Autism severity can change substantially during early childhood

UC Davis: The MIND Institute’s study, published May 14 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, evaluated changes in symptom severity in early childhood and the potential factors associated with those changes. It included 125 children (89 boys and 36 girls) with ASD from the Autism Phenome Project(APP), a longitudinal project in its 14th year at … Continue reading Autism severity can change substantially during early childhood

Pop culture lionizes the dazzling brilliance of money managers on the autism spectrum. Reality rarely measures up.

Amanda Cantrell: Three weeks after I enrolled my youngest child in a neighborhood nursery school in Brooklyn, I got the call. An administrator and my child’s lead teacher urgently wanted to meet with my husband and me. Our daughter, it turned out, was wandering out of the classroom. She wasn’t making eye contact. She didn’t … Continue reading Pop culture lionizes the dazzling brilliance of money managers on the autism spectrum. Reality rarely measures up.

The Inclusive School Fighting China’s Stigma Against Autism

Ni Dandan: For once, the kindergarten classroom in Dongguan is quiet. Around the room, 28 young children nap on small single beds. When their teachers gently wake them in the early afternoon, Duan Yiyang stretches, removes his eye mask, and exchanges his pajamas for his orange school uniform. Like most of his peers here, 5-year-old … Continue reading The Inclusive School Fighting China’s Stigma Against Autism

Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

Michele Pridmore-Brown: In Nazi Germany paediatric psychiatrists served as consultants to youth groups, welfare offices and schools. It was the form their ‘national service’ took. They tracked subjects through childhood, shaped what was considered normal behaviour, and identified and codified what was not. Ernst Illing claimed that he could make a call about a child … Continue reading Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

Amazon Pulls 2 Books That Promote Unscientific Autism ‘Cures’

Tiffany Hsu: Amazon has removed the online listings for two books that claim to contain cures for autism, a move that follows recent efforts by several social media sites to limit the availability of anti-vaccination and other pseudoscientific material. The books, “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win,” which had previously … Continue reading Amazon Pulls 2 Books That Promote Unscientific Autism ‘Cures’

I Was 35 When I Discovered I’m on the Autism Spectrum

Zack Smith: “Do you hate crowds, especially at supermarkets and restaurants?” I avoided eye contact, which I knew I wasn’t supposed to do. “Yes.” If Dr. P. noticed, she was too busy looking at the questionnaire to let on. “Do you tend to repeat heard words, parts of words, or TV commercials?” I immediately flashed … Continue reading I Was 35 When I Discovered I’m on the Autism Spectrum

Father at centre of measles outbreak didn’t vaccinate children due to autism fears

Ryan Patrick Jones: The man whose family is at the centre of a measles outbreak in Vancouver said he didn’t vaccinate his children because he distrusted the science at the time. In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Emmanuel Bilodeau said he and his then-wife were influenced by reports that linked the vaccine that prevents … Continue reading Father at centre of measles outbreak didn’t vaccinate children due to autism fears

Predictors of mental health and well‐being in employed adults with autism spectrum disorder at 12‐month follow‐up

Darren Hedley Mirko Uljarević Simon M. Bury Cheryl Dissanayake: People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) commonly experience poor outcomes in adulthood. Previous research on adult outcomes has focused on negative aspects of health and well‐being, while positive well‐being remains understudied. The current study charted 12‐month change in daily living skills, job satisfaction, depression, anxiety, and … Continue reading Predictors of mental health and well‐being in employed adults with autism spectrum disorder at 12‐month follow‐up

De-Nazifying the “DSM”: On “Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna”

Andrew Scull: FOR NEARLY FOUR DECADES now, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, or DSM for short, has exercised a stranglehold of sorts over the mental health sector in the United States, and indeed around the world. Since the publication of the manual’s third edition in 1980, psychiatrists have used a … Continue reading De-Nazifying the “DSM”: On “Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna”

New insights on pesticide exposure and autism

Sheena Scruggs: Pregnant women with high levels of DDE, a metabolite of the insecticide DDT, in their blood are more likely to have children who develop autism, NIEHS grantees reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry. In contrast, they found no association between mothers’ exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and autism development in their children. … Continue reading New insights on pesticide exposure and autism

Specialized program for Marquette undergraduates with autism disorders gifted $450,000, set to launch fall 2019

Jennifer Walter: The program is one of only a few throughout the country, Van Hecke said. In-school resources for students with autism are required by law for K-12 schooling, but colleges often lack resources for those students looking to pursue higher education. Van Hecke said many of these incoming students often have a lifetime of … Continue reading Specialized program for Marquette undergraduates with autism disorders gifted $450,000, set to launch fall 2019

Whole genome sequencing in multiplex families reveals novel inherited and de novo genetic risk in autism

Elizabeth K Ruzzo, Laura Perez-Cano, Jae-Yoon Jung, Lee-kai Wang, Dorna Kashef-Haghighi, Chris Hartl, Jackson Hoekstra, Olivia Leventhal, Michael J. Gandal, Kelley Paskov, Nate Stockham, Damon Polioudakis, Jennifer K. Lowe, Daniel H. Geschwind, Dennis P Wall : Genetic studies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have revealed a complex, heterogeneous architecture, in which the contribution of rare … Continue reading Whole genome sequencing in multiplex families reveals novel inherited and de novo genetic risk in autism

Widespread signatures of positive selection in common risk alleles associated to autism spectrum disorder

Renato Polimanti , Joel Gelernter: The human brain is the outcome of innumerable evolutionary processes; the systems genetics of psychiatric disorders could bear their signatures. On this basis, we analyzed five psychiatric disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia (SCZ), using GWAS summary statistics from the … Continue reading Widespread signatures of positive selection in common risk alleles associated to autism spectrum disorder

Drawing Autism: A Visual Tour of the Autistic Mind from Kids and Celebrated Artists on the Spectrum

Maria Popova: Autism and its related conditions remain among the least understood mental health issues of our time. But one significant change that has taken place over the past few years has been a shift from perceiving the autistic mind not as disabled but as differently abled — and often impressive in its difference, as … Continue reading Drawing Autism: A Visual Tour of the Autistic Mind from Kids and Celebrated Artists on the Spectrum

ARKit and Autism: New Futures

Craig Smith Now, I want to propose ten ways in which ARKit could be used by developers to create unprecedented opportunities for those on the spectrum, as well as their families and educators, to engage in the world with a completely new and different view as to what is possible.

