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  1. Boosting Social Skills in Autistic Kids With Drama

    June 1, 2016- "Boosting Social Skills in Autistic Kids With Drama"- This extensive article focuses on how schools are turning to the arts to teach high-functioning students with autism social skills. New research from Vanderbilt suggests that drama classes are particularly useful for improving these skills. Other research has shown that drama programs can help improve children’s facial recognition ability, their ability to play cooperatively, share, speak with respect, regulate anxiety, and more. Researchers plan to extend the research to a larger sample of students and to compare the benefits of drama therapy supplemented with other forms of therapy.

    • Jun 01 2016 09:10 AM
    • by brian
  2. DNA Doubling on Chromosome 22 Shows Strong Ties...

    May 30, 2016- "DNA Doubling on Chromosome 22 Shows Strong Ties to Autism"-  An extra copy of a stretch on chromosome 22 may contribute to autism, according to the first study to carefully characterize a large group of individuals who carry this duplication. The doubling can also lead to medical complications, such as vision or health problems. In the new study, researchers gave 20 children with 22q11.2 duplications one or both of the gold-standard diagnostic tests for autism and found that five of them have autism. The results suggest as much as 25 people with the duplication have autism. The results also indicate that autism is more common among people with duplication than in those with the deletion.

    • May 31 2016 02:11 PM
    • by brian
  3. Weak Immune Response in Women May Up Autism Ris...

    May 27, 2016- "Weak Immune Response in Women May Up Autism Risk in Children"- Women who developed infections during pregnancy run an increased risk of having a child with autism. Most data indicate that an overactive maternal immune response underlies the risk. However, a new analysis ties high levels of an inflammatory protein in pregnant women to a low risk of autism in their children, suggesting that a strong immune response is protective. In the recent study, researchers found that healthy pregnant women with high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, are less likely to have a child with autism than are women with typical levels of the protein. The findings contradict a 2013 report from a large Finnish cohort that tied high CRP levels during pregnancy to an increased risk of having a child with autism.  

    • May 31 2016 12:51 PM
    • by brian
  4. Neuroscientists Illuminate Role of Autism-Linke...

    May 24, 2016- "Neuroscientists Illuminate Role of Autism-Linked Gene"- A new study from MIT neuroscientists reveals that a gene mutation associated with autism plays a critical role in the formation and maturation of synapses, the connections that allow neurons to communicate with each other. Scientists focused on mutations in the Shank3 gene, which is among the most common in autism. Shank3 helps cells respond to input from other neurons, but because there are two other Shank proteins, and all three can fill in for each other in certain ways, it had been difficult to determine exactly what the Shank proteins are doing. The study utilized fruit flies because they only have only version of the Shank gene, and by knocking out that gene, the researchers eliminated all Shank proteins from flies. In fruit flies lacking the Shank protein, the researchers found two dramatic effects. First, the postsynaptic cells had many fewer boutons, which are the sites where neurotransmitter release occurs. Second, many of the boutons that did form were not properly developed. Specifically, they were not surrounded by all of the postsynaptic proteins normally found there, which are required to respond to synaptic signals. The article also delves into another key finding involving the loss of Shank proteins at its conclusion.

    • May 26 2016 10:43 AM
    • by brian
  5. Can Telehealth Fill Gap in Autism Services?

    May 24, 2016- "Can Telehealth Fill Gap in Autism Services?"- Findings from a federally funded pilot study on telehealth training show the online program successfully helped parents of children with autism improve their child’s social communication using research-based intervention techniques. The study involved 28 parents of children with autism who all completed one 75-minute self-directed online lesson per week, for a total of 12 weeks, and practiced the intervention techniques with their child. Half of the parents also received two 30-minute coaching sessions per week (24 total) from a therapist via video-conferencing. Results indicate that telehealth training benefited parents and children in both groups.  

    • May 26 2016 10:18 AM
    • by brian
  6. Mutations That Arise in Aging Sperm Add Little...

    May 23, 2016- "Mutations That Arise in Aging Sperm Add Little to Autism Risk"- A recently published report states that the mutations that men accumulate in their sperm as they age don’t account for most of their increased risk of having a child with autism. Instead, the researchers suggest, men who carry risk factors for the condition simply tend to have children late in life.

