More Problems Are Now "Autism"
The marked increase in U.S. autism diagnoses that began to show up around 1996, and which some have blamed on childhood vaccination, may in fact be based not on an increase in autism per se, but on an increase in other, similar intellectual disabilities that are now classified as autism by those making the diagnosis. A Penn State study of eleven years of special-ed enrollment statistics that were compiled on over 6,000,000 children per year found that the rise in autism diagnoses over that time was almost entirely balanced off by a decrease in diagnoses of other autism-like conditions. The report concluded that simple reclassification could have produced two-thirds of the rise in autism cases overall, and a striking 97 percent of those involving older children.
Two Million Dollars Plus
An Autism Speaks study found that the lifetime cost of caring for someone with autism is $2.4 million if the person has intellectual disabilities and $1.4 million if they don’t. These are on top of the costs of raising a “typically developing” child, says Michael Rosanoff, director, public health research, Autism Speaks. David Mandell, Center for Mental Health Policy and Services, Univ. of Pennsylvania, says that 4 things have to change to reduce the cost of autism. They are: Greater job opportunities for adults on the spectrum, the improvement of adult care including less expensive residential options, more opportunities for families with autism to stay in the workplace and allocating money to diagnose and treat young children in order to reduce their disability and improve employability.
Also Low Thyroid Levels
A study of over 4,000 Dutch mothers has found that women with very low levels of the thyroid hormone thyroxine are four times as likely to have an autistic child. A second study, of 625,000 U.S. births, determined that women who have their labor induced are 13 percent more likely to bear an autistic child, while those whose labor is speeded up artificially are 16 percent more likely. But doctors note that labor is induced to reduce stress to the baby, and that distressed babies are significantly more prone to autism, at 27 percent, than those born from induced labor. Prior studies have found higher autism rates for babies born to older parents, born less than a year after an older sibling, or born to women who are diabetic, obese, have high blood pressure or low folic acid levels.
400 Micrograms Daily
Folic acid, which has long been known to reduce the risk of birth defects when women of childbearing age take it before and during pregnancy, has also been found to lower their chances of having a baby later diagnosed with autism, which now affects one in every 88 children. The study, which followed more than 85,000 Norwegian children for an average of six years, determined that women who took folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy were 40 percent less likely to have an autistic child, but that it was mainly effective when taken from prior to conception through the eighth week of pregnancy. Not taking it until mid-pregnancy did not reduce autism risk. Doctors recommend that women who may become pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid, a B vitamin, each day.
The Cry of Autism
Results from a small study involving 39 six month olds indicate that the pitch of their cry due to pain may increase the risk of developing autism. Twenty one had an older sibling with the condition which increased their risk. Using computer-aided analysis, it was found that those with the higher pitches and greater changes in pitch were those at greatest risk of autism. Three of the children who were diagnosed with autism by three had the cries with the highest pitch, tensest sound and more background noise. Previous research showed that one year olds at high risk of autism made atypical sounds and cries. If larger studies support these results, doctors could use this trait as part of a comprehensive screening for autism so that intervention can begin much earlier which improves outcomes.
Holistic Counselor Shares Tips
The most recent statistics indicate that one in 88 children in the United States is affected by autism. Although there is no one single cause for the condition, certain biological pathways are known to be affected, including those involved in digestion and gut integrity. Jacqueline Silvestri Banks, a certified holistic health counselor with experience in helping children with disabilities, shares some of the best and worst foods for children on the spectrum. The most common culprits of food sensitivities are gluten, casein and soy so avoiding wheat-based, dairy and soy foods is essential. Foods to include are those rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon and sardines) and foods that contain pre- and pro-biotics such as kefir, non-dairy yogurt, bananas, asparagus, beans and peas.
Control Fevers to Lower Risk
Mothers who had fevers during pregnancy had twice the risk of having a child with autism or developmental delays as those who didn’t have fevers or who controlled them with meds finds research from UC Davis. The study is the first of its kind to study fever and autism spectrum disorder. Results are based on data from Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study. Another study using CHARGE found a link between obesity, diabetes and autism. Researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto says fever is caused by inflammation and adds, "Since an inflammatory state in the body accompanies obesity and diabetes as well as fever, the natural question is: Could inflammatory factors play a role in autism?" She says that more research is needed to learn how fever affects brain development.