Robot helps children with autism spectrum disorder learn life-skills at elementary school

McKenna Oxenden:: Logan Lucas always had trouble making friends. Escorted by enthusiastic teachers, Logan’s mother, Nicole Lucas, walked into school ready to meet her son’s newest friend. Instead of a human, she was met with a plastic, smiling face — Milo the robot. Standing at just 2 feet tall with funky chocolate brown hair and … Continue reading Robot helps children with autism spectrum disorder learn life-skills at elementary school

My Daughter Has Autism But Our Special-Ed System Isn’t What She Needs

Katherine Osnos Sanford: Mae has a red backpack that I ordered shortly before she started school. Her two brothers have similar backpacks, also in bright colors, each embroidered with their initials. I love the sight of my children’s backpacks hanging together on the hooks by our back door. It makes me feel that things are … Continue reading My Daughter Has Autism But Our Special-Ed System Isn’t What She Needs

To build a future for their son, Dallas couple plan $12 million community for young adults with autism

Sabriya Rice: A Dallas couple is planning to construct a $12 million community for people with autism on nearly 29 acres of land that was formerly a polo ranch in the Denton County town of Cross Roads. It will include 15 homes, a community center and access to a ‘transitional academy’ that is designed to … Continue reading To build a future for their son, Dallas couple plan $12 million community for young adults with autism

Autism As a Disorder of High Intelligence

Bernard Crespi: A suite of recent studies has reported positive genetic correlations between autism risk and measures of mental ability. These findings indicate that alleles for autism overlap broadly with alleles for high intelligence, which appears paradoxical given that autism is characterized, overall, by below-average IQ. This paradox can be resolved under the hypothesis that … Continue reading Autism As a Disorder of High Intelligence

Mom ‘in Tears’ Over Inspiring Letter Teacher Sent to Her Son With Autism

Nicole Pelletiere: School and Sports College in St. Helens. In second grade, students take stage one of their SATs in various subjects and then measured again in grade six, Twist said. Lansbury is a school for children with special needs. Ben was the only child in his school to take the SATs this year, his … Continue reading Mom ‘in Tears’ Over Inspiring Letter Teacher Sent to Her Son With Autism

What It’s Like Working With Someone With Autism, Asperger’s

Dave Gentry: Never forget to pump a handshake three times- not one, and definitely not five. Seen from an autistic perspective, the social, shared, and flexible attributes of the modern shared office can be intimidating. As work and life spill into each other, they clash with coping mechanisms for autism spectrum disorder, in which high-level … Continue reading What It’s Like Working With Someone With Autism, Asperger’s

What It’s Like to ‘Wake Up’ From Autism

Alexa Tsoulis-Reay: For a long time, it was thought that people with autism spectrum disorder lacked emotion, that even the higher-functioning among them navigated the world like logical robots oblivious to “real” feelings. More recently, research has shown their social issues are more likely to stem from difficulty expressing emotion or reading the emotions of … Continue reading What It’s Like to ‘Wake Up’ From Autism

An Experimental Autism Treatment Cost Me My Marriage

John Elder Robison: What happens to your relationships when your emotional perception changes overnight? Because I’m autistic, I have always been oblivious to unspoken cues from other people. My wife, my son and my friends liked my unflappable demeanor and my predictable behavior. They told me I was great the way I was, but I … Continue reading An Experimental Autism Treatment Cost Me My Marriage

Candidate Clinton Calls For Mandated Autism Insurance (Obamacare Exchange Vendors Are Exempt!)

Alex Leary: The Senate plan, championed by Democrat Steve Geller, mandated insurers cover autism. But insurers in the state’s exchange under Obamacare are exempt. Clinton’s campaign said more than 30 states require the coverage under exchanges. “Clinton’s plan calls on Florida to make this coverage a requirement for all plans offered in their state-run health … Continue reading Candidate Clinton Calls For Mandated Autism Insurance (Obamacare Exchange Vendors Are Exempt!)

Autism’s rise tracks with drop in other childhood disorders

Nicholette Zeliadt: The latest estimate of autism prevalence in the U.S., released last week, suggests the condition is even more common than previously thought. But the apparent rise in autism coincides with a decline in other developmental disorders, highlighting the complexity folded into this seemingly simple statistic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention … Continue reading Autism’s rise tracks with drop in other childhood disorders

Study on the rise of autism wins Samuel Johnson Prize

Lorien Kite: A study of autism has won the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize, the UK’s most prestigious award for non-fiction writing. Neurotribes, by the US investigative journalist Steve Silberman, began life in 2001 as an article in Wired magazine that sought to explain higher-than-average rates of the disorder among the children of programmers and engineers … Continue reading Study on the rise of autism wins Samuel Johnson Prize

Study on the rise of autism wins Samuel Johnson Prize

Lorien Kite: A study of autism has won the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize, the UK’s most prestigious award for non-fiction writing. Neurotribes, by the US investigative journalist Steve Silberman, began life in 2001 as an article in Wired magazine that sought to explain higher-than-average rates of the disorder among the children of programmers and engineers … Continue reading Study on the rise of autism wins Samuel Johnson Prize

Can an App Help Detect Autism?

Emily Matchar: Autism spectrum disorders—a group of related neurodevelopment conditions that impair communication and social interaction—are incredibly common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every 68 American children has been diagnosed with some form of autism. With intervention (the earlier the better), many autistic children flourish. Unfortunately, early diagnosis is … Continue reading Can an App Help Detect Autism?

