Research by Topic: featured

Veteran Journalist Kathy Ehrich Dowd Joins Autism Science Foundation as Director of Community Relations

Published January 18, 2022

This appointment comes during a period of significant growth for ASF, as autism families and researchers increasingly turn to the organization for support. Read more here.

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The 2021 ASF Year in Review of Science

Published December 20, 2021

This year was filled with discoveries, accomplishments, and goodbyes. Read a summary of the science here.

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The latest Science Learning Series video is available online

Published December 14, 2021

On December 10th, autism researchers who focus on infancy presented information about how the brain develops in autism as early as infancy, how it is influenced by heritable factors, and how it ties into the emergence of language. Practical tips were provided and you got to ask questions about ways to promote language and how […]

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The Lancet Commission Formally Recognizes the Term ‘Profound Autism’

Published December 7, 2021

This new concept will help people at the severe end of the autism spectrum gain better access to critical services NEW YORK — December 7, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today calls attention to the publication of a new Lancet Commission report, which formally […]

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Autism Science Foundation Comments on Today’s CDC Data Indicating 1 in 44 Children Diagnosed with Autism

Published December 2, 2021

These new data underscore the importance of early autism screening and intervention for better long-term outcomes for people with autism NEW YORK — December 2, 2021 — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced that 1 in 44 eight-year-old children and 1 in 59 four-year-old children are diagnosed with autism. This is an […]

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Did you miss the Science Learning Series? The recording is online.

Published November 23, 2021

On November 19th, ASF launched our new Science Learning Series. The first topic was brain development and social interactions in infants, before a diagnosis is possible. By studying infants with a sibling with ASD, scientists can understand the earliest signs and features of ASD, even from 6 months of age. If you would like to […]

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Sam’s Sibs Stick Together website is LIVE!

Published November 19, 2021

Sam’s Sibs Stick Together, an initiative between ASF and Els for Autism designed to support siblings through discussions on scientific research involving non-diagnosed siblings of those on the spectrum, now has it’s own website! You can see it at and be sure to sign up for updates!

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Statement on Use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for Autism

Published October 28, 2021

The use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)-based therapies has recently become a point of disagreement in the autism community.   We write this statement to share our strong support for the use of therapies based on the principles of ABA to help those on the autism spectrum, and to provide examples of how the science and […]

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Autism Science Foundation Announces Two Additional COVID-19 Grants

Published October 21, 2021

The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced its fifth round of COVID-19 Research Grant recipients. The latest grantees are Dr. Allison Shana Nahmias and Dr. Matthew Lerner of Stony Brook University and Dr. Shuting Zheng, University of California San Francisco.  This new funding will help grantees […]

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Autism Science Foundation Funds ‘Next Gen Sibs’ Research Project to Aid and Better Understand the Children of Typically Developing Siblings

Published October 12, 2021

NEW YORK — October 12, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced the first funding recipients in its ‘Next Gen Sibs’ research project. The goal of this project is to establish a future collaborative network that will help in identification, evaluation and possible diagnosis […]

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Autism Science Foundation Wins 2021 Top-Rated Award from GreatNonprofits

Published September 27, 2021

ASF earns distinction for the ninth consecutive year, which comes as the organization further expands funding opportunities that provide critical support to autism researchers and families NEW YORK — September 27, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced it has received Top-Rated […]

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Autism Science Foundation Is Now Accepting Cryptocurrency Donations

Published September 13, 2021

This new funding mechanism offers donors even more ways to support autism science and families NEW YORK —September 13, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced it is now accepting cryptocurrency donations via Bitcoin, Ethereum, USD Coin, Dogecoin, Litecoin, Dai and […]

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Wall Street Rides FAR to Ring NYSE Closing Bell on August 30, 2021

Published August 27, 2021

Annual charity event to benefit the Autism Science Foundation celebrates its seventh year by ringing the NYSE Closing Bell® Wall Street Rides FAR (For Autism Research), the annual charity cycling and walking event benefiting the Autism Science Foundation (ASF), today announced that it will ring the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Closing Bell® on August 30, […]

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Read a New Guidance Document on Maintaining Children’s Education and Therapy Services During COVID

Published August 12, 2021

Download the full white paper here.

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Autism Science Foundation Launches New Two-Year Post-Undergraduate Fellowship Awards

Published August 9, 2021

This new funding opportunity aims to complement ASF’s Pre- & Postdoctoral and Medical Student Gap Year Fellowships, and underscores a commitment to supporting early career autism researchers NEW YORK, Aug. 09, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced the addition […]

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ASF Funds Four New ‘Baby Siblings Research Consortium’ Grants

Published July 28, 2021

New grants will support BSRC’s efforts to understand the developmental origins and earliest signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder New York, July 28, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced its 2021 Baby Siblings Research Consortium (BSRC) database grant recipients. The grantees are […]

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ASF Chief Science Officer Dr. Alycia Halladay Appointed to the Federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee

Published July 7, 2021

Dr. Halladay will play a key role in the IACC’s efforts to guide and coordinate autism research, services and support nationwide NEW YORK — July 7, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced that its Chief Science Officer Dr. Alycia Halladay has […]

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ASF’s Latest COVID-19 Grants Will Fund Studies Focusing on Telehealth and the Pandemic’s Mental Health Impacts

Published June 7, 2021

Throughout the pandemic, ASF has provided funding to sustain existing studies affected by restrictions and shutdowns and to support new research that aims to understand the pandemic’s complex impact on people with autism NEW YORK — June 7, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism […]

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Latest Round of COVID-19 Research Grants Opens Today

Published June 2, 2021

The Autism Science Foundation recognizes the continuing need to better understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the autism community, including biological, educational, psychological and psychiatric effects that may impact the immediate and longer-term functioning of people on the autism spectrum. For this reason, we are continuing and expanding the COVID-19 Research Grant program […]

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ASF Mourns the Loss of Autism Scientist Li-Ching Lee

Published May 27, 2021

It is with extreme sadness that we share the news that our dear colleague Dr. Li-Ching Lee died Thursday at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.  Dr. Lee was an exceptional researcher, mentor, instructor, and friend. Her work on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) prevalence, measurement, and epidemiology made a huge impact on the field, addressing critical issues […]

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ASF at INSAR 2021

Published May 3, 2021

ASF is proud to play an active role at this year’s INSAR conference, which kicks off today and features key players in the autism research community. Supporting new and innovative autism research is at the heart of what we do, and key to improving so many lives. Learn more here: To view the ASF at […]

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Autism Science Foundation Earns GuideStar’s 2021 Gold Seal of Transparency

Published April 14, 2021

The distinction highlights ASF’s commitment to providing donors deep clarity and insight into the organization’s work to support autism scientists and families NEW YORK — April 14, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced that it has received GuideStar’s Gold Seal of […]

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Autism Science Foundation Announces 2021 Undergraduate Research Grant Recipients

Published March 30, 2021

New funding will support scientifically driven research from a diverse group of young scientists NEW YORK — March 30, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced the recipients of its annual undergraduate summer research fellowships. Grants have been awarded to: Beza Ayalew of UCLA, […]

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ASF is Helping the Next Generation of Leading Autism Scientists Understand the Consequences of the Pandemic

Published March 24, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic upended autism research when it took hold last year, and early career researchers were especially impacted. To examine the full extent of the losses, ASF Chief Science Officer Alycia Halladay joined forces with three other leading autism research scientists to investigate this “Lost Generation” of early career researchers. Their findings were recently […]

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Elise and Phil Orlando and the late Feda Almaliti to Receive the 2021 Autism Science Foundation Caryn Schwartzman Spirit Award

Published March 18, 2021

The Orlandos co-founded the Foundation for Empowering Citizens with Autism (FECA) and Extraordinary Ventures New York (EVNY), which provide employment for people with autism. Almaliti was a nationally recognized autism advocate and founding board member of the National Council on Severe Autism NEW YORK — March 18, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a […]

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COVID-19 Research Grants Now Available

Published March 4, 2021

The Autism Science Foundation recognizes the continuing need to better understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the autism community, including biological, educational, psychological and psychiatric effects that may impact the immediate and longer-term functioning of people on the autism spectrum. For this reason, we are continuing and expanding the COVID-19 Research Grant program in 2021.   […]

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Autism Science Foundation’s Day of Learning Will Address the Impact of COVID-19 on Autism Families

Published February 18, 2021

ASF’s 8th annual flagship event, which features TED-style talks on key issues facing the autism community, has pivoted to a virtual format for the second time amid the pandemic. Tickets are free and accessible worldwide. NEW YORK — February 18, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding innovative autism […]

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[words] Bookstore Founder and Managing Principal Jonah Zimiles Named to Autism Science Foundation Board of Directors

Published February 4, 2021

NEW YORK — February 4, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding and supporting innovative autism research, today announced the appointment of Jonah Zimiles, Founder and Managing Principal of [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey, to its Board of Directors. The announcement was made by Gregg Ireland, Chairman of […]

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Shaping the Future: Grandparents Diagnosing Autism

Published February 1, 2021

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Questions About the COVID Vaccine?

Published January 25, 2021

Do you have questions about the COVID vaccine? Join us on Wednesday, January 27 4:00 pm ET for a webinar, just for the autism community, on COVID vaccines. Autism Speaks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Autism Society of America and Autism Science Foundation will offer information about the impact of COVID on […]

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Autism Science Foundation Chief Science Officer Dr. Alycia Halladay Elected Board President of Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation

Published January 21, 2021

Dr. Halladay will continue in her primary role at ASF as she takes on new responsibilities with PMSF, playing key roles in both organizations as they work to support families and fund critical research projects related to autism and neurodevelopmental disorders NEW YORK — January 21, 2021 — The board and management of the Autism […]

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Autism Science Foundation Seeks Applicants for 2021 Undergraduate Summer Research Grants

Published January 14, 2021

Priority will be given to diverse applicants and studies that focus on understanding and narrowing service gaps among underrepresented populations NEW YORK — January 13, 2021 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, is inviting grant applications from highly qualified undergraduates interested in pursuing basic […]

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Autism Science Foundation Funds New Round of COVID-19 Grants

Published December 22, 2020

Latest grants will measure the validity of new online autism assessments and examine the mental health consequences of the pandemic on individuals with autism spectrum disorder NEW YORK — December 22, 2020 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced its third round of […]

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Register Now for the “Current Issues in Vaccines” Webinar Series

Published November 20, 2020

The Vaccine Education Center (VEC) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, together with the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Nesbitt School of Pharmacy at Wilkes University, is pleased to offer a Vaccine Webinar Series for healthcare providers. The series is supported by the Thomas F. McNair Scott Endowed Research and Lectureship Fund. […]

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Autism Science Foundation Selected as 2020 ICAP Charity Day Beneficiary

Published November 20, 2020

NEW YORK — November 18, 2020 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, announced today that it has been selected as a beneficiary for the upcoming 2020 ICAP Charity Day, which this year will be held Thursday, December 10. Since 1993, the ICAP Charity Day […]

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Autism Science Foundation Awards Grant to PEERbots to Expand Robot-Powered Telehealth Solutions

Published October 13, 2020

ASF grant will enable PEERbots to expand to iOS and develop user-friendly applications for the autism community NEW YORK — October 13, 2020 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research, today announced that it has awarded a grant to PEERbots, a nonprofit organization that develops social robot puppet […]

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Autism Science Foundation Announces Recipients of Second Round of COVID-19 Pivot Grant Recipients

Published September 8, 2020

New grants will seek to measure social communication skills in children with autism who are stuck at home, and will help expand a special education math curriculum for use online. ASF also announces a request for applications for a third round of pivot grants and launches a new funding mechanism to study the effects of […]

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Autism Science Foundation and Autism Navigator Launch Virtual Community to Support Families Raising Young Children with Autism

Published July 31, 2020

New platform allows families to access content, interact with experts and exchange ideas to improve outcomes for children with ASDs amid pandemic NEW YORK — July 29, 2020 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, and Autism Navigator today announced the launch of the Autism […]

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Learn About Data Resources Available to Scientists

Published July 6, 2020

Many researchers, especially early career scientists in ASD, have lost access to collecting in-person data from families and some research has stalled.  However, there are many data resources available to scientists with both biological collections and phenotyping data that might be available to help answer important research questions during this time.  ASF has compiled and […]

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Day of Learning is Going Virtual!

Published June 22, 2020

Join us September 22, 2020 from 11:00 to 2:00 pm EST for our 7th Annual Day of Learning. Tickets are free! Registration information will be available later this summer.

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Tell Us Your Thoughts About Telehealth in the Pandemic

Published June 22, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do almost everything—including how we receive our medical care. Below you will find a link to a quick and anonymous survey that shares your experiences with telehealth during the pandemic—both positive and negative—with the Child Neurology Foundation. CNF will use and share this anonymous data to provide resources […]

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Webinar: Reducing Challenges in Wearing PPE

Published June 18, 2020

Before we get back to school, families need to manage social distancing and personal protective equipment.  Please join Children’s Specialized Hospital clinicians and educators on a special webinar on June 30th at 4PM EST around reducing challenges in wearing personal protective equipment in families with autism and autistic adults.  These practices include wearing masks, hand washing, […]

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Statement from the Autism Science Foundation

Published June 4, 2020

At this tragic moment in our nation’s history, we at the Autism Science Foundation are deeply concerned about the patterns of injustice that have proven so difficult to overcome.  Unacceptable racial disparities in autism diagnosis and access to services have been evident for decades. African-American children are less likely to be diagnosed, have a later age […]

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ASF Announces First Round of COVID-19 Pivot Grant Recipients, Opens Applications for Second Round

Published June 3, 2020

NEW YORK — June 3, 2020 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced its first round of COVID-19 Pivot Grant recipients. The grantees are Dr. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum of the University ofAlberta and Dr. Sandra B. Vanegas of Texas State University. Announced in April, the […]

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New Webinar Series to Support Siblings

Published May 13, 2020

Siblings are special and need a little extra support during this time. ASF is teaming up with Els for Autism to bring you a new webinar series, Sam’s Sibs Stick Together, to present findings of research that focus on siblings, and discuss resources available for siblings of all ages. Sibling Samantha Els, will be the […]

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Needs Assessment of Families of Rare Genetic Disorders

Published April 24, 2020

Families with rare genetic disorders and ASD may have very different experiences during COVID than other families.  In order to better understand and address these specific challenges, ASF is collaborating with UCLA on a needs assessment of these families.  The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete.  The goal is to gather data quickly in order […]

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New “Pivot Grants” Available for Autism Researchers & Scientists Facing COVID-19 Hardship

Published April 13, 2020

NEW YORK — April 13, 2020 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) invites applications for its new COVID-19 Pivot Grant Program. This funding is intended to help scientists manage challenges they are facing in conducting research projects due to the COVID-19 emergency.  The funding is meant to help cover new costs encountered due to adaptations […]

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Webinar: Autistic Employment During COVID-19

Published April 9, 2020

Join us for a webinar onApril 15, 2020 at 1:00 PM EST Panelists Becca Lory Hector, Paul Morris and Julie Lounds Taylor will discuss challenges in employment for autistic adults during this time, and answer your questions about gaining, maintaining or changing employment during this time.

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Autism Science Foundation Announces 2020 Grant Recipients for Undergraduate Summer Research

Published April 7, 2020

Funding Will Support the Work of Autism Researchers at the Start of Their Careers NEW YORK, NY (April 8, 2020) – The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to catalyzing innovative autism research, today announced the recipients of its annual undergraduate summer research fellowships.  Four grants have been awarded to promising undergraduates who will […]

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Autism Science Foundation Comments on Today’s CDC Data Showing Autism Prevalence Rate Rising to 1 in 54 from 1 in 59

Published March 26, 2020

NEW YORK — March 26, 2020 — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced that 1 in 54 eight-year old children have been identified with autism, a rise from the 1 in 59 rate announced two years ago. The increased prevalence rate announced today is based on a study of children who […]

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Autism Science Foundation Co-Founder and President Alison Singer to Receive Honorary Degree from Emory University

Published February 26, 2020 in Autism Science Foundation

New York, Feb. 26, 2020 — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced that Alison Singer, Co-Founder and President of ASF, will receive an honorary degree from Emory University. The degree will be conferred at Emory’s 175th Commencement, scheduled for Monday, May 11. The mother of […]

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Former Autism Society Of America President Scott Badesch, To Receive The Autism Science Foundation’s 2020 Caryn Schwartzman Spirit Award

Published February 19, 2020

NEW YORK, NY (February 18, 2020) – The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding innovative autism research, today announced that Scott Badesch will receive this year’s Caryn Schwartzman Spirit Award. Scott served as president of the Autism Society of America for 10 years before retiring in January, 2020. He […]

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Autism Sisters Project Study Confirms Female Protective Effect

Published January 27, 2020

In a new study published in the journal Cell from members of the Autism Sequencing Consortium examines the genetics of over 11,000 people with ASD to find out what types of mutations are seen in people with autism, what genes are involved, what these genes do in the brain, and how they influence a diagnosis.  A special […]

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Apply Now for an Undergraduate Summer Research Grant

Published January 23, 2020

Request for Applications:2020 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Autism Spectrum DisordersRFA Released: January 6, 2020Applications Due: February 19, 2020 5:00 PM ESTNotification of Awards: mid-March 2020 The Autism Science Foundation invites applications from highly qualified undergraduates interested in pursuing basic and clinical research relevant to autism spectrum disorders during the summer. The proposed research must be […]

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Cboe Executive Vice President Bryan Harkins Named to Autism Science Foundation Board of Directors

Published January 6, 2020 in GlobeNewswire

New York, Jan. 06, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to catalyzing innovative autism research, today announced the appointment of Bryan Harkins, Executive Vice President and Head of Markets, Cboe Global Markets, to its Board of Directors. The announcement was made by Gregg Ireland, Chairman of the ASF […]

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Genome testing for siblings of individuals may aid in a diagnosis before symptoms appear

Published December 5, 2019

10-year study is first to quantify the predictive value of genomic testing for autism From the SickKids Canada and University of Alberta press department: One of the key priorities of interventions for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is starting early, with some evidence showing infants as young as seven months old could benefit. Yet, most children […]

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ASF Wins 2019 Top-Rated Award from Great Nonprofits

Published November 20, 2019

The Autism Science Foundation has received Top-Rated Nonprofit status by GreatNonprofits for the seventh consecutive year.  The Top-Rated Nonprofit Award is the based on the rating and number of reviews that ASF received from volunteers, donors and aid recipients. The GreatNonprofits Top-Rated Awards are the only awards for nonprofits determined by those who have direct experience with the charities […]

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New Study on CBD and Autism Enrolling Families

Published November 11, 2019 in NYU

Many families have considered the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, for treatment of their own or their child’s autism symptoms.  So far, it has only been rigorously studied to determine efficacy of seizure reduction in people affected with genetic causes of epilepsy.  A new study at New York University is now enrolling families affected by […]

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Grant Opportunity for Families Affected by Infantile Spasms

Published October 28, 2019 in Dup15q Alliance

Since 2014, the Child Neurology Foundation has partnered with the Harnett Family in commemorating Infantile Spasms Awareness Week from December 1-7 by offering a $1,000 grant to a family impacted by infantile spasms. The grant was founded by Michael Harnett to honor the life and memory of his nephew, Brendan Michael Harnett, who passed away from infantile spasms before his first […]

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Autism Science Foundation Grant will Expand Literacy Intervention to Include a Broader Diversity of Children

Published October 8, 2019

A new Accelerator award from ASF will enable the expansion of a literacy intervention for autism into Title 1, low-resource schools. To learn more about this project, click here:…versity-children/

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Shafali Jeste, MD, joins the Scientific Advisory Board

Published September 17, 2019

NEW YORK, NY– The Autism Science Foundation (ASF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to catalyzing innovative autism research, today announced the appointment of Shafali Jeste, MD, Associate Professor in Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Neurology at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA to its Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. Jeste joins a distinguished list of researchers and scientists […]

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Using technology to detect autism sooner

Published September 11, 2019 in University of Miami News

UM psychology and engineering professors are collaborating to create a program that evaluates children for autism using digital data. While doctors agree that children can be diagnosed with autism as early as age two, the average age of diagnosis is about 4 years old. And for minority children, research indicates that age is much older. […]

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Autism: Difference or Dysfunction?

Published August 28, 2019 in ASF Podcast

The question of whether or not autism is a difference or a true dysfunction in brain development has been debated for years.  A new study from Canada demonstrates that within an autism diagnosis, there is less of a difference in symptoms in the last 5 years than there was 30 years ago.  This raises a […]

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Wall Street Rides FAR Rings NYSE Opening Bell on August 19, 2019

Published August 19, 2019

New York, Aug. 16, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Wall Street Rides FAR (WSRF), the annual charity cycling/walk event benefiting the Autism Science Foundation (ASF), today announced that it will ring the NYSE Opening Bell® on August 19, 2019. The event, which was co-founded five years ago by Bryan and Melissa Harkins, has raised over $1 million […]

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Tell us your experiences participating in research in the EXPECT survey

Published August 8, 2019

Have you ever participated in an autism study? How was it? If you have never enrolled in a study, why not? We want to understand what drives people to participate and what makes them quit. Your feedback will help us help scientists develop better studies that are positive experiences for participants.  Click HERE to take the brief survey.

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ASF releases statement on medical marijuana

Published June 3, 2019

Autism Science Foundation released a statement on use of medical marijuana, including both THC and CBD containing compounds. It emphasized the need for more research on the safety and efficacy of marijuana, and cautioned against using any medication without consulting a physician. The full statement can be found here.

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CDC releases new prevalence numbers in 4 year olds

Published April 11, 2019

The CDC released new prevalence numbers across 2010-2014 in 4 year olds.  It reports differences across states, but matches the prevalence numbers in 8 year olds at 1:59.  Read the report here:

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Autism BrainNet makes more resources available to the scientific community

Published February 4, 2019

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) is pleased to announce that Autism BrainNet is accepting applications for recently acquired brain tissue from individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as neurotypical individuals. To date, the Autism BrainNet collection has received 146 brain donations. This includes 55 brains from individuals with a confirmed or […]

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What Happened This Year in Autism Research? A look back at 2018

Published January 5, 2019

This year, more than before, scientists were able to show that autism is a spectrum within a spectrum of other neuropsychiatric issues.  There are similarities across diagnoses, and genetic profiles of those with autism, ADHD, OCD, bipolar depression and schizophrenia.  There were also major accomplishments in understanding the role of the environment, behavioral and pharmacological […]

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Podcast: Lordy Lordy it’s One in Forty

Published December 3, 2018

You may have heard the news: The prevalence of autism is 1:40 according to an email survey of parents. However, there’s more information in the study that’s worthy of consideration: The high rate of unmet mental health needs in those with ASD. Learn more on the ASF podcast. Read more about the study.

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Get Ready to Give! Match Extended to November 28! #GivingTuesdayASF

Published November 26, 2018

Help Make the Science Happen! For nearly a decade, ASF has launched, funded, and supported autism research projects to improve diagnosis, develop interventions, and enhance outcomes. This Giving Tuesday, you can help fuel another decade’s worth of critically needed autism research. Donations to ASF not only advance scientific progress, they give families challenged by autism the gift […]

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Podcast: Scientists know in their gut how the GI symptoms are linked to autism

Published November 19, 2018

People with autism have higher levels of GI problems than people without a diagnosis, and the microbiome is associated with GI function. So, is the microbiome linked to autism? Some studies say yes, but this week, studies in China look at non-caucasian people with a different diet. Do the differences still hold? Also, while GI […]

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Podcast: The average age of diagnosis depends on where, when, and how you ask

Published November 13, 2018

While diagnosis before 3 years of age is ideal, circumstances may not always allow the earliest identification and diagnosis. This week’s podcast explores two of the reasons why diagnosis is not always possible before age 3. One is a study from Denmark and one is from members of the Baby Siblings Research Consortium.

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Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder After Age 5 in Children Evaluated Longitudinally Since Infancy

Published November 8, 2018

A new study from the ASF-supported Baby Siblings Research Consortium explains why a few kids with autism do not receive a formal diagnosis until 5 years or later. Read more here.

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Podcast: Why can’t we all just get along?

Published November 5, 2018

This week, ASF wants YOUR feedback on a new paper in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, which suggests that the reason there is so much discord in the autism community is that people with autism are just too different and have difficulties understanding each other’s perspective. Is this true? What do you think? […]

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Op-Ed: Hyping Autism Research “News” Is a Disservice to People with Autism

Published November 2, 2018

In Scientific American, ASF CSO Dr. Alycia Halladay discusses how autism research gets covered and suggests way to improve the reporting to make sure the news that goes around is legitimate and significant. Read the op-ed here.

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Podcast: From cells to anxiety

Published October 29, 2018

Dr. Inna Fishman from San Diego State University explains how findings from brain tissue helps scientists interpret data which studies how brain regions connect to each other and why this is important for understanding autism subgroups. Also, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet examine ADHD diagnosed in adults, and find it is similar to autism. Listen […]

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Podcast: The waterbed around your brain (and its role in sleep)

Published October 22, 2018

This week, Dr. Mark Shen from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explains new findings looking at the fluid around the brain. It’s now seen in families even without a family history of ASD, the finding has now been seen in different independent studies, including those at the UC Davis MIND Institute in […]

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AGENDA’s First Initiative is a Unified Registry of Family Data

Published October 17, 2018

Today, ASF announced that it will be leading the newly-launched Alliance for Genetic Etiologies of Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Autism (AGENDA). This alliance is a partnership of research and advocacy organizations focused on improving outcomes of individuals with all forms of autism by fostering a genetics-first approach to autism science. AGENDA will also work to strengthen […]

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Podcast: Super siblings!

Published October 15, 2018

This podcast is dedicated to siblings of people with autism who are typically developing. They play an important and beneficial role in development of socialization of those with ASD. But sadly, they also have issues of their own, such as a high rate of issues like anxiety and depression. Those siblings may be genetic carries […]

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Ride FAR is almost here! Make sure you register now!

Published October 3, 2018

ASF Wall Street Rides FAR 2018 from Autism Science Foundation on Vimeo. Get ready to ride your bike or walk to support autism research! Join to bike the 63, 30, 20, or 4 mile cycling route! Come out to do the new 5k walk! Register now to save time on event day. Come out and join […]

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Podcast: A conversation with Clare Harrop about autism in boys and girls

Published October 1, 2018

Recently, Clare Harrop from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published two papers which help explain the differences between boys and girls with autism, at least in kids and toddlers. She graciously agreed to talk with ASF about these findings and what it means for better identification and diagnosis of girls with ASD, and […]

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Podcast: What is autism? It’s changing

Published September 24, 2018

This week’s ASF podcast focuses on how co-occuring conditions with autism, like anxiety, depression, and OCD, have changed over time. The increase in these conditions may help in defining different subgroups of autism. Listen on or on your favorite podcatcher!

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Blog: My Journey to Becoming a Special Education Teacher

Published September 19, 2018

When asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” in elementary school, Allyson Schwartzman had one answer – “an autism teacher”. Read about how Allyson made her dream a reality by becoming a special education teacher on the ASF blog.

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Podcast: Just Listen to Nancy Reagan – Say NO to MDMA

Published September 17, 2018

This week’s podcast begins with a comment on the debate over ABA – helpful or harmful? But the big news this week is an analysis of very early, but very published, data on the use of MDMA, also known as “ecstasy” or “Molly”, in people with autism. Called an “empathogen”, MDMA can elicit feelings of […]

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Registration for 13th Annual Rockland Symposium now open!

Published September 13, 2018

Online registration for the 13th Annual Rockland County Autism Symposium is now open. The symposium will include three hour-long discussions and three breakout sessions with the presenters. Presenters include Katrina Roberts, MS, BCBA; Erin Richard White, PhD, BCBA-D; Declan Murphy; Peter Troy, MBA; Jill Harper, PhD; and Shawn Quigley, PhD, BCBA-D. The event will be […]

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Podcast: Can IGF-1 treat autism symptoms? A clinical trial aims to find out

Published September 10, 2018

Researchers at Mount Sinai led by Alex Kolevzon are running a clinical trial of the compound insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) for children with idiopathic autism. Dr. Kolevzon’s team previously demonstrated the safety and feasibility of IGF-1 in treating Phelan-McDermid syndrome, a single-gene form of autism. Particularly, the IGF-1 treatment improved symptoms of social impairment […]

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Podcast: Children are not small adults

Published September 3, 2018

Children are not small adults, and this was illustrated this week in two papers studying features of autism across the lifespan. Their symptoms may change, which has implications for treatment – you can’t take an intervention designed for a child and give it to an adult. Hear more on this week’s podcast with an interview […]

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Siblings could shed light on roots of autism

Published August 30, 2018

The Smithsonian Magazine reported on the story of the Bak family and the Autism Sisters Project, an ASF scientific initiative determined to understand the disparity of autism diagnoses between boys and girls and the potential female protective effect. Through the study of the unaffected sisters of people with autism, the goal is to build a […]

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Podcast: Tristram Smith, 1961-2018

Published August 27, 2018

Two weeks ago, the autism research community lost a pioneer, mentor and advocate for the autism community. This podcast only highlights a portion of the enormous contribution he made to autism research and the impact his research had on families with ASD. Also, two people that know him best, one of his current mentees, Suzannah […]

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Podcast: What are PCOS and DDT, and what do they have to do with autism?

Published August 20, 2018

On this week’s podcast, the link between polycystic ovarian syndrome and autism explained and tied in with a new study on the highly toxic chemical DDT. They do have a common link. Research also shows that environmental exposures and maternal medical conditions contribute to a host of outcomes and comorbidities, autism being one of them.