Test Targets at Risk Group
IntegraGen SA, a company based in France, has developed a genetic test for autism to screen infants as early as six months at risk because they have an older sibling with the disorder. By looking at over 1,000 families, researchers discovered 57 genetic mutations linked autism with the test, called ARISk. Unlike previous studies, this one looked at more variant combinations and screened a large number of people with autism, strengthening the results. Autism is "genetically complicated" because it involves many genes. Previous research has shown that boys and girls with an autistic sibling have a 26 percent and 10 percent higher risk of developing it, respectively. High-risk infants can be seen by a specialist for early screening and intervention which can lead to better outcomes.
Developmental Disorders Too
Maternal obesity may be linked to an increase in the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder finds a study published in the online journal Pediatrics. Researchers compared medical histories of 315 normally developing children with those of 517 children with autism and 172 children with development disorders and found that the risk of autism increased by 70% when the mother was obese, defined as having a BMI of 25+. In addition, maternal obesity doubled the risk of having a baby with neurodevelopmental delays, found the study. Researchers say the study shows an association between maternal obesity and autism and not that obesity causes autism. In the meantime, women planning on becoming pregnant are advised to watch their weight.
Genetics of Autism Complex
After recent reports of one in 88 American children affected by autism spectrum disorders, three studies which involved sequencing large areas of DNA that code for proteins suggest that mutated genes from dad contributes to the condition that ranges in severity. One study shows a direct link between the age of the father and the likelihood of autism and another comparing siblings without autism to siblings with the disorder found that there were two genetic variations in the SCN2A gene. The third study suggests that genetic mutations found in autistic children but not the parents are unrelated to autism. Researchers conclude that the genetics of autism are complex and stress that having these mutations may increase the risk but does not mean a child will develop autism.
1 in 88 Kids
Autism rates in the US are soaring. New figures from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that 1 in 88 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a 23% increase compared to 2 years ago. Among boys, it’s 1 in 54. While autism is more common in boys than girls with higher rates for white children than for black and Hispanic children, the new study indicates that the largest increase of autism spectrum disorder diagnoses came from the Hispanic community. The study also showed that children are being diagnosed earlier, many by age 3. Early diagnosis has been found to make a tremendous difference in children with autism. The reason for the soaring statistics? "Better diagnosis, broader diagnosis, better awareness, and roughly 50% of 'We don't know,'" says one expert.
Higher Functioning Left Out?
The definition of autism is being reconsidered as an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association completes work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, signifying the first major revision on the manual in 17 years. With the current definition, a patient can exhibit at least 6 out of 12 behaviors for a diagnosis. The proposed definition would require exhibiting 3 deficits in social interaction and communication and at least 2 repetitive behaviors. The proposed changes could exclude people with the disease that are higher functioning, affecting those who receive assistance from state programs that base their eligibility requirements on a medical diagnosis.
Suspect First Trimester Exposure
A new study has found that 6.7 percent of 298 women with children who have autism spectrum disorder and 3.3 percent 1,507 women with healthy children received a prescription for an antidepressant a year before their child was born. Of the antidepressants prescribed in the ASD group, 65 percent were selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors compared to 50 percent in the control group. After accounting for other factors, the chance women with kids who have ASD had one or more prescriptions the year before giving birth was twice that of moms whose kids did not. A mother’s mental health status had no link to their kids’ risk of ASD and researchers hypothesize that in utero exposure to antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, in the first trimester of pregnancy may increase the risk.
Fraternal ASD Rates a Surprise
Results from a study looking at autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in twins suggest that non-genetic factors before birth may play a larger role than previously thought. Several genes have been linked to autism but their presence does not always lead to it. A cohort of 192 pairs of twin, at least one of whom has autism, was determined to be identical or fraternal by DNA testing. ASD in both twins was seen in 77 percent of male pairs and 50 percent of female pairs in identical twins and in 31 and 36 percent of male and female fraternal twin pairs, respectively. Because of the rates of ASD seen in both fraternal twins, researchers believe that factors such as maternal age, stress, infections and diet may affect the risk of developing the disorder that affects one out of 100 kids.
'Tis the Season for Autism
A study involving over 7 million kids in California born between the early 1990s and early 2000s has demonstrated that the risk of autism is 8 and 16 percent higher in kids conceived in December and March, respectively, compared to babies made in July. The link remained even after factors such as the mother’s education level, race and ethnicity and the year the child was conceived were taken into account. Researchers hypothesize that being exposed to things such as the influenza virus may play a role in the development of autism. Researchers also point out that these results may indicate because of some type of in utero exposure in the second trimester, for example, pesticides used in homes and farms during the rainy or warm months that increase the risk of autism.
