Compared to researchers, community clinicians don’t have time for the same rigorous training on the standard autism diagnostic instrument called the ADOS, so can they still do it as well? Or does this group not have the resources they need to use it properly? Also, because psychiatric hospitals don’t see as many people with autism as they used to, a group of child psychiatrists got together and wrote guidelines for what to do if a child with autism showed up at the general inpatient ward. These are things that face families in the real word, and we thought you should hear about new science around them.
Three important meetings of researchers took place this week. First, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, or IACC, met for the first time in over a year to discuss the coordination of private and federal efforts in autism research and advocacy. Also, the Autism Sisters Project science committee met to figure out how they are going to find the female protective factor in autism, and what else the study can do when, and if, it is found. Finally, a group of researchers who study autism in high risk families, before a formal diagnosis can be made, met to understand how the brains of people with autism are connected. They also are working on new instruments to better diagnose both males and females with ASD. Finally, in a press release from Tuesday, the NIH announced a partnership that will substantially improve autism research.
Media coverage of the new CDC study focused on the new study which used a telephone survey for another prevalence estimate of autism. This one closer to 2% or 1 in 45. The study is far from perfect, but it does beg the question: what is the REAL number? How many people with autism are there? The answer is too many, and all those people need help of some kind. You can read the full article here: NHSR87. Second, a summary of a presentation by David Mandell of University of Pennsylvania who explains what needs to happen to get those great interventions developed in the clinic to the community school systems, where they are needed.
A recent study examining some people who lost an autism diagnosis (and were possibly reclassified) reinvigorates the idea that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may be on the autism spectrum. It shouldn’t be part of a valid ASD diagnosis, but there may be some symptoms of ASD that overlap with ADHD. Also, a new editorial emphasizes that while new discoveries are important and exciting, what happens to make them useful for people outside a research study takes a lot of work, time and money.
This week saw two new studies on the “love hormone” called oxytocin. In the first, the IV drip for oxytocin is replaced by a nasal spray. The results are mild and focused on one type of symptom, but exciting and promising nonetheless. The second study investigated how oxytocin works in the brain and shows how it interacts with a chemical called anandamide in a region activated by sex, drugs and food. This may explain why people find social reward pleasurable. It lays the groundwork for other compounds which may enhance social reward, but more studies are needed. Finally, a short recap last week’s podcast where High Risk Baby Siblings researchers are finding that the range of possible issues that kids at risk have isn’t focused just on autism symptoms.