Unfortunate new risk discovered for people with autism and their siblings

In addition to risks of anxiety, ADHD, mood disorders and other psychiatric issues, people with autism (and their siblings) show increased risk of substance abuse issues.  This information comes from a large scandanavian registry study that included over 26,000 individuals with ASD.  On this week’s podcast I discuss what this means for people with autism and their family members.

A focus on the siblings of people with ASD

Two studies recently add to an ever growing literature around undiagnosed siblings of individuals with autism.  While in autism features there is evidence of the “broader autism phenotype” in female siblings, there is no evidence of elevated sensory symptoms in those with a brother or system with autism.  The more we understand about the psychological and psychiatric features of siblings with autism, the more they can be supported to deal not only with their siblings challenges, but with theirs as well.

Is the broader autism phenotype really so bad?

In this week’s podcast we explore autism and autism-esque symptoms in family members, particularly siblings.  Siblings can show mild features, called the broader autism phenotype, all the way to an increased risk of mental illness including emotional and behavioral problems, ADHD and tic disorder.  This week we revisit the study of a large number of siblings in Finland and a new project looking at milder impairments in a smaller number of siblings with an older brother or sister with autism.  Also – as a special treat, highlights from the DUP15 meeting in Maryland this past week.

Using different types of sensory issues for good

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 12.07.13 PMMost people with autism have some sort of sensory issue. This week, researchers at University of Wisconsin and University of North Carolina create new categories of sensory challenges in people with autism to figure out if they can predict functioning. The story is complicated (isn’t it always) but the findings that certain sensory subtypes lead to different adaptive outcomes. This information will help different groups people with autism rather than lumping them together. Also, this podcast discusses new findings on the risk of psychiatric problems in siblings of people with an autism diagnosis. Normally the literature focuses on people with autism, and as it turns out, siblings need extra attention as well.

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

Early Germline Events in the Heritable Etiology of ASDs

On October 1st, Autism Science Foundation, Autism Speaks and the Escher Fund for Autism co-organized a webinar entitled “Early Germline Events in the Heritable Etiology of ASDs”.  The goal was to bring together researchers who study the germline (the sperm and the egg and all cells which pass down genetic information) and those studying the genetics of autism to determine how “de novo” or “new” genetic mutations are happening and how environment plays a role in genetics of autism and vice versa, rather than separating the concepts out into “either/or” .  This is part of an ongoing online symposium series on the epigenetics of autism.  Dr. Amander Clark from UCLA and Dr. Ryan Yuen from SickKids Hospital presented and a panel of experts including Lisa Chadwick from NIEHS, Patrick Allard from UCLA, Stephan Sanders from UCSF and Janine LaSalle from UCDavis commented.  We hope you enjoy the 2 hour webinar.