Announces New ResearchKit Studies for Autism, Epilepsy & Melanoma

Apple: The latest foray into digital health: an app that aims to figure out if it’s possible to screen kids for autism through a smartphone. Autism & Beyond, out now in Apple’s ResearchKit app, plays video clips for kids and uses the front-facing camera to evaluate their reactions. If the video analysis turns out to … Continue reading Announces New ResearchKit Studies for Autism, Epilepsy & Melanoma

The Type of Parents Most Likely to Have a Child with Autism

Beth Greenfield: “The size of the study speaks to the definitiveness of the findings,” says co-author Michael Rosanoff, director of public health research for Autism Speaks, the organization that funded the study. “We can now say confidently that advanced paternal and maternal age is a risk factor for autism.” Such findings are not new, he … Continue reading The Type of Parents Most Likely to Have a Child with Autism

These Apps Help Kids With Autism Learn Basic Skills

Li Zhou: For children with autism, math problems are a lot easier if images are involved. Addition, for example, becomes significantly more clear if the equation and answer are accompanied by physical pictures representing the math taking place. Two cars plus three cars is logically depicted with images of five physical cars. Reinforcing every question … Continue reading These Apps Help Kids With Autism Learn Basic Skills

When Children With Autism Grow Up

Bob Plantenberg: The heat that afternoon was intense. Weather maps across Iowa were deep red, and warnings flashed across the screen. A high school football player on the other side of the state had died from heat exhaustion the week before. Cornfields wilted and shrank into hills of despondent brown. I was running late as … Continue reading When Children With Autism Grow Up

Identifying Autism from Neural Representations of Social Interactions: Neurocognitive Markers of Autism

Marcel Adam, Vladimir L. Cherkassky, Augusto Buchweitz, Timothy A. Keller, Tom M. Mitchell:: Autism is a psychiatric/neurological condition in which alterations in social interaction (among other symptoms) are diagnosed by behavioral psychiatric methods. The main goal of this study was to determine how the neural representations and meanings of social concepts (such as to insult) … Continue reading Identifying Autism from Neural Representations of Social Interactions: Neurocognitive Markers of Autism

Identifying Autism from Neural Representations of Social Interactions: Neurocognitive Markers of Autism

Marcel Adam, Vladimir L. Cherkassky, Augusto Buchweitz, Timothy A. Keller & Tom M. Mitchell: Autism is a psychiatric/neurological condition in which alterations in social interaction (among other symptoms) are diagnosed by behavioral psychiatric methods. The main goal of this study was to determine how the neural representations and meanings of social concepts (such as to … Continue reading Identifying Autism from Neural Representations of Social Interactions: Neurocognitive Markers of Autism

Google Opens Its Cloud to Crack the Genetic Code of Autism

Marcus Wohlsen: Google has spent the past decade-and-a-half perfecting the science of recognizing patterns in the chaos of information on the web. Now it’s applying that expertise to searching for clues to the genetic causes of autism in the vast sea of data contained in the human genome. On Tuesday, autism advocacy group Autism Speaks … Continue reading Google Opens Its Cloud to Crack the Genetic Code of Autism

Children with autism ‘have too many synapses in their brain’

Medical News Today: new study by researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, NY, finds that children and adolescents with autism have too many synapses in their brain, which can affect their brain function. Furthermore, the team believes it may be possible to reduce this excess synapse formation with a drug, paving … Continue reading Children with autism ‘have too many synapses in their brain’

Autism Parents Build Virtual Birdhouse for Others

Rabbi Jason Miller: Dani Gillman was a single mom in Metro Detroit with an autistic daughter, Brodie, who ran a popular blog detailing her daughter’s challenges and successes as a way to help other parents of autistic children. Using a pencil and paper, she vigilantly kept track of her daughter’s daily regimen, including diet, medications … Continue reading Autism Parents Build Virtual Birdhouse for Others

Autism costs ‘£32bn per year’ in UK

Helen Briggs: The economic cost of supporting someone with autism over a lifetime is much higher than previously thought, research suggests. It amounts to £1.5m in the UK and $2.4m in the US for individuals with the highest needs, say UK and US experts. Autism cost the UK more than heart disease, stroke and cancer … Continue reading Autism costs ‘£32bn per year’ in UK

Children of parents in technical jobs at higher risk for autism

Deborah Mann Lakr: Children of fathers who are in technical occupations are more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The findings will be presented Friday at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Atlanta. During participation in the LoneStar LEND … Continue reading Children of parents in technical jobs at higher risk for autism

1 in 68 Children Now Has a Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Why?

Enrico Gnaulti: Rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are not creeping up so much as leaping up. New numbers just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that one in 68 children now has a diagnosis of ASD—a 30 percent increase in just two years. In 2002, about one in 150 children … Continue reading 1 in 68 Children Now Has a Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Why?

Autism ‘begins long before birth’

Helen Briggs: Scientists say they have new evidence that autism begins in the womb. Patchy changes in the developing brain long before birth may cause symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), research suggests. The study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, raises hopes that better understanding of the brain may improve the lives of … Continue reading Autism ‘begins long before birth’

The boy whose brain could unlock autism

Maia Szalavitz: SOMETHING WAS WRONG with Kai Markram. At five days old, he seemed like an unusually alert baby, picking his head up and looking around long before his sisters had done. By the time he could walk, he was always in motion and required constant attention just to ensure his safety. “He was super … Continue reading The boy whose brain could unlock autism

French researchers test autism drug in children

Karen Weintraub:

French researchers are testing a drug they hope will flip a chemical switch in the brains of children with autism.
If the switch isn’t flipped at birth, the brain remains overexcited and becomes vulnerable to injury – and that’s what a group of French researchers think happens in the brains of babies who go on to develop autism, according to a paper published today in the journal Science.
They hope that a drug they are testing in European children will make a crucial difference, allowing brain networks to develop more typically, said lead researcher Yehezkel Ben-Ari of the French Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, in Marseille, France.
Autism is a spectrum of social and communication differences and repetitive behaviors; symptoms range from social awkwardness to behavior problems and an inability to speak. The seeds of autism are believed to be laid during early pregnancy, from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
The new paper showed that in rats and mice with a rodent form of autism the brain chemical GABA didn’t make its normal switch from stimulating electrical activity in the brain to tamping it down. When their pregnant mothers were given the drug, bumetanide, a generic diuretic long used to treat high blood pressure, the switch happened – and the rodents didn’t show autistic behaviors.

