Betsy DeVos, autism screening and testosterone – in that order

This week two studies which examined infants and younger children that will significantly advance understanding of causes and services for people with autism were published.  After a commentary about the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, the study that used a practical methodology to improve autism screening in pediatrics clinic from researchers at Duke University was presented.  After that, some early results from the EARLI study  which examined pregnancies in families where an older sibling was diagnosed was presented.  In this study, Bo Park and her colleagues at Drexel University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California at Davis and Kaiser Permanente show that testosterone levels in pregnancy aren’t related to later autism symptoms unless the older sibling affected is a girl.  These findings can illustrate why girls are less likely to be diagnosed with autism compared to boys.  The study is open access and can be downloaded here, thanks to the journal Molecular Autism:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5282802/pdf/13229_2017_Article_118.pdf

 

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Old exposures, new diagnoses and more efficient screening for toddlers

This week, two important studies came out on different topics in autism research.  In the first study, an exposure which has been around for decades, PCB’s, a toxic industrial chemical which has been banned from manufacture or use for the past few decades, was linked to autism.  This dispels the myth that only exposures that have been introduced since the observance in the rise in diagnoses are relevant for study.  First author Kristen Lyall gives her perspective. Here is a website on how to avoid PCBs even though they have been banned.

Second, screening for autism in pediatricians offices has always been challenging.  Patients get 10 minutes at most with their doctor, these doctors have to fit in an hours worth of assessments in this time.  So how can you get them to conduct a screening for autism and add in extra questions?  Kennedy Krieger Institute published on a way that seems to work without sacrificing quality.  Hear more about both on this week’s podcast.