    • May 24 2016 09:56 AM
    • by brian
  7. Analysis of Syndrome Weakens Gene's Link to...

    May 20, 2016- "Analysis of Syndrome Weakens Gene's Link to Autism"- Mutations in an autism-linked gene called AUTS2 do not cause the condition’s core social features, according to the most comprehensive clinical portrait to date. However, the mutations almost always lead to intellectual disability.  About 83 percent of the individuals in the small study show repetitive behavior associated with autism, but none exhibit the social communication problems required for an autism diagnosis. The report provides the first glimpse of AUTS2 syndrome, which occurs in about 1 in every 2,000 people, in adults and it found that most adults with AUTS2 deletions have no chronic health issues.

    • May 23 2016 09:48 AM
    • by brian
  8. Repetitive TMS May Help Core Features of Autism

    May 18, 2016- "Repetitive TMS May Help Core Features of Autism"-  A recent presentation at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) reported on the use of low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), known to be successful in the treatment of refractory depression, in children and adolescent to enhance cortical inhibition. The investigators found that both EEG and ERP measures of selective attention and executive functioning improved significantly following 6, 12, or 18 sessions of low-frequency rTMS. They also found that measures of irritability and repetitive or stereotypical behavior, assessed through clinical behavioral questionnaires, improved significantly. However, it is too early to recommend this therapy for individuals with autism as the researchers are now following patients to determine how long treatment effects last and whether combining rTMS with other techniques enhances treatment effects.

    • May 20 2016 10:37 AM
    • by brian
  9. Brain Signature Characterizes Boys with Autism

    May 19, 2016- "Brain Signature Characterizes Boys with Autism"- According to a new study, activity in the social brain circuit can distinguish a boy with autism from a typically developing boy with 76 percent accuracy. The brain signature may also offer a way to track boys’ progress with behavioral treatments. However, there were some drawbacks to this work. The researchers didn’t test the signature in boys with other neurodevelopmental disorders, which would be needed before it could be used to diagnose autism. And the findings do no extend to girls with autism.

    • May 19 2016 10:19 AM
    • by brian
  10. Self-Injury in Autism May Be Sign of Pain

    May 19, 2016- "Self-Injury in Autism May Be Sign of Pain"- Two new research studies indicate that people with autism who engage in self-injurious behaviors may be experiencing heightened sensations to pain and acting out. A detailed explanation of each study and the impact of their findings are discussed in this article.  

    • May 20 2016 07:55 AM
    • by brian
  11. Top Autism Gene has Outsized Effect on Social S...

    May 13, 2016- "Top Autism Gene has Outsized Effect on Social Skills"- Harmful mutations in CHDB, a gene strongly linked to autism, may have more impact on social skills than do other autism-associated mutations, according to recently presented findings. The difference emerged only when researchers compared the social competencies of affected individuals with those of their parents. The findings are further evidence that CHD8 is linked to autism-specific features. Researchers have now identified 26 people with harmful CHD8 mutations, and all but 2 have a known diagnosis of autism. The article goes on to discuss how the researchers’ investigation into the participants’ parents yielded these intriguing findings.

    • May 16 2016 03:32 PM
    • by brian
  12. Disparities in Autism Diagnosis May Harm Minori...

    May 14, 2016- "Disparities in Autism Diagnosis May Harm Minority Groups"- Two recently presented studies suggest clinicians are underdiagnosing autism in children from low-income families and minority groups – setting back their potential to benefit from therapy. In one of the studies, researchers showed that a disparity in autism diagnosis in the United States favoring white children from high-income families remained stable from 2002 to 2010, despite increasing awareness of the condition. The article goes on to discuss researchers’ findings related to autism and race and concludes by stating that now that researchers are away of racial trends in autism, they need to ask better questions to ameliorate these differences.

    • May 16 2016 03:21 PM
    • by brian
  13. Motor Problem in Infancy May Forecast Autism

    May 13, 2016- "Motor Problem in Infancy May Forecast Autism"- Among infants with a family history of autism, those later diagnosed with the condition have trouble holding up their head and grasping objects with their hands at 6 months of age. These findings suggest that motor difficulties at 6 months of age predict later signs of autism.  