ACEing Autism teaches kids the joy of tennis at FDR High

Bob Kampf:

Every tennis game starts with love.
Nowhere is that more evident than at FDR High School when tennis coach Bob Mayerhofer gathers his varsity players together to teach some of Hyde Park’s autistic children about their favorite sport.
“Before I retired from teaching,” said Mayerhofer, “I had been involved with Special Olympics and I wanted to find some way to keep helping young people with special needs.”
His wishes were granted when he learned about a program known as ACEing Autism, which was started in Boston in 2008 by tennis professional Richard Spurling and his wife, Shafali Spurling Jeste, a child neurologist. The program, which is offered free to children with autism spectrum disorders, currently spans six states, including Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, California and New York.
Hyde Park’s program was brought to fruition by Mayerhofer along with Lynn Forcella, the mother of an autistic child and other parents of autistic children, with support from Aviva Kafka, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education in Hyde Park. The program is one of only four active in the state. The others are located in Dobbs Ferry and Ithaca, and at Riverside Park in New York City.

Exceptional Minds School Helps Kids with Autism Find Their Niche

Maane Khatchatourian:

For the majority of young adults diagnosed with autism, finding a skilled job — especially one in the entertainment biz — is a pipe dream. But thanks to Exceptional Minds digital arts vocational school, it doesn’t have to be.
With the school’s help, four autistic students in their early 20s were hired to work on post-production visual effects for “American Hustle.” Arielle Guthrie, Lloyd Hackl, Patrick Brady and Eli Katz, who are in the program’s third and final year, provided rotoscoping services — the laborious process of outlining elements in key frames for digital manipulation — from EM’s Sherman Oaks, Calif., studio.
One of the program’s instructors, Josh Dagg, closely supervised the project, which the students worked on for five weeks on top of their full course loads. Dagg said most people with Autism Spectrum Disorders — when they feel mentally engaged — can focus with laser precision on a task for hours on end. Students in the program represent a wide range of individuals afflicted with a varying severity of symptoms. The students who worked on “American Hustle” had milder forms of autism.
“I want them to look forward to a career of personal and professional success rather than a lifetime of people telling them that ‘because you hit this particular number in this genetic lottery, you are now a glorified houseplant,’ ” Dagg said. “That’s a very real fear for a lot of people (with autism).”

In the ‘silent prison’ of autism, Ido speaks out

Thomas Curwen:

The high school student’s ‘Ido in Autismland’ is part memoir and part protest, a compelling message to educators on how to teach people such as him.
I t-h-i-n-k …
Ido Kedar sits at the dining room table of his West Hills home. He fidgets in his chair, slouched over an iPad, typing. He hunts down each letter. Seconds pass between the connections.
… A-u-t-i-s-m-l-a-n-d …
He coined the word, his twist on Alice’s Wonderland.
“C’mon,” says his mother, Tracy. “Sit up and just finish it, Ido. Let’s go.”
He touches a few more keys, and then, with a slight robotic twang, the iPad reads the words he cannot speak.
I think Autismland is a surreal place.
For most of his life, Ido has listened to educators and experts explain what’s wrong with him. Now he wants to tell them that they had it all wrong.
Last year, at the age of 16, he published “Ido in Autismland.” The book — part memoir, part protest — has made him a celebrity in the autism world, a young activist eager to defy popular assumptions about a disorder that is often associated with mental deficiency.

NY Democrat Senator Schumer: “Voluntary” Tracking of Kids with Autism

Chloe Albanesius:

New York Sen. Charles Schumer today called on the Justice Department to develop a program that would allow for voluntary tracking of children with autism or other developmental disorders.
Devices could be worn as wristwatches, anklets, or clipped onto belt loops or onto shoelaces, Schumer said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
Schumer’s request comes one month after 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo (left) disappeared from his Queens, New York school. The teen, who suffers from autism and does not speak, was seen on surveillance cameras leaving his school on Oct. 4. New York authorities have mounted an extensive campaign to find him, but he remains missing. Those with information about Avonte should call 1-800-577-TIPS, while anyone who spots him should call 911 immediately.
“The sights and sounds of NYC and other busy places can be over-stimulating and distracting for children and teens with Autism, often leading to wandering as a way to escape. Voluntary tracking devices will help our teachers and parents in the event that the child runs away and, God forbid, goes missing,” Schumer said in a statement. “DOJ already funds these devices for individuals with Alzheimer’s and they should do the same for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Funding this program will help put school systems and parents of children and teens with Autism at ease knowing where their children are.”
In related news, AT&T announced today that it will sell the Amber Alert GPS, a 3G device that kids can carry in their pockets or backpacks and features two-way calling and among other features.

This is a very bad idea…. The data will flow as we continue to learn.

Brain stimulation boosts social skills in autism

New Scientist:

THE first clinical trial aimed at boosting social skills in people with autism using magnetic brain stimulation has been completed – and the results are encouraging.
“As a first clinical trial, this is an excellent start,” says Lindsay Oberman of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, who was not part of the study.
People diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder often find social interactions difficult. Previous studies have shown that a region of the brain called the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) is underactive in people with autism. “It’s also the part of the brain linked with understanding others’ thoughts, beliefs and intentions,” says Peter Enticott of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
Enticott and his colleagues wondered whether boosting the activity of the dmPFC using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which involves delivering brief but strong magnetic pulses through the scalp, could help individuals with autism deal with social situations. So the team carried out a randomised, double-blind clinical trial – the first of its kind – involving 28 adults diagnosed with either high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

The architecture of autism

Michael Tortorello:

Here is a truth about children with autism: they grow up to become adults with autism. Advocates estimate that over the next decade some 500,000 such individuals will come of age in the United States.
No one can say for sure what adulthood will hold for them. To start, where will everyone live and work? A 2008 Easter Seals study found that 79 percent of young adults with autism spectrum disorders continue to reside with their parents. A solid majority of them have never looked for a job.
And yet the life expectancy of people with autism is more or less average. Here is another truth, then, about children with autism: they can’t stay at home forever.
This realization — as obvious as it is worrying — has recently stirred the beginnings of a response from researchers, architects and, not least, parents. In 2009, a pair of academics, Kim Steele and Sherry Ahrentzen, collaborated on “Advancing Full Spectrum Housing,” a comprehensive design guideline for housing adults with autism. (An expanded book on the topic is scheduled to come out next year.)

