Mom Psych



Pets Increase Social Behaviors in Children with Autism

Researchers Identify Red Flag for Autism in Infants

Gene Abnormalities in Autism Identified: UC San Diego Researchers

Study Compares Traits of Autism and Schizophrenia: UT Dallas

Brain Differences Seen at 6 Months in Infants Who Develop Autism: Washington University

Toolkit Makes Bedtime Less Stressful for Children With Autism: Vanderbilt University

Special Needs Digest


Women Abused as Children More Likely to Have Children with Autism

Boston, MA; March 20, 2013—Women who experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse as children are more likely to have a child with autism than women who were not abused, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Those who experienced the most serious abuse had the highest likelihood of having a child with autism — three-and-a-half times more than women who were not abused.

“Our study identifies a completely new risk factor for autism,” said lead author Andrea Roberts, research associate in the HSPH Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “Further research to understand how a woman’s experience of abuse is associated with autism in her children may help us better understand the causes of autism and identify preventable risk factors.”

The study appears online March 20, 2013 and in the May 2013 print issue of JAMA Psychiatry. It is the first to explore the relationship between a mother’s exposure to childhood abuse and risk of autism in her children.
(Full story . . . )

Speech Emerges In ASD Children with Severe Language Delay
at Greater Rate Than Previously Thought

BALTIMORE, MD, March 4, 2013—New findings published in Pediatrics (Epub ahead of print) by the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders reveal that 70 percent of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who have a history of severe language delay, achieved phrase or fluent speech by age eight. This suggests that more children presenting with ASD and severe language delay at age four can be expected to make notable language gains than was previously thought. Abnormalities in communication and language are a defining feature of ASD, yet prior research into the factors predicting the age and quality of speech attainment has been limited.
(Full story . . . )

Autism and Schizophrenia Genes Only Active in Developing Brains

Oxford, February 12, 2013—Genes linked to autism and schizophrenia are only switched on during the early stages of brain development, according to a study in mice led by researchers at the University of Oxford. This study adds to the evidence that autism and schizophrenia are neurodevelopmental disorders, a term describing conditions that originate during early brain development.

The research focused on cells in the 'subplate', a region of the brain where the first neurons (nerve cells) develop. Subplate neurons are essential to brain development, and provide the earliest connections within the brain. 'The subplate provides the scaffolding required for a brain to grow, so is important to consider when studying brain development,' says Professor Zoltán Molnár, senior author of the paper from the University of Oxford, 'Looking at the pyramids in Egypt today doesn't tell us how they were actually built. Studying adult brains is like looking at the pyramids today, but by studying the developing brains we are able to see the transient scaffolding that has been used to construct it.'
(Full story . . . )

Yale Researchers Spot Attention Deficits in Babies Who Later Develop Autism

February 5, 2013Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have been able to detect deficits in social attention in infants as young as six months of age who later develop Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). 

The study found that "compared with the control groups, 6-month-old infants later diagnosed with ASD attended less to the social scene." Even when they did look at the scene, the infants spent less time monitoring the adult in the scene and her face in particular. This "was not accompanied by enhanced attention to objects," noted the researchers.

The study's lead researcher, Katarzyna Chawarska, is currently conducting a series of studies to determine which aspects of gaze and face processing are impaired and which are not in infants with ASD. Her aim is to help advance understanding so that early screening and intervention methods can be developed.
(Full story . . .)

Autism Severity May Stem from Fear

BYU; November 29, 2012—Most people know when to be afraid and when it's ok to calm down, but new research on autism shows that children with the diagnosis struggle to let go of old, outdated fears. Even more significantly, the Brigham Young University study found that this rigid fearfulness is linked to the severity of classic symptoms of autism, such as repeated movements and resistance to change. For parents and others who work with children diagnosed with autism, the new research highlights the need to help children make emotional transitions—particularly when dealing with their fears.
(Full story . . . )

Early Autism Intervention Improves Brain Responses to Social Cues

October 29, 2012—An autism intervention program that emphasizes social interactions and is designed for children as young as 12 months has been found to improve cognitive skills and brain responses to faces, considered a building block for social skills. The researchers say that the study, which was completed at the University of Washington, is the first to demonstrate that an intensive behavioral intervention can change brain function in toddlers with autism spectrum disorders.
(Full story . . . )

Autism Treatments: Ask a Grownup

September 24, 2012"When I first found out my son was on the spectrum in 2004," says Gary Evans, "I decided to search the Internet to see what I could discover about the current state of research and treatments. What I found was something akin to a Wild West frontier town on a busy Saturday afternoon; you could practically hear the pitchmen and smell the snake oil. Apparently, the hucksters and charlatans of the world had found autism and they considered it a growth industry."

Part of the problem was the research community had spent decades faithfully ignoring autism, so when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) starting reporting increasing numbers—dramatically increasing numbers—they were caught flat-footed. Good research takes time.
(Full story . . . )

Autism Talk: Coming to Terms

August 21, 2012There’s a heated debate going on in the autism community about something so fundamental that navigating even the simplest conversation has become akin to dancing in a crowded elevator—you’re going to step on some toes no matter how careful and well-meaning you may be. The point of contention is this: when referring to a person on the autism spectrum, should you use person-first language or identity-first language?
(Full story . . . )


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