What if it isn’t autism?

Many times signs and symptoms of autism may be seen prior to 3 years of age, but a diagnosis is not made.  It may not be autism, but what is it?  Studying children at risk for developing ASD but then don’t go on to receive a diagnosis gives researchers a clue.  Dr. Meghan Miller from the University of California at Davis discusses a study that follows up these kids to 9 years of age and finds out what is going on with them.  Do they have autism after all?  Or do they have absolutely no symptoms at all?  Or is there something in between?

Sisters, sisters, there never were such devoted sisters

A special podcast this week on the Autism Sisters Project, in partnership with Icahn School of Medicine.  I talk about how the idea came about, what ASF is doing to help find out what sisters can contribute to the science of autism, and why sisters are in a unique position to do so.  Please read Lauren Singer’s special letter to the editor to Molecular Autism about being an undiagnosed sister here: http://www.molecularautism.com/content/pdf/s13229-015-0046-8.pdf

A traditional strategy in autism intervention may be hurting not helping.

Two interesting studies this week.  The first from researchers studying a learning strategy called repetition.  As it turns out, it may impair the ability for people with autism to generalize what they learn into new situations, like learning that a golden retriever is a dog and a beagle is also a dog.  Also, researchers in Australia comb the autism literature to determine what the financial costs and benefits of supportive employment are and discover that getting people with autism employed is good for the soul and good for the economy.  That study is open access and can be found here:  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0139896

Moving away from genes OR environment towards genes AND environment

On Thursday October 1st, Autism Science Foundation, Autism Speaks and the Escher Fund for Autism co-organized an online symposium which examined the possibility that early mutations in cells that pass along genetic information from generation to generation (sperm and egg and cells that make the sperm an egg) has a role in the causes of autism.  This symposium is on the ASF podcast feed, but a quick summary is presented on this week’s podcast.  Jill Escher from the Escher Fund for Autism and Mat Pletcher from Autism Speaks provide their perspective.  Also, a quick rundown on the study that caused so much monkeying around in the press.

Early Germline Events in the Heritable Etiology of ASDs

On October 1st, Autism Science Foundation, Autism Speaks and the Escher Fund for Autism co-organized a webinar entitled “Early Germline Events in the Heritable Etiology of ASDs”.  The goal was to bring together researchers who study the germline (the sperm and the egg and all cells which pass down genetic information) and those studying the genetics of autism to determine how “de novo” or “new” genetic mutations are happening and how environment plays a role in genetics of autism and vice versa, rather than separating the concepts out into “either/or” .  This is part of an ongoing online symposium series on the epigenetics of autism.  Dr. Amander Clark from UCLA and Dr. Ryan Yuen from SickKids Hospital presented and a panel of experts including Lisa Chadwick from NIEHS, Patrick Allard from UCLA, Stephan Sanders from UCSF and Janine LaSalle from UCDavis commented.  We hope you enjoy the 2 hour webinar.