Grandpa’s Age Linked To Autism

Emily Willingham:

Results of a study in a Swedish population have linked grandpa’s age to an increased risk of autism in grandchildren. More specifically, the study authors found that men who sired children at age 50 or older were almost twice as likely as younger fathers to have an autistic grandchild.
According to the report, published in JAMA Psychiatry (full text here), lead author Emma Frans and colleagues looked at births in Sweden beginning in 1932. Among the tens of thousands of births, the database they used had information about grandparental age for almost 6000 autism cases and for almost 31,000 controls (families with no autistic children). Grandpas who had a daughter when they were 50 or older were 1.79 times more likely to have an autistic grandchild, and if they had a son at age 50 or older, the grandfathers were 1.67 times more likely to have an autistic grandchild. It didn’t seem to matter if grandpa was on the mother’s side or the father’s side of the family.

That’s not autism: It’s simply a brainy, introverted boy

I have followed William in my therapy practice for close to a decade. His story is a prime example of the type of brainy, mentally gifted, single-minded, willful boys who often are falsely diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when they are assessed as young children. This unfortunate occurrence is partly due to defining autism as a “spectrum disorder,” incorporating mild and severe cases of problematic social communication and interaction, as well as restricted interests and behavior. In its milder form, especially among preschool- and kindergarten-age boys, it is tough to distinguish between early signs of autism spectrum disorder and indications that we have on our hands a young boy who is a budding intellectual, is more interested in studying objects than hanging out with friends, overvalues logic, is socially awkward unless interacting with others who share identical interests or is in a leadership role, learns best when obsessed with a topic, and is overly businesslike and serious in how he socializes. The picture gets even more complicated during the toddler years, when normal, crude assertions of willfulness, tantrums, and lapses in verbal mastery when highly emotional are in full swing. As we shall see, boys like William, who embody a combination of emerging masculine braininess and a difficult toddlerhood, can be fair game for a mild diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, when it does not apply.

Video Game Use in Boys With Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, or Typical Development

Micah O. Mazurek, PhD and Christopher R. Engelhardt, PhD:

OBJECTIVES: The study objectives were to examine video game use in boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared with those with ADHD or typical development (TD) and to examine how specific symptoms and game features relate to problematic video game use across groups.
METHODS: Participants included parents of boys (aged 8-18) with ASD (n = 56), ADHD (n = 44), or TD (n = 41). Questionnaires assessed daily hours of video game use, in-room video game access, video game genres, problematic video game use, ASD symptoms, and ADHD symptoms.
RESULTS: Boys with ASD spent more time than did boys with TD playing video games (2.1 vs 1.2 h/d). Both the ASD and ADHD groups had greater in-room video game access and greater problematic video game use than the TD group. Multivariate models showed that inattentive symptoms predicted problematic game use for both the ASD and ADHD groups; and preferences for role-playing games predicted problematic game use in the ASD group only.

Mother’s Antibodies May Explain a Quarter of Autism Cases

Maia Szalavitz:

A test for six antibodies in an expectant mom’s blood may predict with more than 99% certainty which children are at highest risk of developing autism.
In a study published in Translational Psychiatry, researchers report that 23% of all cases of autism may result from the presence of maternal antibodies that interfere with fetal brain development during pregnancy. The work builds on a 2008 study from the same scientists that first described the group of antibodies in mothers-to-be. The latest paper describes the specific antibodies and provides more detail on what they do.
“It’s very exciting,” says Alycia Halladay, Senior Director of Environmental and Clinical Sciences for Autism Speaks, who was not associated with the research.

Little or no increased risk of autism in IVF treatments, study finds

Alok Jha:

IVF treatments that require the direct injection of sperm into the egg are associated with a small increased risk of intellectual disability in the resulting children, according to a study.
Scientists also found that standard IVF treatment posed no increased risk of children developing intellectual disabilities or autism.
IVF is considered generally safe. About 4% of IVF children have physical or mental problems at birth, compared with 3% of those conceived naturally.
In the latest study, the largest so far into links between reproductive treatments and neurodevelopment, scientists examined how IVF might affect the incidence of autism and intellectual disability.

Working to Combat The Stigma of Autism

Al Baker:

Autism, or the fear of it, chased one Korean mother from her Queens church. “I very carefully told the mom: ‘I think your child is a little different. Why don’t you take the test for autism?’ ” said the Rev. Joy Lee of the Korean Presbyterian Church in Flushing. “She told me, ‘Oh no, my child will be O.K.’ So then she quit. After that, she did not pick up the phone.”
It crushed another Korean mother — twice. First, she said, when her son received the diagnosis, and again when friends saw it as a sign that she herself was sick. To cure him, they said, she needed psychotherapy.
Sun Young Ko, of Forest Hills, whose 8-year-old son, Jaewoo Kwak, was given a diagnosis of autism 18 months ago, said her own mother refused to discuss her grandson with relatives or friends. “She’s kind of hiding,” Ms. Ko said.

A father who saw untapped forces in his son’s autism

Emma Jacobs:

When Thorkil Sonne’s son Lars was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and a half in 1999, the last thing the chief technology officer expected was a career change. “I was a happy employee. I was happy to be employed by a big company,” he says.
Today, the 52-year-old who once oversaw technology at a spin-off of TDC, Denmark’s largest telecoms company, has sold his family home – after remortgaging it several times – and is relocating to the US state of Delaware. It is all part of his mission to persuade high-tech companies of the merits of employing autistic workers.
This month Specialisterne, the social enterprise he formed in 2004, which recruits autistic people for work on data entry, software programming and testing projects, announced a partnership with SAP, the German business software company. SAP’s ambition is to recruit hundreds of autistic employees to test its software. By 2020, the tech company aims to employ 650 autistic workers, or 1 per cent of its workforce.
The announcement, he says, has sparked interest from other employers.CAI, an IT consulting firm, last week announced it would work with Mr Sonne’s organisation to recruit autistic employees.

