The International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) was May 17-19 in Toronto. The annual event is organized by the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) and is essentially the annual rotating Mecca for those involved or interested in autism research.
To give you an idea of the content at IMFAR, one of the organizers, Dr. Stephen Scherer, introduced the conference by saying that a lot of the information presented was unpublished, but certainly will lead to publication. This makes it very exciting, but also forces us to buffer our excitement and understand that so much of this research is in its early stages.
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If you’ve been watching the news today you’ve probably heard something about the study out of UC Davis, released today, entitled “Maternal Metabolic Conditions and Risk for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders”. The study looked at the link between obesity, diabetes and autism and found an association between metabolic conditions during pregnancy (diabetes, obesity and hypertension), and developmental delays. Please see what Dr. Bryan King, director of Seattle Children’s Autism Center, says are the take away messages: Read full post »
There has been much discussion recently about the anticipated release of DSM-V and how it will impact the diagnosing of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I was especially interested in the discussion that came about from two Op-Ed pieces recently published by the NY times. My wife often criticizes me for playing “devil’s advocate” in debates (which I usually lose when the “debate” is actually with my wife), so it is not surprising that I feel compelled to chime in on the discussion surrounding our current diagnostic criteria for ASD. Read full post »
We’ve all heard the adage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The questions we face surrounding autism in the DSM 5 are first, is it broken, and if so, how should it be fixed? In the current system, Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) are treated like distinct conditions. Indeed, if a medication is FDA approved for the treatment of Autism, that approval does not extend to Asperger’s or PDD. It is not uncommon for service systems to treat these diagnoses as distinct conditions, and differentially recognize them (or not). Read full post »
A new round of interest in the potential impact of diagnostic changes being proposed for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or “DSM”, was sparked last week by a report suggesting that many individuals would likely lose their diagnoses if the defining criteria for autism, Asperger’s disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified are changed. A number of the stories that we were seeing suggested that the definition was being tightened because of concerns relating to over-diagnosis, with one commenter offering that the change in definition would solve the autism epidemic by “nipping it in the bud”.
As one who has been directly involved in the DSM process and whose fingerprints are on some of these proposed changes, I have been asked to clarify what is going on and thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts here. Read full post »
A while back The Autism Blog received a comment from someone who suggested that the sharp rise in autism rates is a direct result of people wanting to make money. The person who posted this comment seemed quite frustrated by the apparent increase in the number of people being diagnosed with autism. I can thoroughly identify with and appreciate his or her frustration.
So, let’s take a deeper look at the issue. There is no doubt that the diagnosis of autism has increased tremendously in the past 15 years. And, are there undoubtedly people who have made money from many parents confused, frustrated and angry about this condition. That makes me sad and a bit angry as well. Nevertheless, to tarnish the entire professional community is unfair and inaccurate. Read full post »
It seems a month doesn’t go by without an article in the news highlighting some research study that has discovered a new risk for developing autism.
Just within the last year, published research articles in reputable scientific journals have correlated everything from antidepressants and paternal age to closely-spaced pregnancies and living in close proximity to freeways as associated with an autism diagnosis.
After the lay press editorializes and sensationalizes the findings, the correlation study has been converted into wording that implies causation. Read full post »
I recently read a fascinating book, The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for non-fiction is an extraordinary account starting with a discussion of the history of cancer from ancient times and rapidly moving to a discussion of the history of leukemia dating from the mid-19th century. The tale then moves rapidly to review the work of the “father of chemotherapy”, Sydney Farber, in the early and late 1940s.
This book is amazing because it is a serious science and medical history, yet it is engaging, even thrilling to read. Needless to say as a physician, I’m fascinated with medicine and science and as a former college history major, I love what history can teach us that we can apply today. If you take the time to read this, you’ll learn how a complex human disorder that potentially can affect us all has been understood piece by piece and to an extraordinary extent has been successfully treated, and in some cases, even “cured”. Read full post »
Many times when families see me, they ask what therapies they should try for their child. Unfortunately, there is no absolutely prescribed therapy or set of therapies for any child on the autism spectrum. Wouldn’t it be great if an easy roadmap to therapy existed in the dizzying world of therapy for children with autism? Wouldn’t it be great if the answers for how to treat a child (or adult) with autism were as easy as using an antibiotic for strep throat? Unfortunately children with autism spectrum disorders are so varied and their symptoms and problems are so diverse that choosing a single or many therapies is daunting. Read full post »
When entering the world of autism, whether as a parent or a provider, a number of questions immediately come to mind. From the parents’ perspective, questions such as “what caused my child’s autism” and “will my child be happy as an adult” are usually at or near the top of the list. From the perspective of the provider, we often fall well short of being able to provide adequate answers. It is understandable that saying “we don’t know the cause of your child’s autism” doesn’t exactly instill confidence in us as physicians or psychologists. Read full post »