    • May 16 2016 02:57 PM
    • by brian
  14. Self-scoring Autism Screen Overlooks Problems i...

    May 12, 2016- "Self-scoring Autism Screen Overlooks Problems in Girls"- A widely used screening tool, known as the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)- Revised, is equally effective at detecting autism symptoms in both black and white toddlers, but misses girls of either race, according to preliminary findings. The research team looked at survey responses for nearly 15,000 toddlers and fed the results into an algorithm that scanned them for meaningful patterns. They found the algorithm could detect autism using only 12 of the 20 survey items, while the other 8 did not provide meaningful data. The algorithm could also indicate whether a boy was at low, medium, or high risk of autism, based on the responses. However, in girls, it missed the crucial middle ground by picking up on girls at high risk and low risk, but failing to identify girls with mild autism symptoms. Most of the key 12 question evaluate a child’s ability to share another person’s focus on an activity or object, known as joint attention. Girls with severe autism tend to have trouble with joint attention, and the algorithm correctly sorted them into the high-risk group. But it missed girls with mild or moderate autism who can follow another person’s gaze and interpret social cues, lumping them into the low-risk group along with typically developing girls.  

    • May 16 2016 02:39 PM
    • by brian
  15. New Tool Lets Cognitive Skills Guide Autism Tre...

    May 14, 2016- "New Tool Lets Cognitive Skills Guide Autism Treatment"- A new tool relies on abilities rather diagnoses to steer clinicians toward personalized treatments for conditions such as autism and ADHD. Autism and ADHD share behavioral features and genetic roots. The best diagnostic tests sometimes fail to tell the condition apart. The new method skirts these diagnostic hurdles and proceeds directly to managing behaviors. A computer algorithm sorts children with autism or ADHD into separate groups by their cognitive skill set, a process that may help doctors tailor treatments to individuals.

    • May 16 2016 02:20 PM
    • by brian
  16. Distinct Folding in Autism Brain Hints at Condi...

    May 14, 2016- "Distinct Folding in Autism Brain Hints at Condition's Origins"- A study of postmortem brains suggests that a characteristic pattern of folds in the brain’s outer shell, or cerebral cortex, is established before birth and changes little throughout life. According to Tanya White, associate professor of pediatric neuroimaging at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, “If it’s true that folding remains stable, then it suggests that the changes in the autism brains are taking place during the third trimester of fetal life, which is when most of the brain folding takes place.” Specifically, the researchers found that boys with autism whose brains are of average size show less folding in the fusiform gyrus than do those of controls. The fusiform gyrus is involved with recognizing and reading faces. The researchers found a different pattern when focused only on the boys with enlarged brains, the implications of which are discussed in the conclusion of this article.

    • May 16 2016 01:58 PM
    • by brian
  17. Firsthand Experience with Autism can Spark New...

    May 12, 2016- "Firsthand Experience with Autism can Spark New Science"- Meeting people with autism, instead of merely reading about them, can alter how scientists approach their work. This is the main theme of an article that contains anecdotes from researchers in the field of autism and how their personal relationships with people on the spectrum have influenced their approach to autism research. It also discusses how researchers can increase their opportunities for interaction with those on the spectrum.

    • May 16 2016 01:24 PM
    • by brian
  18. Baby's Immune System Might Hint at Autism Risk

    May 11, 2016- "Baby's Immune System Might Hint at Autism Risk"- A team of researchers have found that levels of certain protein “markers” in newborns’ blood may be predictive of an autism diagnosis later in life. The researchers examined blood from nearly 900 children who developed some form of autism and compared their samples to blood from more than 1,100 kids who didn’t develop the disorder. While the study can’t prove cause-and-effect, babies who went on to develop autism had higher blood levels of certain proteins that signaled inflammation. Researchers added that the findings are intriguing, but much more research is needed.

    • May 16 2016 01:07 PM
    • by brian
  19. Diagnostic Manual May Need to Separate Repetiti...

