8/24 - Latest in Autism News

Diabetes Treatment Helps Reduce Increased Weight in Children with ASD

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry showed significant evidence that common type-2 diabetes drug metformin is effective in helping overweight children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who take antipsychotic medications keep or lower their body mass index (BMI).

Risperidone and aripiprazole are FDA-approved antipsychotic medications for treating irritability and agitation symptoms in children and adolescents with ASD, a diagnosis that affects 1 in 68 children and the fastest growing and most commonly diagnosed neurological disorder in Canada. Both medications can cause a significant increase in weight gain, which in addition to increasing BMI enhances long-term risk of diabetes. This complicates an already challenging issue given data showing adolescents with ASD were approximately two times more likely to be obese than adolescents without developmental disabilities.

"It is critically important that we investigate new ways to support healthy outcomes as early as possible for those who are on these medications," says Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou, principal author on the study and senior clinician scientist and co-lead of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital's Autism Research Centre. "Use of antipsychotics to help manage irritability associated with ASD can sometimes be long-term which means we need to provide families with solutions that support lasting optimal health in their children." Anagnostou is a Canada Research Chair in Translational Therapeutics (Tier II) in Autism.

In collaboration with international specialists from multiple sites, including Holland Bloorview in Toronto, Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, and Vanderbilt University, they recruited 60 children ages 6-17 with ASD and led a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial to explore the effectiveness of metformin in counteracting weight gain associated with antipsychotic medications.

Results of the study showed that metformin was effective and well-tolerated in decreasing ongoing weight gain associated with antipsychotic use in children and adolescents with ASD. Metformin reduced BMI scores from the initial baseline significantly more than the placebo group.

"This is a very special group, as young people with ASD present with many unique challenges. By definition, they experience communication difficulties, and they're reported to have more GI difficulties than most other patient groups," said Dr. Michael Aman, lead investigator at Ohio State University's Nisonger Center. "As GI problems can be a side effect of metformin, it was important that the research teams be skilled in communication with such children. Our results showed that GI side effects occurred for more days in the metformin group, but the large majority of children taking metformin were able to maintain their treatment. Importantly, the metformin didn't cause behavioural changes, such as increased irritability."

Little previous research to date has examined treatment or prevention of weight gain in children and youth with ASD. "These results have already changed my clinical practice," said Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele, the Mortimer D. Sackler, MD, Associate Professor at Columbia University and the New York Presbyterian Hospital Center for Autism and the Developing Brain. "I now prescribe metformin instead of abandoning medicines, like risperidone, that can sometimes dramatically improve the lives of children with autism but also often cause unhealthy weight gain. This provides another option instead of the painful choice between protecting long-term physical health and treating agitation symptoms that can lead to injury or exclusion from an appropriate school setting."

August 24, Marketwire, Toronto, ON

8/17 - Latest in Autism News

New clinic will provide support for families with for children with autism

Families with children on the autism spectrum will tell you support is key in everyday life.

In Rochester, there's a new clinic coming to provide even more resources. Thanks to a generous $1 million gift from the Levine Foundation – soon Rochester will have its very own, state-of-the-art pediatric autism clinic.

Excitement is building as the William and Mildred Levine Autism Clinic nears completion.

"There's walls, there's a roof, there's bricks on the outside and we're well on our way to moving in, in February or March or 2017," says Dr. Susan Hyman.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism spectrum disorders affect one in every 68 children. The new pediatric autism clinic will complement existing programs and services already offered by the U of R through the Kirch Developmental Services Center. However, everything will be geared towards children.

"People with autism have sensory differences related to bright lights, related to noise, they have social differences related to how they perceive crowds and stress related to change and transition," says Dr. Hyman.

Just some of the factors that Dr. Hyman says were considered when designing the building because the environment is part of the treatment.

Dr. Hyman says, "There is going to be a way finding visual guide so that people who are stressed or anxious with entering a clinical setting will have something to fix on and set on. We are going to have touch down spaces along the way so if someone is having challenges entering or moving through there will be secure places to touch down."

Once completed, the Levine Autism Clinic will provide state-of-the-art care, like none other, to families and children on the autism spectrum.

"This is a very novel program," says Dr. Hyman. "I'm not aware of anything like this anywhere in the country. This is going to provide unparalleled opportunity for diagnosis and treatment of the families affected by autism here in Rochester."

Again, the William and Mildred Levine Autism Clinic is expected to open in February or March. For more information on the clinic, you can click here.

