1 in 45 Children with Autism

1in45According to a new government estimate, about 1 in 45 children in the U.S. has autism. The estimate, which comes from researchers at the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), is based on data collected during a yearly survey, from interviews of parents about their children, and is the first report of the prevalence of autism in the U.S. to include data from years 2011 to 2014.

While this looks like a substantial increase from the CDC’s last estimate, which was 1 in 68 children and just announced over the summer, the previous estimate was determined from a different survey that gathers information from children’s medical records and it was based on data collected during 2010.

The reason for this increase may not necessarily be that there are more children with autism than there have been in previous years—meaning, there’s likely no factors such as environmental conditions, etc. that can be causing the increase. Instead, the rate increases could be attributed to growing awareness of autism and more children being more appropriately diagnosed on the spectrum versus other conditions. The way in which data was collected and the questions that were asked of parents have also been restructured a bit, which may have also impacted the data collected. (read more about that here).

And while the 1 in 68 rate will still be treated as the best estimate, the newly reported number can be an indicator that the 1 in 68 is an underestimate.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Overlooking Girls with Autism

molecularautism.com

molecularautism.com

We know that for every four boys diagnosed with autism, there is only one girl diagnosed. And while that ratio may imply that autism is more prevalent in boys than girls, it doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the case.

According to a new study, there are significant brain structure and behavior deviations between boys and girls touched by autism. Girls with autism often display symptoms differently—specifically, girls tend to show less repetitive behaviors, such as hand-flapping, a narrow scope of focus, or even the need for rigid routines are not as prominent.

What this means is that girls with autism could be getting overlooked, or it may make it harder for them to get the right kind of therapy. This type of study could prove extremely helpful in understanding how autism differs between the sexes, leading to better diagnostic criteria and treatment.

Check out more on this study.

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Creative Minds

creative studyThis may come as no surprise to some of the parents reading this post, but a new study has shown that many people with autism are exceptionally creative.

Researchers in the study used the Alternate Uses Test, which asks participants (some who have autism and some who don’t) to think of possible uses for everyday items such as a brick or paper clip. As described, this test is usually used to measure divergent thinking–a thinking style in which creative ideas are generated through the exploration of as many possible solutions to a single problem. And while participants with autism tended to come up with fewer responses, the responses they did come up with were considered more unique and were typically not the common responses to the questions, showing a remarkable level of creativity.

The researchers were, at least, a bit surprised by the findings – the study’s lead author said to the Huff Post that “people with high autistic traits could be said to have less quantity but greater quality of creative ideas. They are typically considered to be more rigid in their thinking, so the fact that the ideas they have are more unusual or rare is surprising.”

Lynsey, Community Manager

 

Is Autism Really On the Rise?

www.cdc.gov

www.cdc.gov

Two new interesting studies have come out – one focused on the rate of autism and the other on a possible hormone that is linked with social difficulties.

The rate of autism has been continuously increasing over the years, with the latest figures showing that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. The rate increase hasn’t been attributed to anything specifically, and questions are mounting as to what has caused the increase. A new study, however, may have provided an answer – the rate is likely due to a change in the way children are being classified and diagnosed. A team from Penn State University looked at special education enrollment and found that the increase in students designated as having autism could be offset by nearly equal decrease in students diagnosed with other intellectual disabilities often seen along with autism. So conditions that were once likely classified as something else are now being identified as autism, probably due to broader awareness.

Another study showed that children with autism who struggle with “theory of mind” – the social skills that deals with the realization that other people have different perspectives, feelings and experiences – have lower vasopressin levels. Vasopressin is a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure and may play a role in social behavior. There are currently no medications that effectively treat social deficits, so this could prove a target for future focus.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Latest Diagnostic Tool – Your Nose?

noseSo this is an interesting one…a new study suggests that it may be possible to diagnose autism by giving children a sniff test. Yes, that’s right, the act of smelling may be able to provide tremendous insight.

Why? As covered in the NY Times, most people instinctively alter their breathing when they come in contact with certain smells – they take a big whiff with pleasant smells and limit their breathing with foul smells. However, as discussed in this research, children with autism do not make this natural adjustment. Based on their sniff test, the researchers – who were not told which participants had autism – were able to correctly identify which children did have autism 81% of the time.

Plus, what they also found was that the further removed an autistic child’s sniff response was from the average for ‘typically’ developing children, the more severe the child’s social impairments were.

Looking back on the impact of odors, different smells definitely affected Kyle when he was younger – like smoking and garbage smells. Those smells would actually make him gag or throw up, which made it a bit tricky being out in public – he would either be holding his nose, or commenting on someone smoking, or even throwing up after walking by a smelly trash can or dumpster! (And speaking of gross smells, if Kyle heard someone let off gas, he would giggle uncontrollably – as Jenifer says, it was something!)
Lynsey, Community Manager

 

TED2015: Steve Silberman

TED.com

TED.com

Over the years, autism rates have been increasing and today we’re now estimating that 1 in 68 children are being diagnosed with autism. With the prevalence of autism on the rise, we are left to wonder – why are the rates increasing so steeply over the years? Are there really that many more people with autism today than there was 20 or 30 years ago?

This is the question Steve Silberman set out to answer – and this led him down a very interesting path back through the history of autism. He uncovered a series of events that have all led up to where we are today. With a new book coming out called NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, Silberman shared some of his research findings at this year’s TED. Check out his TED Talk.

Lynsey, Community Manager

New Vaccine Study Re-Confirms No Link to Autism

Another study has come out that again shows there is no link between vaccines and autism. This one, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, focuses on siblings of those touched by autism.

JAMA

The research –as discussed in this article – shows that brothers and sisters of children with autism were not at a higher risk of developing the disorder if they were vaccinated compared to the siblings of those without autism.

This is significant because separate studies have found there is an increased risk of autism among those with older siblings on the spectrum, which could be contributed to genetic and environmental factors. But because some have a fear that vaccines– specifically the MMR vaccine – are linked to autism, parents of autistic children have been more hesitant to vaccinate their younger children.

This study-and others related to vaccine safety—are important so we can feel confident and comforted that we’re making the right decisions for our children. Opting out of vaccines has led to several outbreaks of diseases/viruses that we would be protected from getting, such as the measles. Much is being done to combat the fear of vaccines and this study is an important reassurance that a link doesn’t exist.

Read more about the study

Lynsey, Community Manager 

Two-Minute MRI Diagnosis?

CPS_logo
Determining whether a child has autism or not has been, up to this point, primarily based on factors outlined in the DSM. It’s based on meeting certain criteria and there’s no medical test, such as a blood test, that can be taken to provide a diagnosis. But with the evolution of technology and research, we’re learning of more and more ways medical diagnostic tools may one day play a large role in the detection, and ultimately diagnosis, of autism.

One such potential tool, according to recent research published in Clinical Psychological Science, is a brain-imaging technique, similar to a MRI, that could detect autism in only two minutes. The scanning process can show the brain’s response to thoughts of ‘self-perspective’ – such as recognizing ‘your turn.’ It showed that there was a subdued response in the brain among those with autism – and the more subdued the response, the more severe the autism symptoms.

While it wouldn’t be able to take the place of a full evaluation, and it will certainly require much more research, this may be a way to aide in the clinical diagnosis in the future, offering us a little more insight into how our brains are processing information.

You can check out more on this research here.

Lynsey, Community Manager