The IMFAR wrap-up titled “Heterogeneity in autism: we aren’t going to take it anymore”

This week’s International Meeting for Autism Research was filled with important presentations on the multiple causes of autism, interventions, diagnosis, neurobiology, services, family and self-advocate perspectives, the list goes on and on.  There is a great recap on www.spectrumnews.org.  An underlying theme ran through the presentations.  That is, that the previous “well, we don’t see differences because there is lots of heterogeneity in autism” explanation isn’t cutting it anymore.  We know people with autism are different, and parents, self-advocates and researchers are starting to deal with it by stratifying groups by their genetic backgrounds.  While not a complete solution to this challenge, research at IMFAR shows that identifying different subgroups based on genetics is helping to explain symptoms.

A presidential issue for people with ASD: employment

In honor of President’s Day in the United States, today’s podcast is a summary of a few more recent studies on employment of people with autism spectrum disorder.  In addition to identifying challenges between the perspectives between employees and employers on the purpose of job supports, new methods to increase and maintain employment of people with ASD are reviewed.  They include supportive employment environments and self-instruction.  Both could be cost-effective in the long run.  These studies add to an ever emerging literature on employment strategies in people with autism, and hopefully there will be more on this topic in the future.

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