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Podcast: What is happening in research around employment for people with ASD?

Published August 13, 2018

On this week’s podcast, Melissa Scott of Curtin University discusses findings from the first paper out of Curtin’s collaboration with ASF, Stony Brook University, and Karolinska Institutet on an international policy brief on employment for people with autism. Based on a scoping review of existing research on employment practices, the environment was one crucial element […]

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Share your story with ASF

Published August 9, 2018

We’re collecting some background stories on how your child’s restrictive and repetitive behaviors are effecting his/her life and your whole family’s experience. Our goal is to encourage more research in this area. Please share your stories by sending an email to ASF at

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Dr. Tristram Smith of the University of Rochester passes away at age 57

Published August 8, 2018

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Dr. Tristram Smith passed away suddenly Monday morning. He was a hero—quietly changing the face of evidence-based interventions for autism and giving families both hope and plans for how to get there. Our sincere condolences to his family and his colleagues at the University […]

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Give Spectrumly Speaking a listen

Published August 6, 2018

Listeners to the ASF podcast get a break this week, although you are all encouraged to check out the Spectrumly Speaking podcast. Spectrumly Speaking is a podcast dedicated to women on the autism spectrum, produced by Different Brains. Every two weeks join hosts Becca Lory, CAS, BCCS, and Katherine Cody, Psy.D., as they discuss news […]

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ASF now accepting applications for 2019 fellowship

Published August 3, 2018

The Autism Science Foundation invites applications for its Pre- and Postdoctoral Training Awards from graduate students, medical students and postdoctoral fellows interested in pursuing careers in basic and clinical research relevant to autism spectrum disorders. You can learn more about the fellowship requirements here. Applications are due December 3, 2018 at 5:00 pm EST.

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Podcast: PMS – It’s not what you think

Published July 30, 2018

On this week’s podcast, highlights from the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation 2018 International Family Conference in Dallas, TX. People with Phelan McDermid Syndrome, or PMS, suffer from seizures and intellectual disability, and about 70% have an ASD diagnosis. This syndrome is caused by mutations of the SHANK3 gene, which is present in about 1% of people […]

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Podcast: Classroom interventions that work

Published July 23, 2018

On this week’s podcast, two studies that used a randomized design to show how interventions can be delivered in the classroom.

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Podcast: Autism diagnosed in school age, and does early intervention make a difference?

Published July 16, 2018

On this week’s podcast, highlights of a new systematic review on Early Intense Behavioral Intervention. Thank you to the ASF community for suggesting this topic for the podcast!

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Three new members of ASF SAB

Published July 16, 2018

The Autism Science Foundation today announced the appointment of Guoping Feng, PhD, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stephan Sanders, PhD, BMBS, of University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and Robert T. Schultz, PhD, of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to its Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). As members of the SAB, the scientists will help […]

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Podcast: If you want to know about people with autism, ask them

Published July 9, 2018

If you want to know about people with autism, ask them. Scientists are working on how they collect information from people with autism in order to better understand individual experiences and produce findings that may help improve services. Listen to the podcast episode here.

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ASF renews grant to expand Baby Sibs research

Published July 2, 2018

ASF is proud to announce continued support for the Baby Siblings Research Consortium (BSRC), a network of over 33 research sites around the world studying the younger siblings of people with autism. The Baby Sibs database now tracks over 5,000 younger siblings, with and without autism. The database has been used to develop more sophisticated […]

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Podcast: A tool to describe strengths of people with autism

Published July 2, 2018

For this week’s podcast, Soheil Mahdi of the Karolinska Institutet describes the International Classification of Functioning (ICF), a tool used being used to describe the strengths of people with autism in order to identify opportunities for them. ASF is collaborating with Mr. Mahdi on an employment policy brief.

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Dr. Allison Jack of GWU receives ASF grant

Published July 2, 2018

Allison Jack, PhD, of the Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders Institute at George Washington University today received a 2018 ASF Research Accelerator Grant. The funding will allow Dr. Jack and her collaborators to analyze epigenetic modifications of the oxytocin receptor in all 250 participants of their current NIH-funded project examining the differences in brain structure between […]

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Podcast: Reusing and recycling autism data from brain tissue

Published June 25, 2018

On this week’s podcast, data obtained from brains of people with autism is reused and re-analyzed so that a new role of mitochondria and their relationship to the activity of synapse genes could be discovered. In addition, cellular stress is seen in the brains of people with autism. What comes first? Mitochondrial dysfunction and cellular […]

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Podcast: Ode to autism dads

Published June 18, 2018

On this week’s podcast, a special episode highlighting recent research focusing on fathers. This includes genetics, parental stress and quality of life, and broader autism phenotype features. Of note, two new studies that look at antidepressant exposure in father and probability of having a child with autism – a variation on studying maternal exposures.

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ASF’s 2018 summer intern shares her experience

Published June 13, 2018

ASF’s summer intern Seowon Song shared her experience as an autism sibling on the ASF blog. In January 2016, she helped develop a support group for siblings of those with autism in South Korea named “Nanun”. The group published a book of their stories in March 2018. You can read the blog in English and […]

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Podcast: What the Tooth Fairy knows about autism

Published June 11, 2018

On this week’s podcast, a new study shows that baby teeth can show biomarkers of prenatal exposures in kids with autism. Also, new data linking autism to allergies, including food allergies.

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New IAN article on epigenetics and autism

Published June 5, 2018

The Interactive Autism Network published an article explaining the latest epigenetics research in autism. It highlights how environmental factors, both internal and external, affect genes and influence an individual’s development. Including findings made from Autism BrainNet tissue resources, research is demonstrating how epigenetics may play a role in the development and severity of autism. Read […]

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Podcast: Sobering statistics on suicide

Published June 4, 2018

Suicidal thoughts and suicidal attempts have been shown to be increased in people with ASD. Rates are similar to those with bipolar depression and schizophrenia, but are higher even without psychosis. This is shocking and an urgent health issue in the autism community. This week’s podcast summarizes recent data, publications, presentations, and concerns of thought […]

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Podcast: In partial phrase of the DSM 5

Published May 28, 2018

On this week’s podcast, diagnosis with the DSM 5. While much work needs to be done to include individual abilities and disabilities into the DSM5, after the CDC prevalence numbers were published last month, it became clear the old DSM IV was not working. In a replication of a previous finding, it showed that the […]

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ASF named Top-Rated Nonprofit by GreatNonprofits for sixth consecutive year

Published May 23, 2018

The Autism Science Foundation has received Top-Rated Nonprofit status by GreatNonprofits for the sixth consecutive year. Through reviews by members of the autism community, ASF received this status. The ASF team thanks the community for its support throughout the years.

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Podcast: The sticky subject of cost-effectiveness

Published May 21, 2018

On this week’s podcast, Dr. Tracy Yuen of University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children explains two different analyses of cost-effectiveness which looked at 1) universal screening for ASD and 2) use of genomic sequencing to identify novel variants in people with ASD.

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Podcast: A sampling of science from the International Meeting of Autism Research

Published May 15, 2018

This week’s podcast is a short summary of just a few of the presentations. There was more of an emphasis on what has been called “real life” research questions like employment, quality of life, and relationships. As a result, some of the more basic science questions around autism are now being presented at other meetings. […]

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Podcast: Where the wild new genetic hot spots are

Published May 7, 2018

On this week’s podcast, three genetics papers featuring three ASF fellows! All three deal with using whole genome sequencing (WGS) to study non-coding regulatory regions that may be associated with autism. These regions of DNA do not code for proteins but regulate the regions that do. Mutations in the non-coding regulatory regions that regulate the […]

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5th Annual Day of Learning videos now online!

Published May 1, 2018

Videos of all the presentations at ASF’s 5th Annual Day of Learning held on April 11 are now available online. You can view them here. Topics include gender differences in autism, sleep problems in autism, the potential of medical marijuana as an autism treatment, adult outcomes, the role of dietary interventions, and the perception of […]

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Podcast: Clinical trials talk with Tom Frazier from Autism Speaks

Published April 30, 2018

On this week’s podcast, two chief science officers! Dr. Alycia Halladay interviewed Dr. Thomas Frazier of Autism Speaks on what’s needed to improve clinical trials and drug intervention for autism. The two CSOs also discussed other important in ASD research, including disclosure of a diagnosis, sex differences, and some of the newest more exciting findings.

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Spring 2018 Autism BrainNet newsletter available now

Published April 27, 2018

The Spring 2018 issue of the Autism BrainNet newsletter is out now! Among other news, it highlights recent research using its donated brain tissue resources in autism genetics and neuroanatomy, the science campaign Brain Awareness Week, and outreach efforts through Autism Speaks walks around the country. You can view and read this issue here.

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New CDC autism prevalence rate at 1 in 59 children

Published April 26, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism prevalence at 1 in 59 children based on data from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network – a tracking system that provides estimates of the prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder among more than 300,000 8-year-old children. The ADDM Network estimates […]

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Dr. Paul Offit Receives 2018 Sabin Gold Medal

Published April 25, 2018

The Autism Science Foundation team is proud to announce that ASF Board Member Dr. Paul Offit of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia received the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal from the Sabin Vaccine Institute. Every year, the Sabin Vaccine Institute recognizes a distinguished member of the public health community who has made extraordinary contributions in […]

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Podcast: Just to be clear, people with Aspergers are not Nazi’s

Published April 23, 2018

This week’s podcast covers the recent article published in Molecular Autism that looks into the history of Hans Asperger, the eponym of Asperger’s Syndrome and a physician with ties to eugenics in Nazi-era Vienna.

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Podcast: The ASF Day of Learning mini-recap

Published April 16, 2018

This week’s podcast is a mini-recap of the 5th Annual Day of learning. Hear what the speakers distilled in their TED-style talks on topics covered sleep, diet, and medical marijuana as a potential treatment for autism. Plus hear about the most recent ASF grantees.

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Inside Philanthropy covers significance of ASF undergraduate grant

Published April 13, 2018

Inside Philanthropy, a group that urges transparency in philanthropy and tracks philanthropic trends, recognized the uniqueness of the Autism Science Foundation’s undergraduate grants in a recent article. ASF invests in the future by funding young scientists, helping set their careers in autism research in motion, early on. Learn more about what ASF funds here.

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2018 Fellowship recipients announced

Published April 11, 2018

Today, ASF announced the 2018 recipients of its Pre- and Postdoctoral Research Training Awards. The recipients include three graduate students—Amy Ahn, Cara Keifer, and Julia Yurkovic—and five postdoctoral fellows—Joon An, Laurel Joy Gabard-Durnam, Aaron Gordon, Whitney Guthrie, and Christine Ochoa-Escamilla. You can learn more about the recipients and their projects from ASF’s official press release […]

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Podcast: Through the years

Published April 9, 2018

On this week’s podcast, studies tracking changes over time. The British Autism Study of Infant Siblings (BASIS) tracked changes in adaptive behaviors and cognitive skills in children at low-risk and high-risk of an ASD diagnosis, based on family history. The results point to the value in monitoring siblings of those with autism. Researchers at Kaiser […]

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2018 Undergraduate Summer Research Grant recipients announced

Published April 5, 2018

Today, ASF announced the 2018 recipients of its Undergraduate Summer Research Grants. The recipients include Ethan Gahr, Evan Suzman, Christina Layton, and Ryan Risgaard, who will be conducting research at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Vanderbilt University, the Seaver Autism Center, and University of Wisconsin, respectively. You can learn more about the recipients and their projects from […]

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Autism Sisters Project featured on NBC New York

Published April 2, 2018

The goal of the Autism Sisters Project is to build a large genetic database that researchers can use to explore the sex difference in autism diagnoses between boys and girls and discover how the potential protective factor, known as the female protective effect, can be harnessed to help people with autism of both sexes. NBC […]

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Podcast: Here’s to understanding why people with autism have anxiety in adolescence

Published April 2, 2018

On this week’s ASF podcast: By looking directly at the brains of people with autism, researchers at UC Davis MIND Institute, led by Dr. Thomas Avino and Dr. Cyndi Schumann, show a disruption of neuron number in the amygdala in autism. The amygdala is important because it is linked to emotion, fear and anxiety in […]

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Podcast: Why the Environmental Protection Agency is important for autism

Published March 26, 2018

On this week’s podcast, highlights of a new study led by Dr. Amy Kalkbrenner of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee published in Environmental Health Perspectives—certain air pollutants from cars and coal burning plants were associated with autism risk and severity. This scientific evidence supports policies which keep U.S. Environmental Protection Agency infrastructure intact to monitor […]

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Neurons increase in social brain region as children become adults – except in autism

Published March 20, 2018

Researchers at Autism BrainNet node UC Davis MIND Institute found that while typically-developing children gain more neurons in a region of the brain that governs social and emotional behavior, the amygdala, as they become adults, people with ASD do not. The open access research published in PNAS studied 52 postmortem human brains, both neurotypical and […]

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Autism Sisters Project family featured in Sag Harbor Express

Published March 20, 2018

The Moyer family was recently featured in the Sag Harbor Express for their participation in the Autism Sisters Project. The advances made through this research would not be possible without the contribution of families like theirs. Read about them here.

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Podcast: Loss of skills in autism partially explained

Published March 19, 2018

On this week’s ASF podcast, regression—what is it and who can see it? Using the right tools, both parents and clinicians can see that many more children with autism than thought show regression, a gradual decline or loss of skills starting at around 12 months of age and showing continual declines until 36 months of […]

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CDC Study Finds 95% of Children with Autism Have One Comorbidity

Published March 14, 2018

A new study by the CDC, including Dr. Matthew Maenner, ASF Grantee ’10, found that 95% of children with autism have at least one psychiatric or medical comorbidity, which may have a role in age of first evaluation—the more comorbid conditions, the earlier the first evaluation for ASD. Read the study here.

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Podcast: Sleep — It’s What’s Important for Autism

Published March 12, 2018

On this week’s podcast, Dr. Alycia Halladay overviews three recent studies, including one done in collaboration with the Autism Treatment Network, looking at how sleep problems impact the behavior and functioning of individuals with autism across the spectrum.

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Genetic Variations on SETD5 Underlying Autistic Conditions

Published March 6, 2018

SETD5 is a master regulator of gene activity that controls the activity of potentially thousands of other downstream genes in the same cell. Researchers, supported in part by ASF, found that this gene is associated with a subtype of autism that is seen mostly in males and includes intellectual disability and facial dysmorphology. This is […]

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Podcast: Commonly used drugs that may help autism

Published March 5, 2018

On this week’s podcast, Dr. Alycia Halladay overviews three new studies looking at commonly used drugs that may help autism not just by improving behavior, but also by how they impact the brain. Plus, a fun study about social media.

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NIMH’s Ann Wagner, PhD, Designated as National Autism Coordinator

Published February 28, 2018

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has designated Dr. Ann E. Wagner of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as the National Autism Coordinator. In this role, Dr. Wagner will play a vital role in ensuring the implementation of national autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research, services, and support activities across […]

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Podcast: What is true for males is not true for females

Published February 26, 2018

On this week’s podcast, Dr. Alycia Halladay focuses in on the Extreme Male Brain Theory of Autism. Amazingly, fetal testosterone levels are reflected in the length of the 2nd and 4th fingers and can be measured as a reflection of testosterone levels during pregnancy. But what may be true for one sex, may not be […]

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Podcast: An ode to rats as animal models for autism

Published February 12, 2018

On this week’s podcast, a study led by Elizabeth Berg in the lab of Dr. Jill Silverman at UC Davis published in the journal Autism Research demonstrated SHANK3’s role in core social communication deficits in a rat model of autism. Rats exhibit both receptive and expressive communication. SHANK3 mutations are seen in those with Phelan-McDermid […]

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Shared molecular neuropathology across major psychiatric disorders parallels polygenic overlap

Published February 9, 2018 in Science, Gandal, Haney, et al

Research led by Daniel Geschwind of the University of California, Los Angeles used postmortem brain tissue, including resources from Autism BrainNet, found similar gene expression patterns in the brains of those with autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. All three conditions show an activation of genes in star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes, and suppression of genes […]

Science Magazine Report

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Podcast: The causes of social communication deficits in ASD

Published February 5, 2018

On this week’s podcast, Dr. Katherine Stavropoulos (ASF Grantee ’14) highlights her research with her UC Riverside colleague Dr. Leslie Carver on brain patterns that may explain the social communication deficits present in ASD. Plus, recent research from the Study to Explore Early Development led by Dr. Eric Rubenstein of UNC presented findings that demonstrated […]

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Spectrum Webinar with ASF SAB Member James McPartland, PhD

Published January 30, 2018

ASF Scientific Advisory Board member James McPartland, PhD, of the Yale Child Study Center will be leading a webinar discussion for Spectrum tomorrow, Jan. 31, 2018, at 3PM EST. The webinar will focus on the state of science relating to social-communicative biomarkers for autism. He will highlight his lab’s research on a particular brain-based biomarker […]

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Podcast: Improving early detection of ASD by listening to parents

Published January 29, 2018

On this week’s podcast, Dr. Lori Sacrey of the University of Alberta highlights findings from a multi-site study she led that investigated how well parent report measures could predict an ASD diagnosis for at-risk infants. Plus, the journal Autism decided to move away from the puzzle piece symbol in this new era of autism research.

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A new era for autism research, and for the journal Autism

Published January 26, 2018

The landscape of autism research is changing. With increased calls for autism research funding, there has also been increased focus on improving autism services across the lifespan. The journal Autism has decided to move away from the puzzle piece symbol and redesign their cover. They explain why in an editorial here.

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Podcast: What is the can do vs. the will do of autism?

Published January 22, 2018

Often overlooked in intervention studies, it is becoming increasingly clearer that adaptive behavior, the “will do” vs. the “can do” of functioning, should receive more focus. On this week’s podcast, learn about adaptive behavior and hear about highlights of studies from the National Institutes of Health and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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Podcast: Supporting the support staff, at least a first step

Published January 15, 2018

On this week’s podcast, the needs of #autism support staff are discussed. These important members of the community suffer burnout which can impact the quality of the services they provide individuals with ASD. A new study examines how to improve the psychological well being of autism support staff so interventions and prevention of burnout can […]

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Podcast: What is the real prevalence of ASD?

Published January 8, 2018

This week’s ASF podcast takes a look at the prevalence rate of autism diagnoses. Two national datasets have shown no further increase in autism prevalence in the last few years of looking. Also, folic acid proves to show an effect on the probability of not just an autism diagnosis but also autism symptoms, especially important […]

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A Summary of this Year in Autism Science by Dr. Halladay and the Scientific Advisory Board

Published December 28, 2017

For a thorough review of what impact research further revealed about the science of autism, be sure to read our year-end science summary on our blog here, compiled and written by our Dr. Alycia Halladay, our Chief Science Officer, and our Scientific Advisory Board. From heterogeneity to big data, from studies on females to those […]

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Anne Roux receives latest Research Accelerator Grant

Published December 14, 2017

We are proud to announce Anne Roux of the AJ Drexel Autism Institute as the recipient of our latest Research Accelerator Grant. Ms. Roux’s research, currently funded by the Organization for Autism Research, focuses on the study of how the use of vocational rehabilitation services influences employment outcomes on a state by state level for […]

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Podcast: Gamma waves and autism brains

Published December 11, 2017

This week’s ASF podcast goes into some waves—gamma waves, which seem to help coordinate activity in different parts of the brain. Researchers at Oxford University led by Dr. David Menassa explore gamma waves in the brains of autistic adults who perform better on a visual processing task than those without a diagnosis. Dr. Menassa provides […]

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Let’s talk about sex (and sexuality) in people with autism

Published November 13, 2017

This week’s ASF podcast explores differences in sexuality and sexual relationships between those with autism and without, and also differences between males and females with autism.  While this is not a new topic, the number of publications and research has exploded this year.  Learn more here.

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Banking on brains for clues to autism: A Spectrum News Deep Dive

Published November 2, 2017

Banking on brains for clues to autism

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New research reinforces benefits of folic acid

Published October 30, 2017

The new #ASFpodcast reviews recent evidence showing that folic acid, taken during or prior to pregnancy, may reduce the probability of having a child with autism and intellectual disability.  Hear the whole story here.

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The IACC publishes the new strategic plan for autism research

Published October 30, 2017

The newly reconstituted and reorganized Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee has released their strategic plan for 2016-2017.  To read the full document, click here.

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The latest on understanding the brains of people with autism

Published October 23, 2017

In a new blog post, ASF CSO Alycia Halladay explains the newest research in understanding the brains of people with autism.

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Learn what the new Autism Centers for Excellence are doing

Published October 15, 2017

Listen to this week’s podcast which describes the new Autism Centers for Excellence awards from the NIH and how they will affect the lives of people with ASD.  

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On this week’s ASF podcast: What is the micro biome and why should families care?

Published September 28, 2017

This week’s ASF Podcast is a special interview with Dr. Gil Sharon from CalTech, who studies the microbiome in animal models and potential link to ASD.  The microbiome is the full community of bacteria that live in our bodies and outnumber cells 10-1. They can affect the genome directly and they can respond to environmental […]

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ASF helps launch multinational survey on experiences in employment

Published September 12, 2017

On Tuesday September 12th, the Autism Science Foundation, the Lerner Lab at Stony Brook University, Curtin University in Australia and Karolinska Institute in Sweden launched the first multinational survey designed to identify needs, gaps in services, and opportunities for employers.  The results of this survey will be used to develop a policy brief around employment […]

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The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and UNYTS collaborate to increase brain tissue for autism research

Published September 12, 2017

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) and Unyts, the designated organ procurement organization for the eight counties of western New York State, announced today a new agreement that will help increase and enhance the quantity of postmortem brain tissue available for critical autism research. Unyts, which coordinates all organ, eye, and tissue donation […]

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What does Labor Day mean for people with autism spectrum disorders?

Published September 5, 2017

Labor Day is a time to appreciate and honor all those people who work to make this world a better place. People with autism do that, but they also want to get paid and be employed just like anyone else. This Labor Day, the podcast summarizes challenges to studying employment in people with ASD, what […]

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ASF announces 2018 funding opportunities for Pre- and Postdoctoral Fellowships and Medical School Gap Year grants

Published September 5, 2017

The Autism Science Foundation invites applications for its Pre- and Postdoctoral Training Awards from graduate students, medical students and postdoctoral fellows interested in pursuing careers in basic and clinical research relevant to autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The proposed training should be scientifically linked to autism, but may be broadened to include training in a closely […]

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Autism Sisters Project Expanded

Published August 14, 2017

The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) announced the launch of three new multi-year research grants to expand the Autism Sisters Project at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA. The Autism Sisters Project is an ASF initiative that explores the Female Protective Effect by studying autism families with […]

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It’s not about THC, it’s about CBD (cannabinoids)

Published August 7, 2017

Parents of children with seizures are desperate to find something that will at the very least reduce the frequency of seizures in their kids.  Answers came in an unlikely place two months ago with the publication of a randomized clinical trial showing that seizures could be reduced with use of cannabinoids in kids with a […]

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Autism Journal publishes entire issue on females with ASD

Published July 28, 2017

The journal Autism has compiled and published an entire issue dedicated to females with ASD.  The editors published a special call for studies on this topic and put them together here:  Most of them are open access and can be downloaded free of charge.   Thank you to William Mandy and  Meng-Chuan Lai for their extraordinary efforts […]

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Study of How We Look at Faces May Offer Insight Into Autism

Published July 18, 2017

How we look at other people’s faces is strongly influenced by our genes, scientists have found in new research that may be especially important for understanding autism because it suggests that people are born with neurological differences that affect how they develop socially.  Read more here:

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Podcast: The Young and the Deaf: the relevance to language development in autism

Published July 13, 2017

This week’s podcast includes two important studies which examine early influences of language development.  First, we are lucky that Dr. Aaron Shield from Miami University joined to explain why studying children who are deaf and have autism, as well as parents of deaf children, are important for understanding language development.  He explores how autism is […]

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New Autism Study is a Pain in the Calf

Published July 12, 2017

This summer, ASF will begin funding a post-doctoral fellowship to Dr. Michelle Failla at Vanderbilt University to understand the pain response in people with autism.  This study will examine both verbal responses to pain, as well as nonverbal responses like heart rate, facial expression and stress response, to a mild stimuli in adults with ASD. […]

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Watch John Oliver Explore What Fuels the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Published June 27, 2017

John Oliver took aim at vaccine skeptics on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, blaming the misinformation and confusion on everything from the rising popularity of memes to Donald Trump’s statements on the campaign trail. You can see the whole video, which featured Alison Singer, President and Co-Founder of ASF, here.

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Podcast: Brain tissue: what has it done for autism lately?

Published June 12, 2017

In order to ensure that researchers have enough brain tissue to understand autism spectrum disorders, the education and outreach campaign of the Autism BrainNet is being expanded past families to doctors and professionals that have access to tissue. One of these groups is neuropathologists. At their annual meeting this past week in Los Angeles, an […]

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Podcast: What treatments are lacking sufficient evidence for autism?

Published June 5, 2017

In this week’s podcast with Dr. Alycia Halladay Ross, she discusses two new publications that reported on systematic reviews for nutritional and sensory treatments for ASD. This means the existing research was sorted, summarized, scrutinized and evaluated. The reviews found insufficient evidence to show that any dietary or nutritional therapy was effective, but sufficient evidence […]

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Dr. Isabelle Rapin

Published May 25, 2017

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Dr. Isabelle Rapin. Dr. Rapin was a pioneer in autism research who collaborated on many important papers and made enormous contributions to research. More importantly though, she was a clinician who diagnosed children back in the 1980’s when autism was considered […]

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Dup15q Alliance Fellowship Opportunity

Published May 23, 2017

The Dup15q Alliance is offering pre- and postdoctoral fellowships to individuals studying basic science or clinical research on mutations of chromosome 15. People with mutations in a specific region of chromosome 15 also show a high prevalence of #autism and applications to investigate autism associated with Dup15 are welcomed. Applications are due by June 1st. […]

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ASF Fellow Featured in “Scientific American”

Published May 22, 2017

Dr. Donna Werling from UCSF, Autism Science Foundation fellow, was featured in “Scientific American” for her recent study on the differences between male and female brain development. Click here to learn more.

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Podcast: A new understanding of autism genetics

Published May 22, 2017

Lots of people tend to think of the genetics of disorders/disease as being one mutation/genetic variation inherited from the mother/father that causes a trait directly. Unfortunately, the genetics of autism isn’t that simple or scientists would have found “the gene” by now. In fact, there are different types of genetic influences in autism. A new […]

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Podcast: The IMFAR wrap-up titled “Heterogeneity in autism: we aren’t going to take it anymore”

Published May 15, 2017

This week’s International Meeting for Autism Research was filled with important presentations on the multiple causes of autism, interventions, diagnosis, neurobiology, services, family and self-advocate perspectives; the list goes on and on. There is a great recap on Spectrum (click here). An underlying theme ran through the presentations: that is, that the previous “well, we […]

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ASF Grantees and Fellows Present Research at IMFAR

Published May 10, 2017

Autism Science Foundation grantees and fellows will be giving several presentations throughout the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in San Francisco this week. If you will be at IMFAR, see details below so you can attend their presentations. If not, see below anyway to learn about the great work ASF grantees and fellows are […]

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A community response: Advocates embrace new SUDEP guidelines while urging for expanded surveillance, research and education

Published May 3, 2017

To view the statement in its original form, click here. The release of new practice guidelines co-developed by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and the American Epilepsy Society (AES) on the issue of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is a benchmark moment for everyone impacted by epilepsy. Historically, the communication between medical professionals and […]

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Podcast: What is the focus this week? The unsung heroes of grandparents and clinicians

Published May 1, 2017

Scientists have studied males compared to females with autism, but rarely have there been studies about what clinicians see as differences in these two groups. Given that they provide insight on diagnosis, needs and access to services, it is kind of important to talk to them, and a study out this week in the journal Autism […]

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“Could Smoking in Pregnancy Affect a Grandkid’s Autism Risk?”

Published April 28, 2017

ASF Chief Science Officer Dr. Alycia Halladay commented on a new study on the risk of autism if an individual’s grandmother smoked during pregnancy. While the study cannot prove cause-and-effect, the researchers have discovered a link here. Click here to read more.

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Podcast: Autism symptoms in girls with anorexia

Published April 24, 2017

This week’s podcast with Dr. Alycia Halladay summarizes some new studies looking at autism traits and autism diagnosis in girls with anorexia nervosa. While the two disorders may seem different at the outset, they do share some behavioral features. Unfortunately, most studies look at autism in those with anorexia, not the other way around. However, […]

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Podcast: Hip hip hooray for toddler interventions for autism

Published April 17, 2017

As always, good news and bad news in autism this week. First the good news: an intervention given between 9-14 months of age in children with a high probability of having an autism diagnosis improved autism symptoms at 3 years of age. Now the bad: mothers who experience severe childhood abuse are more likely to […]

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Podcast: Oops, the media did it again

Published April 10, 2017

Last week reported on a study that showed slight improvement of autism symptoms in children that received a single infusion of their own umbilical cord blood. While the study was interesting, the authors were the first to acknowledge the limitations; however, this did not stop the media from misrepresenting the results. Details are explained […]

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Podcast: The ASF Day of Learning Recap

Published April 3, 2017

On Thursday, March 30th the Autism Science Foundation held their 4th Annual Day of Learning in NYC. If you were not able to attend and can’t wait for the videos of the talks, this week’s podcast with Dr. Alycia Halladay summarizes what was presented. Click here to listen!