Not Impossible: The Story of Daniel, a 17 Year Old with Severe Autism & His 6 Completed Coursera Courses

Coursera Blog:

It is impossible to overstate the benefit and happiness that Coursera has brought to our son Daniel and our family.
Five years ago (next month) our severely autistic son Daniel had a major breakthrough. Then twelve years old, with a using vocabulary of thirty or forty words (though we knew he understood far more) he suddenly learned to answer questions by picking the answers out, one letter at a time, on a letterboard. Within a couple of weeks, Daniel could use the thousands of words he had heard but could not speak.
The teacher who created this breakthrough, Soma Mukhopadhyay, also taught us how to read to Daniel: read him a sentence, stop, ask him a comprehension question, get his answer on the letter board, go on to the next sentence, ask another question…

How Autism Is Different in Girls vs. Boys

Shirley Wang:

Why do boys get diagnosed with autism four times as often as girls?
New research, including some of the latest data from the International Society for Autism Research annual conference last week, addresses this question, one of the biggest mysteries in this field. A growing consensus is arguing that sex differences exist in genetic susceptibility, brain development and social learning in autism–and they are meaningful to our understanding of the disorder and how it will be treated.
Yale University researchers presented results showing that being female appears to provide genetic protection against autism. Meanwhile, scientists at Emory University showed in preliminary work that boys and girls with autism learn social information differently, which leads to divergent success in interactions with other people.

The Autistic Brain: The origins of the diagnosis of autism–and the parental guilt-tripping that went along with it.

Temple Grandin and Richard Panek:

The following article is adapted from The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, out now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
I was fortunate to have been born in 1947. If I had been born 10 years later, my life as a person with autism would have been a lot different. In 1947, the diagnosis of autism was only four years old. Almost nobody knew what it meant. When Mother noticed in me the symptoms that we would now label autistic–destructive behavior, inability to speak, a sensitivity to physical contact, a fixation on spinning objects, and so on–she did what made sense to her. She took me to a neurologist.
Bronson Crothers had served as the director of the neurology service at Boston Children’s Hospital since its founding, in 1920. The first thing Dr. Crothers did in my case was administer an electroencephalogram, or EEG, to make sure I didn’t have petit mal epilepsy. Then he tested my hearing to make sure I wasn’t deaf. “Well, she certainly is an odd little girl,” he told Mother. Then when I began to verbalize a little, Dr. Crothers modified his evaluation: “She’s an odd little girl, but she’ll learn how to talk.” The diagnosis: brain damage.

Genetic Prefiction: Autism

Steve Hsu:

Some time ago I posted on a striking claim of genetic prediction for autism risk that appeared in Nature Molecular Psychiatry:

Predicting the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder using gene pathway analysis (Nature Molecular Psychiatry)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) depends on a clinical interview with no biomarkers to aid diagnosis. The current investigation interrogated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of individuals with ASD from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) database. SNPs were mapped to Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG)-derived pathways to identify affected cellular processes and develop a diagnostic test. This test was then applied to two independent samples from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) and Wellcome Trust 1958 normal birth cohort (WTBC) for validation. Using AGRE SNP data from a Central European (CEU) cohort, we created a genetic diagnostic classifier consisting of 237 SNPs in 146 genes that correctly predicted ASD diagnosis in 85.6% of CEU cases. This classifier also predicted 84.3% of cases in an ethnically related Tuscan cohort; however, prediction was less accurate (56.4%) in a genetically dissimilar Han Chinese cohort (HAN). Eight SNPs in three genes (KCNMB4, GNAO1, GRM5) had the largest effect in the classifier with some acting as vulnerability SNPs, whereas others were protective. Prediction accuracy diminished as the number of SNPs analyzed in the model was decreased. Our diagnostic classifier correctly predicted ASD diagnosis with an accuracy of 71.7% in CEU individuals from the SFARI (ASD) and WTBC (controls) validation data sets. In conclusion, we have developed an accurate diagnostic test for a genetically homogeneous group to aid in early detection of ASD. While SNPs differ across ethnic groups, our pathway approach identified cellular processes common to ASD across ethnicities. Our results have wide implications for detection, intervention and prevention of ASD.

About Apps And Autism

ALSC Blog:

In recent months there’s been a lot of conversation in the Youth Services world about apps. Tablets loaded with pre-selected apps are available to users of some libraries, either on-site or for circulation. A long thread on the alsc-l listserv presented a number of strongly held opinions about the advisability of using apps during storytimes. Librarians are looking at the possibility of reviewing apps for developers and putting our expert imprimatur on their content and value, just as we already do for books and other formats. Regardless of where one stands on the issue of the best way to incorporate apps into services and programs for children, librarians seem to agree that they are important and they are here to stay.
I believe that this conversation is timely and useful, but incomplete unless we expand it to include a discussion of how librarians can use apps with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The popular media and the ASD blogosphere is full of references to the amazing ways in which children with ASD have embraced tablet computers and apps, and these devices are taking the place of more expensive and cumbersome assistive technology. A number of developers are creating high-quality apps that are specifically designed for children with ASD. Other apps, written for the general population, are appealing to and useful for these kids. With the incidence of ASD at 1 in 88, we all need to think about how we are working with these children in our communities, and apps can play an important role.

Ultrasound reveals autism risk at birth

Michigan State University:

Low-birth-weight babies with a particular brain abnormality are at greater risk for autism, according to a new study that could provide doctors a signpost for early detection of the still poorly understood disorder.
Led by Michigan State University, the study found that low-birth-weight newborns were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with autism later in life if an ultrasound taken just after birth showed they had enlarged ventricles, cavities in the brain that store spinal fluid. The results appear in the Journal of Pediatrics.
“For many years there’s been a lot of controversy about whether vaccinations or environmental factors influence the development of autism, and there’s always the question of at what age a child begins to develop the disorder,” said lead author Tammy Movsas, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at MSU and medical director of the Midland County Department of Public Health.

New NJ Special Education Ruling: Providing Appropriate Services to Kids with Autism

Laura Waters:

A special education case came through the transom last week, courtesy of a group of parents in Millburn, New Jersey. The case pinpoints a few percolating problems in NJ’s special education arena, particularly school districts’ struggles to provide adequate services to kids with a diagnosis of autism. This case, J.S. and K.S. v. Millburn Township Board of Education (not yet online, but I’ve posted it here for reference) touches on some districts’ reluctance to classify kids as autistic, the politics of district/parent negotiations, and the role of our consortium of private education schools.
This December 7th ruling involves a young girl, referred to in court documents as A.C., and the services offered to her by Millburn Public Schools, an Essex County district that is rated as a “J” District Factor Group, the wealthiest possible designation. In October 2008, the child’s parents approached the district because of concerns with her speech and social development. A.C. had just turned three years old and, under federal and state law, was eligible for special education services through her local school district.
To any informed lay reader, A.C. displayed clear signs of autistic-like symptoms. Most of her speech was unintelligible. She made little or no eye contact, rocked back and forth, exhibited repetitive behavior, showed no evidence of imaginary play, had no interest in peers, and recited scripts from “Dora the Explorer” episodes.

