Autism News

Browse our library of news below or learn more about autism symptoms, diagnosis and causes.

Environmental factors maybe key in autism boom since 1988 says EPA


Autistic boyFor the past couple of decades rates of autism seem to have risen dramatically but now a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has pin-pointed a sudden jump in cases since 1988 and suspects yet to be identified environmental triggers are a likely explanation.

By reviewing extensive worldwide data EPA scientists were able to see that rather than a steady increase in the incidence of autism over a number of decades there was in fact a distinct "changepoint" in the 1988-1989 birth cohort - a sudden and substantial spike in autism rates.

Michael E. McDonald and John F. Paul, of the EPA's National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory looked at specific Californian, Danish and worldwide datasets and found the same changepoint for autism incidence across all three. Acording to the researchers the rate of increase in new cases of autism before 1988 "was significantly different" than the rate after that year. In California, the rate spiked from 5.7-per-10,000 before the changepoint, to 20.8-per 10,000 after, while the worldwide dataset showed a similar jump - from 6.0 to 24.2. In Denmark, where autism had been extremely rare the rise was even more dramatic, going from 0.6 to 6.6 - total incidence remaining a fraction of that for California and worldwide however.

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Two autism susceptibility genes identified


Strand of DNAA new study led by researchers at the University of Oxford, England, has identified two genes involved in brain development that appear to be associated with the chances of children developing autism spectrum disorders.

The study, involving 661 families, found variations in the genes that encode for the production of two specific brain proteins were significantly associated with susceptibility for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The research was led by Anthony Monaco from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford who collaborated with an international team of researchers to study four candidate genes in families from the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany.

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Study links high testosterone in girls to autism


Autistic girlNew research shows that girls with higher testosterone levels at birth are more likely to show signs associated with autism such as poor communication skills and social difficulties at age 10.

The findings lend support to an emerging theory of how autism develops. It is proposed that greater exposure to testosterone during pregnancy and early childhood leads to an extreme form of typical male brain development. As well as fitting with the signs of autism this may explain why more boys than girls are affected by the developmental disorder.

The research was carried out in Australia by Dr. Andrew Whitehouse, a research fellow at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth. The results of the study are published this month's edition of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

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Healing Thresholds: Autism therapy website redesign makes information easier for parents to access


Autism TherapyHealing Thresholds, founded in 2006 by CEO Lara Pullen after her son was diagnosed at risk for autism, has recently seen a major redesign to make it easier for parents of autistic children to access the substantial amounts of information on over 1000 therapies in use for the developmental disorder now held on the website.

The site is unique in its scope, covering every concievable form of therapy including behavioural, speech and sensory therapies, dietary interventions and nutritional supplements, alternative medicines like homeopathy, and biomedical interventions such as chelation and secretin.

Co-founder Pullen holds a PhD herself and much of the information on the website is reviewed by medical reviewer Dr. Alan Rosenblatt, MD, FAAP. Another integral aspect of the site that makes it so valuable is that parents can comment on and review treatments they have used with their kids so that other parents at least have some idea of what to expect in terms of results and of course, safety.

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Autism could be diagnosed using eye test


Autism Eye TestResearch have developed an eye test based on pupil responses that they say is 92.5 per cent accurate in seperating children with autism from those who are developing normally.

Diagnosing autism can be a difficult task for a doctor so any tools they can use to aid the process will be welcome news. Diagnosis at a young age is particularly difficult but also of great importance to the outcome of treatment and the future of the child.

Current estimates suggest 1 in 150 children are now affected by autism but it remains poorly understood from a scientific and medical standpoint. There has much genetic research and a number of genes thought to be involved have been identified. However, genetics alone cannot account for the increasing incidence seen over past decades which has lead researchers to look for environmental causes such as chemical toxins, infections and allergens. It is now thought by many that interaction between genetic susceptibility and environmental exposures may trigger the developmental disorder.

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