Posts Tagged ‘ autism research ’

1 in 68 Children Has Autism, CDC Reports

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report stating that 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on records from 11 different states that evaluated the health and educational records of 8 year olds. This is a 30 percent increase from the 1 in 88 statistic that was released just two years ago. More from

Children with autism continue to be overwhelmingly male. According to the new report, the CDC estimates 1 in 42 boys have autism, 4.5 times as many as girls (1 in 189).”We look at all of the characteristics of autism,” says Coleen Boyle, the director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“So we look at the age in which they’re identified. We look at their earliest diagnosis. We look at co-occuring conditions that these children might have, other developmental disabilities, whether or not they have intellectual disability, so essentially their IQ.”

The largest increase was seen in children who have average or above-average intellectual ability, according to the CDC. The study found nearly half of children with an autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability — an IQ above 85 — compared with one-third of children a decade ago.

The report is not designed to say why more children are being diagnosed with autism, Boyle says. But she believes increased awareness in identifying and diagnosing children contributes to the higher numbers.

More than 5,300 children are represented in the data contained in the new report, she says.

“We comb through records. We accumulate all that information and then each one of those records is reviewed by a specialist to make sure that that child meets our autism case definition,” says Boyle. The definition of autism is unchanged from the 2012 report.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that children are still being diagnosed late. According to the report, the average age of diagnosis is still over age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed by age 2.

The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the better their chances of overcoming the difficulties that come with the disorder.

Help your child track his progress in school

Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective

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Study: Siblings of Children with Autism Share Risk of the Disorder

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Children who have a big brother or big sister with an autism spectrum disorder face an increased risk of developing such a disorder themselves, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The study, of more than 1.5 million children in Denmark, found that sibs of kids diagnosed with autism had an almost seven-fold increased risk of developing autism as well.

This research comes on the heels of a recent study that found that women who undergo labor induction may be more likely to give birth to children with autism spectrum disorders.

Here’s more on the sibling study from

For parents, the findings raise difficult questions about how proactive they should be in screening for the disease among their younger children if older siblings are affected. Alycia Halladay, senior director, environmental and clinical sciences for Autism Speaks, says parents who have already had a child diagnosed on the spectrum should alert their doctor to the family history. During check-ups, when a doctor asks about inherited disorders like cystic fibrosis, they now typically include autism on the check-list.

Mothers of autistic children can also take steps during pregnancy to lower the risk of autism in their next offspring, such as taking prenatal folic acid and avoiding overexposure to toxins. That attention could even extend to the infants’ first few years, since studies suggest that some intensive behavior therapies can help to mitigate the symptoms of autism. “We know that early intervention can make a real lifetime of difference. So be very vigilant during that child’s life, all the way from birth to the well baby check-ups, six months, 12 months, and 18 months,” says Halladay. “Make sure you are watching for the signs and symptoms of autism. Consult your pediatrician, and if you do notice the signs and symptoms of autism you can receive help free of charge from a state-based early intervention agency.”

Researchers are also developing tests that can detect the genetic risk factors associated with the disorder, and more of these biomarkers may become available as additional gene-based contributors emerge. Scientists from University of Utah and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, for example, recently identified 24 new gene variants associated with autism spectrum disorders in January.

Image: Toddler and baby, via Shutterstock

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Pregnant Mom’s Antibodies May Predict Autism Risk

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Testing a pregnant woman’s blood for six distinct antibodies may be able to predict with more than 99 percent certainty whether her baby has a significant risk of developing an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  New research, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, found that 23 percent of all autism cases can be traced to the set of antibodies, which interfere with brain development while the baby is in utero.  More from

The research is already leading to what could be the first biological test for autism; the antibodies are found almost exclusively in mothers of autistic children, and not in children with other types of disorders or in mothers of non-autistic children. Only 1% of mothers whose children were not affected by autism had the antibodies in their blood, compared to 23% of mothers of autistic children. Judith Van de Water, an immunologist and professor of internal medicine at the University of California Davis MIND Institute and the study’s lead author, has consulted for a company, Pediatric Bioscience, that is developing a commercial version of the test, but the research was not funded by that organization and was supported primarily by the National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences.

“We haven’t found any [mothers] who have these antibodies and don’t have children with some sort of developmental disability issue,” says Van de Water. “We feel this really identifies a subtype of autism.”

The antibodies belong to a class of compounds called autoantibodies, which are immune cells that the body makes to target — often mistakenly — its own cells. Scientists do not know why or when the mothers produce these antibodies, which appear to monkey with normal nerve development in the fetal brain by interfering with their growth, migration and genetic replication. It is possible that infections during pregnancy — a known risk factor for autism —can prompt the immune system to produce them. Exposure to toxic chemicals can also cause immune defenders to mistake healthy cells for invaders, Van de Water notes.

The study involved 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— and the child of the remaining mother had ADHD, a condition that often occurs along with autism.  That suggests that a positive test almost certainly indicates a developmental disability.  However, since 77% of the mothers of autistic children did not have these antibodies, Van de Water says, a negative test would not rule out all risk of autism.

And so far, the presence of the antibodies do not seem to be associated with any particular form of autism. “Certain behaviors seem to be associated with this, including stereotyped repetitive behavior like hand-flapping and lower levels of expressive language,” says Van de Water, but no unique behavioral signature has been found so far. The children also did not seem to score differently on cognitive tests than other youngsters with autism.

Image: Pregnant woman having blood drawn, via Shutterstock

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New Autism Numbers Say 1 in 50 Affected

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

The latest statistics on the number of U.S. children affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD) shows a rise even from last year, with 1 in 50 school-aged children affected.  The numbers come from the National Center for Health Statistics, and they are even more alarming than the data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control, which estimated 1 in 88  U.S. kids to have autismUSA Today has more on the new information, as researchers ponder whether the data reflects rising autism occurrence, or better diagnostic tools:

The present study asked 100,000 parents across the country a range of health questions, including whether their child had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum and whether he or she currently had the diagnosis. The autism spectrum includes autism, the most severe form, as well as Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

The study looked at children ages 6-17 and was based on parent reports, while last year’s study looked at 8-year-olds whose diagnosis was noted in school district or other official records.

The fact that the new study found such high rates implies that “there will likely be more demand for (autism-related) services than we had previously thought,” said study author Stephen J. Blumberg, a senior scientist at the National Center for Health Statistics.

The new study, like most others, found that boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls.

The parents’ answers to the two survey questions also suggests that 15% to 20% of children who were once diagnosed with autism no longer have the condition. Blumberg said the study cannot say whether they lost the diagnosis because they outgrew the condition, or because they were misdiagnosed in the first place.

The higher numbers recorded in the new study suggest that officials are getting better at counting kids with autism – not that more have the condition, several experts said.

“I don’t see any evidence that there’s a true increase in the prevalence of autism,” said Roy Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Image: Boy, 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 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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