Childhood Autism and Assortative Mating

Hays Golden:

Diagnosed rates of autism spectrum disorders have grown tremendously over the last few decades. I find that assortative mating may have meaningfully contributed to the rise. I develop a general model of genes and assortative mating which shows that small changes in sorting could have large impacts on the extremes of genetic distributions. I apply my theory to autism, which I model as the extreme right tail of a genetic formal thinking ability distribution (systemizing). Using large sample data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I find strong support for theories that autism is connected to systemizing. My mating model shows that increases in the returns to systemizing, particularly for women, can contribute signi ficantly to rising autism rates. I provide evidence that mating on systemizing has actually shifted, and conclude with a rough calculation suggesting that despite the increase in autism, increased sorting on systemizing has been socially bene ficial.

Progress in Identifying the Genetic Roots of Autism

Melinda Beck:

One of the most agonizing questions that parents of children with autism ask is–why?
Now, a growing number of genetic tests are providing some answers.
Scientists say that roughly 20% of autism cases can be linked to known genetic abnormalities, and many more may be discovered.
Pinpointing a genetic explanation can help predict whether siblings are likely to have the disorder–and even point to new, targeted treatments. Last week, for example, researchers reported that an experimental drug, arbaclofen, reduced social withdrawal and challenging behaviors in children and adults with Fragile X syndrome, the single most common genetic cause of autism.

Apps & Autism

Rory Cellan-Jones:

New technology can be inspiring, exciting or sometimes infuriating – but I can’t ever remember it being really moving. Until, that is, I met Ruby Dunn, whose life is being changed by a piece of software.
Ruby, who was born 14 weeks premature in 2006, has autism and has never spoken. She does, however, attend her local school – Sandford Primary in Somerset – and is well integrated into every aspect of school life. But it is an app which she uses on an iPod and an iPad which is making a big difference.
Ruby uses the app, Proloquo2Go, to communicate with her teachers, her family and other children. She taps on symbols, constructs a sentence and out it comes, spoken in a child’s voice. So in the playground, she taps “head, shoulders” to choose a game. At lunchtime she chooses “lasagne” and “carrots” adds “please” and “Tina” and hands it to the dinner lady. And in the classroom she reads a story and then taps out answers to questions about it via the iPad version of the app.

The ‘autism epidemic’ and diagnostic substitution

Deevy Bishop:

Everyone agrees there has been a remarkable increase in autism diagnosis across the world. There is, however, considerable debate about the reasons for this. Three very different kinds of explanation exist.

  • Explanation #1 maintains that something in our modern environment has come along to increase the risk of autism. There are numerous candidates, as indicated in this blogpost by Emily Willingham
  • Explanation #2 sees the risks as largely biological or genetic, with changing patterns of reproduction altering prevalence rates, either because of assortative mating (not much evidence, in my view) or because of an increase in older parents (more plausible). 
  • Explanation #3 is very different: it says the increase is not a real increase – it’s just a change in what we count as autism. This has been termed ‘diagnostic substitution’ – the basic idea is that
    children who would previously have received another diagnosis or no diagnosis are now being identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This could be in part because of new conceptualisations of autism, but may also be fuelled by strategic considerations: resources for children with ASD tend to be much better than those for children with other related conditions, such as language impairment or intellectual handicaps, so this diagnosis may be preferred.

Study Damps Fears on Autism Change

Shirley Wang:

Proposed new diagnostic criteria for autism don’t appear to reduce the number of children diagnosed with that condition, according to preliminary data presented at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting on Sunday.
Those findings could damp the controversy that has surrounded suggested changes to the main psychiatric diagnostic manual in the U.S., the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, about how autism and related disorders that are characterized by social impairments and repetitive behavior are categorized.
One of the main changes, which has yet to be finished, recommends combining several disorders, including Asperger’s syndrome and “pervasive developmental delay not otherwise specified,” with autism into one broad category known as autism-spectrum disorder.

Parents provide clues to autism

Neil Tweedie:

Are you and your partner graduates and prepared to answer a few online questions about your children? If so, Simon Baron-Cohen would like to hear from you.
One of the country’s foremost researchers into the causes of autism, Professor Baron-Cohen wants to know what kind of degree you hold. If you are both graduates in the so-called hard sciences, such as engineering and computer science, then you may end up being of particular interest. The reason is that parents who are both “systemisers”, as he describes them, appear more likely to have autistic children.
Systemisers are lovers of precision, people who are good at analysing how things work and discerning patterns. Ideal material for code-breaking activities. Current thinking suggests we all sit somewhere on a scale of systemising. At one end are people who have little or no drive to be precise when confronted with structured information – political spin doctors might be an example – and at the other are hyper-systemisers, those whose obsession with analysis and dissection borders on the autistic.

An Economic and Rational Choice Approach to the Autism Spectrum and Human Neurodiversity

Tyler Cowen:

That is a new paper of mine, you will find the link here. Here is the abstract:

This paper considers an economic approach to autistic individuals, as a window for understanding autism, as a new and growing branch of neuroeconomics (how does behavior vary with neurology?), and as a foil for better understanding non-autistics and their cognitive biases. The relevant economic predictions for autistics involve greater specialization in production and consumption, lower price elasticities of supply and demand, a higher return from choosing features of their environment, less effective use of social focal points, and higher relative returns as economic growth and specialization proceed. There is also evidence that autistics are less subject to framing effects and more rational on the receiving end of ultimatum games. Considering autistics modifies some of the standard results from economic theories of the family and the economics of discrimination. Although there are likely more than seventy million autistic individuals worldwide, the topic has been understudied by economists. An economic approach also helps us see shortcomings in the “pure disorder” models of autism.

