Posts Tagged ‘ ASD ’

Autism Linked to Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Pregnant women who are exposed to chemical pesticides, especially those used to treat large farm fields, may be more likely to have babies who are later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental delay.  A new study conducted at the University of California Davis reported these findings–the third major study to link pesticide exposure with autism rates–but stopped short of saying that pesticide exposure is definitely a cause of ASD.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest numbers suggest that 1 in 68 American children has an autism spectrum disorder, with its causes remaining one of the most vexing mysteries in modern medicine.  The debate over whether vaccines cause autism is ongoing despite copious research disproving any link, and a recent British study found that genetics may play as much of a role as whether a child is autistic as environmental exposure does.

Reuters has more on the new study, which was conducted in California where agricultural pesticide use is carefully reported and mapped:

For the new study, the researchers used those maps to track exposures during pregnancy for the mothers of 970 children.

The children included 486 with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 168 with a developmental delay and 316 with typical development.

….

In the new study, about a third of mothers had lived within a mile of fields treated with pesticides, most commonly organophosphates.

Children of mothers exposed to organophosphates were 60 percent more likely to have an ASD than children of non-exposed mothers, the authors report in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism

Image: Tractor spraying a field, via Shutterstock

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Autism Recovery Possible for Small Number, Study Confirms

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The dream of every parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)–improvement to the point where the child no longer meets the diagnostic criteria for the disorder–is actually within reach for a small group of ASD patients, a new study led by researchers at the University of Connecticut has found.  As Richard Rende writes in his Parents.com blog, Red Hot Parenting, the new study is the best clinical evidence to date that recovery is an option for some with ASD.  From Richard’s post analyzing the new study:

A team of researchers (led by Dr. Deborah Fein at the University of Connecticut) identified 34 individuals with suspected recovery who had a clear documented history of ASD, but no longer met diagnostic criteria for it. By comparing this group to two other groups – a high-functioning ASD group (44 individuals), and a typical development group without ASD (34 individuals) – the study reported these two key findings:

  • The 34 potential recovery cases not only no longer met criteria for ASD, but in fact lost all symptoms of ASD
  • Their social and communicative functioning was within the nonautistic range (and as a group similar to the typical development group)

The study authors suggested the phrase “optimal outcome” for these individuals to convey the idea that their overall functioning across multiple domains was in the normative range. There was a wide age range in the sample – from 8 to 21 years – and the conclusion was that some children with a diagnosis and history of autism may in fact go on to experience an optimal outcome later in development.

More reports will come in the future from this research group on this sample. In particular, they will be analyzing collected data on intervention history to see if there were commonalities in those who experienced an optimal outcome. They will also be looking at psychiatric data to examine the possibility that some with optimal outcome experience anxiety, depression, and impulsivity.

For more on autism “recovery,” see this related Parents News Now story from last April:  Study: Ten Percent of Kids ‘Bloom’ Out of Autism.

Image: Autism awareness ribbon, via Shutterstock

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Study: Families with Autistic Kids Earn Less

Monday, March 26th, 2012

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has shown that families with at least one child diagnosed with autism earn 28 percent less than families without an autistic child.  Further, the study found that parents of autistic kids earn 21 percent less than families where a child has a different health limitation.

CNN.com reports on the findings, which largely cite differences in mothers’ incomes as the source of the discrepancy:

The income discrepancy among families with a child with autism is likely due to mothers leaving the workforce and taking lower-paying jobs, said study co-author David Mandell.

These mothers aren’t just staying at home to take care of their children with autism, says Mandell, associate director of the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of Pennsylvania.  They’re on the phone arguing with their insurance company about getting services, going to multiple meetings about school, and shuttling kids from provider after provider.

“It’s not that caring for a child with autism is more difficult per se than caring for a child with cerebral palsy, for example, or intellectual disability,” said Mandell, associate director of the Center for Autism Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “But the service system for kids with autism is not as well defined. There’s not as much appropriate treatment available for these kids.”

Approximately 1 in 110 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder.

Image: Financial statement, via Shutterstock.

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Autism-Friendly Santas Offer Mall Alternatives

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

A growing number of Santas whose mannerisms are more approachable for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are visiting malls, parties, and community centers across the country, The Associated Press reports.  Many of the “sensitive” Santas appear at set hours after the mall has closed, so the lights, noise, and crowds are not overwhelming to autistic children.  The trend is opening the tradition of visits and photos with Santa to families who may have thought their children would never enjoy or even tolerate such an event.  From the Globe:

Many children with autism are especially sensitive to loud noises, jangling music, crowds and unpredictable situations, and some parents say the idea that they could wait patiently in a long line to see Santa is laughable at best.

The Borres tried without success a few times over the years to grab quick snapshots if Ben randomly walked close enough to any Santa they encountered, but with mixed results.

Now, he visits an autism-friendly Santa each December at an informal yearly event that Borre and other autism families hold at a local playground. The sensitive Santa happens to be Ben’s grandfather, Ray Lepak, who was compelled to become an autism-friendly Santa for local families after seeing what his daughter’s family was experiencing.

“Just because a family has a child with special needs doesn’t mean they don’t want all the same memories that everyone else does,” Borre said. “We all want those same holiday joyful moments; it just has to be approached differently.”

One such Santa, Ray Lepak of Manchester, New Hampshire, described his process:

He starts with a few mellow “Ho, Ho, Ho” greetings, watches for those who are intrigued, and smiles or beckons to them to come closer. Many steer clear but watch him, either curiously or warily, while others remain disinterested.

“You’ll see them watch Santa out of the corner of their eye, then little by little they’ll come closer, then walk away as if you’re not there, and come back in a bit,” Lepak said. “It’s really about following their lead and communicating on their terms.”

Some will give him a high five; the braver ones might sit on his lap. At the recent gathering, one child had no interest at all in Santa until he realized that the big guy in the bright red suit was willing to push him on a swing — and those fleeting moments were enough for the boy’s family to snap pictures.

Sensitive Santas have appeared in Connecticut, Ohio, and Minnesota, the article reports.

Image: Santa hat, via Shutterstock

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