Checklist Identifies ASD
A five-minute checklist, filled out in doctors’ offices, may help with the early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, allowing children to start treatment sooner, aiding in later development and learning, says the National Institutes of Health. The checklist includes questions about a child’s eye gaze, vocalizations, gestures, and other age-appropriate forms of communication. In early screenings of 10,479 infants, 32 were identified as having ASD, which is consistent with current rates of diagnosis. Currently, there is often a significant delay between when parents report concerns about their child's behavior and an eventual diagnosis. Doctors who participated in the research rated the early screening program positively. Researchers note that further refinement is necessary.
Brain Waves Detect Risk
The electrical activity of the brains of 79 six to 24 month old infants watching people blow bubbles showed that electroencephalograms (EEG) may predict who is at a high risk of developing autism. With EEG, brain waves were recorded and analyzed with computer algorithms that detected patterns that were not obvious to the researchers. Over half of the infants had an older sibling with autism and previous research indicates that kids with older siblings are more likely to develop it or will have some of the symptoms. Overall, the test had an 80 percent accuracy rate with 100 percent in predicting risk in boys compared to only 60 percent in girls. If further research proves EEG is a reliable tool, very early detection will result in very early intervention which is known to be beneficial.
Full-Term Babies at Highest Risk
A study conducted in Denmark suggests that autism in kids may be linked to jaundice, a condition that typically occurs in new born babies when bilirubin is produced faster than the liver can metabolize it. Researchers looked at 733,826 kids born between 1994 and 2004, 35,766 who were born with jaundice and 577 who were diagnosed with autism at a later date. Researchers took into account other factors that might affect their risk and found that full-term babies born with jaundice had a 56 percent increased risk of developing autism. Those born before 37 weeks and in the spring and summer were not affected. Dr. Rikke Damkjaer Maimburg hypothesized that that with jaundice, "bilirubin crosses the blood-brain barrier and destroys brain cells, as we know it does in cerebral palsy."
Quicker Diagnosis and Treatment
A study conducted at King's College in London shows that a brain scan that takes 15 minutes was 90 percent accurate at predicting autism in adult, and researcher hope it works in children. Traditional tests can take four to eight hours and at about $157.50, a brain scan is twenty times cheaper. It works by analyzing areas of the brain associated with language and social behavior. Twenty healthy adults and 20 diagnosed with autism spectral disorder had their brains scanned. A more objective test will allow for a better and quicker diagnosis so patients can begin cognitive behavioral therapy and educational treatment, which is beneficial in children. Murphy, lead researcher, believes one day specialists will use scans along with interviews to monitor their patients’ progress.
Autism Diagnosis Made Easy
"It's probably just detecting the residue of some crank gluten-free diet or chelation substance that the parents have imposed on the poor autistic kids."
- Corneia in the comments
A study in the Journal of Proteome Research found a chemical fingerprint in the urine of autistic children. It was similar between them but distinct from that of non-autistic siblings and those with no known family history. The chemical fingerprint in the urine comes from the breakdown of bacteria in the gut. The composition of bacteria in the gut is different between autistic children and those without the disorder. Early intervention helps autistic children progress, but the diagnosis usually is made late and is a lengthy process. Lead researcher Jeremy Nicholson said "Giving therapy to children with autism when they are very young can make a huge difference to their progress. A urine test might enable professionals to quickly identify children with autism to help them early on."
Measles Don't Like Budget Cuts
Measle cases have rapidly increased recently in parts of Africa, Asian and some European countries according to the World Health Organization. The disease is easily avoidable with proper vaccinations, however funding for vaccination campaigns have been drastically cut since 2008, allowing the extremely contagious disease to spread after being nearly eradicated. Thankfully according to MSNBC Health, "Measles deaths among young children fell to 118,000 in 2008, compared with 1.1 million in 2000." The link between the disease and a lack of vaccinations was seen when the British people received false reports linking Measles vaccines to autism. Britain has reported 1,000 cases of measles in the last two years, a number 10 times higher than a decade earlier.
Let Sleeping Babies Learn
Newborn babies sleep about 16 to 18 hours per day yet learn to understand the world around them surprisingly quickly. Now, new research from the University of Florida finds that newborns are not merely sleeping. They are learning, according to Dana Byrd, member of the research team that conducted the study that appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Newborn infants' sleep patterns are quite different than those of older children or adults in that they show more active sleep where heart and breathing rates are very changeable," she said. "It may be this sleep state is more amenable to experiencing the world in a way that facilitates learning." Study results may lead to the identification of newborns at risk for developmental disorders such as dyslexia and autism.