2/27 -Lastest in Autism News

Standard Autism Screening Test Online

Astandard autism screening test is now available online for children above the age of two on the State Welfare Organization website.

The test includes a set of 10 questions to help parents determine whether their children might have symptoms consistent with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

If the answer is positive to more than three of the questions, children should be taken to one of the SWO autism centers mentioned on the website for additional diagnostic procedures.

If, however, it is not possible to identify the disorder at the centers, in that case the child must be taken to a specialist. Those who do not have access to the Internet can refer to SWO offices across the country where medical teams offer screening services.

According to Hussein Nahvinejad, rehabilitation deputy at the SWO, around 700 children have been referred to the centers since last December when the scheme was launched and 20 cases were diagnosed as having ASD, ILNA reported.

He urged families with young children to undertake the standard screening procedure so that if there is a problem it can be identified early. Symptoms may even go unrecognized in young children who have mild ASD or less debilitating handicaps.

Very early indicators that require evaluation by an expert include: no babbling or pointing by age 1; no single words by age 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2; no response to name; poor eye contact; and no smiling or social responsiveness.

Currently, around 3,000 autistic children are covered by the SWO which is expected to rise with the online screening project.

“Between 2,000 and 3,000 children with ASD might also be in special schools,” said the official.

   Tried and Tested

SWO experts had been working on the screening plan since 2010 and the online questionnaire is now tried and tested, and therefore completely standardized.

The project is also expected to help define the patterns of the disorder in the country within two or three years.

“Globally, autism is more common among girls than boys, but this has not been determined yet in Iran.”

The study of ASD patterns must be conducted by academic centers but the Health Ministry and universities of medical sciences have so far lagged in this matter.  

The SWO is not a research body but has taken the initiative to address the problem and “make up for academia’s non-performance” in this regard, Nahvinejad said.

Autism spectrum disorder refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.

Diagnosis of ASD includes assessment of intellectual disability and language impairment.

ASD occurs in every racial and ethnic group, and acrosssocioeconomic levels. But often, it is diagnosed when it is too late for intervention, imposing a great burden on the society.

The SWO has also been working on a screening test for Alzheimer’s, a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time, and most often begins in people over 65 years of age.

It is being piloted in Tehran’s Ekbatan neighborhood, and once the test is standardized, it will be implemented nationwide.

February 27, 2017, Financial Tribune



2/20 - Latest in Autism News

In Breakthrough, Researchers Detect Autism Signs In Infants

New research suggests that it may be possible to predict a child's risk for autism before behavioral symptoms present. (Thinkstock)

For the first time, a new study suggests it’s possible to predict within the first year of life if a child will develop autism.

Researchers say they were able to identify with more than 90 percent accuracy which babies would go on to be diagnosed with the developmental disorder by age 2.

The findings published Wednesday could be a game changer, pointing to the possibility of identifying children on the spectrum at far younger ages and before behavioral symptoms become apparent, researchers said.

“The results of this study are a real breakthrough for early diagnosis of autism,” said Robert T. Schultz who directs the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and worked on the study published in the journal Nature. “While we have known for some time that autism emerges in subtle, gradual ways over the first few years of life, this study offers the first firm evidence before a child’s first birthday predicting whether certain high-risk children are likely to be diagnosed with autism.”

Currently autism can reliably be diagnosed as early as age 2, but most kids aren’t flagged until after age 4, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research suggests that autism intervention is most successful the earlier it begins, so scientists are eager to find reliable methods of spotting the disorder at younger ages.

The study looked at 106 infants considered to be at high risk for autism because they had an older sibling with the developmental disorder and 42 low-risk infants. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans were conducted on each child at 6, 12 and 24 months of age.

In children who ultimately developed autism, growth of the brain’s surface area was significantly more rapid between ages 6 and 12 months as compared to other kids, the study found. What’s more, the overall size of affected children’s brains grew at a faster rate between ages 12 and 24 months.

Among babies at high risk, the brain differences between ages 6 and 12 months alone could predict whether a child would have autism with 80 percent accuracy, researchers said.

However, by considering other factors as well including additional brain measurements and the child’s sex, the researchers used a statistical approach known as machine learning to assess with near perfect accuracy who would develop autism.

