Having autism is challenging, but being a minority with autism is extra challenging

The recent prevalence numbers for autism were stable from 2014 at 1 in 68. However, a disparity in prevalence still exists for those of hispanic or african-american backgrounds. While these groups are under diagnosed, little research has focused on what it is like to have autism and also be from one of these races today. Gazi Azad and colleagues studied friendships during adolescence in people with autism across different racial backgrounds and what they found will sadden you. Also, what goes into that 1 in 68 number? As it turns out premature births accounts for a significant portion. And if you didn’t have a premature birth and still had a child with autism? Remember it accounts for a chunk, not the whole thing.

Someone please determine the real prevalence of autism.

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.

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

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.