Identifying subtypes for autism and narrowing down the heterogeneity of symptoms has been considered the holy grail of autism research. If one person with autism is not like another person with autism, can they at least be put into groups to speed up studies into causes, intervention and services? And how? This podcast explains two different studies that used the same statistical method but different children with autism to identify different groups. One of the things that helped define these groups was verbal ability and IQ. For the first time, comorbid symptoms like medical issues and psychiatric diagnoses are being taken into account. Already, this approach is helping scientists better understand why fever improves symptoms in some people with autism.
Labor Day is a time to appreciate and honor all those people who work to make this world a better place. People with autism do that, but they also want to get paid and be employed just like anyone else. This Labor Day, the podcast summarizes challenges to studying employment in people with ASD, what we know, and what is being done in a collaboration between ASF, Curtin University in Australia, the Karolinska Institute and Stony Brook University in Long Island. This is the INSAR supported policy brief project that will be completed next year, but you will all be receiving a request to fill out a survey about employment in the coming weeks. In addition, what does employment mean for people with autism? A NY Times article recently highlighted the journey from childhood to adulthood and what having a job means.
Thank you to Sonia Agarwal, smart, efficient and eloquent ASF summer intern for putting together a summary of resources and services and rights for adolescents and young adults with autism, focusing on those who are not intellectually disabled. They include resources for transitioning into college and support programs at college, with tips and hints along the way. Sonia has a younger brother with autism and is committed to helping families access the help they need.
Last week, investigators with the Autism Treatment Network published a long awaited study on the differences between the DSM IV and DSM5. Other studies had relied on information on old pieces of paper to judge whether or not someone who met criteria under DSM IV would be now diagnosed with DSM5 criteria. This study, on the other hand, used in person evaluations of over 400 individuals with autism. PI from the Missouri site and lead author of a new study, Dr. Micah Mazurek was gracious enough to provide a summary of the findings in the podcast. A quick preview: they showed differences in the diagnosis in the group previously known as PDD-NOS. Is this a new type of autism? Their symptoms were less severe and they had normal IQ ability – do they have a subtype of autism or a new form of ADHD? This study isn’t the first to suggest using different categories of symptoms of autism like DSM IV did, and indicates that the new criteria of the DSM 5 are more specific. In addition, a 2 minute summary of all the great presentations at the Autism Society of America is given. Totally insufficient to describe everything that went on, but it’s a start.
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.
This week, autism lost a pioneer and advocate for autism research: Isabelle Rapin, MD, a neurologist from New York’s Albert Einstein University. The first part of the podcast is a brief summary of her accomplishments. The second part is an study called “how to keep your child out of the hospital”, presenting a recent study which looked at risk factors for being an inpatient, rather than an outpatient. These risk factors may not be able to be prevented, but hopefully through identification of what they are, situations might be managed to help those with autism and their families during a crisis situation.
Lots of people tend to think of the genetics of disorders or disease about one mutation or genetic variation that is inherited from the mother or the father, that causes a trait directly. Unfortunately, the genetics of autism isn’t that simple or scientists would have found “the gene” by now. In fact, there are different types of genetic influences in autism. A new study in Nature Genetics led by Elise Robinson shows how common variation influences autism risk, as well as intellectual function in autism, compared to de novo mutations. There is a short primer at the beginning of the podcast about old-school genetic thinking and why it doesn’t apply to ASD. Below is the picture mentioned.