What is the can do vs. the will do of autism?

Often overlooked in intervention studies, it is becoming increasingly clearer that adaptive behavior, the “will do” vs. the “can do” of functioning, should receive more focus.  In people with autism and high IQ, cognitive ability, the “can do” is higher than adaptive behavior, the “will do”.  Why?  The key in new research from the National Institutes of Health may be social abilities.  Another study this week from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in adult  with high IQ demonstrates that social motivation may be the key to improving social skills and socialization in people with ASD.

The Final Word on Antidepressants and Autism Risk???

Every time you turn around there is another study contradicting the last on antidepressant use and autism risk.  An answer on why there are differences across different studies may be found in a new analysis published by University of Washington and SSM Dean Medical Group in Wisconsin this week.  They showed that autism severity (not risk) is increased only with both a likely gene disruption AND following antidepressant exposure in pregnancy together.  This suggests a double hit model similar to other complex neuropsychiatric disorders like depression.  It also suggests that findings from other chemicals, like PBDE’s, may be dependent on gene / environment interactions too.  After all, a new systematic review showed PBDE’s during pregnancy are bad for the IQ of the child.  This provides insight on ASD risk and subtype given the multitude of possible genetic / environmental combinations out there.

A new understanding of autism genetics

Lots of people tend to think of the genetics of disorders or disease about one mutation or genetic variation that is inherited from the mother or the father, that causes a trait directly.  Unfortunately, the genetics of autism isn’t that simple or scientists would have found “the gene” by now.  In fact, there are different types of genetic influences in autism.  A new study in Nature Genetics led by Elise Robinson shows how common variation influences autism risk, as well as intellectual function in autism, compared to de novo mutations.  There is a short primer at the beginning of the podcast about old-school genetic thinking and why it doesn’t apply to ASD.  Below is the picture mentioned.



Autism diagnosis in adulthood

While still rare, there are cases where an autism diagnosis is not made until adulthood.  Why have these people been missed and what do they need?  How did they go for so long without anyone recognizing that they needed help?  A new study from the lab of Dr. Francesca Happe in the UK investigates the characteristics and features of people who were referred for a diagnosis after 18 years of age.  Hear more about how they managed in this week’s podcast.

Where are all the girls with autism? Live from the Seaver Center Conference

Hear what you missed if you were unable to attend the Seaver Autism Conference on September 25th!  Dr. David Skuse discusses “where are all the girls with autism”, summarizing evidence that some girls with high verbal IQ and autism might be missed, suggesting genes associated with high IQ may be protective against a diagnosis until adolescence.  Also, ASF grantee Dr. Jennifer Foss-Feig describes how biomarkers can be used to improve personalized medicine.  Finally, a summary and review of the new air pollution systematic review and meta analysis.  Limited evidence does not equal none, and air pollution is a real problem.  Here is a link to the paper:  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0161851.  All in 12 minutes.

The importance if IQ in an autism outcome.

Cognitive ability, measured by intellectual quotient or IQ, has been thought to predict response to intervention, social abilities, adaptive behavior and long term outcome.  Numerous studies have shown that it can influence what is labeled as a good outcome.  However, two studies this week point out how those across the spectrum in cognitive ability still benefit from early intervention and make friends on the playground.  In both studies, there were factors that were more important for outcome than IQ.  So it may be an important factor in outcome, but not the only factor.