“If we are able to replicate these results in further studies, these findings promise to change how we approach infant and toddler screening for autism, making it possible to identify infants who will later develop autism before the behavioral symptoms of autism become apparent,” Schultz said.

The findings could point to opportunities for new treatments and the potential to intervene before brain differences progress substantially, researchers said.

“We haven’t had a way to detect the biomarkers of autism before the condition sets in and symptoms develop,” said the study’s senior author, Joseph Piven of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. “Now we have very promising leads that suggest this may in fact be possible.”

by Michelle Diament | February 15, 2017

2/13 - Latest in Autism News

Brain stem volume linked to aggression in autism

New research from BYU's autism experts is providing clues into the link between aggression and autism -- clues the team hopes will eventually lead to more effective intervention.

In the study, published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, researchers report an inverse correlation between aggression and brain stem volume in children with autism: the smaller the brain stem, the greater the likelihood of aggression.

The finding, though preliminary, is significant in part because "the brain stem is really involved in autonomic activities -- breathing, heart rate, staying awake -- so this is evidence that there's something core and basic, this connection between aggression and autism," said coauthor and BYU clinical psychology Ph.D. student Kevin Stephenson.

For the project, the team examined MRI images from two groups of children with autism: one that exhibited problematic levels of aggression and one that didn't. Study coauthor Terisa Gabrielsen, a BYU assistant professor of school psychology, said identifying the brain stem as having at least a partial involvement in aggression helps lay a foundation for better treatment. "If we know what part of the brain is different and what function that part of the brain controls, that can give us some clues into what we can do in the way of intervention," she said.

Coauthor and BYU psychology professor Mikle South added, "Once the body arousal in a child is too much -- the heart is beating, the hands are clenched and the body is sweating -- it's too late. Some of these kids, if the brain isn't working as efficiently, they may pass that point of no return sooner. So with behavioral interventions, we try to find out what the trigger is and intervene early before that arousal becomes too much."

BYU's Autism Connect team originated three years ago in BYU's David O. McKay School of Education, though it now includes researchers from other colleges on campus and collaborators beyond BYU. This paper, spearheaded by BYU psychology assistant professor Rebecca Lundwall, had 11 authors from BYU, one from the University of Utah and one from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The group used data collected from a University of Utah autism study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Studying aggression is Autism Connect's "overarching agenda," said Gabrielsen, "because it impacts families' quality of life so significantly. If we look long-term at things that affect the family the most, aggression is one of the most disruptive."

South recounted a conversation with the mother of a child he recently diagnosed: to cope with stress, the child often pulled her mother's hair, "so I just have a lot less hair than I used to," she told him. Aggression, South noted, "makes the family dynamic very difficult, the school dynamic very difficult. It's just a particularly difficult type of autism."

In addition to a number of other studies planned or in process, the team is interested in exploring further how the brain stem is connected functionally to other areas of the brain, "because usually the brain doesn't work from just one area; it's a network of areas that all work together," Stephenson said. "So if one area is disrupted, it's likely that other areas are disrupted as well."

Story Source:

2/9/17 - Science Daily, Materials provided by Brigham Young UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


2/7 - Latest in Autism News

Workplace Disability Discrimination Claims Set New Record

Charges of disability-related job discrimination hit a record high for the second year in a row, the EEOC said. (Thinkstock)

Federal officials say they are receiving an increasing number of complaints of disability-based job discrimination.

For the second year in a row, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said charges of job bias related to disability hit an all-time high, reaching 28,073 for the 2016 fiscal year.

The new record comes as the EEOC said it recorded an overall uptick in charges across all 10 types of workplace discrimination that the agency investigates.

Of the disability-related charges, the EEOC said 5,680 were resolved in favor of the person who brought the complaint. The agency collected $131 million in monetary benefits for individuals harmed.

The EEOC has tracked disability-related workplace discrimination since 1992. In addition, the agency also monitors employment discrimination complaints related to race, color, sex, age, religion, retaliation, pay equity, genetic information and national origin.

Overall, the EEOC received 91,503 charges of job-based discrimination in 2016. Nearly a third of complaints cited disability.

Disability Scoop, by Shaun Heasley | February 6, 2017