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Podcast: That new study on mortality in people with autism…

Published March 27, 2017

The new study on mortality in people with autism may be overestimating the risk of drowning and suffocation in those with ASD. The study claims a higher rate of drowning and other accidental deaths in people with autism, which is true, but the magnitude of the effect they found was astronomical and misleading given the methodology. […]

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Fortune Op-Ed: Geri Dawson on the importance of CPB funding for families affected with autism

Published March 27, 2017

Geri Dawson, the president of the International Society for Autism Research, points out how important funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is for families affected with autism. Click here to read.

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Stat News Op-Ed: Let’s focus on the real environmental factors linked to autism

Published March 15, 2017

An op-ed by Dr. Alycia Halladay, Chief Science Officer of the Autism Science Foundation, was published today in Stat News: The publication of Andrew Wakefield’s notorious and now discredited research on autism and vaccines in 1998 triggered a surge of worry about vaccine safety. Since then, questions about a purported connection between autism and vaccines […]

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Webinar Recording: Environmental Epigenetics of Autism

Published March 14, 2017

Hear the latest Environmental Epigenetics of Autism Webinar: Dr. Mark Zylka presents recent data from his lab using animal models with genetic modifications to understand how common environmental factors we might be exposed to affect genetic expression. Dr. Valerie Hu from George Washington University comments and provides perspective from her work on a gene involved […]

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Attend the Workshop on Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published March 14, 2017

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is hosting the “Workshop on Autism Spectrum Disorders” on July 31-August 6, 2017. The course instructors are: James McPartland, Yale University Sergiu Pasca, Stanford University Jeremy Veenstra-Vander Weele, Columbia University The workshop speakers include Alison Singer, President of the Autism Science Foundation, and: Frances Champagne, Columbia University Geraldine Dawson, Duke […]

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Podcast: Who could have thought the genetics of autism was so complicated?

Published March 13, 2017

On Monday, the much anticipated MSSNG study which analyzed the entire DNA sequence of over 5000 people with autism was published. The press release can be found here. In it, the researchers found even more genes of interest to autism. Also, those with more of a specific type of mutation, copy number variations, had worse autism symptoms. […]

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Podcast: The infant brain on early behavioral intervention

Published March 6, 2017

The brain is developing even after birth. So interventions that are given very early have the best chance of remolding and rewiring a brain with autism to prevent autism-related disabilities. This week, a group from the University of London, Duke University, and University of Washington measured brain activity during tasks that required social attention following two […]

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Podcast: To see differences in the brains of males and females with autism, you have to look at the brains of males and females with autism

Published February 27, 2017

Last month, UC Davis researcher Dr. Cyndi Schumann used resources from the Autism BrainNet to look at what causes differences in the rates of diagnosis between males and females. Consistent with other studies on this topic, males and females do not show differences in the rates of autism genes, but rather in the way that the […]

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Podcast: When can you see autism in the brain?

Published February 20, 2017

This week the Infant Brain Imaging Study, or IBIS, published it’s second study on the emergence of changes in the brains of individuals with autism. While red flags for autism can be seen early, a diagnosis of autism is not typically made until after 24 months of age. Using a baby sibling research design, scientists showed […]

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New study: “Brain scans spot early signs of autism in high-risk babies”

Published February 17, 2017

Researchers studying infants at risk for autism, or baby siblings, have found that the brain changes before symptoms develop. The findings may improve diagnosis and early intervention therapies. Read more about this study in Nature here.

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Podcast: Betsy DeVos, autism screening and testosterone – in that order

Published February 13, 2017

This week two studies which examined infants and younger children that will significantly advance understanding of causes and services for people with autism were published. After a commentary about the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, the study that used a practical methodology to improve autism screening in pediatrics clinic from researchers at Duke University was presented. […]

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Podcast: Putting the pieces together around group social skills interventions

Published February 6, 2017

Individual research studies are great. But even better is when someone takes these studies and puts them together to see if one study shows the same thing another does, and if they do, then is the effect size consistent? Sometimes you can only do this by going old school and pooling the data from the […]

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Statement from the Board of INSAR

Published February 1, 2017

Statement from the board of the International Society for Autism Research: “As an organization, we must think carefully about whether to host future international meetings for autism research in the United States. As an international society, it would be inappropriate to hold the largest annual meeting on autism research in any country that restricts access […]

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Podcast: Narrowing down gene and environment interactions in autism

Published January 30, 2017

With hundreds of genes, thousands of environmental factors, and now sex being variables in determining risk for autism, where should science start? Over the decades researchers have been able to start narrowing down the combinations based on specific behaviors of interest, genes, and mechanisms which may narrow down which gene, which environmental factor and which […]

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Podcast: New science for those with little or no language

Published January 23, 2017

Even though more than 20% of people with autism have little or no language, research into ways to help this group have really been lacking. Several efforts to not just understand the abilities and disabilities of this group started a few years ago and we are just starting to hear about what works and what […]

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Podcast: A Message for MLK’s Birthday and a Better Way to Diagnose Anxiety

Published January 16, 2017

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who is revered for his contributions to justice, tolerance, equality and service. In this week’s podcast, Dr. Alycia Halladay highlights a Supreme Court case which affects how those with special needs are fighting for justice and equality. Also, over the holidays, Dr. Connor Kerns from […]

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Statement from ASF President

Published January 10, 2017

Today, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. – who has continued to publicly promote the discredited theory that vaccines cause autism — met with President-Elect Donald Trump in New York City and afterward stated that Mr. Trump has asked him to lead a new commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity. Autism Science Foundation President Alison Singer […]

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Weekly Podcast – Why is there a link between C-sections and autism?

Published January 9, 2017

Over the holiday break, the largest study so far including the most number of countries analyzed the risk of having a Caesarean section and autism. They found a consistent increased risk that wasn’t due to cause of the C-section or the age of the infant (preemie or term). So what is going on? This week’s […]

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This Year in Autism Research: In a Family Way (Podcast)

Published December 19, 2016

A summary of autism discoveries in 2016 and what they mean for families By Alycia Halladay, PhD, Chief Science Officer of the Autism Science Foundation and the Scientific Advisory Board of the Autism Science Foundation To listen to our year-end research summary podcast, click here. For decades, the autism community has known that autism affects […]

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Weekly Podcast – Why is it so hard to look them in the eye?

Published December 12, 2016

There is an ongoing debate about why people with autism avoid eye contact. There is data to support both, but as this behavior emerges very early, it’s important to look at data from preverbal children to understand the origins of changes in eye contact. Many scientists also feel that avoiding eye contact snowballs over the […]

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Weekly Podcast: Another gene that causes autism and what families are doing about it

Published December 5, 2016

A gene that controls electrical activity in the brain, SCN2A, has been linked to autism for awhile. But recently, a new study from China shows that mutations of this gene are seen in about 1% of people with autism. This may put it into the category of the rare mutations that have a major contribution […]

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ASF Fellow: “The role of sex-differential biology in risk for autism spectrum disorder”

Published December 2, 2016

ASF fellow Dr. Donna Werling reviews the evidence around why females with autism are not diagnosed as often. It includes susceptibility in males, resilience in females, hormonal influences, camoflauging and role of IQ. Read more here – it’s open access!

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Brain signals improve the efficacy of behavioral interventions

Published November 21, 2016

Biomarkers can help distinguish different types of features, but this past week they were used to predict who would respond to Pivotal Response Training, or PRT. Researchers, led by Dr. Pam Ventola at the Yale Child Study Center, looked at how the brain responded to a social or non-social situation as well as baseline features […]

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What the Trump presidency could mean for autism families

Published November 14, 2016

On early Wednesday morning, the United States woke up to the news that the new president was Donald Trump. While he hasn’t taken office yet, this podcast reviews his statement on his website or in his Contract with America, as well as things published or stated by him or his campaign on his website or in […]

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Precision medicine presents: OXYTOCIN!!!

Published November 7, 2016

Overall, the scientific research examining the efficacy of oxytocin treatment in autism spectrum disorder has been mixed. On a previous podcast, studies on the way the oxytocin receptor was turned on and off were explained, which may account for variability in treatment response. This week, two studies in Japan show that specific mutations in the oxytocin […]

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A scary Halloween story about the media misrepresenting science

Published October 31, 2016

How long do you have to study an intervention to see if it works? Many scientists agree that it isn’t just about what happens in the short run, but if those interventions can be sustained for long periods of time. In the case of very early interventions, it is now clear that treatment for about […]

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A powerful message underneath misconstrued headline language

Published October 28, 2016

New blog post by Dr. Alycia Halladay, Chief Science Office of the Autism Science Foundation: You may have seen it. The headline that says, “super-parenting improves children’s autism.” Besides being grammatically incorrect, it’s insulting. The implication, of course, from the headline is that parents who do not have super abilities or super skills can’t help […]

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“Are Girls with Autism the Key to Figuring out the Disorder?”

Published October 25, 2016

Released on October 25, 2016, a new article in the US News and World Report discusses gender-based differences in autism and the importance of the Autism Science Foundation’s Autism Sisters Project. Click here to read the article and here to watch the video.

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Autism diagnosis in adulthood

Published October 24, 2016

While still rare, there are cases where an autism diagnosis is not made until adulthood. Why have these people been missed and what do they need? How did they go for so long without anyone recognizing that they needed help? A new study from the lab of Dr. Francesca Happe in the UK investigates the […]

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Unfortunate new risk discovered for people with autism and their siblings

Published October 17, 2016

In addition to risks of anxiety, ADHD, mood disorders and other psychiatric issues, people with autism (and their siblings) show increased risk of substance abuse issues. This information comes from a large Scandinavian registry study that included over 26,000 individuals with ASD. On this week’s podcast Dr. Alycia Halladay Ross discusses what this means for […]

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Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource now accepting requests for services

Published October 11, 2016

The Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) is now accepting requests for services. CHEAR is a program funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences “to advance understanding about how the environment impacts children’s health and development.” The cutoff date for requesting CHEAR services for the Round 1 Review Cycle is this Friday, October 14, 2016. You […]

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New podcast on research in siblings

Published October 11, 2016

Two studies recently add to an ever-growing body of literature around undiagnosed siblings of individuals with autism. While in autism features there is evidence of the “broader autism phenotype” in female siblings, there is no evidence of elevated sensory symptoms in those with a brother or system with autism. The more we understand about the […]

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A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Multiple Airborne Pollutants and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published September 22, 2016

A new systematic review evaluated and organized existing scientific studies on the question of whether or not there was a relationship between air pollution and autism. After considering strengths and limitations of the body of research, the authors concluded that there is limited evidence between exposure to air pollution as a whole and ASD diagnosis. […]

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Autism BrainNet family’s brave decision featured on CNN

Published September 16, 2016

Released September 15, 2016, this new report on CNN highlights the importance of brain donation and brain tissue research. To learn more about the Autism BrainNet, click here.

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An old exposure, PCB, shows ties to autism

Published August 29, 2016

PCB’s, or Polychlorinated biphenyls is  a group of over 200 different manufactured chemicals which stopped being used decades ago.  However, they don’t break down and widespread pollution of these chemicals means that they are still all over the environment and we continue to be exposed to them.  This week, Dr. Kristen Lyall from Drexel University showed […]

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In defense of ABA

Published August 23, 2016

Recently, the practice of Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA, has come under fire in the autism blogosphere for being abusive and manipulative with the purpose of mind control.  Instead of defending the practice, or pointing out the factual errors in recent articles, ASF realized the most productive way to address some of the issues is […]

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New podcast on how to read and understand the scientific literature in autism

Published August 22, 2016

Thanks to our summer intern Priyanka Shah, this week we provide an 8 minute tutorial on how to read the scientific literature in autism.  It includes what are the important points of an abstract, where to get the summary points, and how to get access to the journal articles if you are 99.99% of the people […]

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New podcast examines the broader autism phenotype in siblings

Published August 4, 2016

Siblings of individuals with autism, and sometimes parents, can show mild features of autism that don’t meet ASD diagnostic criteria.  This is called the broader autism phenotype.  Sometimes they also show emotional and behavior problems, ADHD, tic disorder and an autism diagnosis. This week’s podcast summaries new findings on the broader autism phenotype with the […]

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Alison Singer in Rolling Stone: Unforeseen challenges in housing for ASD families

Published July 27, 2016

Released July 27th, 2016, Rolling Stone Magazine reports on the dire situation facing adults with autism after age 21 in a feature titled, “Luke’s Best Chance.” Click here to read the full article.  

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ASF President speaks out in WSJ about the parent roles in autism advocacy

Published July 26, 2016

ASF President speaks out in the Wall Street Journal about the roles of parents in autism advocacy Parent-advocates of children with chronic conditions have long worked toward finding cures. Adult self-advocates are shifting the focus to goals of independent work and living. Children with disabilities or chronic medical conditions, including autism and muscular dystrophy, have grown up […]

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Aggression in Autism: Risk Factors and Treatment

Published July 25, 2016

This week’s podcast is on a topic suggested by listeners- aggressive behaviors in autism. Our summer intern, Priyanka Shah, describes the risk factors and treatments for aggression. Although not a core symptom of autism, aggression can affect the development of social relationships. Studies show that aggression increases stress in parents and teachers more than other […]

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IGF-1 might be the next big thing in autism treatment

Published July 12, 2016

This week’s podcast summarizes a new neural stem cell study and a recent review article on IGF-1 treatment in developmental disorders. IGF stands for Insulin Growth Factor and is essential for generation of new neurons, and shaping and health of existing neurons. Patients with autism spectrum disorder are already starting to be treated with IGF-1, […]

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Apply for a Fellowship

Published July 11, 2016

The Autism Science Foundation invites applications for its Pre- and Postdoctoral Training Awards from graduate students, medical students and postdoctoral fellows interested in pursuing careers in basic and clinical research relevant to autism spectrum disorders. Apply for a Fellowship

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Consensus of scientists: toxic chemicals hurt the developing brain

Published July 6, 2016

In a landmark alliance, known as Project TENDR, leaders of various disciplines have come together in a consensus statement to say that many of the chemicals found in everyday products can result in neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and attention-deficit disorders.  ASF Chief Science Officer Alycia Halladay will be answering questions on a live chat over Facebook […]

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SPARK Webinar on Challenging Behaviors

Published June 29, 2016

The Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge (SPARK) is hosting a 90 minute online webinar on July 7th, 2016 at 1 p.m. EST, discussing challenging behaviors in children with autism. Challenging behaviors can lead to higher stress levels in families, and interfere with a child’s education and social interactions both in school and the community. Dr. Bridget Taylor is the […]

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Summer Institute presentation focuses on importance of studying infant siblings

Published June 21, 2016 in

Dr. Joseph Piven, member of the High Risk Baby Siblings Research Consortium, will present a 2 hour webinar as part of the INSAR Summer Institute on June 30th at 2PM – 4PM EST.  To learn more or register, click here:

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Intervention studies are going to get better

Published June 21, 2016

Studies looking at interventions in autism have been plagued with issues of: what treatments will work best in which people,  and use of instruments to detect change that were never designed for use in people with autism. Recently, a new instrument was developed to look at improvements in social – communication in autism. This the […]

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Request for Public Comments – 2016 IACC Strategic Plan

Published June 16, 2016

The IACC has issued an Open Request for Public Comment on the 2016 IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Please help identify priority topics for inclusion in the 2016 IACC Strategic Plan for ASD. The new plan will cover research, services and policy issues related to the 7 Questions covered in the IACC […]

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Finding novel distinctions between the sAPPα-mediated anabolic biochemical pathways in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fragile X Syndrome plasma and brain tissue

Published June 9, 2016

Researchers are looking for biochemical differences in two similar developmental disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fragile X Syndrome. To do this, they compared brain tissue of affected brains with typical ones and looked for varying levels of a specific protein.   2016 sAPPα-mediated anabolic biochemical pathways in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fragile X 2

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Webinar to highlight ASF-funded research on sex differences in autism

Published June 1, 2016

ASF fellow Dr. Donna Werling from UCSF will be presenting a webinar on June 22nd at 3PM EST.  She will review data on use of genetics in humans and animals to study the causes of sex differences, and highlight ASF funding in moving forward on this topic.  It is a great way to learn more […]

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Highlights from the International Meeting for Autism Research

Published May 19, 2016

Last week, over 2000 autism researchers convened in Baltimore, Maryland for the largest meeting in the world dedicated to sharing the latest information in autism research.  This week’s podcast summarizes some of the meeting, with help from the ASF travel awardees.  The topics ranged from causes (genetic and environmental) to interventions in real-world settings to […]

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Better animal model, new drug target discovered at Duke

Published May 10, 2016

Scientists at Duke Health, including ASF fellow Alexandra Bey, recently showed that targeting a brain receptor in mice with a specific type of autism could ease repetitive behaviors and improve learning in some animals. This report, published in Nature Communications, suggests that among more than a dozen different lines of mice developed around the world to mirror […]

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Everything you wanted to know about genomic imprinting but were afraid to ask

Published May 5, 2016

In the 3rd Environmental Epigenetics webinar co-organized by ASF, AS and the Escher Fund for Autism, Dr. Christopher Gregg from University of Utah describes genomic imprinting.  This is an epigenetic process where in certain genes, one copy inherited from either the mother or the father is silenced, so only the other is expressed.  Imprinting is […]

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Increased Risk of Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Siblings

Published May 5, 2016

In a new study published JAMA Pediatrics yesterday examined psychiatric records of siblings of people with autism living in Finland.  They found the rates of ASD, ADHD, ID, childhood emotional disorders, learning and coordination disorders, conduct and oppositional disorders, and tic disorders, were more frequent among siblings of siblings with ASD.  Also, there was an increase in schizophrenia […]

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SFARI Launches SPARK, Nation’s Largest Research Initiative for Parents, Children and Adults with Autism

Published April 21, 2016

SPARK (Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge) is a national autism research initiative that will connect individuals with a professional diagnosis of autism and their biological family members to research opportunities to advance the understanding of autism.   The project is now open to all families.  To read more, and to participate, go to

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A quick recap of the ASF Day of Learning

Published April 18, 2016

On this week’s podcast, the #ASFautismTed talks will be summarized in 10 minutes.  The podcast also includes pictures from the day in the video portion.  The full talks will be up on the ASF website soon, but if you can’t wait, here is a recap:

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Researchers discover genes that might enhance early intervention

Published April 12, 2016

The genetics of autism is complicated.  So scientists are taking a new approach.  Instead of looking at genes associated with the bigger autism diagnosis, researchers at the University of Miami are considering how genes influence specific autism features present very early on in life. In this week’s podcast, two investigators, Devon Gangi and Nicole McDonald, explore […]

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ASF fellow finds that the genetic causes of autism are more diverse than thought

Published March 24, 2016

The types of gene mutations that contribute to autism are more diverse than previously thought, report researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine in the March 24 online issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics. The findings, they say, represent a significant advance in efforts to unravel the genetic basis of autism […]

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Agreement on the value of early autism research

Published March 24, 2016

Studies of very early signs of autism has led to better recognition of early signs and driven earlier and earlier interventions.  These interventions have improved the lives of people with autism.  These early autism symptoms are seen before a diagnosis can be made.   Biological signs of autism before a diagnosis could even further improve early intervention. […]

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Help for people with minimal language

Published March 16, 2016

About 25-30% of children with autism show language impairment or no language at all, and these families often use assisted communication devices like picture exchange to help their children communicate.  Recently, electronic communication devices like the iPad have revolutionized the way that people communicate, but little research has been done on how and if they […]

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ASF co-hosts the 2nd environmental epigenetic of autism research webinar

Published March 7, 2016

On Thursday, ASF, the Escher Fund for Autism and Autism Speaks co-organized the second in a series of webinars on environmental epigenetics.  These webinars are open to the public and provide discussions on the role of gene/environment interactions in autism led by leading researchers in the field.  This month, the presentations were given by Dr. […]

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ASF podcast summarizes the NIH workshop on regression

Published February 23, 2016

On Friday, February 19, the NIH organized a workshop on regression in autism.  It included autism researchers as well as neurobiologists studying regression in other disorders, specifically Rett Syndrome.  Rett Syndrome is characterized by a regression in symptoms around 18-30 months of age but is the result of a known genetic mutation.  Because the genetic mutation […]

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ASF responds to the USPSTF final recommendations on universal screening

Published February 16, 2016

Universal early screening for autism is highly effective in identifying children who have autism, and early intervention is critical to ensure optimal outcomes for children with autism. Earlier today, we were disappointed to hear that the USPSTF released a final recommendation of “insufficient evidence” with regards to the benefits of universal screening in producing better […]

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A presidential issue: employment and autism

Published February 15, 2016

In honor of President’s Day in the United States, today’s podcast is a summary of a few more recent studies on employment of people with autism spectrum disorder. In addition to identifying challenges between the perspectives between employees and employers on the purpose of job supports, new methods to increase and maintain employment of people […]

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You are invited to the 2nd environmental epigenetics of autism webinar.

Published February 10, 2016

On March 3rd, Autism Science Foundation, Escher Fund for Autism and Autism Speaks and the are partnering to bring the community a set of presentations and commentary on how environmental exposures may affect gene expression.  Dana Dolinoy from U. Michigan and Carol Yauk from Health Canad will both explain how the environment could influence genetic risk factors […]

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Early behaviors may explain gender differences in autism

Published February 8, 2016

Using high risk baby siblings research design, scientists at Yale University showed that as babies, girls with autism show an unusual pattern of social attention for their age, spending most of their time looking at faces.  This is in stark contrast to findings in boys.  Together with other data, the authors conclude that this early social behavior […]

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Scientists monkey around with genes to create a new animal model of autism

Published February 3, 2016

This week saw two studies advancing a new type of animal model for autism:  the monkey.  Environmental factors had been studied using this model, but this week saw the very first genetic model of autism in a monkey that also demonstrates features of autism.  At the same time, another study published data on a new test to […]

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Studies of the social-communication domain help clinicians understand autism vs. ADHD

Published January 25, 2016

After the domains of social and communication were merged together under ‘social communication’ in the DSM5, understanding what makes up these symptoms is more important than ever. Researchers from Center for Autism and the Developing Brain and UCSF drilled down to distinguish different types of social communication and which were most specific to autism. Using […]

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Evidence of a second-hit model supports genetic and environmental roles in autism

Published January 24, 2016

This week in Science Reports, an article showed that the risk of autism is further increased in individuals with a specific mutation on chromosome 22 when another mutation is present.  One of these mutations is in a gene that is known to be affected by different environmental factors.  Scientists are using this data to help understand […]

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New research demonstrates importance of facial recognition

Published January 21, 2016

Many people wonder why researchers study recognition of facial expression in people with ASD. Not only is it a core symptom, it has consequences for daily functioning. As Matthew Lerner from Stonybrook University explains, it doesn’t simply explain everything but it does provide insight into social processes and friendships. A set of two studies from […]

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A Look Back at 2015: Autism’s Year of the Female

Published December 18, 2015

2015 was an unprecedented year for autism research with many significant advances that will improve the lives of people with autism. Just last week, for example, the CDC reported a 5-month decrease in the age that children are first being evaluated for autism, which means families are learning the signs, acting earlier, and, hopefully, starting early intervention services earlier. In 2015, we changed the way we think about females with autism, gained a better understanding of the underlying genetic causes of autism, and made important progress in both behavioral and medical interventions.

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NIH-supported NeuroBioBank joins Autism BrainNet in brain donation initiative

Published November 17, 2015

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has signed an agreement to establish a collaborative, nationwide effort for the collection, storage, and distribution of postmortem human brain tissue for the benefit of autism research. The agreement with Foundation Associates LLC will coordinate the efforts of two independent networks of human brain tissue repositories, the National Institutes of Health NeuroBioBank (NBB) and the Autism BrainNet (ABN).

NIH Press Release

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Will someone please determine the real prevalence of autism?

Published November 16, 2015 in

What is the real prevalence of autism? It depends on how you ask the question. But however it is asked, the answer is too high. Additionally, those with autism are entering the educational system where interventions are built in an "ivory tower." Interventions need to be adapted and implemented in real world settings with real […]

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Treatments for social reward in autism: inject it, snort it, or possibly smoke it.

Published November 6, 2015

This week saw two new studies on the love hormone called oxytocin. The results are mild and focused on one type of symptom, but exciting and promising nonetheless. Also, a short recap last weeks podcast where High Risk Baby Siblings researchers are finding that the range of possible issues that kids at risk have isnt focused just on autism symptoms. This and more on the ASF podcast!

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The Autism Science Foundation Names Financial Sector Veteran And Extraordinary Ventures Founder Gregg Ireland As Chairman

Published October 8, 2015

The Autism Science Foundation announced today that Gregg Ireland will become its board chairman effective January 1, 2016, following a unanimous vote by its board of directors.

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Early Germline (Sperm/ Egg) Mutations and the Heredibility of Autism

Published October 5, 2015

If you missed the October 1st webinar on Early Germline (sperm and egg) mutations and the heritability of autism, dont worry, we have it recorded on The webinar explored emerging concepts in basic reproductive biology and also the heritability of ASDs. We know that autism is highly heritable, in the sense that ASD risk is higher among siblings, but it’s not shown to be highly “genetic” in the classic sense that these traits or genes are passed from generation to generation.

ASF Podcast from October 1, 2015

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Dr. Paul Offit comments on robust new study confirming, again, that vaccines do not cause autism

Published September 28, 2015 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

ASF Board Member Dr. Paul Offit comments on robust new study addressing each of the many ways in which people have thought vaccines could cause autism. Dr. Offit comments, in part: The fear that vaccines cause autism has been a tale of changing hypotheses… The primate study by Gadad et al. addresses all three concerns.”

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Free Webinar on Interaction of Enviornment and Genetics in Autism: October 1st

Published September 25, 2015

All are invited to the first in an ongoing series of free online symposia on the environmental epigenetics of autism, Oct. 1st at 1 pm Eastern. Speakers will include cell biologist Amander Clark, of UCLA, and geneticist Ryan Yuen, of Torontos SickKids Hospital.

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ASF grantee proposes new way to diagnose people with autism

Published August 30, 2015

Jennifer Foss-Feig, PhD at Yale University recently received an accelerator grant to expand her research project to include individuals with autism. Why? She theorizes that the way schizophrenia is classified and conceptualized may be helpful to the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. She recently published these ideas and wrote a blog for the ASF. You can read it here:

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Deadline for comments on US Preventative Services Task Force screening of autism in young children

Published August 9, 2015

The US Preventative Services Task Force announces comment period for their draft recommendation. Submit your comments by August 31, 2015 at

Deadline for comments on US Preventative Services Task Force screening of autism in young children

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Teacher-Implemented Joint Attention Intervention: Pilot Randomized Controlled Study for Preschoolers with Autism

Published August 8, 2015 in J Consult Clin Psychol

This study investigated the effectiveness of public preschool teachers implementing a validated intervention (the Joint Attention and Symbolic Play/Engagement and Regulation intervention; JASP/ER) on a core deficit of autism, initiating joint attention.

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ASF, Autism Speaks and the American Academy of Pediatrics respond to U.S. Preventive Services Task Force draft recommendations on screening for ASD.

Published August 3, 2015

At a time when 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with autism, early identification, diagnosis and treatment is crucial to give children the best opportunity to reach their full potential. The ambiguity of the statement offered by the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) on autism screening is troubling and unfortunately, may be easily misinterpreted. While the task force does not explicitly recommend against screening for autism, they state there is insufficient evidence to support autism-specific screening in clinical settings. Instead, they have called for more research in this area.As a result, the task force has failed to fully endorse screening despite an abundance of research that demonstrates it is effective in a variety of settings1-3, leads to earlier identification of autism4, and that this earlier identification provides opportunities for early intervention which improves the lives of children with autism5. Research has demonstrated that formal screening is more effective than relying on clinician judgement alone1,6. This is especially important in reducing racial and ethnic disparities in access to care7,8 Moreover, screening is quick, affordable and has no substantial risk. We intend to review the USPSTF report and its methodology to understand why it differs from other evidence-based recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and from experts in the field of autism spectrum disorders. Every child deserves an early, accurate diagnosis and we are hopeful that after the review period the USPSTF reconsider their conclusions. You can read more about the recommendations and response here.There are a number of world renowned autism researchers who agree with this position. They include:Bryan King, Seattle Childrens HospitalAmi Klin, Emory UniversityDiana Robins, Drexel UniversityCeline Saulnier, Emory UniversityRobins DL. Screening for autism spectrum disorders in primary care settings. Autism : the international journal of research and practice. 2008;12(5):537-556.Miller JS, Gabrielsen T, Villalobos M, et al. The each child study: systematic screening for autism spectrum disorders in a pediatric setting. Pediatrics. 2011;127(5):866-871.Robins DL, Casagrande K, Barton M, Chen CM, Dumont-Mathieu T, Fein D. Validation of the modified checklist for Autism in toddlers, revised with follow-up (M-CHAT-R/F). Pediatrics. 2014;133(1):37-45.Herlihy LE, Brooks B, Dumont-Mathieu T, et al. Standardized screening facilitates timely diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders in a diverse sample of low-risk toddlers. Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP. 2014;35(2):85-92.Pierce K, Carter C, Weinfeld M, et al. Detecting, studying, and treating autism early: the one-year well-baby check-up approach. The Journal of pediatrics. 2011;159(3):458-465 e451-456.Wetherby AM, Brosnan-Maddox S, Peace V, Newton L. Validation of the Infant-Toddler Checklist as a broadband screener for autism spectrum disorders from 9 to 24 months of age. Autism : the international journal of research and practice. 2008;12(5):487-511.Khowaja MK, Hazzard AP, Robins DL. Sociodemographic Barriers to Early Detection of Autism: Screening and Evaluation Using the M-CHAT, M-CHAT-R, and Follow-Up. Journal of autism and developmental disorders. 2015;45(6):1797-1808.Daniels AM, Halladay AK, Shih A, Elder LM, Dawson G. Approaches to enhancing the early detection of autism spectrum disorders: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2014;53(2):141-152.

