This week’s podcast is dedicated to the recently released INSAR – supported employment policy brief. This was a 2 year project by ASF, Stony Brook, University, Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Curtin University in Australia to provide a cross-cultural perspective on getting autistic people who want to work, employed, and stay employed. Thank you to all the participants in the surveys, community meetings, and GoldNFish for putting together a document that is not just informative, but fun to read.
This week’s podcast combines two important post Mother’s Day topics – parents and eating. Two recent studies have shown the promise of using parent – delivered interventions to help improve food selectivity and food aversions in kids with autism. These two behaviors can be one of the most frustrating and challenging for parents and kids, and can lead to nutritional deficiencies. These behaviors can range from mild to severe, and previously, only inpatient or outpatient clinic based approaches seemed to have any benefit. Now it seems that with coaching, encouragement and instruction from trained experts, parents can help their kids eat better foods.
Lots of news outlets have great summaries of things that were presented at the International Society for Autism Research. However, one area was relatively missed: technology. This week’s podcast summarizes advances in technology for people with autism, how they are being used, what they could be used for and how they will improve services and help for those on the spectrum. They range from ways to aid diagnosis, to better understanding of features and symptoms in different settings, to improved intervention.
Parents have choices of dozens of different autism interventions, available in private and public settings. A new study explores factors which influence parents decisions on different interventions, how they are similar to each other and different. They include cognitive ability of their kids with ASD and economic resources. Parents in the US may have similarities in how they obtain interventions, but they are also similar in how they identify autism signs in their preschool kids, and these similarities are seen across the world. In a new study of over 19,000 preschoolers with autism, some similarities are seen in parent reported symptoms of ASD across 24 different countries. This is pretty remarkable given societal, geographical, and cultural issues. But it’s not all harmony and unity – there were lots of differences between parents and teachers which can have enormous impact on how autism is diagnosed worldwide.
This holiday weekend always triggers a reincarnation, a resurrection of the vaccine – autism hypothesis. Many of you have read about the measles epidemics that are hitting many areas of the country. But besides vaccines, there are other aspects of the immune system that may be linked to autism in some people. The include family history of autoimmune disorders as well as specific genetic mutations that confer protection against subtypes of ASD. This week’s ASF podcast will explore these theories and present different ideas on how the immune response is involved in autism, and if it is at all.
You may have heard on the internet that a new “radical” treatment leads to a “50% reduction” in autism symptoms. This radical treatment is fecal transplants, which is taking the bacteria from the feces from one person and putting them in another person. This is a still experimental treatment, and while the microbiome should be researched more in regards to its relationship to autism, there might be a less invasive way to alter the microbiome which could stand up to the rigor of a well designed trial. Also this week, new prevalence data on 4 year olds across multiple years. Did it change across time, and is it different from 8 year olds, and why is this difference important?
This year’s Day of Learning included two presentations on the use of technology among people with autism. As it turns out, technology can be great. In fact, a new study using Google Glass shows promise in improving socialization. On the other hand, sometimes technology can have a downside. People with autism spend more time than typical peers on their iPads, iPhones and other devices. What could be wrong with that? Well, problematic internet use is linked to autistic traits and to suicidality. This link is NOT a clear line and obviously causes of suicide are multifactorial. However, new data demonstrate that obsessive internet use is not making things better for people with ASD.
This week is focused on what happens in schools, including classification, service receipt and new interventions. How an educational classification translates to a clinical diagnosis, how and what factors are important in receiving services, what teachers think about repetitive behaviors and finally, a new intervention that can be delivered by therapists in school or mental health settings. They all have real-life consequences for kids who are receiving services in school.
Don’t be fooled, not all the studies on this week’s podcast focus on the DSM5. But the first one, a review of a meta analysis and review of the dozens of publications that have emerged in the past 5 years around the DSM5 leads us off. There are some people that weren’t captured by either DSM5 or Social Communication Disorder that need a diagnosis, and that should be the focus of future research. A new topic of diagnosis is also explored by a large collaboration is addressed: diagnosis in cousins. They do show a higher probability of an autism diagnosis, but not as high as first degree siblings. Finally, a new tool called JAKE in monitoring treatment effectiveness is presented. This could be used not just in the clinic but at home. It includes monitoring of biological and behavioral features, and might be the next big thing in outcomes for treatment studies.
Once again, this week another study came out dismissing the link between vaccines and autism. Add this one to the list, but this is one of the largest and takes into account genetic and non-genetic risk factors. It continues to discredit the vaccine-autism link. However, in other science, more evidence that prenatal folic acid supplementation, something women should be doing anyway, does reduce the probability of having a second child with autism. So take your folic acid – either by prescription or over the counter. As Martha Stewart says, it’s a good thing to do.