Actress Daryl Hannah Shares Autism Diagnosis

Daryl HannahDaryl Hannah, probably best known for playing a mermaid in Splash in the 1980’s – or more recently in Kill Bill, opened up to People Magazine about her childhood diagnosis of autism. This is likely a surprise to most people, being that she’s a public person (and little was known about autism at the time of her diagnosis). But she wasn’t as “public” as we thought she was. In fact, her autism makes her quite uncomfortable being the center of attention – at the peak of her popularity, we learned that she wasn’t attending awards shows or movie premieres.

As a child, Daryl said she suffered from “debilitating shyness” and rocked non-stop. Doctors had recommended medicating her and putting her into an institution- luckily, though, her mother (a teacher) chose not to take their advice.  Daryl found her love of acting – and although she dropped away from the Hollywood scene years ago and focuses much of her time on environmental activism – still does so from time to time.

Read more about Daryl’s story here.

Lynsey, Community Manager


Antibodies Linked to 25% of Autism Cases (New Study)

Translational PsychiatryIn what may be a significant finding in regards to a potential cause of autism, researchers have uncovered that maternal antibodies could interfere with fetal brain proteins during pregnancy – suggesting this could account for roughly one quarter of autism cases.

What this could mean is that testing a pregnant woman’s blood for six distinct antibodies – as identified in the study – may be able to predict with a high certainty whether her baby has a significant risk of developing autism.

Researchers don’t know why or when mothers produce these antibodies that interfere with fetal brain development – possible theories include infections or toxic chemical exposure during pregnancy.

The study included 246 autistic children and their mothers, as well as 149 typically developing children. Of the mothers tested, all but one with the antibodies had an autistic child. However, as also noted, having a negative test for antibodies would not rule out the risk of autism.

To read more about the study, which was published in Translational Psychiatry, click here.

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Can A Blood Test Identify Autism?

NBC News

NBC News

That’s the question researchers are trying to determine with a new study underway.

As you know, diagnosing autism can be an especially trying process for parents, which in part can be due to the fact that diagnosis is solely based on behavioral and developmental testing/evaluations. Currently there is no blood test you can take that would clearly identify whether your child is at high risk for autism. But that could change.

A national study is underway at 20 medical sites across the country looking at the accuracy of a blood test for autism.  Researchers are going to see if there’s a specific genetic marker that can be linked to being at risk for having autism.

If they are able to locate such a marker and a blood test becomes an option, it could mean that autism can be diagnosed much earlier on, and treatment can begin sooner, which could be very beneficial to children.

To learn more about the study, check out this video from NBC News, or view study specifics here.

Lynsey, Community Manager


DSM-5 – Changes to Diagnosing Autism

The American Psychiatric Association is in the process of finalizing its latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)—which will be known as DSM-5. The goal of developing DSM-5, according to the APA, is to produce an DSM-5 Manual of Mental Disordersevidence-based manual that is useful to clinicians in helping them accurately and consistently diagnose certain disorders, including autism.

Although DSM-5 will not be released until May, you may have heard about some of the revisions being made to the manual as it has already faced some attention, both positive and negative. The revisions to DSM-5 may have a significant impact on how the diagnosis of autism is made, and what, moving forward, is considered part of the autism spectrum. As I have gathered, some of the primary changes will include:

  • Instead of having the separate diagnoses of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and PDD-NOS, they will now all fall under the larger umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • Under the new criteria, people with ASD must show symptoms from early childhood, even if those symptoms are not recognized until later. This change is supposed to encourage earlier diagnosis of ASD but also allow for the diagnosis of people whose symptoms may not be fully recognized until later (such as school-aged).
  • Previously, symptoms were divided into three categories—deficits in social interaction, deficits in communication, and repetitive and restricted behaviors and interests. In DSM-5, they combined the first two categories, so there are now only two—communication/social deficits, and restricted, repetitive behaviors and interests. And you have to have a certain specified amount of symptoms in those categories to be diagnosed with autism. The reason behind combining those categories is because symptoms in those categories almost always appear together.

The changes have been met with a bit of controversy, some of it surrounding the concern of some those with a diagnosis of Asperger’s or PDD-NOS not being able to retain an ASD diagnosis under the new guidelines. Or, for others, not having a classification beyond the umbrella ASD. The APA notes, however, that ‘the revised diagnosis represents a new, more accurate, and medically and scientifically useful way of diagnosing individuals with autism-related disorders.’

To learn more about DSM-5, click here.

Lynsey, Community Manager