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Scientists studying genetic cause of autism meet with families

Published July 31, 2015

Dup15, an organization representing families with one of the most common genetic causes of autism, held their annual family and science meeting in Orlando this week. Hear more about the science on the ASF podcast.

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Those “brains in a dish” are not enough to study autism

Published July 27, 2015

This week on the ASF podcast, we talk to @drdgsmith from Autism Speaks about the new study which turns skin cells into brain cells. It iis fascinating and important, but is not sufficient to study the brains of people with autism. Hear more on

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Brain activity in autism is this the common language of translational research?

Published July 16, 2015 in ASF Blog

Russell Port, an ASF funded pre-doctoral fellow at Penn, discusses a new approach in translational research that involves understanding the importance of neural circuits, the potential bridge between animal model findings and clinical treatments. Read more on the ASF Blog.

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Apply Now for 2015 Research Accelerator Grants

Published July 6, 2015

The Autism Science Foundation is inviting applications for Research Accelerator Grants of up to $5000 to enable researchers to expand the scope or increase the efficiency of existing grants, or to take advantage of changes or findings that have occurred in or around the project that warrant more funding. These grants are designed to expand the scope, increase the efficiency and improve final product dissemination of active autism research grants. Applications must be received by October 2, 2015 and/or April 1, 2016.

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ASF Undergraduate Research Fellowships Help Build Autism Researchers

Published June 30, 2015 in ASF Blog

Veronica Kang, recipient of ASF Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship discusses the results of her honors thesis project and the impact of ASF funding on her career. Read more on the ASF Blog here:

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$9 million grant to establish open-access autism database at Stanford

Published June 23, 2015 in Stanford Medicine News Center

Dennis Wall, PhD, an autism researcher at the School of Medicine, is leading a new project to establish the largest-ever collaborative, open-access repository of bioinformatic data on autism

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Special Issue of Molecular Autism Focuses on Gender Differences

Published June 16, 2015 in Molecular Autism

Previously understudied, a special issue of the science journal Molecular Autism dedicates space to females with ASD. Leading the list is a summary of the October, 2014 meeting on gender issues co-sponsored by ASF. Download all of the articles free by clicking here

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Aspergers vs ASD When it comes to stigma, whats in a name?

Published June 15, 2015 in ASF Blog

Eliminating the Aspergers label and categorizing it under Autism Spectrum Disorder was one of the most controversial changes to the DSM-5. Parents and adults with Aspergers denounced this diagnostic revision, fearing that being a member of the autism group would contribute to greater stigma. Despite these popular convictions, two recent studies tested the effect of clinical labels on peer perception and concluded no significant difference between a label of Aspergers or ASD. In fact, disclosing any clinical information from the start resulted in more positive attitudes and higher chances for treatment success. Read more about the implications of these studies for higher education and other stakeholders on the ASF blog:

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Largest ever study on parental age and autism identifies new groups with increased risk

Published June 12, 2015

A new study replicated the finding of increased risk of having a child with autism among older parents. Because of the enormous size of the study, some new risk groups were identified with regards to age, but what does these findings mean and what should parents know? Listen to the ASF podcast to find out, and hear about vocational programs that work.

New study on parental age and autism: so who isn't at risk?

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MDMA is not a viable option for people with autism

Published June 10, 2015 in ASF Blog

There has been recent media attention to a study which proposes the use of MDMA to treat social anxiety in people with autism. What is MDMA and is it safe? Read more on the ASF blog here:

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New Research Presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research

Published May 15, 2015 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

To learn more about the latest science being discovered, follow the link below.

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New Insights Into the Male Bias of Autism

Published May 12, 2015 in Molecular Autism

Male toddlers with autism have significant structural differences in their brains compared to females with the condition, according to research published in the open access journal Molecular Autism.

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ASF Blog: Scientists See Clues in Brains of Babies with Autism Before They are Diagnosed

Published May 11, 2015 in ASF Blog

Scientists are discovering things in the brains of babies with autism before they are diagnosed. Jason Wolff, PhD explains in his blog. Interested in participating and getting free evaluations for your infant? The bottom of the blog post has information.

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ASF Podcast: What Autism Looks Like Before a Diagnosis and What it Means for Clinicians in the Community

Published May 8, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

Two high impact research reports from the High Risk Baby Siblings Research Consortium that will impact clinical practice. The first looks at the stability of a diagnosis and whether an 18 or 24 month screen is enough. The second identifies a brain structure altered in autism even before a diagnosis can be made.

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ASF Podcast: ASD Diagnosis is Stable by 18 Months: What Clinicians Need to Know

Published May 7, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

The BSRC study on stability explained on this weeks podcast 18 and 24 month screenings may not be enough, but if there is a diagnosis at 18 months, no need to keep checking.

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ASF Blog: A Rapidly Moving Field: Recent Findings in Infant and Toddler Interventions for ASD

Published May 7, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

ASF Postdoctoral Fellow Jessica Bradshaw answers questions about infants with ASD: How do we know when to intervene? What are the best treatments? And do they work?

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A New Business Model For Autism

Published May 5, 2015 in Forbes

April 2nd, 2015 was designated World Autism Awareness Day, celebrated with ribbons, fundraisers, and blue lights displayed in cities around the world. However, for parents of children with autism, everyday is Autism Awareness Day.

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Everything You Wanted to Know about Autism Navigator but Were Afraid to Ask

Published May 1, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

The Autism Navigator is a new web-based resource for families, clinicians, and educators. So what does it do? Hear directly from co-creator Amy Wetherby on this weeks podcast. Also a sneak peek at a new study emphasizing the need for repeated screenings for kids at risk for ASD.

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Diagnostic Stability in Young Children at Risk for ASD: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study

Published April 29, 2015 in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

While stability of an autism diagnosis is high at 18 months, symptoms emerge and evolve over time and many may not be reach a diagnostic threshold until 3 years. Therefore, concerned parents need to continue screening and evaluations through 3 years of age. A new baby siblings research consortium study examined the stability of diagnosis in over 400 at-risk infants.

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Girls Diagnosed with Autism Later than Boys

Published April 28, 2015 in CBS News

A new study from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore indicates that generally girls are getting diagnosed with autism at a later age than boys, perhaps because they exhibit different and less severe symptoms. The study is based on data from the Institute’s Interactive Autism Network, an online registry of almost 50,000 individuals and their families affected by autism. In the registry, age of first diagnosis was available for 9,932 children, and 5,103 had completed the Social Responsiveness Scale, which identifies the presence and severity of social impairment.

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ASF Podcast: If You Weren’t at the ASF Day of Learning, This is What you Missed

Published April 24, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

Miss the ASF Day of Learning Ted-Style Talks? This weeks podcast provides a 10 minute summary of the highpoints of the presentations.

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The Autism Navigator, A Tool to Help Parents and Professionals with Early Signs of ASD, Now Available Online

Published April 20, 2015 in Autism Navigator

Please join Autism Navigator in celebrating the launch ofAbout Autism in Toddlers, their first free tool for the public. About Autism in Toddlers About Autism in Toddlers is a free tool for families, professionals, or anyone interested in learning about autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is available free of charge. You will learn about • […]

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ASF Podcast: New Research on the Source and Mechanism of Gene/Environment Interactions

Published April 20, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

Two separate studies published last week independently add to the body of evidence showing that genes and environment, together, are important to study risk factors in autism. The first is a study looking at the risk of autism in mothers who had diabetes and the other is an analysis of epigenetic markers from dads of kids with autism. While they tackle two different angles, they have a common thread: factors or mechanisms of the combined effects of genes/environment in ASD.

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Alison Singer on The Leonard Lopate Show: The Future of Research, and Public Awareness, of Autism

Published April 20, 2015

Former First Lady and mental health activist Rosalynn Carter and Autism Science Foundation founder Alison Singer discuss the field of autism research. On April 22, the Autism Science Foundation will hold its annual Day of Learning event, featuring a series of short talks from autism researchers and advocates, covering critical issues in autism and mental health.

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The Most Promising Areas of Autism Research

Published April 16, 2015 in CBS News

Researchers have been making tremendous progress in their efforts to understand the causes of autism, as well as which interventions may be most effective to help children with the disorder thrive.This work is especially critical as the number of children in the U.S. with autism grows. Approximately 1 in 68 children in the U.S. currently has autism, an increase of nearly 30 percent in recent years — at least partly due to greater awareness and improved diagnostics.

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Doctors Often Ignore Parents’ Concerns About Autism in Young Kids

Published April 15, 2015 in HealthDay

Delays in diagnosing and treating autism often occur when doctors ignore parents’ concerns about their child’s early development, a new study suggests.A team led by Dr. Katharine Zuckerman, of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, compared the medical records of more than 1,400 children with autism against those of 2,100 children with other forms of delayed intellectual development.

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Scientific Study to Explain Strengths of Siblings with Autism

Published April 10, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

A new study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders provides an explanation on the challenges and unique skills of siblings of children with an ASD. Hear more on this weeks ASF science podcast.

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ASF Blog Post: Confused About the New Autism Risk Findings and IVF? A New Blog Talks to an Expert for Interpretation

Published March 30, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

Read the full post at

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The Next Chapter in the Arbaclofen Story: New Findings from Animal Studies

Published March 27, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

Jill Silverman from UC Davis reports on pre-clinical research findings that may lead to a reconsideration of the arbaclofen trial that was discontinued a few years ago.

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NIEHS Accepting Applications for Travel Awards to Environmental Epidemiology of Autism Research Network Meeting

Published March 25, 2015 in NIEHS

NIEHS is accepting applications for a limited number of travel awards to the Environmental Epidemiology of Autism Research Network meeting at IMFAR in Salt Lake City. These awards are targeted at trainees and early stage/new investigators, and will provide partial travel support.

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Omega 3 Fatty Acids Not Effective for Treating Symptoms of ASD

Published March 21, 2015 in Molecular Autism

Previous studies have shown an improvement in ASD related behaviors following administration of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation which have all failed to reach statistical significance. There has also bee conflicting data on the potential therapeutic effects of omega-3 fatty acids in ASD and unanswered questions about the timing of treatment. However a recent study published in Molecular Autism utilizing a randomized controlled trial design in preschool children reported no improvements in behavior, in fact, the omega-3 treatment group showed some worsening in externalizing behaviors over the study.

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ASF Podcast: Help for Preemie

Published March 20, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

A new study looking at intervention for premature infants in the NICU suggests that it also might be helpful to prevent symptoms of autism.

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Brain Tissue Research Informs Biomarkers for Diagnosis

Published March 13, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

This weeks science podcast highlights a study which uses the results from Autism BrainNet resources to inform blood based genetic diagnosis in toddlers. Genes that are differentially expressed in autism with the most complex interactions are also the ones that are expressed in brain tissue of affected individuals. While the biomarker is still too early for market, these findings strengthen the utility of the assay.

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The Truth Behind the Recent BPA Findings

Published March 6, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

Recent evidence shows a subset of individuals with autism may have difficulties breaking down a plasticizer called bisphenol A. This metabolic pathway may be applicable to other exposures as well, and needs further study. The study didnt look at what causes autism, but it did show a difference that may be helpful in understanding autism symptoms in the future.

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New Publication Clears Up Confusion Around Different Brands of Early Intervention

Published March 4, 2015 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

A new paper brings together a group of autism researchers representing a range of views and diverse disciplines in order to develop a consensus statement regarding the empirical and theoretical bases of Natural Developmental Behavioral Interventions (NDBI). These are behavioral interventions that utilize applied behavioral analysis (ABA) approaches through naturalistic settings. ABA is oftentimes wrongly equated with a specific method, like discrete trial training rather than being understood as an umbrella of empirically based practices. In NDBIs, the ABA approach is presented in settings such as play and daily routines and use child directed strategies. The goal of this new paper was to describe the influences of both behavioral psychology and developmental science on the evolution of early intervention for ASD and their influence on effective, evidence-based NDBIs. The paper also evaluates various NDBIs available for young children with ASD, examining the historical context in which they have been developed, common characteristics of established, evidence-based NDBIs, and requisite features of NDBIs. Because this type of intervention has a strong research base, the demonstrated efficacy of this type of intervention needs to be shared with the research community and the public sector. It summarizes the work of many researchers, working in parallel in different locations and publishing independently on a wide range of NBDI approaches. The effectiveness of this wide range of approaches may not yet be known to parents, clinicians, physicians and funding agencies. It acknowledges a common nomenclature should be adopted rather than having differently named protocols which may confuse the public, including insurance organizations, health care providers, and parents.

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Scoring Goals For Autism To Receive Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer’s Service to the Community Award

Published February 25, 2015

On Saturday, March 7th Scoring Goals For Autism will receive Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccers Service to the Community Award at the associations Annual Awards Reception held at the Holiday Inn Conference Center-Lehigh Valley. The mission of Scoring Goals For Autism is to bring the beautiful game of soccer to all athletes and to raise much needed dollars for autism research. All proceeds from Scoring Goals For Autism benefit the Autism Science Foundation. Read the full press release from Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer below.

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Examination of the Safety of Pediatric Vaccine Schedules in a Non-Human Primate Model

Published February 20, 2015 in Environmental Health Perspectives

On Friday, the most comprehensive non-human primate study to date which examined the safety of the current vaccine schedule on neurodevelopment, social behavior and cognition were published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The authors conclude that there was no evidence of effects of vaccines on any of these outcomes.

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Researchers Map the Human Epigenome

Published February 18, 2015 in National Institutes of Health

Much like mapping the human genome laid the foundations for understanding the genetic basis of human health, new maps of the human epigenome may further unravel the complex links between DNA and disease. The epigenome is part of the machinery that helps direct how genes are turned off and on in different types of cells. Epigenetic markers are just beginning to be understood in Alzheimers and cancer, with more work needed in autism spectrum disorders. Now that the epigenome has been mapped in over 100 cell types, this data can be used to better understand ASD.

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ASF Podcast: New Data on Environmental Factors

Published February 13, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

Recent analysis of factors such as inter pregnancy interval and early profound and severe depravation show how there are many causes of ASD. They include inflammation, folate depletion, infertility and psychosocial factors. ASF funded fellows Matthew Maenner and April Levin explain in this weeks podcast.

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New Analysis Shows Autism Severity Dependent on Presence of Both Genetics and an Environmental Factor

Published February 6, 2015 in Autism Science Foundation

An analysis of the Simons Simplex Collection showed that autism symptoms were the most severe when the individual had the presence of copy number variations and a history of maternal illness or infection. To hear more about the study, listen to this weeks science podcast:

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Clinical Research Associates Now Accepting Applications for its Novel Outcome Measures for ASD Clinical Trials Award

Published January 12, 2015 in Clinical Research Associates

Grants awarded through this request for applications are intended to develop and validate objective outcome measures for use in clinical trials in autism, addressing the current lack of quantitative, objective, reliable and sensitive tools to measure treatment response in behavioral and pharmacological trials. We seek innovative applications that will objectively and sensitively distinguish treatment effects from placebo response, reducing reliance on retrospective parental rating and assessment.

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Is Maternal Influenza or Fever During Pregnancy Associated with Autism or Developmental Delays?

Published January 8, 2015 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Though neither ASD nor DD was associated with influenza, both were associated with maternal fever during pregnancy. However, the fever-associated ASD risk was attenuated among mothers who reported taking antipyretic medications but remained elevated for those who did not.

Is maternal influenza or fever during pregnancy associated with autism or developmental delays?

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Transcriptome Analysis Reveals Dysregulation of Innate Immune Response Genes and Neuronal Activity-Dependent Genes in Autism

Published December 10, 2014 in Nature

Using resources from the Autism BrainNet, a new study in brains affected by autism revealed a common factor of activated immune cells. Led by Dr. Dan Arking at Johns Hopkins, the project analyzed dats collected from 72 individuals, both with and without autism The findings compared gene expression across these two groups and from different brain banks. It also utilized a large dataset that contains data on existing autism risk genes. This represents the largest dataset so far in studying gene expression in the brains of autism. Previous studies have been too small to make meaningful conclusions, because of the lack of tissue available. The team, which also included the University of Alabama at Birmingham, saw that in individuals with ASD, a type of immune cell called microglia was always active, with genes for inflammation always being turned on. Arking noted that he did not think that the inflammation itself as the root cause of autism, but that it is the marker of a downstream effect. This type of inflammation is not well understood but it highlights the lack of current understanding about how innate immunity controls neural circuits, Dr. Andrew West, associated professor of neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham said.

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Autism Science Foundation Announces Second Annual Day of Learning and Evening of Celebration

Published December 9, 2014

Event will feature the 2nd annual Autism TED-style Talks with Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter & NIMH Director Dr. Thomas Insel.

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Future of Autism Genetics Should Learn from its Past

Published December 9, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

The results of sequencing studies are helping autism researchers narrow down what genes to look for and where. They can now put forth a statistically sound estimate of the overall genetic contribution of de novo mutations of different categories to autism. However, they still cannot pinpoint the causal mutations for many cases of autism because the genomic background noise remains high.

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Snippets of RNA May Reverse Symptoms of Angelman Syndrome

Published December 4, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Small pieces of RNA restore the expression of a key gene missing in Angelman syndrome and offer the promise of a highly specific cure, researchers reported Monday in Nature. Injecting these RNA snippets into the brains of mice missing one copy of this gene, called UBE3A, reverses their memory problems.

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George Washington University Seeks Director of the Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders (AND) Initiative

Published December 2, 2014 in George Washington University

The George Washington University (GW) is seeking an exceptional research scholar for the position of AND Director and Professor endowed by The Carbonell Family Professorship in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (AND). The Director will play a principal role in defining specific goals in the areas of research, treatment, and policy, and will help develop partnerships, implement strategies, and oversee organizational structures ensuring the achievement of these goals. The successful candidate may receive a secondary appointment in an affiliated academic department based on credentials and approval.

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Autism Science Foundation Announces 2014 Research Enhancement Grant Recipients

Published November 19, 2014

Five projects to be funded (November 19, 2014 — New York, NY)—Today, the Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research, announced the recipients of its second round of research enhancement mini grants. These grants are intended to enable researchers to expand the scope or increase the efficiency of existing grants, or […]

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Explaining the Increase in the Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Proportion Attributable to Changes in Reporting Practices

Published November 3, 2014 in Pediatrics

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders has increased markedly in recent decades, which researchers have suggested could be caused in part by factors such as changes in diagnosis reporting practices. This study in Pediatrics sought to quantify the degree to which changes in reporting practices might explain this increase. Danish national health registries have undergone a change in diagnostic criteria in 1994 and the inclusion of outpatient contacts to health registries in 1995, thus Danish prevalence was studied. The study found that changes in reporting practices can account for most (60%) of the increase in the observed prevalence of ASDs in children born from 1980 through 1991 in Denmark, which supports the argument that the apparent increase in ASDs in recent years is in large part attributable to changes in reporting practices.

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Massive Sequencing Studies Reveal Key Autism Genes

Published October 29, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Analyzing the sequences of more than 20,000 people, researchers have unearthed the largest and most robust list of autism genes so far, they reported in the journal Nature.These 50 high-confidence autism genes may help researchers understand the biological underpinnings of autism. The researchers found these genes by scouring the exomes, the protein-coding regions of the genome, looking for rare genetic glitches unique to people with autism.

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Whole-Genome Sequencing Reveals New Types of Autism Risk

Published October 20, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Much of the genetic risk for autism may reside in regulatory regions of the genome, hidden from traditional methods of sequencing analysis. That’s the upshot of preliminary results from three studies presented at the 2014 American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting in San Diego. Together, the findings from these new studies show the promise of looking for autism risk in unusual places.

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Sex/Gender Differences and Autism: Setting the Scene for Future Research

Published October 17, 2014 in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

A group in the UK conducted an exhaustive literature search surrounding current studies on sex and gender differences and autism spectrum disorders. This literature search grouped studies into four categories, focusing on behavioral features, diagnosis and disparity issues, causes of disparity, and developmental trajectory. These same topics will be discussed on October 29 at the Sex and Gender Differences in ASD science workshop in New York, sponsored by the Autism Science Foundation and Autism Speaks.

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Siblings of Children with Autism can Show Signs at 18 Months

Published October 14, 2014 in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

About 20% of younger siblings of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will develop the condition by age 3. A new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers has found that 57% of these younger siblings who later develop the condition already showed symptoms at age 18 months. Published in the October Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, this is the first large-scale, multi-site study aimed at identifying specific social-communicative behaviors that distinguish infants with ASD from their typically and atypically developing high-risk peers as early as 18 months of age.

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New Mouse Model Mimics Brain Abnormalities in Autism

Published October 6, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Mice with mutations in the autism-linked gene WDFY3 have enlarged brains reminiscent of those seen in some children with autism, finds a study published in Nature Communications. The brain overgrowth begins in the womb, the study found. WDFY3 plays a role in autophagy, a process that rids cells of damaged or unneeded parts. Mouse embryos with two copies of the mutant gene have enlarged brains and an excess of immature neurons that divide faster than usual. They also have misdirected patches of neurons. Similar changes have been observed in people with autism.

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Autism Science Foundation Is Awarded GreatNonprofit 2014 Top-Rated Award

Published September 24, 2014 in GreatNonprofits

ASF has been honored with one of the first Top-Rated Awards of 2014 from GreatNonprofits! Read our reviews and share your story at

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Method Reveals Thin Insulation on Neurons in Autism Brains

Published September 24, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

There is less myelin in the brains of people with autism than in those of controls, according to a study published in Psychological Medicine. Myelin is an insulating material that allows neurons to fire rapidly. Researchers applied a method that measures myelin in living brains with autism for the first time. The researchers speculate that low myelin explains the weak connectivity observed in the brains of people with autism. Without proper insulation, electrical signals travel slowly along the axons, making it difficult for regions of the brain to coordinate their activity.

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Maternal Intake of Supplemental Iron and Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published September 22, 2014 in University of California - Davis

Mothers of children with autism are significantly less likely to report taking iron supplements before and during their pregnancies than the mothers of children who are developing normally, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found. Low iron intake was associated with a five-fold greater risk of autism in the child if the mother was 35 or older at the time of the child’s birth or if she suffered from metabolic conditions such as obesity hypertension or diabetes. The research is the first to examine the relationship between maternal iron intake and having a child with autism spectrum disorder.

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Infants with Autism Smile Less at 1 Year of Age

Published September 12, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

A new study reports that by the time they turn 1, infants who are later diagnosed with autism smile less often than those who do not develop the disorder. That suggests that reduced smiling may be an early risk marker for the disorder. In the study, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, researchers examined 22 typically developing infants with no family history of autism and 44 infant siblings of children with the disorder. These so-called baby sibs have an increased risk for autism. In the new study, half of the 44 baby sibs later developed autism. The results of this study are important because clinicians often struggle to identify those baby sibs who will later develop autism versus those who may display autism-like traits but wont develop the disorder.

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Dysregulation of Estrogen Receptor Beta, Aromatase, and ER Co-Activators in the Middle Frontal Gyrus of Autism Spectrum Disorder Subjects

Published September 9, 2014 in Molecular Autism

In a study conducted at the medical college of Georgia, researchers found a reduction in estrogen receptors in the frontal cortex of brains of boys with ASD. They also found a decrease in the expression of an enzyme that regulates hormones in the brain. The researchers suggest that this may be one of the reasons for the sex difference in ASD, but these findings also point to a potential gene/environment interaction in the disorder. One of the drawback of this study, however, is that there were only 13 samples in each group. The reality is that there is a shortage of available brain tissue to study. If you’d like to learn more about brain tissue donation that will further autism research, visit

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ASF President Alison Singer on The Leonard Lopate Show

Published September 9, 2014 in The Leonard Lopate Show

Across the country and around the world, children are getting sick and dying from preventable diseasesin part because some parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. Alison Singer, President of the Autism Science Foundation, and Dr. Amy Middleman, Adolescent Medicine Specialist at the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center, examine the science behind vaccinations, the return of preventable diseases, and the risks of opting out. Theyre both featured in the PBS NOVA documentary VaccinesCalling The Shots, which airs September 10, at 9 pm, on PBS.

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Autism Treatment in the First Year of Life: A Pilot Study of Infant Start, a Parent-Implemented Intervention for Symptomatic Infants

Published September 9, 2014 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of California Davis MIND Institute and published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders suggests that very early intervention can greatly reduce symptoms of autism as children age. The study looked at a 12-week treatment program with seven infants aged 9 to 15 months; researchers followed the children until they were 3 years old. Over time, these children showed fewer symptoms of autism. Although the sample size was small and it was not a randomized study, this study indicates exciting results from this type of intervention.

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Services for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Three Large Urban School Districts: Perspectives of Parents and Educators.

Published September 5, 2014 in Autism

Researchers from Philadelphia, LA and Rochester addresses issues that is on the mind of every parent of a child with autism: What can I expect when my child with ASD enters school? The group interviewed parents, teachers and administrators in schools and asked them what their greatest challenges were, in hopes of identifying ways to address those problems. Across all three cities and across all the different groups some common themes emerged: first, the analysis identified and documented that there was underlying tension between all the groups. Parents were frustrated with the school system and some of the systems in place. Teachers also expressed frustration with the administrators and the system in general. Also, while need for training was identified, what was surprising was that everyone thought it was needed. Teachers thought it was needed for themselves, for their teachers aids, and even the administrators wanted to get in on the action. Finally, parents, teachers and administrators felt that there needs to be a cultural shift to support the idea of inclusion, rather than exclusion.

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Method Reveals Relationship Between White, Gray Matter

Published August 27, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

A new technique helps researchers trace the nerve fibers that connect brain regions by revealing how the fibers physically relate to curves and folds on the brains surface. The method was described in Medical Image Analysis. The technique examines the relationship between white matter, composed of nerve fibers and support cells, and gray matter, which is largely made of the cell bodies of the neurons the fibers sprout from. Preliminary findings support the theory that autism involves early, hyperconnected and dense brain growth before an abnormal decline, the researchers say.

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Large Genetic Deletion Leads to Autism, But Not Always

Published August 21, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

To characterize people who carry deletions in 16p11.2 and 15q13.3, genetic regions linked to autism, two studies published this summer looked in detail at dozens of people with either deletion. The studies found that deletions in these regions lead to diverse symptoms that only sometimes include autism. The studies were published in the journals Biological Psychiatry and Genetics in Medicine.

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Loss of mTOR-Dependent Macroautophagy Causes Autistic-like Synaptic Pruning Deficits

Published August 21, 2014 in Neuron

As a babys brain develops, there is an explosion of synapses, the connections that allow neurons to send and receive signals. But during childhood and adolescence, the brain needs to start pruning those synapses, limiting their number so different brain areas can develop specific functions and are not overloaded with stimuli.Now a new study suggests that in children with autism, something in the process goes awry, leaving an oversupply of synapses in at least some parts of the brain.

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Test Measures Children’s Ability to Distinguish Between Faces

Published August 20, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

People with autism often have trouble recognizing faces, and tend to avoid looking at others’ eyes. These deficits may contribute to their difficulty picking up on social cues. An adaptation of an adult face recognition test for children will make it easier to chart the development of childrens abilities, researchers say. The new test is described in a study published in Neuropsychologia.

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IACC Workshop on Under-Recognized Co-Occurring Conditions in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published August 19, 2014 in IACC

The IACC Workshop on Under-Recognized Co-Occurring Conditions in Autism Spectrum Disorder that will take place on Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET at The National Institutes of Health, John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center, 35 Convent Drive, Building 35, Room 620, Bethesda, MD 20892.

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Age Alters Patterns of Chemical Tags on Sperm DNA

Published August 18, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

The configuration of methyl tags that modify DNA in sperm change as men get older, according to a study published PLOS Genetics. These alterations may help explain why children of older fathers are at increased risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism. Researchers at the University of Utah collected sperm from 17 men, once in the 1990s and again in 2008. They found that the distribution of methyl tags, a particular kind of DNA modification, shows relatively consistent changes over time in the sperm. However, the study does not necessarily prove that these altered patterns survive past fertilization or influence the risk of disorders such as autism.

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Positive Affect in Infant Siblings of Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published August 13, 2014 in Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

In a study published this week, Canadian infant sibs researchers examined very early symptoms in infants at risk for ASD. These are infants who have an older sibling affected with ASD and show a 1/5 recurrence rate. Meaning instead of 1/68, these kids have a 1/5 chance of having ASD. Because they were able to follow them over time, they assessed them carefully as they grew up. In this study, they were focused on smiling and affect. They showed that infants at risk for ASD that went on to get an ASD diagnosis didnt smile as much at 12-18 months of age. This is consistent with previous red flags of no warm joyful smiles but takes it a step farther and shows the duration and number of smiles is fewer in kids with ASD. Researchers are going to use this to improve the early signs and symptoms of autism and develop more targeted interventions for the early stages of ASD.

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Signaling Imbalance Skews Sensory Responses in Autism Mice

Published August 11, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Mice modeling autism have trouble integrating different kinds of sensory information such as sight, sound and touch. A study published in Neuron reports that an imbalance between signals that calm neurons and those that excite them leads to these sensory problems.

