The causes of social communication deficits in ASD

This week, former ASF fellow Katherine Stavropoulos from UC Riverside and Leslie Carver published data investigating what is the core cause of social communication deficits in autism.  Do people with autism show deficits in this area because they have a lack of motivation for social cues, or are social interactions just too overwhelming on their senses?  It turns out, both are true and this has direct implications for intervention methods.  Also, parents and siblings of people with autism show subtle symptoms of ASD without having a diagnosis.  This is called the broader autism phenotype, and a study by the Study to Explore Early Development led by Dr. Eric Rubenstein, demonstrated that parents of children with a particular group of symptoms are more likely to show this phenotype than other groupings.  You can read the full studies here:

 

https://molecularautism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13229-018-0189-5

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29376397

 

Supporting the support staff, at least a first step

Paid support staff are critical to helping individuals at all ages with autism.  Unfortunately, they are mostly poorly paid, and exhibit high levels of burnout.  What psychological constructs are most important, and can they be targeted for services to help provide better services for those with ASD?  As it turns out, more important than preventing burnout is building up psychological capital, which helps deal with the effects of burnout.  In addition, a new important feature of autism has been identified: intolerance to uncertainty.  Previously linked to ASD through anxiety, now it is shown to have direct connections to ASD diagnosis and symptomatology.  Is this a new core feature?

Parents are people too

Sometimes parents get a bad rap for not having autism themselves, or not being in touch with the challenges of autistic adults.  This week’s ASF Podcast highlights two new studies on the role parents play in science, research and understanding racial disparities.  A group in the United Kingdom released the results of a survey across Europe which examined parent perceptions on early autism research (think infants and toddlers) and how researchers could better help families at this stage.  Another study from researchers in Georgia and Connecticut revealed how important parents (and clinicians) can be in reducing the disparity in diagnosis between black and white children in the US.  Finally, a call to unite over a common challenge: employment.  If you have not done so already, please make your voice heard as a parent, autistic adult, employer or service provider on a survey gauging the needs of the entire autism community around employment.  http://www.lernerlab.com/employmentsurvey.html 

 

Here are the references used in this podcast:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4230972/ 

https://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/docs/as_science_planning_survey_final_pdf_0.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29126359

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29100475