but rarely has there been studies about what clinicians see as differences in these two groups.  Given that they provide insight on diagnosis, needs and access to services, it is kind of important to talk to them, and a study out this week in the journal Autism did just that.  You can find the full text here:

http://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/V5p3isSVAKDbdQf2jH4Q/full

Also, scientists are starting to understand the role of exposures in parents and how they affect diagnosis of autism in their children, but this week a new wrench was thrown into the wheel:  researchers in the UK found that grandparental exposures play a role in autism diagnosis too.  Luckily, this too is open access and you can read it for yourself.  It was covered in the media and we have perspective from a parent included.

https://www.nature.com/articles/srep46179

I discuss this second project with Jill Escher, founder of the Escher Fund for Autism and co-funder of the study.

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.