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Language Tool Aims to Measure Children’s Conversation Skills

Published August 6, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

A test designed to characterize natural, spontaneous language use in autism shows solid promise in its first trials in typically developing children. The results were published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.The researchers assessed the ease of use and reliability of the test in 180 typically developing children in Michigan, ranging in age from 2 to 5 years. They confirmed that the youngest children can do the various tasks on the test and that the codes developed for the test match the skills of the oldest children. The researchers’ goal is to build a baseline of standard scores against which the scores of children with autism or other communication disorders can be compared.

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Tools for Autism Screening Must Vary with Language, Culture

Published August 1, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

At its core, autism is the same disorder worldwide. And ideally, it should be possible to identify it consistently and accurately everywhere. But most screening methods for the disorder were developed in the U.K. and U.S., and linguistic and cultural differences can affect their performance elsewhere.

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ASF President Alison Singer on Good Morning America Comments on Research About Kids Moving Off the Spectrum

Published July 31, 2014 in Good Morning America

New research by Cathy Lord and Deborah Fein suggests 10% of kids with autism achieve “optimal outcome.” Autism Science Foundation President Alison Singer speaks about this new research on Good Morning America, saying there’s no miracle cure, and that we need more research so we can discover why certain children are improving so that the same opportunity for improvement can be expanded to more children.

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Expansion of the Clinical Phenotype Associated with Mutations in Activity-Dependent Neuroprotective Protein

Published July 23, 2014 in Journal of Medical Genetics

A new study has identified a genetic change in a recently identified autism-associated gene, which may provide further insight into the causes of autism. The study, now published online in the Journal of Medical Genetics, presents findings that likely represent a definitive clinical marker for some patients’ developmental disabilities. Researchers identified a genetic change in a newly recognized autism-associated gene, Activity-Dependent Neuroprotective Protein (ADNP), in a girl with developmental delay. This change in the ADNP gene helps explain the cause of developmental delay in this patient. This same genetic change in ADNP was also found in a boy who was diagnosed with autism.

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Autism Study Seeks Brain Tissue Donations

Published July 10, 2014 in MyFoxNY

A lab called Autism BrainNet is collecting brains for study. The belief is that brain tissue study is the key to solving autism. Unlike with Alzheimer’s disease, where literally thousands of brains have been studied, during the last three decades only 100 autism brains have been studied. Four to five brains are donated for research every year. The Autism BrainNet study is looking to triple that number with the hope of answering some of the most basic questions about the disorder. For more information about the program go to:

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Disruptive CHD8 Mutations Define a Subtype of Autism Early in Development

Published July 7, 2014 in Cell

A variation in the CHD8 gene has a strong likelihood of leading to a type of autism accompanied by digestive problems, a larger head and wide-set eyes, a study in Cell reports. This discovery is part of an emerging approach to studying the underlying mechanisms of autism and what those mean for people with the condition. Many research teams are trying to group subtypes of autism based on genetic profiles. This is the first time researchers have shown a definitive cause of autism from a genetic mutation.

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Scoring Goals for Autism 2014 Video

Published July 1, 2014

Can’t get enough soccer these days? Check out the new awesome video from Scoring Goals for Autism 2014!

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Senate Passes Autism Bill

Published July 1, 2014 in The Hill

The Senate passed a bill Thursday night that reauthorizes federal support for autism programs. The Autism CARES Act, H.R. 4631, requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to designate an official to oversee national autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research. It also extends autism education programs through 2019. The House passed the measure by voice vote last month and the Senate agreed to it through a unanimous consent agreement. The bill now heads to President Obamas desk for his signature.

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Should We Believe the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevalence Estimates?

Published July 1, 2014 in Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice

Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice has published an important and interesting new editorial by Dr. David Mandell and Dr. Luc Lecavalier that challenges the methods the CDC uses to collect and publish autism prevalence data, now at 1 in 68.

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Autism Science Foundation Request for Applications: 2014 Research Enhancement Mini-Grants

Published June 24, 2014 in The Autism Science Foundation

The Autism Science Foundation today released its request for applications for 2014 Research Enhancement Mini-Grants. ASF is inviting applications for grants of up to $5,000 to enable researchers to expand the scope or increase the efficiency of existing grants, or to take advantage of changes or findings that have occurred in or around an existing project that warrant more funding. Applications must be received by September 12, 2014.

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Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Prenatal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticides

Published June 23, 2014 in University of California-Davis

A study out of the University of California Davis found that women who live near farmland where pesticides are applied are 60 percent more likely to give birth to a child with autism or other developmental delays. In the study, the association was stronger for women exposed during their second or third trimester. The study looked at three categories of pesticides: organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates; all three were found to have associations with ASD or other developmental delays.

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Motor Deficits Match Autism Severity

Published June 20, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

The severity of core autism symptoms in young children goes hand in hand with the degree of the childrens difficulty with motor tasks, according to a study published in the April issue of the Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly. Early interventions, such as therapies that target social and communicative behavior, may alter autisms course. Building strong motor skills may help children with autism develop better social and communicative skills, especially in physically demanding play, the researchers say.

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For Flagging Autism Risk, Using Two Tests is Best Option

Published June 20, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

The average child with autism is 18 months old before his or her parents first begin to be concerned. Given the importance of early intervention, its crucial that parents and doctors both catch on to the symptoms as soon as possible. A study published in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry finds that two autism screens are better than one at identifying toddlers who need specialized clinical services. These screens, such as the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) and the Early Screening of Autistic Traits (ESAT), are used not to diagnose autism, but rather to identify children who need more specialized attention for example, from a child psychiatrist or a behavioral therapist.

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Evidence of Reproductive Stoppage in Families With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published June 18, 2014 in JAMA Psychiatry

Research published in JAMA Psychiatry shows that parents who have a child with autism are about a third less likely to choose to continue having children compared to parents who do not have a child with ASD. In the study, this “reproductive stoppage” did not occur until the child started showing symptoms or received a diagnosis of ASD. This led researchers to conclude that it was a conscious decision to stop having children, rather than another factor such as fertility problems.

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Reversal of Autism-Like Behaviors and Metabolism in Adult Mice with Single-Dose Antipurinergic Therapy

Published June 17, 2014 in Translational Psychiatry

Researchers at UC San Diego have discovered that suramin, a drug that was originally developed to treat African sleeping sickness, reverses autism-like social behaviors in mice. This study proposes that the social difficulties and metabolism issues found in individuals with ASD could be improved with the use of suramin even in adults. While suramin has not been tested in humans, these findings could direct future research for autism therapies.

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Costs of Autism Spectrum Disorders in the United Kingdom and the United States

Published June 9, 2014 in JAMA Pediatrics

Having an accurate estimate of the economic cost of autism has many implications for service and system planning. The most recent estimates are almost a decade old and had to rely on many estimates for which there were no good data. Today in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers, including ASF Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. David Mandell, updated older estimates and further expanded our understanding of costs by estimating them for two countries: the United States and the United Kingdom. They also estimated costs separately for children and adults, and for individuals with autism with and without intellectual disability. To estimate costs, researchers reviewed the literature on related studies, conducting a thorough search of studies that estimated direct costs, such as education and service use costs, as well as indirect costs, such as lost wages for family members and the individual with autism. They found that for individuals with autism and intellectual disability, the average lifetime cost was $2.4 million in the US and $2.2 million in the UK. For individuals without intellectual disability, the average cost was $1.4 million in both the US and the UK. For children with autism, the largest costs were for special education and parents lost wages. For adults with autism, the largest costs were residential care and lost wages.

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In Autism, Brain Shows Unusual Thinning Throughout Life

Published June 5, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

The cortex, the outer layer of the brain, grows rapidly in early childhood in people with autism and thins differently with age than it does in controls, two new studies report. Together, the studies support the theory that the brain grows too quickly and shrinks too soon in people with autism.

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Elevated Fetal Steroidogenic Activity in Autism

Published June 3, 2014 in Molecular Psychiatry

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have found that children who later develop autism are exposed to heightened levels of steroid hormones (such as testosterone, progesterone and cortisol) in the womb. This finding may be related to the fact that autism affects males more than females.

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Large Study Underscores Role of Gene Copy Number in Autism

Published June 2, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

People with autism tend to carry mutations that duplicate or delete several genes at once, according to a large study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics. Previous studies have shown that people with autism have more large deletions or duplications of DNA, also known as copy number variations (CNVs), than controls do. The new study, the largest to look at CNVs in people with autism thus far, confirms this finding. It also found that in people with autism, the CNVs are more likely to affect genes linked to intellectual disability and fragile X syndrome.

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Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Joins Autism BrainNet Tissue Bank

Published May 29, 2014 in Newswise

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has joined Autism BrainNet, a new network of research institutions created to collect, store and distribute postmortem brain tissue resources that will help scientists gain a deeper understanding of the causes, treatment and cure of autism spectrum disorder, which now affects an estimated one in 68 children. Launched by the Simons Foundation and Autism Speaks, Autism BrainNet recently joined with the Autism Science Foundation to unveil the Autism BrainNet registration site, It Takes Brains (

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Takeaways from IMFAR 2014

Published May 22, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Top three takeaways from IMFAR 2014: autism is growing up, the future looks promising, and scientists are getting social.

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Full Video of Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Hearing: Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published May 20, 2014

A full video of yesterday’s committee hearing is now available.

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Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders: Government Oversight Committee Meets Today

Published May 20, 2014

Today at 9:00am the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform meets for a hearing entitled “Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum Disorders”. A live stream of the hearing is available at

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School in Upstate NY Saves Autistic Queens Man from Troubled Life

Published May 19, 2014 in NY Daily News

A great story featuring the Center for Discovery, and including a picture of ASF President Alison Singer’s daughter, Jodie.

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Adults with Autism May Have High Burden of Health Problems

Published May 17, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Adults with autism may suffer from various health problems, ranging from psychiatric conditions to motor symptoms that resemble Parkinsons disease, according to two studies presented Thursday at the 2014 International Meeting for Autism Research in Atlanta.

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It Takes Brains: Autism BrainNet registration site launches

Published May 16, 2014 in Medical Xpress

The Simons Foundation, Autism Speaks and the Autism Science Foundation today announced the launch of the Autism BrainNet registration site, It Takes Brains ( Autism BrainNet is a consortium of academic sites funded collaboratively by the Simons Foundation and Autism Speaks to collect, store and distribute brain tissue resources necessary for researchers to understand the underlying neurobiology and genetics of autism.

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Tuberous Sclerosis, Fragile X Share immune Changes

Published May 6, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Two autism-related disorders fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis complex share disruptions in the immune system despite major differences in the individual genes affected, reports a study in Molecular Autism. An abnormally regulated immune system is linked to some forms of autism, but exactly how genetic changes in the immune system contribute to autism is unclear.

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Release of 2013 IACC Strategic Plan Update

Published May 1, 2014 in IACC

The 2013 Strategic Plan Update provides an accounting and overview of the funding and scientific progress in the autism field since the release of the first IACC Strategic Plan in 2009. The 2013 Update describes recent advances in the scientific understanding of ASD, provides information on the progress of each of the 78 IACC Strategic Plan objectives, highlights areas of need and opportunity, and identifies overarching themes that will be important for future advancement of ASD research. In this final version, you will find a single, streamlined table for each Strategic Plan Question that displays both cumulative 5-year funding and notes regarding progress of each objective, which we thought would be helpful to readers.

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Autism: What We Know. What is Next?

Published May 1, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

This project begins a conversation concerning what we know and what we need to learn about autism and related developmental disorders. SFARIs chief scientist, Gerald Fischbach, wrote the original draft, with the intent of providing an outline of recent research advances and suggestions about next steps. The document incorporates several different methodologies, ranging from molecular biology to behavior, in hopes of building bridges between them. We hope it will serve as a valuable resource for experts in autism research and also as a helpful guide for those just entering the field.Neither the claims about what we know nor the questions raised are complete lists. Autism research is advancing rapidly. In our hopes that What we know will become a living document, we invite you to suggest additions, deletions, corrections or wholesale rearrangements. Please email your comments to And please check back for future iterations of this document as it expands and evolves.

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Risperidone Use in Children with Autism Carries Heavy Risks

Published April 28, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Risperidone, the first drug approved for children with autism and the most widely used, improves some childrens behavior but can have severe side effects, suggests an informal analysis of the drugs use. These side effects can include weight gain, drowsiness, hormonal changes and, in rare cases, involuntary movements.

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SFARI’s Wendy Chung at TED2014: What We Know About Autism

Published April 28, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative director of clinical research, Wendy Chung, addressed the TED2014 Conference in Vancouver, Canada, on March 18, delivering a speech called What We Know About Autism. The speech, geared toward a lay audience during Autism Awareness Month, is clear, informative and highly accessible, and addresses a host of current questions and concerns in the mind of the public: Is autism an epidemic? Do vaccines cause autism? What is the state of autism science? Are treatments on the horizon?What We Know About Autism ends with a call to action, urging families impacted by autism to join the Interactive Autism Network, an online community of families that provides them with current information on autism resources and scientific advances. IAN also provides families with the opportunity to contribute to research and clinical trials directed by qualified scientists.

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Department of Defense Autism Research Program Funding Opportunities for Fiscal Year 2014

Published April 28, 2014 in Department of Defense Autism Research Program

Defense Health ProgramDepartment of Defense Autism Research ProgramFunding Opportunities for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) The FY14 Defense Appropriations Act provides $6 million (M) to the Department of Defense Autism Research Program (ARP) to support innovative, high-impact autism spectrum disorder research. This program is administered by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) through the Office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP).

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FDA: Beware of False or Misleading Claims for Treating Autism

Published April 25, 2014 in FDA

The FDA issued a warning today that several companies are making false or misleading claims about products or therapies that claim to treat or cure autism. The so-called treatments, such as chelation therapy or mineral treatments, carry significant risks, FDA says. Please be aware of the FDA’s warning and follow their tips to help you identify false or misleading claims.

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Convergence of Genes and Cellular Pathways Dysregulated in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published April 24, 2014 in Cell

A substantial proportion of risk for developing autism spectrum disorders (ASD) resides in genes that are part of specific, interconnected biological pathways, according to researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who conducted a broad study of almost 2,500 families in the United States and throughout the world. The study was published in The American Journal of Human Genetics. The researchers reported numerous copy number variations (CNVS) affecting genes, and found that these genes are part of similar cellular pathways involved in brain development, synapse function and chromatin regulation. Individuals with ASD carried more of these CNVs than individuals in the control group, and some of them were inherited while others were only present in offspring with ASD.

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Repeats in Human DNA may Aggravate Autism Symptoms

Published April 21, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Certain DNA repeats that increased exponentially during human evolution are directly related to the severity of autism symptoms, according to a preliminary study published in PLoS Genetics. The repeats each span 65 amino acids and are collectively referred to as DUF1220, for domain of unknown function. There are six types of these repeats, each with a slightly different sequence and all of which diverged from a common ancestor.

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ASF Video: Five Years of Autism Research

Published April 16, 2014

ASF celebrates its 5th anniversary! Watch to learn about our first five years of searching, solving, and sharing.

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Atypical Cross Talk Between Mentalizing and Mirror Neuron Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published April 16, 2014 in JAMA Psychiatry

Atypical brain connectivity in areas that affect social interactions have been found in people with autism spectrum disorders. This difference in connectivity is found in networks of the brain that help individuals understand what others are thinking, and to understand others’ actions and emotions. Up until now, it was thought that these areas of the brain were under-connected in people with autism, but this study shows that more often than not, they are actually over-connected. The study also found that the greater the difference in neural connectivity, the more social interactions were impaired.

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Request for Information (RFI): Impact of DSM-5 Changes to Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) on Research and Services

Published April 14, 2014 in National Institutes of Health

The NIH is requesting additional input from the scientific community, health professionals, self-advocates and patient advocates about the research implications of recent changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Responses will be accepted through May 12, 2014.

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CDC Releases 2014 Community Report on Autism

Published April 11, 2014 in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC has released its 2014 Community Report on Autism, which gives details behind the new 1 in 68 number, as well as additional state-by-state prevalence information.

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IACC Issues Statement Regarding Implications of Changes in the Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published April 2, 2014 in Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee

Today, on World Autism Awareness Day 2014, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), issued a statement regarding the implications of changes in the diagnostic criteria for ASD that were made in the most recent update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Of particular interest are the scientific, practice, and policy implications as DSM-5 is implemented in real-world settings, especially with respect to allocation of services.

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Hilibrand Autism Symposium: Carving a Place in the World for Young Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published April 1, 2014 in Hilibrand Autism Symposium

Every adult wants to lead a meaningful life, and individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are no different. More and more, people with ASD are working, living, and engaging in their communities, and are being recognized for their strengths and talents. Yet the questions still remain: What do young adults with ASD need to transition to being productive members of society whose skills and interests are used and valued? How can professionals, parents, advocates, and others ensure that a place in the world is carved out for these individuals? This conference will present new research and innovative models to spark a dialogue about current challenges and effective solutions to helping adults with ASD obtain and maintain work, social connections, and independence.ASF Scientific Advisory Board Member David Mandell will be giving the keynote address.Tune into the Hilibrand Autism Symposium lifestream today from 9:00am to 4:30pm at

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How to Think About the Risk of Autism

Published March 29, 2014 in New York Times

When it comes to autism prevalence, it can be difficult to separate real risks from false rumors. The topics that gain the most media coverage aren’t always the ones with the greatest affect on autism risk. The risk ratio can give perspective where isolated news stories dont.

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Patches of Disorganization in the Neocortex of Children with Autism

Published March 26, 2014 in New England Journal of Medicine

New evidence suggests that autism begins in the brain before birth when brain cells fail to develop properly. In this study, the abnormalities in the brain cells were not uniform, showing autism’s wide range of symptoms and severity. This better understanding of prenatal development of the brain cells of people with autism underscores the importance of early identification and intervention.

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New Technique Finds Mutant Cells in a Haystack

Published March 19, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Researchers have developed a method to isolate a single mutant cell from thousands of others, they reported in the March issue of Nature Methods. The new approach will allow researchers to precisely engineer and study human cells without altering the genome. Ultimately, the method could be used to alter an individuals cells before returning them to his or her body.

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Autism Science Foundation Issues Request for Applications: 2014 Undergraduate Summer Research Grants

Published March 17, 2014 in Autism Science Foundation

The Autism Science Foundation invites applications from highly qualified undergraduates interested in pursuing basic and clinical research relevant to autism spectrum disorders during the summer. The proposed research must be scientifically linked to autism or a closely related field. Autism Science Foundation will consider all areas of related basic and clinical research including but not limited to: human behavior across the lifespan (language, learning, communication, social function, epilepsy, sleep, self-injurious behavior, catatonia), neurobiology (anatomy, development, neuro-imaging), pharmacology, neuropathology, human genetics, genomics, epigenetics, epigenomics, immunology, molecular and cellular mechanisms, studies employing model organisms and systems, and studies of treatment and service delivery.

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Autism Risk Abates in Later-Born Children

Published March 7, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

The risk of certain autism spectrum disorders is highest in firstborn children and declines in each additional sibling born to the same mother, reports a large Finnish study published in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology. When the researchers looked at Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disordernot otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and childhood autism, in which symptoms appear before the age of 3, as a group, they found that a diagnosis is most common in firstborns. The latter two conditions are now considered part of the autism diagnosis. When they looked at each diagnosis separately, the researchers found that the firstborn effect holds for Asperger and PDD-NOS, while second-born children are at the highest risk for childhood autism.

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Algorithm Uncovers Autism Syndromes’ Fingerprints

Published March 6, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Autism is defined based on a wide variety of behavioral symptoms, but it’s precisely this variation along with a complex genetic background that makes it tricky to connect behavior to the underlying genes. A new algorithm may make this challenge a bit easier to solve. The algorithm, which employs a form of artificial intelligence that learns as it goes, analyzes behavioral data and has learned to recognize six genetic disorders associated with autism, according to research published in Molecular Autism. The researchers hope to use these behavioral signatures to hone their search for the genetic underpinnings of idiopathic autism, for which there is no known cause.

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Studies Try to Pin Down Timing of ‘Early’ Autism Treatment

Published February 27, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Autism researchers and advocates often express concern that the average age of autism diagnosis in the U.S. hovers around 4 years even though most cases of the disorder can be reliably identified by age 2. In this highly contentious field, the need for early diagnosis and early intervention is one of the few areas of agreement. Surprisingly, though, there has been little hard evidence that earlier diagnosis improves the lives of people with autism in the long term. At last, this evidence is becoming available. The field turned toward more rigorous studies a decade or so ago, and many of those studies, focused on children between about 2 and 4 years old, are starting to bear fruit.

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A Higher Mutational Burden in Females Supports a Female Protective Model in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Published February 27, 2014 in American Journal of Human Genetics

Researchers have more clues as to why more boys than girls are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. A new study in the American Journal of Human Genetics suggests that for boys, it takes less of a genetic hit to cause autism than it does for girls. The study continues to say that when it does appear in girls, it is due to a much more severe genetic hit, usually resulting in much more severe autism symptoms.

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‘Resting’ Autism Brains Still Hum with Activity

Published February 21, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Even at rest, the brains of people with autism manage more information than those of their peers, according to a new study that may provide support for the so-called intense world theory of autism. The research, which was published in Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, included nine children with Asperger syndrome, aged between 6 and 14 and ten age-matched typical children. The researchers scanned their brains using magnetoencephalography (MEG), a noninvasive method that doesnt require lying in a noisy, confined space as magnetic resonance imaging does. The results suggest that in the same boring situation, people with autism process more information than their typical peers.

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Spatial, Verbal Skills in Autism Even Out with Age

Published February 14, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

A rigorous new study confirms that boys with autism tend to score higher on tests of spatial and analytical abilities than on those for verbal skills. But the gap decreases by the time they reach 10 years of age. This suggests that the trait cannot be used to define children with autism or their families, the researchers say. Instead, it may be a pattern of development common in children with autism or other developmental disorders. The report was published in the January issue of the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

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Neurobehavioural Effects of Developmental Toxicity

Published February 14, 2014 in The Lancet

Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. A new study in The Lancet states that industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence. Building on a 2006 study in which researchers identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants (lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene), epidemiological studies have documented six additional developmental neurotoxicants manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers. To protect children from exposure to such harmful chemicals, researchers say that untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development.

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Epilepsy Drug Alters Rodent Gut

Published February 14, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

In utero exposure to the epilepsy drug valproic acid (VPA), which ups the risk of autism, may alter the composition of gut bacteria in rodents, according a study published in Brain Behavior and Immunity. Rats and mice exposed to VPA in utero have social deficits, repetitive behaviors and anxiety, making them a good model for studying autism. It is unclear exactly how VPA exposure leads to these symptoms, however.

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Induced Neuron Cell Line Resembles Immature, Healthy Neurons

Published February 12, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

A commercially available line of neurons generated from induced stem cells would serve as a good control for autism research, according to a study published in Psychopharmacology. Characterizing these neurons in detail shows that they express most of the genes linked to autism and look like typical, albeit immature, cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, are skin or blood cells reverted to a state from which they can become any cell in the body. Researchers can use the technique to turn cells from people with a neuropsychiatric disorder into neurons. They can then compare the neurons with those from controls to gain understanding of the disorder.

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Drug Calms Overly Excitable Brains in Autism Rodent Models

Published February 10, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

The blood pressure drug bumetanide normalizes a deficit in brain activity in two rodent models of autism, according to a study published in Science. The study hints at a mechanism underlying the drugs benefits for people with autism. Neurochlore, a company based in Marseilles, France, is testing bumetanide as a treatment for autism. In the first phase, 27 children with autism showed some improvement in their autism symptoms; the researchers are continuing the trial in Europe with more participants.

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Feds Clarify How To Apply For Autism Tracking Devices

Published February 6, 2014 in Disability Scoop

A week after announcing that the federal government will pay for tracking devices for kids with autism, officials are offering more details about how families can access the technology. All applications must go through law enforcement agencies, so organizations and schools should work with local police to put programs in place. Police departments that receive money through the federal Byrne grant will be responsible for designing and administering their local program and determining how tracking devices are distributed.

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Blazing Trails in Brain Science

Published February 3, 2014 in New York Times

Dr. Thomas R. Insels twisted path to his role as director of the National Institute of Mental Health is a tour of where psychiatric science has been, where its going and why.

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Blazing Trails in Brain Science

Published February 3, 2014 in New York Times

Dr. Thomas R. Insels twisted path to his role as director of the National Institute of Mental Health is a tour of where psychiatric science has been, where its going and why.

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New Diagnostic Category Will Hold Subset of Autism Cases

Published February 3, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Most of the children who would lose their autism diagnosis under the diagnostic criteria released last year will fall under the new category of social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SDC), reports a large study of Korean children. The study was published last week in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. SCD is a condition that includes severe social and communication deficits but lacks the repetitive behaviors and restricted interests seen in autism.

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Report to Congress on Activities Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities Under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 and Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (FY 2010 – FY 2012)

Published February 1, 2014 in Department of Health and Human Services

This Report to Congress is required by Public Law 112-32, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011. The report describes progress and expenditures made in autism spectrum disorder (ASD)- related research and services activities across the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation from fiscal years 2010- 2012.

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State of the States for Services and Supports for People with ASD

Published January 28, 2014 in Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Department of Health and Human Services

In 2009, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contracted with L&M Policy Research (L&M) and its partners, Truven Health Analytics (formerly the health care business of Thomson Reuters) and the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services, to address the growing need among federal and state policymakers and stakeholders for accurate and comprehensive information regarding available services and supports for people with ASD. The Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) State of the States of Services and Supports for People with ASD report stemmed from the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s (IACC’s) 2010 and 2011 Strategic Plans. The overall goal of this project was to capture information about services for people with ASD across all federal and state-level agencies and offices that could serve as a useful tool and be updated on an as-needed basis. In addition, the project aimed to identify gaps in data.

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Adults with Autism Can’t Discern False Emotions

Published January 17, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Adults with autism usually understand in theory when and why others may feign emotions, but they dont recognize those expressions in real-life situations, reports a study published in Autism Research. This inability to guess what triggered someones subtle expression can lead to social missteps congratulating instead of consoling a disappointed friend, for example.

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Senses of Sight and Sound Separated in Children with Autism

Published January 14, 2014 in Vanderbilt University

Like watching a foreign movie that was badly dubbed, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have trouble integrating simultaneous information from their eyes and their ears, according to a Vanderbilt study. The study, led by Mark Wallace, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, is the first to illustrate the link and strongly suggests that deficits in the sensory building blocks for language and communication can ultimately hamper social and communication skills in children with autism.

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Lack of Training Begets Autism Diagnosis Bottleneck

Published January 13, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

One of the frustrations that parents of children with autism most commonly voice is the long wait for a diagnosis. In the meantime, the children grow up and out of the critical period for early intervention. The scenario for adults seeking an autism diagnosis is even grimmer, as there are fewer practitioners experienced in caring for adults with autism than in caring for children with the disorder. There are few comprehensive statistics about waiting times, but the bottlenecks in access to autism diagnosis and care are widely acknowledged. These concerns are spurring the medical community to take a hard look at the failings of professional training in contributing to the problem.

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Reward Affects Motor Function in Rett

Published January 10, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

The motor problems seen in Rett syndrome may be the result of deficits in a pathway that mediates reward in the striatum, a brain region that coordinates movement, according to a study published in Brain Structure and Function. Studies have shown that loss of MeCP2 in the front of the brain is sufficient to lead to Rett-like symptoms in mice. The forebrain includes the striatum, which integrates information from other brain regions to help plan and coordinate movement. The new study found that mice that model Rett syndrome have significantly less dopamine a chemical messenger that mediates reward in the striatum than controls do. The study suggests that changes in dopamine levels influence neural circuits in the striatum that regulate motor function.

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Catalog of Symptoms Aims to Unravel Autism Diversity

Published January 8, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Researchers have standardized labels for nearly 300 traits of autism, drawn from 24 diagnostic tests for the disorder, they reported in Neuroinformatics. They can use these terms to search for certain traits among large catalogs of the genetics and symptoms of people with autism. The new study aims to build a defined list, or ontology, of the traits these tests assess. The goal is to allow researchers to compare results across different diagnostic tests and identify the same features, regardless of the test used. The new tool can also help classify individuals with autism into subgroups, which may reflect different causes of the disorder.

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Duplication of Chromosome 22 Region Thwarts Schizophrenia

Published January 2, 2014 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Carrying a duplication of the 22q11.2 chromosomal region may protect against schizophrenia, suggests a study published 12 November in Molecular Psychiatry. This is the first evidence of a genetic region that lowers the risk of a disorder rather than increases it. Deletion of this part of chromosome 22 is the strongest known risk factor for schizophrenia, and is also linked to autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety in childhood. Various other copy number variations (CNVs), or stretches of a chromosome that are deleted or duplicated multiple times in the genome, have been linked to schizophrenia, autism and other neurological conditions. The new study is the first to pinpoint a CNV that lowers the risk of a disorder, however.

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Maternal Infection During Pregnancy and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published January 1, 2014 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Pregnant women who were diagnosed with a bacterial infection during a hospital visit were more likely to have their child be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders reports. “Multiple maternal infections and bacterial infections occurring during late pregnancy, particularly those diagnosed in a hospital setting, were associated with a higher risk of autism,” the researchers reported.