New Definition of Autism Will Exclude Many, Study Suggests

Benedict Carey:

Proposed changes in the definition of autism would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed and might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services, a new analysis suggests.
The definition is now being reassessed by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, which is completing work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the first major revision in 17 years. The D.S.M., as the manual is known, is the standard reference for mental disorders, driving research, treatment and insurance decisions. Most experts expect that the new manual will narrow the criteria for autism; the question is how sharply.
The results of the new analysis are preliminary, but they offer the most drastic estimate of how tightening the criteria for autism could affect the rate of diagnosis. For years, many experts have privately contended that the vagueness of the current criteria for autism and related disorders like Asperger syndrome was contributing to the increase in the rate of diagnoses — which has ballooned to one child in 100, according to some estimates.

Navigating Love and Autism

Amy Harmon:

The first night they slept entwined on his futon, Jack Robison, 19, who had since childhood thought of himself as “not like the other humans,” regarded Kirsten Lindsmith with undisguised tenderness.
She was the only girl to have ever asked questions about his obsessive interests — chemistry, libertarian politics, the small drone aircraft he was building in his kitchen — as though she actually cared to hear his answer. To Jack, who has a form of autism called Asperger syndrome, her mind was uncannily like his. She was also, he thought, beautiful.
So far they had only cuddled; Jack, who had dropped out of high school but was acing organic chemistry in continuing education classes, had hopes for something more. Yet when she smiled at him the next morning, her lips seeking his, he turned away.
“I don’t really like kissing,” he said.

Discovering Autism: Unraveling an epidemic

Alan Zarembo:

Amber Dias couldn’t be sure what was wrong with her little boy.
Chase was a bright, loving 2 1/2-year-old. But he didn’t talk much and rarely responded to his own name. He hated crowds and had a strange fascination with the underside of the family tractor.
Searching the Internet, Amber found stories about other children like Chase — on websites devoted to autism.
“He wasn’t the kid rocking in the corner, but it was just enough to scare me,” recalled Dias, who lives with her husband and three children on a dairy farm in the Central Valley town of Kingsburg.
She took Chase to a psychologist in Los Angeles, who said the boy indeed had autism and urged the family to seek immediate treatment.

Autism: What A Big Prefrontal Cortex You Have


A new paper has caused a lot of excitement: it reports large increases in the number of neurons in children with autism. It comes to you from veteran autism researcher Eric Courchesne.
Courchesne et al counted the number of cells in the prefrontal cortex of 7 boys with autism and 6 non-autistic control boys, aged 2-16 years old. The analysis was performed by a neuropathologist who was blind to the theory behind the study and to which brains were from which group. That’s good.

Autism Linked to Excess Neurons

Crystal Phend, via a kind Larry Winkler email:

Children with autism appear to have bigger brains with more neurons than normal for their age, a small preliminary study affirmed.
Postmortem examinations of seven boys with autism showed 67% more neurons in the prefrontal cortex (1.94 billion), which controls social and emotional development as well as communication, compared with six controls (1.16 billion, P=0.002), Eric Courchesne, PhD, of the University of California San Diego, and colleagues found.
Autistic brains also weighed 17.6% above normal for age (P=0.001), the group reported in the Nov. 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Point out that the brains from autistic boys in this study were 17.6% above what is considered normal brain weight based on age.
Neuron counts in the autistic children should have been accompanied by brain weights of 29.4% versus the observed 17.6% enlargement, they said. “Thus, the size of the autistic brain, overlarge though it is, might actually underestimate the pathology of excess neuron numbers,” the group explained.

Scientists and autism: When geeks meet

Simon Baron-Cohen:

In the opening scene of The Social Network, Jesse Eisenberg portrays a cold Mark Zuckerberg getting dumped by his girlfriend, who is exasperated by the future Facebook founder’s socially oblivious and obsessive personality. Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg is the stereotypical Silicon Valley geek — brilliant with technology, pathologically bereft of social graces. Or, in the parlance of the Valley: ‘on the spectrum’.
Few scientists think that the leaders of the tech world actually have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which can range from the profound social, language and behavioural problems that are characteristic of autistic disorder, to the milder Asperger’s syndrome. But according to an idea that is creeping into the popular psyche, they and many others in professions such as science and engineering may display some of the characteristics of autism, and have an increased risk of having children with the full-blown disorder.

A Hormone May Treat Autism, Social Disorders

Shirley Wang:

Researchers are finding that a hormone in the body believed to help people form emotional bonds with each other may work to treat people with schizophrenia, autism and certain other psychiatric disorders related to social interaction.
A number of small scientific studies have been published recently suggesting that puffs of oxytocin into the nose may reduce some symptoms in people with these disorders and improve their ability to function. In particular, the hormone seemed to enhance patients’ abilities to recognize others’ emotions, which is a crucial step in improving social interactions.
Oxytocin, produced both by men and women, is nicknamed the “love hormone” because of its apparent role in building trust between people. Women, for instance produce large amounts of oxytocin during labor preceding childbirth, presumably to foster bonding with the newborn.

California Governor Brown should give ‘thumbs down’ on autism-linked education bill

Patrick Johnston:

Hundreds of pieces of legislation are sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting his proverbial “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” Gov. Brown has already warned that many of these bills will be vetoed, saying that there will be “plenty of veto blues.”
One bill that regretfully deserves a veto is Senate Bill 946 (Steinberg). It would impose a costly new mandate for private health insurance to pay for educational non-medical services for children with autism, while exempting the public health programs — Medi-Cal and Healthy Families — from the requirement to cover the same therapy.
The bill was jammed through the legislature at the last possible moment without sufficient time for debate or evaluation of the potential consequences of passage. While on the surface it may seem like a well-intentioned bill, it is riddled with flaws and in the end will do more harm than good.

Autism Risks: Genes May Not Play Biggest Role


Up to now, genetics were thought to account for 90 percent of a child’s risk for autism, but a new Stanford University School of Medicine study suggests environmental factors could play a much larger role than previously thought.
The largest study of its kind, the research focused on autism in 192 pairs of twins — 54 identical, 138 fraternal. The surprise came when Stanford researchers found a greater number of fraternal twins shared autism than identical twins. Fraternal twins share only half their genes with each other, thus, when both fraternal twins are autistic, it suggests factors other than genetics are at work.
In fact, “About half of what we see is due to environmental factors, and half of what we see is due to genetic factors,” Dr. Joachim Hallmayer tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. Hallmayer is the lead author of the study.