A recent publication in the Lancet was dedicated to clinical recommendations to support autistic females at birth. Because more males than females are diagnosed with autism, their needs are often misunderstood, misinterpreted, or just ignored. Researchers, clinicians, scientists, parents and self-advocates from around the world joined together to identify those needs and propose solutions that can be implemented in everyday care. Listen to this week’s podcast episode to learn more, or read the article in its entirety at the link below.
Nobody ever talks about catatonia in autism. This podcast explores the symptoms of catatonia, how to measure it, what parents should know about tracking the symptoms, what the treatments are, and what the causes are. Dr. Martine Lamy from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital explains her work looking at genetic causes in those with catatonia and neurodevelopmental disorders. It’s important to do genetic testing on all individuals who present with catatonia because this information led to better treatments in some people. Identifying a genetic cause of not just catatonia but also neurodevelopmental disorders like ASD gives families a community but also allows them to identify more targeted interventions.
In recognition of September 26th, this week’s podcast episode explores one of the more dangerous issues in autism: wandering. But it’s really not wandering in the traditional sense. Wandering in autism mostly means running off, bolting, deliberately with intent and without permission. Obviously this leads to some very dangerous situations for people on the spectrum. How can it be mitigated or understood? Some behavioral therapies are helpful, but new technologies have allowed for more options to bring back loved ones that have run off unexpectedly. Finally, the community needs to be better aware of possible stressors or triggers that trigger a wandering episode and work together with families to prevent running off. This problem is not caused by one thing, and the community needs multiple solutions to keep kids and adults safe.
The COVID-19 pandemic elicited increases in anxiety and depression in youth, and youth on the autism spectrum demonstrate elevations in such symptoms pre-pandemic. However, it is unclear whether autistic youth experienced similar increases in internalizing symptoms after the COVID-19 pandemic onset or whether decreases in these symptoms were present, as speculated in qualitative work. In the current study, longitudinal changes in anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic in autistic youth were assessed in comparison to nonautistic youth. A well-characterized sample of 51 autistic and 25 nonautistic youth (ageM = 12.8, range = 8.5-17.4 years, IQ > 70) and their parents completed the Revised Children’s Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS), a measure of internalizing symptoms, repeatedly, representing up to 7 measurement occasions from June to December 2020 (N ~ 419 occasions). Multilevel models were used to evaluate changes in internalizing symptoms over time. Internalizing symptoms did not differ between autistic and nonautistic youth in the summer of 2020. As reported by youth themselves, internalizing symptoms decreased in autistic youth, both overall and compared to nonautstic peers. This effect was driven by decreases in generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and depression symptoms in autistic youth. Reductions in generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and depression in autistic youth may be due to COVID-19 pandemic-specific differences in response to social, environmental, and contextual changes that unfolded in 2020. This highlights the importance of understanding unique protective and resilience factors that may be evident in autistic individuals in response to broad societal shifts such as those seen in response to COVID-19.
Keywords: adolescents; anxiety; co-morbid conditions; depression; longitudinal data analysis.
Everyone needed support during the pandemic, but families affected by autism needed special support. This included siblings. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital tried out an intervention around stress and anxiety reduction in siblings in 2020. Not only was it liked, it worked. It didn’t completely eliminate stress and anxiety, nothing would, but it did help siblings manage a little better. Can it work outside the pandemic? There are certainly other situations where siblings could use a little more support – listen to this week’s podcast to learn more.
In a highly discussed paper, researchers from Drexel University report their findings on a scientific and methodologically rigorous study on the accuracy of information posted on the social media platform Tik-Tok. They also discuss where the information comes from and how it is viewed. The accurate and inaccurate posts get “liked” equally, meaning they are taken just as seriously. There are billions of inaccurate posts being viewed, and misinformation spread. On this week’s podcast, all four authors of this paper summarize what they found and what families should know.
This week’s podcast covers two new papers of interest to the autism community. First, another study showing increase in self harm and suicide in those with autism – no new news there – but a new discovery this week showed a vulnerability of females with a diagnosis. The study also explores the lower rate of suicide in those with IDD but higher rate of self harm in this same group. Second, the mystery of autism genetics is slowly unveiled. Why is rare variation so influential in an autism diagnosis? As it turns out those with rare variation also have common variation, piling on the genetic liability in this group. Common variation is also uniquely linked to language delay in autism, so is this a core feature? Links below are the scientific articles as well as resources to support those dealing with mental health problems in the autistic community.
Mental health links:
Two recent papers suggest that a childhood diagnosis of ASD is important for adulthood quality of life and well being. But another one points out that it isn’t the only thing, or even the primary factor, involved in improved quality of life and well-being as autistic adults age. There are others, like comorbid mental health problems, demographic factors like gender and current age. These studies were conducted by autistic researchers and did an amazing thing – one tried to replicate the other. The media got the point of these findings wrong (shocker) so today’s #ASFpodcast explains what they mean.
What do anxiety, prevalence, ketamine, other neurodevelopmental disorders, siblings, genetics, brain imaging and the autistic researcher committee at INSAR all have in common? They were all topics at the last Day of Learning. You can hear a 20 minute summary of the talks on this week’s ASFpodcast.
TikTok is overtaking the internet and many are using this platform to learn about a variety of psychiatric illnesses and psychological problems. But how accurate are these videos in sharing medical information? Could they be causing things like tics? Do they influence individuals to self-diagnose and cause mis-diagnosis? There is a new phenomenon labeled “munchausen by internet”, and while some of the videos might be helpful in raising awareness, others are just spreading lies and causing psychiatric problems. In other words: be careful about TikTok. If a social media platform shares videos that tell you to eat laundry detergent, maybe you should not listen to everything they say. Listen to this week’s podcast here.
People tend to go towards a “strengths only” or “weaknesses only” approach to describing autism. But even if you think about a single aspect of autistic challenges – social communication – autistics can show both. How can you measure this, and even more importantly, document it to play to someone’s strengths while addressing their impairments at the same time? Special guests Dr. Matthew Lerner and Jacquelyn Gates from Stony Brook University explain how this can be done by clinicians in our latest podcast.
It’s that time! The ASF Year of End Science Wrap-up was published in December, so it’s time to share it on the podcast. We cover everything from parent mediated interventions to genetics and racial and ethnic disparities. You can listen here or read it on the ASF website here: https://autismsciencefoundation.org/autism-research-in-2022/