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Long Neglected, Severe Cases of Autism Get Some Attention

Published December 30, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Next February, researchers plan to begin work on a $1.2 million project that aims to link specialized psychiatric units across the U.S. to investigate the most severe and challenging autism cases. The study will include the six largest of the nine specialized psychiatric hospital programs for autism in the U.S. About 1,000 individuals with autism, aged 4 to 20, typically spend between 20 and 25 days at a time in these programs. We think this is an area we can contribute [to], says lead investigator Matthew Siegel, medical director of the developmental disorders program of Spring Harbor Hospital in Maine. If not us, who? We have the expert clinicians and see hundreds of these kids.

December 19, 2013

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Sticky Gaze May Be Early Autism Sign

Published December 20, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Babies later diagnosed with autism tend to stare at objects after picking them up, a behavior known as sticky gaze, at much later ages than controls do, according to a study published in Behavioral Brain Research. This delay may contribute to problems with joint attention the tendency to seek out and follow others gaze in autism, the researchers say.

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Use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors during Pregnancy and Risk of Autism

Published December 19, 2013 in New England Journal of Medicine

In the past, studies have raised concern about an association between the use of a certain type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy and an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders in the child. A new study now shows no significant association between maternal use of SSRIs during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorder in the child. However, the children were at a higher than usual risk of being diagnosed with autism if their mother had taken the drugs for depression or anxiety prior to the pregnancy, suggesting a possible link between the mother’s preexisting mental health condition and the child’s development of an ASD.

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Brain Changes Precede Schizophrenia and Autism

Published December 18, 2013 in Nature

People who carry high-risk genetic variants for schizophrenia and autism have impairments reminiscent of disorders such as dyslexia, even when they do not yet have a mental illness, a new study has found. Researchers report that people with these copy number variants (CNVs) but no diagnosis of autism or a mental illness still show subtle brain changes and impairments in cognitive function. The findings offer a window into the brain changes that precede severe mental illness and hold promise for early intervention and even prevention, researchers say.

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SHANK3 Duplication Leads to Hyperactivity in Mice

Published December 17, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Mice with a duplication of SHANK3, a gene with strong links to autism, are hyperactive and manic, reports a study published in Nature.The mice produce about 50 percent more SHANK3 protein than their genetically typical counterparts, the scientists found, much like people with an extra copy of the gene do. The mice also show signs of hyperactivity. The team observed on further testing that the SHANK3 mice show behaviors typically seen in people going through manic episodes. The mice are easier to startle, eat more, have disrupted sleeping patterns and show heightened sensitivity to amphetamine. The mice also have spontaneous seizures.

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Study Links Autism and Somalis in Minneapolis

Published December 16, 2013 in New York Times

A long-awaited study has confirmed the fears of Somali residents in Minneapolis that their children suffer from higher rates of a disabling form of autism compared with other children there. The study by the University of Minnesota, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the research and advocacy group Autism Speaks found high rates of autism in two populations: About one Somali child in 32 and one white child in 36 in Minneapolis were on the autism spectrum. But the Somali children were less likely than the whites to be high-functioning and more likely to have I.Q.s below 70. (The average I.Q. score is 100.) The study offered no explanation of the statistics.

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Children with Autism Benefit from Peer Solicitation

Published December 12, 2013 in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Peer solicitation a child inviting another to play can improve reciprocal social interaction among children with autism, according to a recent Vanderbilt University study. While the children with autism in the study initiated and engaged in less play overall than typically developing children, the researchers found that other children can facilitate and increase interactions by simple requests. These findings highlight the pivotal role that peers have in social interaction, noting that it only takes a single child to prompt other children with or without autism to interact.

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New Diagnostic Tool for Adults with Autism

Published December 9, 2013

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have developed a new screening tool to facilitate the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in adults. The test is presented in the scientific journal Molecular Autism and is unique in that researchers have, as part of their evaluation, compared the group diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with psychiatric patients. In adults, distinguishing Autism Spectrum Disorder from other psychiatric conditions can be a problem, as their symptoms often overlap or are similar to those in schizophrenia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or severe personality disorders.

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White Matter in Brain Develops Differently in Children with Autism

Published December 6, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

A study in Brain Research shows a difference in how auditory nerve fibers develop may explain why children with autism process sounds a fraction of a second more slowly than typically developing children do. It is known that the brains response to sound speeds up as children age. This boost in speed is known to be accompanied by the maturation of white matter the nerve fibers that connect brain regions. It was once believed that in children with autism, the white matter didn’t mature with age like it does in typically-developing children. However, it is now believed that it does mature with age in children with autism, just in a different way.

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Gut Microbes Linked to Autismlike Symptoms in Mice

Published December 5, 2013 in Science Magazine

More information has come about about the gut microbes study in Cell. “I’d want to know more about the mechanism by which the bacteria altered behavior in the mice before beginning to translate the findings to humans” says Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University and member of the ASF Scientific Advisory Board.

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Bacterium Can Reverse Autism-Like Behaviour in Mice

Published December 5, 2013 in Cell

Caltech researchers gave probiotics to mice that had been bred to have autism-like symptoms and found promising results. After being given the probiotics, the mice were more communicative and less anxious. The treatment also reduced gastrointestinal problems in the animals that were similar to those that often accompany autism in humans.

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Anxiety and Autism May Share Common Basis

Published December 3, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Anxiety runs in families with autism, hinting that the two conditions may share a common origin, suggests a twin study published recently in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Compared with controls, the children who had autism or some features of the disorder experienced more of all forms of anxiety, including social anxiety and episodes of panic, according to parent surveys. They scored especially high on generalized and separation anxiety.

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Sex Differences in Social Perception in Children with ASD

Published December 2, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Autism spectrum disorder is more common in males than females. An underrepresentation of females in the ASD literature has led to limited knowledge of differences in social function across the sexes. A study on face perception has shown that despite being closely matched for symptoms, IQ, and age, the girls showed more pronounced atypical brain response, which suggests they are indeed employing compensatory strategies to look as good as they do.

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Yale Researchers Find Genetic Links to Autism

Published November 21, 2013 in Cell

Scientists at Yale have identified which types of brain cells and regions of the brain are affected by genetic mutations linked to autism spectrum disorders. Researchers state that this new discovery has the potential for new types of autism treatments. We may not need to treat the whole brain, they say; only particular areas of the brain may be affected by autism at certain times.

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Neurons in Brain’s ‘Face Recognition Center’ Respond Differently in Patients With Autism

Published November 20, 2013 in Cedars-Sinai

In what are believed to be the first studies of their kind, Cedars-Sinai researchers recording the real-time firing of individual nerve cells in the brain found that a specific type of neuron in a structure called the amygdala performed differently in people who suffer from autism spectrum disorder than in those who do not. Researchers discovered that the mouth, much more than the eyes, is what people with autism focus on to decipher emotions expressed through facial expressions.

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College Students with Autism Often Succeed with Certain Majors

Published November 19, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Students with autism who attend community colleges two-year local institutions tend to succeed if they study science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), reports a new study published October 26 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Students who studied STEM subjects were less likely to drop out and were twice as likely to transfer to a four-year university than their non-STEM peers.

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Synaesthesia is More Common in Autism

Published November 19, 2013 in Molecular Autism

New research out of the University of Cambridge and published in the journal Molecular Autism found that people with autism are more likely to have synaethesia, which involves experiencing a mixing of the senses, such as seeing colors when they hear sounds. Both autism and synaesthesia involve neural over-connectivity, perhaps the reason why synaesthesia is disproportionately common in autism.

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Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Social Communication and Emotion Recognition

Published November 19, 2013 in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

In a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 3,666 children were assessed on their ability to correctly recognize emotions by looking at faces. Children with autistic-like social communication difficulties were compared with children without such difficulties. Autistic-like social communication difficulties were associated with poorer recognition of emotion from social motion cues in both genders, but were associated with poorer facial emotion recognition in boys only. Relatively good performance of girls on the task of facial emotion discrimination may be due to compensatory mechanisms, though more research is needed in this area.

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RNA Bits Vary in Social, Auditory Brain Areas in Autism

Published November 14, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

People with autism show differences from controls in the levels of microRNAs, small noncoding bits of RNA, in the social and sound-processing parts of the brain. MicroRNAs, or miRNAs, bind to messenger RNAs, which code for protein, and flag them for degradation. Each miRNA can interfere with the production of several proteins. Of the more than 5,000 miRNAs and other small noncoding RNAs that the researchers screened, they found 3 miRNAs that are dysregulated in these regions in people with autism compared with controls.

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Genetic Analysis Links Autism to Missing Brain Structure

Published November 14, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

The largest genetic analysis yet conducted of people lacking a brain structure called the corpus callosum shows that the condition shares many risk factors with autism. The study was published PLoS Genetics. The corpus callosum is the thick bundle of nerve fibers that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. People lacking this structure, a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum (AgCC), often have social impairments, and roughly one-third of adults meet diagnostic criteria for autism. Children with autism seem to have a smaller corpus callosum than controls do.

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New Imaging Method Details Brain Abnormalities in Mice

Published November 14, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

A new imaging technique that can assemble finely detailed pictures of an individual mouses brain in less than a day is being used to explore mouse models of autism. The automated technique cuts a mouse brain into 280 thin slices, which are scanned by a powerful microscope and the resulting images are then stitched together into a three-dimensional view. The researchers used this technique to investigate the imbalance of excitatory and inhibitory signals in a mouse model of 16p11.2 deletion. People missing this chromosomal region have an increased risk for autism, and about one-quarter have epilepsy, in which an excess of excitatory signals causes seizures.

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iPads Help Late-Speaking Children with Autism Develop Language

Published November 12, 2013 in Vanderbilt University

New research out of Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development found that using speech-generating devices, such as iPads, to encourage children ages 5 to 8 to develop speaking skills resulted in the subjects developing considerably more spoken words compared to other interventions. All of the children in the study learned new spoken words and several learned to produce short sentences as they moved through the training.

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Parents’ First Concerns about Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Effect of Sibling Status.

Published November 11, 2013 in Autism

Symptoms of autism spectrum disorders may appear as early as 6 months, but parent concern, which can precipitate evaluation, often lags significantly. The presence of typical or atypical older siblings can change parents’ sensitivity to departures from typical development. This study investigated type and age of parent’s first concerns in toddlers with autism spectrum disorder, prior to diagnosis. Participants had (1) at least one older sibling with autism spectrum disorder (Sibs-ASD); (2) only typically developing older siblings (Sibs-TD), or (3) were only/oldest (No-Sibs). Specific autism spectrum disorder diagnoses and symptom severity were similar among groups. Developmentally, No-Sibs showed the largest delays, followed by Sibs-TD, followed by Sibs-ASD. Mean age of first concern was 16 months for No-Sibs, 14 months for Sibs-TD, and 10 months for Sibs-ASD. Age of first concern differed significantly by group, even after controlling for mother’s age and education. Concern about language was prevalent in all groups. Thus, the presence of an older child with typical or, especially, atypical development was associated with earlier concerns for the affected child, despite milder developmental delays. These findings underscore the importance of encouraging parents to report concerns to pediatricians, routine standardized screening for autism spectrum disorder, and the need for pediatrician vigilance, especially for only or oldest children.

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Attention to Eyes is Present but in Decline in 26-Month-old Infants Later Diagnosed with Autism

Published November 6, 2013 in Natue

Today, in a publication in Nature, scientists show that it is possible to identify markers of autism in the first 6 months of life, much before children begin to show symptoms. In this study, these markers predicted both diagnosis and level of disability 2 12 years later when the children were evaluated by expert clinicians. The scientists used eye-tracking technology to measure the way babies visually engage with others. If these results are replicated in larger samples, these procedures might in the future empower primary care physicians to screen for autism as part of routine well-baby check ups. Equal energy and resources will then have to be invested in improving access to early treatment so that children are afforded the opportunity to fulfill their full potential.

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Mild Traits of Autism May Shift with Cultures

Published November 4, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Clinicians around the world diagnose children with autism, but is autism the same disorder around the world? A team of researchers has begun testing this question by comparing children in two European countries. The American definition of autism travels well across international borders in the case of British and Finnish children, they reported in the journal Autism. However, when the researchers compared mild traits of autism collectively referred to as broad autism phenotype, or BAP those of children from Finland do not line up well with descriptions in the DSM-5. This may be because of differences in language, culture and genetics between Finland and the U.K.

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Genetic Link Between Family Members with Autism and Language Impairment

Published October 30, 2013 in American Journal of Psychiatry

New research shows a genetic link between individuals with autism and family members with specific speech and language difficulties otherwise unexplained by cognitive or physical problems. Researchers discovered that genes in a small region of two chromosomes can lead to one family member developing autism and another family member only developing language impairment.

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Spinning System Turns Stem Cells Into Mini-Brains

Published October 30, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Researchers have coaxed human stem cells to develop into simplified mini-brains, with regions resembling discrete brain structures, reported in the journal Nature. A spinning culture system prods stem cells to develop into neurons in three dimensions. The culture system is a gelatinous protein-rich mixture that provides both the structural support and nutrients required for neuronal development. Already, the researchers have shown that these artificial brains may model human disorders better than real mouse brains do.

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Maternal Prenatal Weight Gain and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published October 28, 2013 in Pediatrics

New research from the University of Utah and published in the journal Pediatrics has uncovered an association between autism spectrum disorders and a small increase in the amount of weight a mother gains during pregnancy. These findings suggest that weight gain during pregnancy is not the cause of ASD but rather may reflect an underlying process that it shares with autism spectrum disorders, such as abnormal hormone levels or inflammation.

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Study Ties Growth Factor to Autism

Published October 22, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Mutations in the autism-linked protein NHE6 may block the development of neuronal junctions by interfering with a growth factor called BDNF, according to a study published in the journal Neuron. The results suggest that drugs that enhance BDNF signaling could treat some forms of autism, the researchers say.

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Kids with Autism are Often on Many Medications at Once

Published October 21, 2013 in Pediatrics

According to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, kids with autism are often prescribed mood altering drugs, sometimes many at one time and for extended periods of time. These drugs include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications. The study states that this practice occurs despite minimal evidence of the effectiveness or appropriateness of multidrug treatment of ASD.

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Typically Developing Children’s Initial Responses to Children with Autism

Published October 21, 2013 in Autism

Research investigating expressivity in children with autism spectrum disorder has reported flat affect or bizarre facial expressivity within this population; however, the impact expressivity may have on first impression formation has received little research input until now. A recent study published in the journal Autism suggests that typically developing children can form negative impressions of autistic children in as little as a thirty second encounter. The lead researcher on the study suggested that we need to focus on educating typically developing children to help break through the possible negative first impressions that can occur.

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Researchers Can Now Track Multiple Mice Simultaneously

Published October 16, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Researchers have developed software that can automatically track and catalog the behavior of up to four mice at once. Mice are often used for autism research because they are easy to manipulate genetically. This new method, which involves using images taken by a heat-sensing camera and a new software algorithm, makes collecting research more efficient.

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Autism Rates Rise in US, but Level Off in UK

Published October 16, 2013 in BMJ Open

Autism rates in the United Kingdom appear to have leveled off between the years 2000 and 2010 after a five-fold rate increase in the 1990s. The report, published in the journal BMJ Open, does not have any conclusive answers as to why there was such a dramatic increase in autism diagnosis in the 1990s, but it does state that any link between autism and vaccines has been ruled out. This BMJ Open report is being compared to a report released by the CDC last year that found rates of autism diagnosis in the United States increased 78 percent between 2004 and 2008.

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ASF Grantee Publishes Paper in Nature that Brings Insight to Study of Phelan-McDermid Syndrome and Autism

Published October 16, 2013 in Nature

A new study brings important insights about the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the loss and gain of synaptic function in human neurons from patients with Phelan-McDermid syndrome and autism. It also provides encouragement that neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells of patients will be useful in understanding and developing treatments for neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders.

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Babies Born to Women with Diabetes may be at Higher Risk for Autism

Published October 15, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Babies born to women with gestational diabetes tend to be large and go through spells of low blood sugar within their first few days of life. They may also be at an increased risk for autism, reports a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The study also found that the risk extends to children born to women who had diabetes prior to pregnancy.

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Autism and Epilepsy Cases Share Mutations

Published October 15, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

About one-third of people with autism suffer from epilepsy. This overlap suggests that the two disorders may have a common origin a theory borne out by examples of shared genetics. Mutations in GABRB3, a brain receptor linked to autism, are prevalent in severe childhood epilepsy, according to a study published in Nature. The study also found that many of the spontaneous mutations found in children with epilepsy overlap with those linked to autism and fragile X syndrome.

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Researchers Grow Large Batches of Neurons for Drug Screening

Published October 9, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Researchers have optimized the production from stem cells of large numbers of a subtype of neurons involved in cognitive function. These neurons express the chemical messenger glutamate and are implicated in cognitive disorders such as autism. This technique, published in Translational Psychiatry, could generate enough neurons for large-scale screening of drugs.

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Deleted Genes Offer Autism Clues

Published October 3, 2013 in American Journal of Human Genetics

Research published in the American Journal of Human Genetics found that people with ASDs often have just one copy of certain genes, when typically-developing people have two. This “mis-wiring” could alter the activity of nerve cells in the brain. The study found that the most commonly missing genes were linked to autophagy – a kind of waste-disposal and renewal process for cells. This study was led by Dr. Joseph Buxbaum, who is on ASF’s Scientific Advisory Board.

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New Behavioral Test Uncovers Autism Mouse’s Stubbornness

Published October 2, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Researchers have developed a new test that reveals complex repetitive behaviors in BTBR mice, a mouse strain with features resembling those of autism, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods. Repetitive behavior is common in autism, and usually comes in two forms: repetitive actions, such as hand flapping or rocking, and higher-order symptoms, such as an insistence on sameness, or restricted interests. This second form is difficult to produce in mice, but these researchers believe they have been able to do it.

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Autism Symptoms Change Over Time

Published October 1, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Siblings of children with autism who are later diagnosed with the disorder themselves become more active, less adaptable and less likely to approach others over time, according to a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The results reinforce the observation that autism symptoms evolve as children age, the researchers say.

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Kids with Cerebral Palsy More Likely to Have Autism

Published October 1, 2013 in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

New research from the CDC and published in the journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology found significantly high rates of autism among children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Of the 147,000 children studied, seven percent of the children with cerebral palsy were also diagnosed with autism, compared to a little greater than one percent of kids who have autism in the general population.

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Parents Create Custom Jobs for Adult Kids with Autism

Published September 28, 2013 in USA Today

Parents of adult children with autism are creating job opportunities for their kids that cater to their strengths. It can be very difficult for someone with autism to find employment that is matched to his or her unique needs, but some organizations, such as Extraordinary Ventures in Chapel Hill, NC are doing just that.

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Study Finds No Link Between ASDs and Celiac Disease

Published September 25, 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry

A new nationwide study conducted in Sweden and published in JAMA Psychiatry found there to be no link between celiac disease and autism spectrum disorders. There was, however, some evidence that people who have been diagnosed with autism are more sensitive to gluten, even though they don’t have celiac disease. The design of the study did not allow for a conclusion that gluten sensitivity caused autism, nor vice versa.

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Kids with Autism Often Have Trouble Sleeping

Published September 23, 2013 in Archives of Disease in Children

The results of a recent study will probably come as no surprise to most parents of children with autism: children with ASDs have more sleep problems than their peers. In fact, between ages 2.5 and 11.5, kids with autism average 43 fewer minutes of sleep per night when compared to their typically-developing peers. The next step is to research how less sleep may play a part in behavior problems.

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Autism Drugs in Some Countries have Serious Side Effects

Published September 20, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

The most popular drugs prescribed for autism in some countries often have serious side effects or have not been vetted in robust clinical trials, finds a survey published in the journal Psychopharmacology. Additionally, children with ASDs take more drugs than adults with ASDs. ADHD in children with autism may play a factor in this.

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Study Finds that a Subset of Children with Autism may be Misdiagnosed

Published September 18, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disororders

A study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute studied children with chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, who as a group have a prevalence of autism between 20 and 50 percent according to parent reports. This study found that these children may be getting misdiagnosed because the symptoms of the chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, including social impairments, are very similar to symptoms of autism.

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People with Autism Don’t Always “Catch” Yawns

Published September 17, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

A new study finds that people with autism often miss facial cues that lead other people to “catch” yawns. Because individuals with autism often avoid looking at other people’s faces, they may not pick up on the cues, such as closed eyes, that would encourage them to yawn. However, when asked to look at someone’s face as they yawn, people with autism do yawn just as often as people without autism.

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Autism Genes are Surprisingly Large, Study Finds

Published September 16, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

In a study recently published in the journal Nature, researchers discovered that autism genes are three to four times longer than the average gene expressed in neurons. According to the study, most mutations found in long genes tend to be discounted due to the fact that long genes generally have a higher probability of having a mutation, but the study says researchers think mutations in long genes should be looked at more carefully from now on.

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Profile: Autism Science Foundation on

Published September 15, 2013 in writer Lisa Jo Rudy profiles The Autism Science Foundation in her quest to help readers decipher who’s who in the autism world.

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Most People Who Work with Special-Needs Children Lack Knowledge About Fragile X

Published September 13, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

According to a recent study in the journal Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, most people who work with special-needs children lack basic knowledge about Fragile X syndrome, even though it is the leading cause of inherited intellectual disability. Most people studied did not know many of the symptoms of the syndrome or how best to support children with Fragile X syndrome.

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Alarm Over Autism Test

Published September 13, 2013 in Science Magazine

A research group exploring the hypothesis that certain maternal antibodies can impair fetal brains has partnered with a company to develop a test for predicting whether a woman will have a child with autism. The antibodies, they claim, could account for up to a quarter of all autism cases. But other autism scientists are skeptical that the evidence is strong enough to make such a claim, or to consider an autism test based on the antibodies.

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ASF Blog Post: ASF Encourages American Academy of Pediatrics to Increase Resources for Wandering Prevention

Published September 11, 2013 in Autism Science Foundation Blog

ASF President Alison Singer writes about meeting with leaders at the American Academy of Pediatrics to encourage them to devote more resources to the prevention of wandering and about why wandering is such an important issue.

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Oxytocin and Serotonin May Not be Rewarding Social Interactions in Autistic Brain

Published September 11, 2013 in Nature

In the brain, oxytocin and serotonin work together to make social interactions pleasurable, rewarding, and worth repeating. A new study in the journal Nature shows that in individuals with autism, these rewarding functions may not be occurring properly, making social interaction uncomfortable.

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Autistic Children Can Miss Non-Verbal Cues When Listening

Published September 10, 2013 in Developmental Science

Due to the fact that many people with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty holding eye contact during face to face interaction, these people can miss out on important non-verbal cues during this interaction. The study also found that most people, whether typically- or non-typically developing, have difficulty holding eye contact when thinking, such as if asked to answer a challenging math problem.

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Young Adults with Autism Found to Have Difficulty Transitioning Into Employment

Published September 5, 2013 in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes that young adults with autism spectrum disorders are experiencing particular difficulty in successfully transitioning into employment. Approximately one half of young adults with an ASD have worked for pay outside the home in the first eight years following high school. The study concludes that further research is needed to determine strategies for improving outcomes as these young adults transition into adulthood.

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Genome-Editing Tools Compose New Models of Autism

Published September 5, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

New synthetic biology tools have allowed for great advances in genetic testing of many mutations. This technology known as CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) allows researchers to create molecular scissors that cut and paste essentially any mutation into the genome of any cell, including a human stem cell.

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Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative Opens 2014 Request for Applications

Published September 4, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

SFARI’s annual RFA will provide funding for investigators conducting bold, creative and rigorous research into the underlying biology, causes and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. SFARI will consider proposals in diverse areas, including genetics, molecular mechanisms, circuits, anatomy, sensory perception, cognition, behavior, translation and therapeutics.

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Study of Nonverbal Autism Must Go Beyond Words, Experts Say

Published September 2, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

About one fourth of people with autism are minimally verbal or nonverbal. Early intervention programs have been helping children develop language skills, but researchers say that seemingly unrelated issues such as motor skills and joint attention may hold the key to communication development.

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Prospective Examination of Visual Attention During Play in Infants at High-Risk for ASD

Published September 1, 2013 in Behavioral Brain Research

Regulation of visual attention is essential to learning about one’s environment. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit impairments in regulating their visual attention, but little is known about how such impairments develop over time. This prospective longitudinal study is the first to describe the development of components of visual attention, including engaging, sustaining, and disengaging attention, in infants at high-risk of developing ASD (each with an older sibling with ASD). Non-sibling controls and high-risk infant siblings were filmed at 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24, and 36 months of age as they engaged in play with small, easily graspable toys. Duration of time spent looking at toy targets before moving the hand toward the target and the duration of time spent looking at the target after grasp were measured. At 36 months of age, an independent, gold standard diagnostic assessment for ASD was conducted for all participants. As predicted, infant siblings subsequently diagnosed with ASD were distinguished by prolonged latency to disengage (‘sticky attention’) by 12 months of age, and continued to show this characteristic at 15, 18, and 24 months of age. The results are discussed in relation to how the development of visual attention may impact later cognitive outcomes of children diagnosed with ASD.;jsessionid=4pokSXNYgeCg8hZd2lYL.2

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New Tools Validate Dish-Grown Neurons for Autism Research

Published September 1, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Creating neurons from stem cells in a lab dish is a popular approach for studying developmental disorders such as autism. For this, researchers begin with stem cells, either taken from postmortem fetal brains or reprogrammed from other cells. They then chemically coax them into becoming neurons. Two new studies suggest that neurons made from stem cells recapitulate the early stages of development, making them good models for disorders such as autism. However, the neurons never fully reach the maturity of neurons found in adult brains.

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New Blog Post: Music Therapy May Help Children with Autism

Published August 30, 2013 in Autism Science Foundation Blog

A 2004 study from the Journal of Music Therapy found that music in interventions used with children and teens with ASD can improve social behaviors, increase focus and attention, increase communication attempts (vocalizations, verbalizations, gestures, and vocabulary), reduce anxiety, and improve body awareness and coordination. Read all about it in our newest blog post written by Marcela De Vivo.

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In Autism, Head and Body Size Varies with Gender

Published August 29, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Girls with autism tend to have smaller heads and bodies than their typically developing peers, whereas boys with the disorder tend to have average-sized heads and slightly larger bodies, report two recent studies. This shows another way that autism affects males and females differently.

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Researchers Discover a Potential Cause of Autism

Published August 28, 2013 in Natue

Researchers at UNC have discovered that problems with a key group of enzymes known as topoisomerases can have profound effects on the genetic machinery behind brain development and potentially lead to autism spectrum disorder. Researchers believe this finding represents a great step forward in the search for environmental factors behind autism.

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Autistic Children and Adults Find Calm in “Snoezelen” Room

Published August 27, 2013 in Tampa Bay Times

A multisensory room, known as the Snoezelen room, in an Autism Behavioral Center in St. Petersburg, FL is helping individuals with developmental disabilities by allowing them to regulate how much sensory stimulation they experience while in the room. The light up ball pit, patterns of light projected on the wall, and other forms of sensory stimulation are all controlled by a remote given to the individual. There are 1,200 rooms like this in the United States providing a calming experience for people with autism by giving them an escape from an overstimulating world.

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Study Aims to Capture Autism’s Transition into Adulthood

Published August 26, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

For adolescents with autism or other developmental disorders, the transition to adulthood can be especially difficult. A large study in the U.K. is researching this transition period when this group is aging out of pediatric healthcare services and entering the adult system.

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The Autism Science Foundation and the NIH Fund Study of Promising Treatment for Autism Subtypes

Published August 26, 2013 in Newswise

Scientists at the Seaver Autism Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have received grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Autism Science Foundation to study Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), a promising treatment for subtypes of autism. Clinical Director at the Seaver Autism Center, Dr. Alex Kolevzon, says, “IGF-1 has the potential to be effective in treating Phelan-McDermid Syndrome and other types of autism spectrum disorder. We are very pleased that the NIH and the Autism Science Foundation have recognized this by providing us funding to continue our work in bringing this medication to our patients.

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Recurrence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Full- and Half-Siblings and Trends Over Time

Published August 22, 2013 in JAMA Pediatrics

Children who have an older sibling with autism are seven times more likely than other kids to be diagnosed with autism themselves, according to a new study from Denmark. A higher-than-average risk was also detected for children who have a half-sibling with ASD, especially if the two children had the same mother.

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FDA Warns Against Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Autism

Published August 22, 2013 in U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The FDA has issued a warning against using Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) in the treatment of autism. HBOT involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber. This treatment has not been cleared by the FDA for the treatment of autism, though there are some places on the internet that falsely claim it has. The FDA urges people to work with their health care professional to determine their best choice for treatment.

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Manual Gives Emergency Crews Autism Training

Published August 20, 2013 in Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Researchers have developed a manual called, “A Guide for Emergency Department Personnel: Assessing and Treating Individuals With Autism.” Emergency rooms are often loud and chaotic; this can frighten a person with autism, further hindering his or her communication or sensory skills. This guide aims to teach emergency care givers how to best communicate with and assess autistic patients in these hectic environments.

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Risk of Epilepsy Linked to Age and Intelligence

Published August 19, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Children with autism who are older than 13 years and have low intelligence are at the greatest risk of having epilepsy, says one of the largest epidemiological studies on the issue to date. The presence of epilepsy among the general population is around two percent; the prevalence of epilepsy among people with autism is around thirty percent. This study breaks down occurrence of epilepsy by age, with children ages 13 to 17 having the highest prevalence.

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Pediatrician Identification of Latino Children at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published August 19, 2013 in Pediatrics

Latino children with autism are being diagnosed less often and later than non-minority children. This new study in Pediatrics shows that this may be due to a language barrier between doctors and patients, along with a lack of dissemination of culturally appropriate ASD materials to Latino families.

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Autistic Kids Who Best Peers at Math Show Different Brain Organization

Published August 16, 2013 in Biological Psychiatry

Children with autism and average IQs consistently demonstrated superior math skills compared with nonautistic children in the same IQ range, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

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Autism Four Times Likelier When Mother’s Thyroid is Weakened

Published August 13, 2013 in Annals of Neurology

A study from the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute and Erasmus Medical Centre discovered that mothers who do not produce enough of a thyroid hormone, thyroxine, are nearly four times more likely to have a child with autism. In the past, this hormone has been shown to be important in the migration of fetal brain cells during embryo development.

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Induced Labor Associated with Autism Risk

Published August 13, 2013 in JAMA Pediatrics

A study posted in JAMA Pediatrics shows an association with induced and augmented labor with an increased risk of autism. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center studied over 625,000 live births, of which 5,500 were documented as having autism. The study adds, While these results are interesting, further investigation is needed to differentiate among potential explanations of the association, including underlying pregnancy conditions requiring the eventual need to induce/augment, the events of labor and delivery…and the specific treatments and dosing used.”

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Autisms Unexpected Link to Cancer Gene

Published August 11, 2013 in The New York Times

Researchers have recently discovered that two seemingly unrelated conditions, autism and cancer, share an unexpected connection. Some people with autism have specific mutated cancer or tumor genes that scientists believe caused their autism. While this does not apply to all people with autism, just the ones with the mutated gene, it is a very illuminating discovery in the field.

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Multinational Resource Combines Autism Risk Factors

Published August 5, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

A new database compiles health data from seven countries, greatly expanding sample size for epidemiological autism studies. This project, the International Collaboration for Autism Registry Epidemiology (iCARE), combines data from 80,000 individuals diagnosed with autism from the years 1967 to 2009.

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Genetic Discovery Links Autism and Schizophrenia

Published August 4, 2013 in Nature Neuroscience

Nelson Freimer and colleagues at UCLA studied a population in an isolated area of Finland where Schizophrenia is more common than in the average Finnish population. In this small group, it was discovered that the presence of a deletion on part of chromosome 22 was much more prevalent than in the rest of the population. This deleted region normally contains an enzyme, TOP3B. This lack of TOP3B is also linked to disruptions that can lead to Fragile X Syndrome, showing there may be a biological link between Fragile X and Schizophrenia. An article about this study can be found here:

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New Study Deciphers Potential Roles of Oxytocin in Brain Function

Published August 4, 2013 in Nature

An NYU study explored the role of oxytocin in the brain’s ability to filter wanted stimuli from unwanted stimuli. The researchers suggest that the neurohormone, oxytocin, is not only used to reduce unwanted background noise but also plays a key function in strengthening desired signals.

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Grandfather’s Age Linked to Autism

Published August 1, 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry

A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that men who fathered children at age 50 or older were nearly twice as likely to have a grandchild with autism compared to men who had children at a younger age. The study focused on age-related aspects and sought to control any other variables, such as socioeconomic status.

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Dr. Jennifer Elder Provides Commentary on Current Research for the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free (GFCF) Diet

Published August 1, 2013

Dr. Jennifer Elder provides an evidence-based discussion about the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet in her guest blog post for the blog series “Comorbid Conditions with Autism”. Dr. Elder’s goal was to highlight what current research says about the GFCF diet so families can make an informed decision if it is right for them.

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Dr. Susan Hyman Discusses GI Problems in Children with Autism for a Guest Blog Post

Published July 30, 2013

Dr. Susan Hyman addressed many important questions about GI problems associated with autism for our guest blog series “Comorbid Conditions with Autism”. In the post, she provided an informed update on current evidence-based research in the area of GI problems and autism.

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Cholesterol connection to Rett Syndrome

Published July 28, 2013 in Nature Genetics

Professor Monica Justice has written a study on a connection between cholesterol and Rett Syndrome. Statin drugs, known to lower cholesterol, were shown to increase mobility, overall health scores, and lifespan in mice with Rett Syndrome.

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Preferred Play Activities of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Naturalistic Settings

Published July 25, 2013 in North American Journal of Medicine and Science

Play is important to children’s development, and a new study has found the types of play that appeal most to children with ASD: play that provides strong sensory feedback, cause-and-effect results, and repetitive motions. Incorporating this type of play in recreational facilities, after-school programs, and playgrounds encourages inclusion and social interaction with peers.

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New Technique Maps Topography of Autism Brain Connections

Published July 22, 2013 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A technique borrowed from geography bolsters the idea that altered wiring of the brains gray matter plays a role in autism, according to a new report. This is the first study to examine intrinsic connectivity in the living brain.

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Dr. Beth Malow Wrote a Post About Sleep Issues Associated With Autism For Our Blog

Published July 17, 2013

Dr. Beth Malow of Vanderbilt University wrote a guest blog post where she discusses what we know and what we need to know about sleeping issues associated with autism.

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Researchers Find Reduced Microbial Diveristy In Gut of Individuals with Autism

Published July 13, 2013 in PLoS One

Researchers found that individuals with autism have significantly fewer kinds of bacteria in their intestines. However, there was no relationship found between microbial diversity and severity of GI problems.

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Problematic Antibodies Affecting Brain Development During Pregnancy Could Help Explain 1/4 of Cases of Autism

Published July 9, 2013 in Translational Psychiatry

Antibodies found almost exclusively in mothers with children who have autism have a certain anitbody that may be affecting brain development during pregnancy. The same study says that these antibodies could account for nearly 1/4 of all cases of autism.

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Controversial Study Suggests That An Ear Muscle In Children with Autism Responds to Lower Decibel Sounds Than Typical Controls

Published July 3, 2013 in Autism Research and Treatment

A controversial study suggests that an ear muscle in children with autism responds to sounds that are a few decibels lower compared to typically developing children. Some researchers suggest this could be used as a simple clinical biomarker for autism but some scientists disagree.

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Study Examines the Effects of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) on Autism Risk

Published July 3, 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry

This study found that most in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures do not show an increase in the risk of autism. However, it found a small increase in the risk of autism in the most severe forms of male infertility that require surgical sperm retrieval.

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Mothers Who Have Children with ASD Show Significantly Higher Levels of Fatigue

Published July 1, 2013 in Autism

This study shows that parents who have children with ASD show significantly higher levels of fatigue when compared to mothers of typically developing children. The study argues the need for interventions that specifically target maternal fatigue.

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Young Children With Autism Benefit Regardless of High-Quality Treatment Model

Published June 28, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

A UNC comparative efficacy study that compared the LEAP, TEACCH and Non-Model-Specific Special Education Programs found that young children who receive high-quality early intervention benefit developmentally regardless of the treatment model used.

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Study Finds Hyperconnectivity in Certain Brain Regions in Individuals with Autism.

Published June 26, 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry

During a brain study, researchers found that individuals with autism have specific areas of hyperconnectivity in the brain. This supports the theory that unique autistic behaviors stem from differences in brain wiring.

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Crossed Eyes and Lazy Eyes Are Common In Children With Autism

Published June 21, 2013 in Strabismus

A small study sampling 52 patients with autism found that eye problems, such as crossed eyes and lazy eyes, are common in children with autism.

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Using Fluorescent Proteins, Scientists Find A New Way To Light Up Living Neurons for Research.

Published June 19, 2013 in Neuron

Scientists have found a new way to light up living cells for research. Using fluorescent proteins, scientists can reveal connections between neurons in the brain.

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Scientists Launch Large Brain Imaging Scan Database

Published June 18, 2013 in Molecular Psychiatry

Scientists create an accessible database of more than 1,000 brain scans of people with autism and controls. The database, called the Autism Brain Imaging Data Exchange (ABIDE), will help scientists share brain imaging data.

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Gluten Sensitivities May Cause GI Problems in Children with Autism

Published June 18, 2013 in PLoS One

A subset of children with autism displays increased immune reactivity to gluten, the mechanism of which appears to be distinct from that in celiac disease. The increased anti-gliadin antibody response and its association with GI symptoms points to a potential mechanism involving immunologic and/or intestinal permeability abnormalities in affected children.

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Perinatal Exposure to Air Pollutants May Increase Risk for ASD.

Published June 18, 2013 in Environmental Health Perspectives

Study finds correlation that suggests that women who are exposed to high levels of air pollution during pregnancy have a higher chance of having a child with autism.

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Voices May Not Trigger Brain’s Reward Centers in Children with ASD

Published June 17, 2013 in PNAS

This Stanford study identifies an underconnectivity between the voice-selective cortex and the reward centers in the brain. This could suggest why children with autism have trouble grasping the social and emotional aspects of human speech.

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Minority Children with Autism Are Significantly Less Likely to Use Specialty Care

Published June 17, 2013 in Pediatrics

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston found that minority children are significantly less likely to use specialty care for complications with the disorder when compared to kids from white families. The most significant difference was for GI and nutrition services.

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Studies Show Key Steps of How Mutations to the MeCP2 Gene Cause Rett Syndrome

Published June 16, 2013 in Nature Neuroscience

Two collaborative papers reveal the key steps of how mutations to the MeCP2 gene cause Rett Syndrome by impairing the interaction between MeCP2 and the NCoR/SMRT co-repressor.

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Majority of Individuals with SHANK3 Gene Problems Have Both Autism and Severe Intellectual Disability

Published June 11, 2013 in Molecular Autism

Prospective study of 22q13 deletion syndrome and SHANK3 deficiency shows that the majority of individuals with a SHANK3 deficiency show both signs of autism and severe intellectual disability.

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First Prospective Study on the Effect of Shank3 Deficiency on Phelan-McDermid Syndrome

Published June 11, 2013 in Molecular Autism

ASF Scientific Advisory Board Member, Joe Buxbaum, directed the first prospective study on the effects of Shank3 deficiency on a subtype of autism called 22q13 Deletion Syndrome, also known as Phelan-McDermid Syndrome.

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Autism Affects Sexes Differently

Published June 7, 2013 in Brain

A Cambridge study that used brain imaging samples of individuals with autism, led by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, found evidence that autism affects sexes differently. The study showed that women who have the condition demonstrate neuroanatomical masculinization, which suggests that women with autism have more masculine brains. Dr. Baron-Cohen argues that this study reinforces that researchers “should not blindly assume that everything found in males with autism applies to females.”News Article:

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Two Studies Isolate Specific Brain Circuits That Underlie Compulsive Behaviors Seen in Individuals with OCD and Autism

Published June 7, 2013 in Science

Two studies successfully attempted to shut down and trigger compulsive behaviors in mice by using light to target certain brain circuits. These studies helped isolate the obsessive brain circuits believed to underlie compulsive behaviors in individuals with OCD and autism. 1)

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Ketogenic Diet Improves Multiple Autistic Behaviors in Mice

Published June 5, 2013 in PLOS One

A Trinity study saw improvements in multiple autistic behaviors in BTBR mice fed a ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet provided to the mice is a strict high fat, low carbohydrate and protein diet that is commonly used to treat epilepsy.

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Study Shows 1/3 of All Children With Autism Have ADHD

Published June 5, 2013 in Kennedy Krieger Institute

During its study, the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that 1/3 of participants who have autism were also diagnosed with ADHD. This could suggest a genetic link between the two conditions.

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Working Memory Deficits in High-functioning Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Neuropsychological and Neuroimaging correlate

Published June 4, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

This new review of neuropsychological and functional neuroimaging studies suggests that system specific problems of spatial working memory are often seen in adolescents with ASD. Additionally, researchers found that “neuroimaging studies indicate a more global working memory processing or connectivity deficiency, rather than a focused deficit in the prefrontal cortex.”

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Decreased Amino Acid L-Tryptophan Metabolism In Patients With ASD

Published June 4, 2013 in Molecular Autism

The study found that individuals with ASD had significantly decreased metabolism of the amino acid L-Tryptophan compared to their control group and individuals with other neurodevelopmental disorders. This amino acid could be used as a potential indicator for a simple, early blood test for autism.

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FMR1 Knockout Mice Observed to have Hyperactive Neural Firing Rates

Published June 2, 2013 in Nature: Neuroscience

Researchers at UCLA observed hyperactive firing rates in the brains of FMR1 knockout mice; mice engineered to have symptoms similar to those in ASD and Fragile X syndrome.

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Brain Imaging Reveals Thicker Cortex with More Folds in Autism Brains

Published June 1, 2013 in Brain: A Journal of Neurology

Brain imaging study reveals individuals with autism have a ticker cortex with more folds. This suggests that differences in cognitive abilities of people with autism could be due to unique brain structures.

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Seaside Therapeutics Discontinues Arbaclofen (STX209) Extension Study

Published May 31, 2013 in The Boston Globe

Seaside Therapeutics has discontinued their extension study of Arbaclofen (STX209), a drug that showed promise in treating social impairment related to Fragile X syndrome.

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Autism Experts Discuss the New DSM-5 Criteria in this Special Report

Published May 30, 2013 in SFARI

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Brain Responses to Words in 2-Year-Olds with Autism Predict Developmental Outcomes at Age 6

Published May 29, 2013 in PLoS ONE

Researchers have demonstrated that brain responses to words in children with autism at age two may strongly predict cognitive ability, receptive language and adaptive behavior in those children at ages 4 and 6.

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New Gene Variants Linked to Autism

Published May 28, 2013 in Nature

A new study using families from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) finds that individuals with autism are 20% more likely to have copy-number variations of specific genes.

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Early Signs Of Autism: Does My Toddler Have It?

Published May 24, 2013 in The Huffington Post

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How Can Immigrant Families Get Help For Their Autistic Child

Published May 24, 2013 in ASF Blog

Guest blogger Marcela De Vivo shares insight on some of the difficulties immigrant families face when getting help for their child with autism in this week’s ASF blog post.

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Brain Imaging Study Shows Decreased Production of Chemical Messenger GABA in Individuals with Autism

Published May 23, 2013 in Neuroimage

A new brain imaging study shows that children with autism have low levels of GABA, a chemical that keeps brain signals in check. This is the third study in two years that supports the theory of decreased production of GABA.

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Compared to What? Early Brain Overgrowth in Autism and the Perils of Population Norms

Published May 23, 2013 in Biological Psychiatry

A new report questions the evidence for atypical early brain growth in ASD, suggesting reports of abnormal head circumference (HC) growth may be due to a systematic bias in common HC norms rather than dysregulated early brain growth in ASD. The authors encourage future studies to use comparison data from typically developing and clinical control samples and several growth norms in parallel to avoid bias.

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SFARI Live DSM-5 Discussion: May 29 3pm ET

Published May 23, 2013 in SFARI

Simons Foundation will host a live DSM-5 roundtable discussion on May 29 at 3pm ET. The panelists, Dr. Thomas Insel, Dr. Cathy Lord and Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg, will explore the new guidelines’ impact on autism diagnosis as well as on research. Listeners will have a chance to ask the panelists questions during the discussion.

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Important Molecular Targets of the Autism-Linked RORA Gene Identified

Published May 22, 2013 in Molecular Autism

Scientists from George Washington University identified hundreds of molecular targets of the RORA gene. Of these molecular targets, 426 are linked to autism by the AutismKB database.

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Effects of Increased Development in Peripheral Vision on Children with Autism’s Reduced Ability to Make Eye Contact

Published May 22, 2013 in The European Journal of Neuroscience

In this study, children with ASD showed higher activity in the periphery of their visual field as compared to children without ASD. This higher activity and dependency on their peripheral vision could be explained by reduced ability early in life to control their eye movements.

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The Legacy of the Wakefield Vaccine Scare: A Measles Epidemic in Great Britain

Published May 22, 2013 in NPR

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Increasing the Gut Bacteria In Mice That Lack Them Helps Increase Their Sociability with Familiar Mice

Published May 21, 2013 in Molecular Psychiatry

A new study finds that increasing the gut bacteria populations in mice that lack them helps to increase their sociability. The increase in sociability is mainly limited to familiar mice but the study does show support for the theory of a connection between the gut and autism in certain cases.

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Environmental Enrichment as an Effective Treatment for Autism: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Published May 20, 2013 in Behavioral Neuroscience

Researchers at University of California Irvine conducted a randomized controlled trial of sensorimotor enrichment in young boys with ASD. Behavioral and cognitive improvements in the children who received sensorimotor therapy suggest that it may be a promising treatment for ASD symptoms. The group is now conducting a larger trial that includes girls.

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Ad Campaign Uses New Approach to Promote Early Autism Recognition in African-American and Hispanic Families

Published May 20, 2013 in The New York Times

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New DSM Brings Change, Assurances For Those With Autism

Published May 19, 2013 in Disability Scoop

With the release of the DSM-5 comes an updated definition of autism and a major change to the way it is diagnosed.

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DSM-5: The Debate Continues

Published May 15, 2013 in Molecular Autism

The editors of Molecular Autism, Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen and ASF SAB member Dr. Joe Buxbaum, invited the labs of Dr. Cathy Lord and Dr. Fred Volkmar to offer their perspectives on the new DSM-5 criteria for the autism spectrum.Read Dr. Lord’s commentary here: Dr. Volkmar’s commentary here:

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Diagnosis of Toddlers with ASD supported by changes to symptom structure in DSM-5

Published May 13, 2013 in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry analyzes the changes made to the DSM-5 in regards to autism symptom structure in toddlers with ASD. The DSM-5 model was found to be a superior fit to the data than other models used during toddler assessment.

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Autism Matters Podcast Series

Published May 13, 2013 in Autism

The Autism Matters podcast series aims to showcase the latest research published in the journal Autism in a way that is accessible, easy to understand and has real world relevance. The podcasts are aimed at a broad audience, including academics, researchers, students, clinicians, journalists, policy makers, individuals with autism and their families, and anyone interested in autism spectrum disorders.

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Parents Turn Their Skills to Furthering Autism Research

Published May 9, 2013 in SFARI

ASF President Alison Singer is featured in this article on how parent advocates help advance autism research.

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Fragile X Mutation May Produce Toxic Protein Clumps That Cause FXTAS

Published May 8, 2013 in Neuron

University of Michigan study finds that a mild form of the fragile X mutation produces protein clumps that may trigger fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia.

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A Substantial and Unexpected Enhancement of Motion Perception in Autism

Published May 8, 2013 in Journal of Neuroscience

This new study found that children with autism see simple movement twice as quickly as other children their age.

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How Autism Is Different in Girls Versus Boys

Published May 7, 2013 in The Wall Street Journal

“Why do boys get diagnosed with autism four times as often as girls? New research, including some of the latest data from the International Society for Autism Research annual conference last week, addresses this question, one of the biggest mysteries in the field.”

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Special Issue on: School-based Research of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published May 1, 2013 in Autism

Autism Special Issue

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Preschool Based JASPER Intervention in Minimally Verbal Children with Autism: Pilot RCT

Published May 1, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

A recent pilot study linked the JASPER intervention (Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement and Regulation) to core deficit improvement in minimally verbal 3 to 5 year olds with autism.

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Excessive Cerebral Spinal Fluid and Enlarged Brain Size in Infants May Be a Potential Biomarker for Autism

Published April 29, 2013 in Brain: A Journal of Neurology

Researchers find that infants who later develop autism have more cerebral spinal fluid and larger brain sizes compared to typically developing infants. These differences could be a potential biomarker in infants for autism.

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Cognitive Enhancement Therapy for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Results of an 18-month Feasibility Study

Published April 26, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

New findings from a small pilot study suggest cognitive enhancement therapy is a feasible and effective intervention for cognitive impairments in verbal adults with ASD. Adult participants were highly satisfied with the therapy and treatment attendance was high, indicating their willingness to participate in and commit to an intervention that they considered useful.

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Social Participation Among Young Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published April 25, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

In an attempt to raise awareness of the unique obstacles faced by young adults with ASD, researchers compared their social experiences with the experiences of young adults who received special education services for intellectual disability, emotional disturbance, or learning disability and found young adults with ASD experienced significantly more social isolation.

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SFARI: Studies Show Promise for Fragile X Treatment

Published April 25, 2013 in SFARI

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Trophoblast Inclusions Are Significantly Increased in the Placentas of Children in Families at Risk for Autism

Published April 25, 2013 in Biological Psychiatry

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine have figured out how to measure an infant’s risk of developing autism by looking for abnormalities in his/her placenta at birth, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment for the developmental disorder.

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Methylomic Analysis of Monozygotic Twins Discordant for Autism Spectrum Disorder and Related Behavioural Traits

Published April 23, 2013 in Molecular Psychiatry

This study suggests environmentally driven changes to the epigenome may contribute to the development of ASD and ASD-related behaviors. The study, which involved identical twins who were discordant for ASD and related traits, is the first large-scale examination of the role of genome-wide DNA methylation in ASD.

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Abnormal Placenta Folds Could Be Indicator of Autism

Published April 22, 2013 in Biological Psychiatry

This study suggests that the placentas from women whose fetuses are at elevated risk for autism are markedly different from control placentas. Specifically, the identification of an increase in folds in the placenta could be used to identify children at risk of being autistic.

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Young Adults With Autism Can Thrive In High-Tech Jobs

Published April 22, 2013 in NPR

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Genetic Variations in Chromosome 16 Region Affect More Males with Autism Than Females

Published April 18, 2013 in PLoS One

London study finds a higher rate of gene variations in the chromosome 16 region in males with autism compared to females.

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Cognition and Behavior: ‘Mind blindness’ Has Brain Signature

Published April 13, 2013 in SFARI

Two recent studies have linked mind-blindness to atypical patterns of brain activity in people with ASD.

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Chat with Dr. Peter Gerhardt CANCELLED

Published April 12, 2013

Due to an unexpected conflict, Dr. Peter Gerhardt’s talk will be rescheduled for a future date. For those of you with questions for Dr. Gerhardt, feel free to still submit them at and we will see that they are answered.

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Live Chat with Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen

Published April 5, 2013 in ASF

Did you miss the live chat? Read the transcript here.

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White House Announces New Brain Research Initiative

Published April 2, 2013

ASF President Alison Singer joined President Obama for the official public announcement of the BRAIN Initiative.

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Fetal and Sociocultural Environments and Autism

Published April 1, 2013 in American Journal of Psychiatry

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Bridges and Barriers to Successful Transitioning as Perceived by Adolescents and Young Adults With Asperger Syndrome

Published March 28, 2013 in Journal of Pediatric Nursing

This thematic content analysis examined the expectations, and perceived facilitators of and barriers to transition to community as reported by adolescents and young adults with Asperger syndrome.

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Global Increases in Both Common and Rare Copy Number Load Associated with Autism

Published March 27, 2013 in Human Molecular Genetics

Penn State researchers link autism to increased genetic change in “hotspots”, regions of the genome that are highly susceptible to mutation.

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IACC News Update: IACC Recommends Public and Private Health Coverage for Early Behavioral Intervention for Children with ASD

Published March 25, 2013 in IACC

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Special Report: Connectivity

Published March 25, 2013 in SFARI

This special report from the Simons Foundation looks at neural connectivity theories of autism.

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Autism Risk Across Generations A Population-Based Study of Advancing Grandpaternal and Paternal Age

Published March 20, 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry

Recently published in JAMA Psychiatry, this study put forth a new autism risk factor: advanced grandpaternal age. Compared to men who had children between 20 and 24, men who fathered a child at 50+ were 1-2 times more likely to have a grandchild with autism. The findings suggest some autism risk factors can accumulate over generations.

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Association of Maternal Exposure to Childhood Abuse With Elevated Risk for Autism in Offspring

Published March 20, 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry

This study examined the relationship between maternal childhood abuse and autism in children in a large population-based sample. Maternal abuse was significantly associated with increased autism risk even after researchers controlled for perinatal risk factors, including gestational diabetes, smoking during pregnancy, preeclampsia, exposure to intimate partner violence and premature birth.

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Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 20112012

Published March 20, 2013 in CDC

This report presents data on the prevalence of diagnosed autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as reported by parents of school-aged children (ages 617 years) in 20112012. Results suggest 1 in 50 U.S. children is diagnosed with ASD based on parent report.

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Comparison of ICD-10R, DSM-IV-TR and DSM-5 in an Adult Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnostic Clinic

Published March 16, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

With the number of people seeking ASD evaluations in adulthood on the rise, researchers sought to investigate how DSM-5 criteria would fare in a diagnostic clinic for adults with minimal intellectual disability. Compared to ICD-10R and DSM-IV-TR, DSM-5 specificity was good but sensitivity was poor: 44% of adults who met ICD-10R ASD criteria and 22% who met DSM-IV-TR criteria for Asperger syndrome or autistic disorder would not qualify for a DSM-5 ASD diagnosis.

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A Quantitative Link between Face Discrimination Deficits and Neuronal Selectivity for Faces in Autism

Published March 15, 2013 in NeuroImage: Clinical

In this fMRI study of adults with ASD, reduced neuronal selectivity for faces was linked to greater behavioral deficits in face recognition.

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Mother’s Drive Helps Research on Rare Autism-linked Mutation

Published March 14, 2013 in SFARI

A mother with two sons with autism helps advance research on neuroligin-4 mutations.

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Evaluating Changes in the Prevalence of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)

Published March 14, 2013 in Public Health Reviews

In effort to stimulate more research to better understand ASD trends, ASF President Alison Singer and other stakeholders discuss the increase in ASD prevalence and share their knowledge and opinions.

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Mothers Fight to Pass Ava’s Law for Autism Coverage

Published March 12, 2013 in CNN

“If passed, Ava’s Law would require insurance companies to pay for “evidence-driven treatment” — or treatment that’s been scientifically shown to help kids with an autism spectrum disorder. The law would not affect the self-insured plans offered by bigger companies, which cover about 60% of insured people in the state, according to the Georgia Office of Insurance.”

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Individuals With Autism Have a Unique Gene Expression In Their Gastrointestinal Tissue.

Published March 8, 2013 in PLoS One

This Wake Forest Study compared the gene expression of gastrointestinal tissue in individuals with autism and compared it to individuals with Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis and a control group. The study showed those with autism had a unique gene expression in their gastrointestinal tissue compared to the other groups studied.

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Changes to Children’s Study Threaten its Value, Experts Say

Published March 7, 2013 in SFARI

Autism researchers and advocates are concerned about changes to the recruitment strategy of the National Childrens Study, which aims to enroll 100,000 pregnant women, monitor environmental exposures, and examine gene-environment interactions in the women and their children. The changes, which include forgoing door-to-door recruitment, may limit the generalizability of the findings.

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Increasing Exposure to Antibody-Stimulating Proteins and Polysaccharides in Vaccines Is Not Associated with Risk of Autism

Published March 6, 2013 in Journal of Pediatrics

This CDC study casts further doubt on the link between autism and vaccines. The study found no connection between the number of vaccines received and autism risk.

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Predictors of Phrase and Fluent Speech in Children With Autism and Severe Language Delay

Published March 4, 2013 in Pediatrics

Researchers at Kennedy Krieger examined prevalence and predictors of language attainment in severely language-delayed children with ASD. 70% of the sample attained phrase speech and 47% attained fluent speech at or after age 4, indicating that later gains in language are likely in toddlers with severely delayed language. Children with high nonverbal intelligence and high levels of social interest and engagement were most likely to attain language. ASD-related features such as repetitive and sensory behaviors were not associated with language attainment.

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Respite Care, Marital Quality, and Stress in Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published March 1, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

In a new study looking at parents of children with ASD, researchers found that parents were less stressed and had improved marital quality with each hour of respite care received.

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Is Medication Information for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Monitored and Coordinated Across Professionals? Findings from a Teacher Survey

Published March 1, 2013 in School Mental Health

This study examined school-based medication monitoring in children with ASD. Researchers found that less than half of teachers of medicated students were aware that students were taking medication and no teachers were communicating with prescribing physicians about student behavior and side effects. Since monitoring medication across settings helps physicians assess drug safety and effectiveness, the authors argue for increased communication among professionals.

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Elevated Repetitive Behaviors are Associated with Lower Diurnal Salivary Cortisol Levels in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published March 1, 2013 in Biological Psychiatry

This pilot study examined the relationship between repetitive behaviors (RBs) and cortisol, a hormone that is released in response to stress, in individuals with ASD. Multiple salivary cortisol samples were taken over three days for 21 children with ASD with high and low levels of RBs. Children in both groups showed the same pattern of cortisol change throughout the day, but the overall cortisol levels in the high RB group were significantly lower, suggesting RBs may work to soothe and decrease stress.

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Social Behaviors Increase in Children with Autism in the Presence of Animals Compared to Toys

Published February 27, 2013 in PLOS One

Children with ASD showed increased positive social behaviors in the presence of guinea pigs compared to toys in this new PLOS One study. Specifically, they showed more social approach behaviors (e.g. talking, looking at faces and making tactile contact) and positive affect (e.g. laughing and smiling), and less self-focused behaviors in the presence of animals.

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Use of Social Stories to Improve Self-Regulation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published February 26, 2013 in Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics

Social stories, an intervention used to define a skill, concept or situation in socially appropriate terms, were used to promote self-regulation techniques in a self-contained preschool classroom. While implementation of self-regulation strategies varied among the children, all showed an increase in desired behaviors with the intervention.

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Published February 21, 2013 in SFARI

SFARI Gene is an integrated resource for the autism research community. It is a publicly available, curated, web-based, searchable database for autism research. This resource is built on information extracted from the studies on molecular genetics and biology of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The genetic information includes data from linkage and association studies, cytogenetic abnormalities, and specific mutations associated with ASD.