    May 14, 2016- "Diagnostic Manual May Need to Separate Repetitive Behaviors"- A detailed analysis of the behavior of 6,500 children suggests that five types of autism-related behaviors lumped together in current diagnostic guidelines should each be considered separate. Children with autism must show difficulties with social communication and at least two of four types of repetitive and restricted behaviors, according to the DSM-5. This study suggests sensory interests, which is currently tucked into the category of sensory sensitivities, deserves a category of its own.  

    • May 16 2016 12:31 PM
    • by brian
  20. Why Fears Over Folic Acid and Autism Need to be...

    May 12, 2016- "Why Fears Over Folic Acid and Autism Need to be Properly Understood"- This article begins by stating “experts are questioning a study that suggests a link between high levels of folic acid in pregnant women and a greater risk for children with autism.” Folate during pregnancy can prevent neural development defects early on, but a recent study suggested that there may be risks to taking too much, suggesting a higher risk for autism if a mother has four times the recommended amount of folate. However, the study, which was a presentation at an autism research meeting, did not find a causal link between taking folic acid and autism. The researchers took blood tests of close to 1,4000 mothers between one to three days after they gave birth and found that about 10% of mothers had very high levels of folate, beyond recommended amounts, and that these women were also more likely to have a baby that would later be diagnosed with ASD. The authors of the study are worried that their findings are being misconstrued in the media. They stress that the new study is an early finding and more research is needed.

    • May 17 2016 10:10 AM
    • by brian
  21. Sensitive New Test May Help Researchers Evaluat...

    May 14, 2016- "Sensitive New Test May Help Researchers Evaluate Treatments"- A new tool, called the Brief Observation of Social Communication Change (BOSCC), may be more useful than the current gold standard for assessing whether an autism treatment improves social communication, according to two recent studies. The test consists of 15 items that probe the frequency and quality of a child’s social communication behaviors, such as eye contact, facial expressions and vocalizations, as well as their restricted interests and repetitive behaviors.  

    • May 16 2016 08:48 AM
    • by brian
  22. Sibling Bonds Inspire Next Generation of Autism...

    May 12, 2016- "Sibling Bonds Inspire Next Generation of Autism Researchers"- Autism affects a lot of individuals beyond those who have a diagnosis in several ways. This article contains passages from four early-career autism researchers who each have siblings on the autism spectrum that inspired them to enter into the field.  

    • May 13 2016 08:29 AM
    • by brian
  23. Research Raises Questions about Impact of State...

    May 11, 2016- "Research Raises Questions about Impact of State Autism Insurance Mandates"- New research evaluating the insurance mandates, which have been passed in a total of 44 states and the District of Columbia, suggests they are failing in key ways, especially when it comes to providing children needed therapy. Researchers found that the state mandates, which apply to coverage available on the individual market and some group and employer plans, led to about 12 percent more children getting some kind of treatment for autism. The article goes on to discuss how their research was conducted and elaborates on the conclusion that insurance mandates are “necessary but not sufficient.”

    • May 11 2016 01:34 PM
    • by brian
  24. Questions for Cory Miller: Monkeying Around wit...

    May 10, 2016- "Questions for Cory Miller: Monkeying Around with Marmosets"- The advent of easy and reliable gene-editing methods has caused researchers to shy away from the traditional mice and rat models for autism studies towards creating monkey models with autism-related mutations. Marmosets are particularly well suited for autism studies because they are small and highly social. In this article, readers will learn about what marmosets can reveal regarding social behavior and autism through an interview with Cory Miller, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author of a study arguing for the increased use of marmoset models for autism studies.

    • May 11 2016 01:14 PM
    • by brian
  25. Long Autism Genes May Fracture When Cells Divide

    May 9, 2016- "Long Autism Genes May Fracture When Cells Divide"- Many of the genes implicated in autism are unusually long, a feature that leaves them susceptible to breaking during cell division. A recent study identified 27 fragile regions in the DNA of cultured precursors to neurons; 12 of the regions land in long genes linked to autism. Cells can makes mistakes when repairing these breaks, sometimes disrupting the very sequence they are trying to restore. Autism-linked genes, especially those that function at the junctions between neurons, or synapses, are roughly four times larger than the average gene in neurons. The new findings suggest that long genes are particularly prone to mutations.

    • May 10 2016 09:53 AM
    • by brian