August 17, 2016 06:35 PM, Jennifer Mobilia, WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


8/9 - Latest in Autism News

Service Dog Registry - National Service Dog is Now Offering Service Dog Digital Certificates and IDs at No Extra Cost

The founders of National Service Dog, a quick and convenient service dog registry, are pleased to announce that they are now offering a free digital copy of a "Service Dog" or "Emotional Support Dog" certificate and ID.

As a spokesperson for National Service Dog noted, the United States Department of Justice defines a "Service Animal" as any guide dog, signal dog or other animals that are specially trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, animals who meet this definition are considered a Service Animal, regardless of whether the dog or other animal has been certified by the state or local government.

People who have mobility issues, hearing and/or vision impairments, autism, multiple sclerosis and other health issues that impair them physically or psychologically often rely on service dogs. Those with anxiety, panic attack issues, depression and other psychological conditions often find that an emotional support dog can be immensely helpful.

To be sure that people with service dogs and emotional support dogs are allowed to bring their beloved and needed animals into public establishments, the spokesperson noted, it is important that they are registered with a reputable company like National Service Dog. To get the free digital copy of the certificate and ID—which is searchable through a public database—visitors to the website should use the coupon code "national10" (coupon restrictions apply, see site for details) with any full priced service dog package.

"By registering your service dog, you are then within your rights to bring service animals into public establishments that otherwise do not allow pets, such apartments, airplanes, restaurants and more, without being charged any extra fees," noted the spokesperson for National Service Dog, adding that emotional service dogs should also be registered due to their ability to provide comfort, companionship and support to people in need.

Using the National Service Dog website is quick and easy. People may visit the user-friendly website at any time and click on the "Register Now" button. After entering the coupon code, they will receive a free digital copy of their Service Dog or Emotional Support Dog ID with the purchase of any full priced service dog package.

About National Service Dog:

People can take their dog anywhere and avoid hassle with service and emotional support dog registration and ID cards from National Service Dog. For more information, please visit https://nationalservicedog.org.


7/26 - Latest in Autism News

Induced labor not associated with risk for autism spectrum disorders, study shows

Induction of labor appears not to be associated with increased risk of autism spectrum disorders in children in a large new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The new finding suggests that concern about autism risk should not factor into clinical decisions about whether or not to induce labor.

The study will be published online July 25, 2016 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) --a group of permanent developmental disabilities characterized by impairments in social interaction, language development, and repetitive behaviors--are estimated to affect roughly 1 in 90 children in the U.S.

Labor induction is recommended when labor doesn't progress on its own and there's concern that waiting for it to start could endanger the health of the baby or mother. Methods to induce labor include rupturing of membranes, mechanical or pharmacological ripening of the cervix, and administration of oxytocin, either used alone or in combination.

In 2013, a large study in North Carolina found an association between induction of labor and risk of autism in offspring. The report gained widespread media attention, and although both the paper's authors and other experts cautioned that the association may not be causal, obstetricians began reporting that some of their patients were expressing concern about or opposition to being induced. The Harvard Chan School researchers decided to further explore whether induction of labor truly causes increased risk of neuropsychiatric disorders, in order to help in weighing the risks and benefits of this common therapeutic intervention.

"When we used close relatives, such as siblings or cousins, as the comparison group, we found no association between labor induction and autism risk," said Anna Sara Oberg, research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study. "Many of the factors that could lead to both induction of labor and autism are completely or partially shared by siblings--such as maternal characteristics or socioeconomic or genetic factors. Finding no association when comparing siblings suggests that previously observed associations could have been due to some of these familial factors--not the result of induction."

Working with colleagues from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Indiana University, the Harvard Chan School researchers studied all live births in Sweden from 1992-2005. They followed over 1 million births through 2013, looking for any neuropsychiatric diagnoses and identifying all siblings and maternal first cousins. They also incorporated several measures of the mothers' health in their analysis.

Nearly 2% of babies in the study population were diagnosed with autism during the follow-up period, the researchers found. Overall, 11% of the deliveries had involved induction of labor, often occurring in conjunction with pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia; 23% of the induced pregnancies were post-term.

In their initial comparison of individuals who weren't related to each other, the researchers found an association between labor induction and ASD risk, similar to that previously reported. But when they compared "induction-discordant" siblings (children born to the same mother--in one, labor was induced, in the other, it wasn't), they no longer saw an association.

"Overall, these findings should provide reassurance to women who are about to give birth, that having their labor induced will not increase their child's risk of developing autism spectrum disorders," said Brian Bateman, anesthesiologist and associate professor of anesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and senior author of the study.

"It is important to note that the findings pertain to the risks associated with labor induction per se, and not the specific method or medication used in the process, including oxytocin," said Oberg.

July 26, 2016, The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.