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Letting a Typical Mouse Judge Whether Mouse Social Interactions are Atypical

Published February 21, 2013 in Autism Research

This interesting preliminary study examined whether typical mice could recognize atypical social behavior in ASD mouse models. Wild-type mouse ‘judges’ preferred to be in chambers with other typical mice rather than socially atypical mice, suggesting that typical mice can distinguish mice displaying autism-like behavior from controls.

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Prenatal Folic Acid Linked to Lower Risk of Autism

Published February 19, 2013 in ASF Blog

Read this new guest post from Theresa Waldron, author of, on the possible link between prenatal folic acid and autism.

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Examining and Interpreting the Female Protective Effect against Autistic Behavior

Published February 19, 2013 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

This study examined the hypothesis that a protective component of the female sex protects females from autistic behavioral impairment. The results indicate that greater familial risk may be associated with ASD in females, and males may require fewer familial risk factors to reach a similar impairment threshold. The authors hope the study will provide insight into the ASD sex ratio and aid future genetic research.

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Oxytocin and Vasopressin in Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Sex Differences and Associations With Symptoms

Published February 14, 2013 in Autism Research and Treatment

Following positive results of treatment studies using oxytocin (OT) and evidence of genetic variations in the OT-arginine vasopressin (AVP) pathway in individuals with ASD, a new study from UC Berkeley further examines the involvement of OT and AVP in ASD. Results suggest levels of OT in individuals with ASD may not be as low as previously believed. Moreover, the researchers found significant gender differences, including higher levels of OT in girls and higher levels of AVP in boys.

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Sex Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published February 13, 2013 in Current Opinion in Neurology

A review of current research shows that ASD affects females less frequently than males and suggests this difference may be due to several sex-differential genetic and hormonal factors.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Associated with Ventricular Enlargement in a Low Birth Weight Population

Published February 13, 2013 in Journal of Pediatrics

This new study in the Journal of Pediatrics links ventricular enlargement in the brains of low-birth-weight neonates to ASD.

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Stem Cell Research Focusing on Autisms Genetic Mysteries Earns $2.125 Million Grant at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Published February 12, 2013 in Newswise

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Disparities in Transition Planning for Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published February 11, 2013 in Pediatrics

“Little is known about accessibility to health care transition (HCT) services for youth with autism spectrum disorder. This study expands our understanding by examining the receipt of HCT services in youth with ASD compared with youth with other special health care needs.”

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Beyond Autism: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study of High-risk Children at Three Years of Age

Published February 8, 2013 in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

This study is the first large-scale examination of ASD behavioral characteristics and developmental functioning in high-risk (HR), non-autistic 3-year-olds with siblings on the spectrum. 79% of HR children were either no different from low-risk children (LR; no known ASD family history) with respect to ASD behavioral severity and developmental functioning, or were developmentally on target with high levels of ASD-related behaviors. 21% of HR children with no ASD diagnosis had an “early manifestation” of a broad autism phenotype: high levels of ASD-related behaviors and/or low levels of verbal and nonverbal functioning. The authors highlight the importance of developmental surveillance and intervention for this HR subset.

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Astroglial FMRP-Dependent Translational Down-regulation of mGluR5 Underlies Glutamate Transporter GLT1 Dysregulation in the Fragile X Mouse

Published February 7, 2013 in Human Molecular Genetics

This paper discusses the role fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) plays in protein expression in astrocytes, and suggests that FMRP loss in astrocytes may contribute to the development of fragile X.

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The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers: Reliability in a Diverse Rural American Sample

Published February 6, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Researchers at Virginia Tech examine M-CHAT performance in a very low socio-economic status setting and find it lacks internal consistency across ethnic and educational groups. Caregivers who reported a low maternal educational level or with minority status were more likely to mark items suggestive of autism compared to those with higher maternal education or non-minority status

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Frequency and Pattern of Documented Diagnostic Features and the Age of Autism Identification

Published February 6, 2013 in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Pediatric Psychiatry

The age at which a child with autism is diagnosed is related to the particular suite of behavioral symptoms he or she exhibits, according to this study led by an ASF Grantee. Certain diagnostic features, including poor nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors, were associated with earlier identification of an autism spectrum disorder. Displaying more behavioral features was also associated with earlier diagnosis.For more information about this study, read the guest blog from the lead author here:

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Brief Report: Is Cognitive Rehabilitation Needed in Verbal Adults with Autism? Insights from Initial Enrollment in a Trial of Cognitive Enhancement Therapy

Published February 5, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Early results from this pilot trial of cognitive enhancement therapy (CET) indicate that despite above-average intelligence, verbal adults with ASD can have significantly impaired neurocognition and social cognition. The authors suggest CET, which is designed to remediate both social and non-social deficits through computer-based neurocognitive training, could be useful for cognitive rehabilitation in this population.

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Parent-child Interactions in Autism: Characteristics of Play

Published February 4, 2013 in Autism

Researchers examine parent-child dyads during structured and free play and find that that joint engagement lasts longer when parents engage their child at or slightly above the child’s current level of play. Parents of children with autism often find it difficult to estimate their child’s level, which can result in parents engaging at too high of a level and shortening the interaction.

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Shortage Of Brain Tissue Hinders Autism Research

Published February 4, 2013 in NPR

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Feeding Problems and Nutrient Intake in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Meta-analysis and Comprehensive Review of the Literature

Published February 1, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Children with ASD experience more feeding problems compared to their typical peers, such as unusual eating patterns, food rituals and or/refusals, but are not at a greater risk for compromised growth. Researchers attribute this finding to the fact that while children with ASD tend to consume enough food to meet their gross energy needs, their diet often suffers from nutritional deficits.

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Age of First Words Predicts Cognitive Ability and Adaptive Skills in Children with ASD

Published February 1, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Producing words by 2 years of age strongly predicted better outcomes in this study of language acquisition and later functioning in children with ASD. The authors suggest that the “acquiring useful language by age 5” criterion for positive prognosis can be updated.

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Familiarity Breeds Support: Speech-language Pathologists Perceptions of Bullying of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published January 31, 2013 in Journal of Communication Disorders

According to this study, school-based speech language pathologists may be an untapped resource in the fight against bullying of children with ASD.

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Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Children With Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities: Associations With Ethnicity, Child Comorbid Symptoms, and Parental Stress

Published January 30, 2013 in Journal of Child Neurology

Families of children with ASD and other comorbid symptoms, including behavioral problems such as irritability and food allergies, were more likely to use complementary and alternative medicine, and they were more likely to use more types of modalities as compared to families of children with other developmental disabilities.

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Improving Socialization for High School Students with ASD by Using Their Preferred Interests

Published January 30, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Not surprisingly, research shows that when the interests of adolescents with ASDs are incorporated into school activities, these students display higher levels of engagement and are more likely to initiate interactions with their typical peers.

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Sleep Disruption as a Correlate to Cognitive and Adaptive Behavior Problems in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published January 28, 2013 in October 1, 2012

This study examines the effects of sleep problems on daytime cognitive and adaptive functioning in children with ASD.

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Study Pinpoints Autism Gene in Mutation-Prone Region

Published January 27, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute

Mutations in FAN1, a gene in the 15q13.3 chromosomal region, raise the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders including autism and schizophrenia, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The 15q13.3 chromosomal region is a hotbed of tiny genetic deletions and duplications connected to disorders of brain development.

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Sequencing Studies Implicate Inherited Mutations in Autism

Published January 23, 2013 in SFARI

SFARI: Rare, inherited mutations contribute to a significant proportion of autism cases according to two new studies published in Neuron.

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Elevated Maternal C-reactive Protein and Autism in a National Birth Cohort

Published January 22, 2013 in Molecular Psychiatry

Large national birth cohort study links elevated maternal C-reactive protein (a marker of systemic inflammation) to increased autism risk.

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Potential Impact of DSM-5 Criteria on Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevalence Estimates

Published January 22, 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry

Researchers found that estimates of the number of children with ASD might be lower using the current DSM-5 criteria than using the previous criteria. This study looked at information collected by CDCs Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. This is the first population-based study in the United States to look at what effect the updated ASD criteria in the DSM-5 might have on estimates of the number of children with ASD. One of the advantages of the ADDM Network method is that it does not rely solely on the presence of an ASD diagnosis, but also includes review of records for children who have behaviors consistent with ASDs, even if they do not have a diagnosis. Because of the way the ADDM Network collects data, in the future CDC will be able to use both the previous DSM-IV-TR and the current DSM-5 criteria to estimate the number of children with ASD. CDC will also continue to evaluate the effect of using the DSM-5 on trends in how doctors and other health professionals diagnose ASD and how service providers evaluate and document symptoms as they transition to using the new criteria.

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States Split On Mandating ABA Coverage Under Health Law

Published January 18, 2013 in Disability Scoop

Despite a requirement that insurers start covering behavioral health treatment for individuals and small groups, a new analysis suggests less than half of states plan to include autism therapy.

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Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence, and Future Studies

Published January 16, 2013 in Institute of Medicine of the National Academies

The Institute of Medicine issues a report in response to questions about the safety of the vaccination schedule for children under age six. Thorough examination of the immunization schedule reveals no major concerns associated with adherence to recommended practices.

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Is the Neurodiversity Movement Misrepresenting Autism

Published January 16, 2013 in Slate

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Electronic Medical Records May Reveal Subgroup of Autism

Published January 16, 2013 in Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Some children diagnosed with autism may fall into distinct subgroups based on their symptoms and other diagnoses, researchers report in the January issue of Pediatrics. The three subgroups identified in the study show some overlap in symptoms, but each is characterized by a distinct set of features: seizures, general health problems such as gastrointestinal distress, and psychiatric problems. The analysis relied on the largest database yet, and looked at symptoms over time.

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Study Documents that Some Children Lose Autism Diagnosis

Published January 15, 2013 in NIMH

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Decreased Spontaneous Attention to Social Scenes in 6-Month-Old Infants Later Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published January 14, 2013 in Biological Psychiatry

Yale researchers used eye-tracking technology to examine social monitoring skills of infants at high and low risk for autism. Compared to infants who developed typically, six-month olds later diagnosed with ASD looked less at the social scene, which involved a woman engaged in various activities. When they did attend to the social scene, they spent less time viewing the womans face.

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Impaired Coordination of Brain Activity in Autism Involves Local, as Well as Long-Range, Signaling

Published January 14, 2013 in Science Daily

MEG study finds diminished long-range and local functional connectivity as individuals with ASD viewed faces. The study challenges the popular assumption that only long-range connectivity is reduced in ASD.

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Identification of Rare Recurrent Copy Number Variants in High-Risk Autism Families and Their Prevalence in a Large ASD Population

Published January 14, 2013 in PLOS One

Researchers discover 25 new autism-linked copy number variants.

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Study Shows Children with Autism only 10 Percent More Likely to be Using Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Published January 11, 2013 in Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

A new study from the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics looked at nearly 600 children with ASD and with developmental delays. 40 percent of the children with autism in the study were using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). While this may seem like a high percentage, it is only ten percent higher than the rate of nonautistic children in the study using CAM. The most common forms of complementary treatments reported were dietary supplements.

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ABA Therapy OKd for More Military Kids

Published January 7, 2013 in Disability Scoop

More military families will have access to ABA under a new government program.

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Design of a Virtual Reality Based Adaptive Response Technology for Children with Autism

Published January 4, 2013 in IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering

Results from this preliminary study suggest that an interactive virtual reality game can improve social communication skills in teens with ASD.

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Autism Genetic Testing: A Qualitative Study of Awareness, Attitudes, and Experiences among Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Published January 3, 2013 in Genetics in Medicine

This study provides insight into awareness, perspectives and experiences of ASD genetic testing among parents of autistic children.

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The Effects of A Weighted Vest on Aggressive and Self-injurious Behavior in a Child with Autism

Published January 2, 2013 in PubMed

Research finds that despite their frequent use, weighted vests have little effect on managing challenging behaviors in children with autism.

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The Association Between Bullying and the Psychological Functioning of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published January 2, 2013 in PubMed

A new study finds that children with ASD are more likely to be bullied compared to their typical peers. Children with ASD with an additional clinical or educational disorder have an increased risk of being bullied and becoming bullies themselves.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder Reclassified: A Second Look at the 1980s Utah/UCLA Autism Epidemiologic Study

Published January 1, 2013 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

According to this study, DSM-IV-TR criteria capture more individuals with ASD and intellectual disability than DSM III criteria. The authors examined records from a statewide epidemiological study in the 80s and found that 59% of participants who were considered not autistic in the original study likely were autistic based on current DSM criteria and clinician review methods used in CDC studies.

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Anxiety, Sensory Over-responsivity, and Gastrointestinal Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published January 1, 2013 in Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

Anxiety, sensory processing problems and gastrointestinal (GI) issues occur frequently in children with ASD. This study examines the relationship between the three and finds that sensory over-responsivity and anxiety are highly associated and linked to GI problems.

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Mindfulness-based Therapy in Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Randomized Controlled Trial

Published January 1, 2013 in Research in Developmental Disabilities

This is the first randomized controlled trial demonstrating the efficacy of mindfulness-based therapy for adults with ASD. Participants who received MBT benefited from the therapy, showing less depression, anxiety and rumination, and more positive affect.

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Chelation Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review

Published January 1, 2013 in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Authors of this new review on chelation treatment say, the weakness of the evidence base, the lack of a sound rationale for use of chelation as an ASD treatment, and the potential negative side effects strongly argue against the use of chelation treatment for ASD.

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Psychiatric-related Emergency Department Visits Among Children With an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published December 28, 2012 in Pediatric Emergency Care

Emergency room visits for children with ASD are more likely to be for psychiatric reasons than visits from typically developing children. Having private insurance increases the risk of a psychiatric ER visit for children with ASD, possibly due to the exclusion of ASD as a coverable diagnosis among many private insurance plans.

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Why Are There So Many Unsubstantiated Treatments in Autism?

Published December 27, 2012 in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders

An estimated 32-92% of parents use complementary/alternative treatments for their children with ASD despite the lack of scientific evidence for the efficacy of these methods. In this article, researchers issue a call for a standardized way to select and evaluate treatments. Barriers to successful treatment, including high costs, limited availability, parental compliance and poor recommendations from professionals are discussed.

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Physical Aggression in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published December 27, 2012 in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders

The prevalence of physical aggression was 53% across a sample of nearly 1600 children and adolescents with ASD. Girls and boys were equally likely to display aggressive behaviors. The researchers suggest sleep problems, self-injury and sensory problems may increase risk for physical aggression, and argue for better identification and treatment of these conditions.

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IACC Chair and NIMH Director, Dr. Thomas Insel Discusses Autism Progress

Published December 26, 2012 in NIMH

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Notable Papers of 2012

Published December 26, 2012 in SFARI

SFARI’s top ten autism research papers of 2012

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Developmental Meta-Analysis of the Functional Neural Correlates of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published December 26, 2012 in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

According to this recent meta-analysis of fMRI studies, autism-related changes in brain activity may continue to develop with age.

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Whole-Genome Sequencing in Autism Identifies Hot Spots for De Novo Germline Mutation

Published December 21, 2012 in Cell

UCSD researchers suggest genes linked to autism have higher mutation rates than other genes.

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The Autism Sequencing Consortium: Large-Scale, High-Throughput Sequencing in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published December 20, 2012 in Neuron

Dr. Joseph Buxbaum and team discuss the current state of ASD gene discovery and the benefits of a genomic technology called high-throughput sequencing.

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Genomic Technology Reveals Hundreds of Autism Gene Mutations

Published December 20, 2012 in Laboratory Equipment

ASF SAB member Dr. Joe Buxbaum on his new gene discoveries using high-throughput sequencing: “By identifying the many genetic roots of this disorder, we can better understand its biology, which in turn will allow us to develop more tailored treatments for individuals. It is a transformative time for genetic research in autism.”

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Telehealth for Expanding the Reach of Early Autism Training to Parents

Published December 19, 2012 in Autism Research and Treatment

Telehealth interventions, the delivery of specialized services through communication technologies, may be a viable option for families of young children with ASD who have limited access to intervention services.

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Pediatricians: Keep Thimerosal in Vaccines

Published December 17, 2012 in MedPage Today

AAP reverses position on thimerosal, saying if it knew in 1999 what it knows now about thimerosol it would NOT have issued the statement calling for thimerosol to be removed from vaccines that resulted in panic. “Studies looking for harms from thimerosal-containing vaccine failed to find such associations. The consistent lack of evidence of any harm from thimerosal in vaccines formed the basis of the AAP’s reversal of its 1999 stance, and Cooper and Katz suggested that the academy would not have issued the original statement with that knowledge in-hand.”

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Portable Intermodal Preferential Looking (IPL): Investigating Language Comprehension in Typically Developing Toddlers and Young Children with Autism.

Published December 14, 2012 in PubMed

Researchers at UCONN have developed an intermodel preferential looking assessment that relies on the child’s attention, rather than verbal or gestural responses, to evaluate language comprehension.

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FMRP Targets Distinct mRNA Sequence Elements to Regulate Protein Expression

Published December 12, 2012 in Nature

Researchers link Fragile X syndrome protein to 93 genes that have been implicated in ASD. Lead investigator says the findings may lead to more detailed genetic tests.

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Jason Ross Discusses Services Needs in the Adult Autistic Community on the ASF Blog

Published December 12, 2012 in ASF Blog

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Prenatal Versus Postnatal Sex Steroid Hormone Effects on Autistic Traits in Children at 18 to 24 Months of Age

Published December 11, 2012 in Molecular Autism

Cambridge researchers are investigating the link between pre- and postnatal hormone levels and autistic traits later in life.

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Diuretic Drug Offers Latest Hope for Autism Treatment

Published December 11, 2012 in Science Magazine

A drug used for decades to treat high blood pressure and other conditions has shown promise in a small clinical trial for autism.

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Functional magnetic resonance imaging of autism spectrum disorders

Published December 10, 2012 in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience

Dr. Gabriel Dichter presents a new review of fMRI research in ASD, noting common themes of atypical activation and functional connectivity in the brain.

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Order your free copy of Nature Outlook: Autism

Published December 7, 2012 in Nature

Order your free copy of Nature Outlook: Autism. Co-sponsored by ASF, the supplement includes articles on adulthood, treatment, culture, diagnosis and more.

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A Better Early Blood Test for Autism

Published December 5, 2012 in The Sacramento Bee

Researchers at Boston’s Children Hospital claim a new blood test outperforms existing genetic tests for diagnosing ASD.

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Can Autism Be Detected in Body Movement? Rutgers Pioneers New Study

Published December 5, 2012 in New Jersey Newsroom

A new method developed in the Rutgers Sensory Motor Integration Lab may reveal the typicality of a child’s development. The technique measures slight fluctuations in body movement and compares them to motion patterns seen in typically developing individuals.

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Former ASF Grantee Inna Fishman Wins Prestigious K Award

Published December 5, 2012 in The Daily Aztec

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Vaccination a Major Talking Point at Congressional Hearing on Autism

Published December 3, 2012 in Forbes

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Asperger’s Won’t Appear in Revised Diagnosis Manual

Published December 3, 2012 in ABC News

Autism Science Foundation President Alison Singer discusses DSM-V changes.'s_Won't_Appear_in_Revised_Diagnosis_Manual/3F4956273D8811E2919EFEFDADE6840A/

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Biomarker Progress Offers Hope for Early Autism Spectrum Disorder Detection

Published November 30, 2012 in Science Daily

A special issue of Disease Markers offers a comprehensive review on how current genetic research can be applied to biomarker development in ASD.

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Autisms Invisible Victims: The Siblings

Published November 30, 2012 in Time

Earlier this week, Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform held a hearing on how the federal government can better respond to the dramatic rise in autism rates. Yet for all this concern, one large affected group is being routinely overlooked: the siblings.

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Next-Generation Treatments for Fragile X Syndrome

Published November 29, 2012 in Science Daily

Researchers from University of Catania discover a possible new strategy for treating Fragile X syndrome.

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Traffic-Related Air Pollution, Particulate Matter, and Autism

Published November 27, 2012 in Archives of General Psychiatry (Now; JAMA Psychiatry)

Researchers uncover a connection between exposure to traffic-related pollutants and autism risk. Findings suggest children living in high pollution areas are three times more likely to have autism compared to those living in low pollution areas.

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Scientists Home in on Autism Candidate Genes Role in Brain

Published November 26, 2012 in SFARI

Four new studies of neuroligin-1 (NLGN1), a gene linked to autism, unravel its complex role in regulating synapses, the connections between neurons.

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Into the Unknown: Aging with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published November 26, 2012 in American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

This article reviews the current literature regarding a range of quality of life outcomes of aging adults with ASD. Studies that have addressed life expectancy, comorbid physical and mental health issues, ASD symptomatology, and social, residential, and vocational outcomes are reviewed.

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Object Exploration at 6 and 9 Months in Infants with and without Risk for Autism

Published November 22, 2012 in Autism

Co-authored by ASF grantee Nina Leezenbaum, this study found delayed visual and oral exploration of objects in infant siblings of children with autism that were not observed in infants with no family history.

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Rectifying Neuroligin Synthesis Reverses ASD Symptoms in Mice

Published November 21, 2012 in Nature

Abnormally high production of neuroligins, proteins involved in synapse formation, resulted in ASD symptoms in mice. Researchers reversed ASD symptoms by reducing neuroligin synthesis.

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Sensory Integration Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review

Published November 20, 2012 in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Sensory integration therapy is a popular ASD intervention, but this systematic review suggests scientific evidence does not support its use.

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Multiplex Targeted Sequencing Identifies Recurrently Mutated Genes in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Published November 15, 2012 in Science

De novo mutations in six genes may contribute to 1% of simplex ASD cases.

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Prevalence and Correlates of Autism in a State Psychiatric Hospital

Published November 15, 2012 in Autism

This study estimated the ASD prevalence in a psychiatric hospital and evaluated the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) combined with other information for differential diagnosis. Undiagnosed ASD may be common in psychiatric hospitals. The SRS, combined with other information, may discriminate well between ASD and other disorders.

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Diagnosing Autism in Neurobiological Research Studies

Published November 12, 2012 in Behavioural Brain Research

This review by Catherine Lord and Rebecca Jones looks at common tools and best practices for ASD diagnosis in research settings.

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Exploratory Study Examines Infections, Pregnancy, Autism Risks

Published November 12, 2012 in USA Today

Study examines potential links between maternal infections during pregnancy and autism. The chief of the CDC’s Developmental Disabilities Branch says “for now, the standard clinical recommendations for treating pregnant women suffering from fever or flu should not change as a result of [these] new preliminary findings.”

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Study Finds No Link Between Autism and Gut Microbes

Published November 5, 2012 in SFARI

Contradicting a popular hypothesis in autism, a new study from Australia has found no connection between autism and bacteria in the gut. For the peer-reviewed article, click here:

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DSM V Final Diagnostic Criteria Approved by APA Board of Trustees

Published November 1, 2012 in Psychiatric News

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New Supplement in Pediatrics: Improving Health Care for Children and Youth With Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Published November 1, 2012 in Pediatrics

Access full articles on interventions, sleep and GI problems, health care coverage and more.

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Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Participation Among College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Published November 1, 2012 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Findings suggest that students with an ASD had the highest STEM participation rates although their college enrollment rate was the third lowest among 11 disability categories and students in the general population. Educational policy implications are discussed.

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Autism Interventions Supported by Moderate Evidence; Better Studies Needed to Validate Effectiveness

Published November 1, 2012 in RAND Corporation

Widely used autism interventions are supported by moderate evidence. Head-to-head trials of competing autism treatments are needed to identify which programs are superior and additional work should follow study participants long-term to further examine the effectiveness of treatments.

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Nature Outlook: Autism Now Available Online

Published October 31, 2012 in Nature

Sponsored in part by ASF, the new Nature Outlook supplement on autism features articles on genetics, adulthood, brain imaging, diagnosis and more.

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Autism Developmental Delay Begins After 6 Months of Age

Published October 31, 2012 in Psych Central

A large, prospective study found that children with and without ASD were developmentally similar at 6 months based on clinical tests. Lead author Dr. Rebecca Landa reported, for those children who went on to develop autism, the earliest signs of atypical development were non-specific to autism, such as general communication or motor delay.

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New York Magazine: Is Everyone on the Autism Spectrum?

Published October 28, 2012 in New York Magazine

From Aspergers to Aspergers, how the spectrum became quite so all-inclusive.

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Neural Mechanisms of Improvements in Social Motivation After Pivotal Response Treatment: Two Case Studies

Published October 27, 2012 in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Researchers find increased activation to social stimuli in brain regions involved in social perception in two children with ASD after pivotal response treatment (PRT).

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New Rules Allow Joint Diagnosis of Autism, Attention Deficit

Published October 25, 2012 in SFARI

Autism and ADHD diagnoses will no longer be mutually exclusive under proposed DSM-5 guidelines. Clinicians will be permitted to make official dual diagnoses when necessary.

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Newborn Blood May Reveal Early Immune Signs of Autism

Published October 22, 2012 in SFARI

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Mutations in BCKD-kinase Lead to a Potentially Treatable Form of Autism with Epilepsy

Published October 19, 2012 in Science

A research team led by Gaia Novarino of the University of California, San Diego, has identified genetic mutations which cause a form of autism that could potentially be treated with dietary supplements.

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Researchers Swing Toward Monkey Models of Autism

Published October 18, 2012 in SFARI

Scientists reveal efforts to create transgenic monkey models of autism. Compared to mice and rats, these animals are more genetically similar to humans, and display more complex social and communicative behaviors.

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Evaluation of an Activities of Daily Living Scale for Adolescents and Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Published October 17, 2012 in Disability and Health Journal

ASF Grantee Matthew Maenner and colleagues developed the Waisman Activities of Daily Living (W-ADL) Scale to measure daily living skills of adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities. The scale is a free and efficient tool for surveys and epidemiological research.

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Is He Being Bad? Social and Language Brain Networks during Social Judgment in Children with Autism

Published October 17, 2012 in PLOS One

This fMRI study on social judgment supports claims that autistic children may recognize socially inappropriate behavior but find it difficult to express why its inappropriate.

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Cognition in Males and Females with Autism: Similarities and Differences

Published October 17, 2012 in PLOS One

Researchers find that women and men with autism have comparable impairments in social cognitive functioning, but performance on non-social cognitive tasks depends on gender.

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Postmortem Brain Analysis Points to Autism Candidate Genes

Published October 16, 2012 in SFARI

Unpublished data presented at the 2012 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting show at least 30 genes show altered expression in brain tissue of people with autism. The ongoing study aims to include more samples than previous postmortem studies, and includes samples lost in Harvards freezer malfunction.

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ASF-funded Scientists Have Helped Further Our Understanding of Autism

Published October 16, 2012 in ASF

Read highlights from our 2011 ASF grant outcomes report.

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Common Genetic Variants, Acting Additively, Are a Major Source of Risk for Autism

Published October 15, 2012 in Molecular Autism

Study finds that together, a large number of inherited, common genetic variations of very small effect can increase risk for autism. Suggests risk of inherited ASD is approximately 40% in simplex families and 60% in multiplex families.

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Atypical Activation During the Embedded Figures Task as a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Endophenotype of Autism

Published October 11, 2012 in Brain

This study uncovers a possible fMRI endophenotype of autism, showing that compared to typically developing controls with no family history of ASD, adolescents with autism and non-autistic siblings had atypical patterns of brain activation during the Embedded Figures Task.

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Using Large Clinical Data Sets to Infer Pathogenicity for Rare Copy Number Variants in Autism Cohorts

Published October 9, 2012 in Molecular Psychiatry

Copy number variants (CNVs) have a major role in the etiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and several of these have reached statistical significance in casecontrol analyses. Nevertheless, current ASD cohorts are not large enough to detect very rare CNVs that may be causative or contributory (that is, risk alleles).

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Immunization Uptake in Younger Siblings of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Published October 8, 2012 in Autism

Study finds that parents who already have one child with autism spectrum disorder may delay or decline immunization for their younger children, potentially placing them at increased risk of preventable infectious diseases.

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Interventions Addressing Social Impairment in Autism

Published October 4, 2012 in Current Psychiatry Reports

In this new review of intervention studies targeting social impairment in autism, authors encourage researchers to design new studies that: evaluate ingredients of effective interventions (e.g., required dose for therapeutic effect); include better outcome measures that can show that meaningful improvements have happened (e.g., spontaneous social initiations; sustained interactions); and include underserved and underrepresented participant groups, such as children with comorbidities, non-English speaking children, and minimally verbal children.

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ASF’s Brain Tissue Donation Awareness Campaign Featured in Disability Scoop

Published October 2, 2012 in Disability Scoop

After many of the worlds brain samples available for autism research were lost earlier this year, a new effort is underway to increase tissue donation from those with the disorder.

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Effects of a Brief Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)-Based Parent Intervention on Toddlers at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Published October 1, 2012 in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Contrary to their hypothesis, Sally Rogers and colleagues found that toddlers with ASD in a brief, parent-delivered ESDM program did not make greater gains or show reduced core ASD symptoms compared to autistic toddlers in a community ESDM program. Study strongly suggests number of intervention hours and younger age at initiation are key to maximizing intervention benefits, even for 1 and 2 year olds. Authors say, the wait and see approach to early ASD must be replaced by an act now mentality.

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Application of DSM-5 Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder to Three Samples of Children With DSM-IV Diagnoses of Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Published October 1, 2012 in The American Journal of Psychiatry

Substantial revisions to the DSM-IV criteria for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have been proposed in efforts to increase diagnostic sensitivity and specificity. This study evaluated the proposed DSM-5 criteria for the single diagnostic category of autism spectrum disorder in children with DSM-IV diagnoses of pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) and non-PDD diagnoses.