Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Parents, health care professionals, and friends who are connected to life with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are getting involved in a frantic search to find 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, an autistic New York City boy who has been missing for 13 days. More from NBC New York:
Add a Comment
“When you have an individual who can’t speak and communicate for himself, that touches the heart,” said Julius Cannon, one of the volunteers searching for Avonte.
Cannon is among the numerous New Yorkers donating their time each day to help look for the mute autistic boy, who was last seen running away from his Long Island City school. Cannon has worked closely with autistic children and says people in the special needs community, especially those touched by autism, are committed to helping one another.
“I’ve been a part of this special community for years — 15 years, to be exact,” he said. “These kids, whether I work with them, they’re just a part of the family.”
Trudging through the brush to search tunnels, Wesley Miller of Astoria has been searching for Avonte since he went missing.
“When I heard about this kid and found out he was autistic, that really burned me up. I had to do something,” he said.
While Avonte’s family told NBC 4 New York Monday they feared foul play, they sounded optimistic on Tuesday.
“Our hopes are extremely high,” said a relative.
Police Chief Phillip Banks said Avonte’s disappearance has hit a personal note with investigators.
“We started out the meeting, ‘OK, if this was our son, what would we be doing differently?’” he said. “We went around the table and spent the first few minutes speaking about that.”
Friday, September 20th, 2013
A genetic disorder that can lead to developmental delays, anxiety, and social awkwardness is misdiagnosed as an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as much as 50 percent of the time, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California Davis. The mistake can lead to inappropriate treatment for the children, and may even worsen the symptoms of their genetic condition. More from Time.com:
About one in 2000 people are diagnosed with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, which can lead to developmental delays, social awkwardness and anxiety, among other symptoms. Because those symptoms overlap with some of the hallmark signs of autism, researchers say that anywhere from 20% to 50% of children with 22q, as the condition is called, are misdiagnosed with autism.
That can have serious implications for these patients, since behavior-based treatments designed to alleviate the social deficits of autism may actually exacerbate anxiety among those with the 22q genetic disorder. If left untreated, children with 22q can be at higher risk of developing other mental health disorders like schizophrenia later in life.
To tease apart the differences between children with 22q and those with autism, the researchers, based at the University of California Davis MIND Institute, recruited a small group of 29 kids from a website the study called Cognitive Analysis and Brain Imaging Laboratory (CABIL). The scientists noticed that parents of children with the genetic disorder often commented that while their kids were diagnosed with autism, they seemed different from other children with the developmental disorder. “It’s quite clear that children with the [22q] disorder do have social impairments,” said study author Tony J. Simon, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the MIND Institute in a statement. “But it did seem to us that they did not have a classic case of autism spectrum disorder. They often have very high levels of social motivation. They get a lot of pleasure from social interaction, and they’re quite socially skilled.”
So the team gave the children two of the gold standard tests for diagnosing autism — the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) — to see if they indeed showed signs of autism.
Only five of the children had elevated scores on the ADOS test, and four out of the five had anxiety. None of the 22q children had scores high enough in both tests to classify them as having autism.
Image: Child with pediatrician, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
The first large-scale study to link autism with autoimmunity has been published in the journal Molecular Biology. The study found that as many as 1 in 10 mothers of autistic children have antibodies in their bloodstream that react with proteins in the brains of their developing fetuses. More from ScienceDaily.com:
…While the blood-brain barrier in the adult women prevents them from being harmed by the antibodies, that same filter in the fetuses is not well-developed enough and so may allow the “anti-brain” antibodies to pass through to the babies’ brains, possibly causing autism.
The study was led by Dr. Betty Diamond, head of the Center for Autoimmune and Musculoskeletal Disorders at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Long Island, New York, who said the very large sample size “gives a clearer impression of the prevalence of these antibodies.”
“We at AARDA applaud Dr. Diamond’s research into an area that concerns all parents,” said Virginia T. Ladd, President of American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (AARDA).
According to AARDA, in healthy people, when a foreign invader, such as a virus or bacteria, enters the body, the immune system produces antibodies to attack those foreign substances. In people with autoimmunity, the immune system mistakenly recognizes the body’s own healthy tissues and organs as foreign invaders and produces antibodies to attack them. These auto-antibodies — or antibodies produced against the self — then cause disease. The disease that results depends upon which tissues and/or organs the antibodies are attacking.
Some 50 million Americans live and cope with autoimmune disease (AD), 75 percent of whom are women.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
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 TIME.com:
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
Add a Comment
Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
Women who give birth after having labor induced may be slightly more likely to have children who are later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. More from USA Today:
The increased autism risk likely stems from an underlying problem with the pregnancy, rather than any of the methods used to jump-start labor, says lead author Simon Gregory of the Duke Institute of Molecular Physiology.
It’s possible that “infants destined to develop autism are less likely to send out the correct biochemical signals for normal progression of labor,” says Tara Wenger, a pediatric genetics fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who wasn’t involved in the new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics.
Pregnancy complications increase the risk of many developmental disorders, says Michael Rosanoff, associate director for public health research and scientific review at Autism Speaks, an advocacy group.
And a growing number of studies now link autism to a variety of things that can compromise the health of a pregnancy, says Rosanoff, who wasn’t involved in the study, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. Researchers are increasingly looking at prenatal risk factors for autism, because this period plays a key role in brain development. Science has ruled out vaccines as a cause of autism, he says.
But studies have found that children are at higher risk for autism if they are born early or very small; if they are in medical distress during delivery; if they have older mothers or fathers; or if they are born less than a year after an older sibling. Autism risk also goes up if a mother has diabetes or high blood pressure; is obese; is exposed to significant air pollution during pregnancy; had low levels of folic acid; takes medications such as an anti-seizure drug called valproic acid; or makes antibodies toxic to the fetal brain.
Gregory notes that his findings are still preliminary and that women shouldn’t resist a doctor’s recommendation about jump-starting labor out of fear of autism.
Image: Woman in labor, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment