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.
Purpose: Daily mood can be influenced by a range of experiences. Identifying everyday life experiences that make autistic adults happy and unhappy holds potential to foster positive mood and tackle mental health problems amongst this group.
Methods: A total of 293 autistic adults between the ages of 18 to 35 years old (mean age of 26.51 years old (SD = 4.62); 43.3% female gender, 4.8% nonbinary) provided open-text responses regarding everyday sources of happiness and unhappiness. Using an iterative process of inductive coding, 14 happy themes and 22 unhappy themes of mood-changing life experiences were identified based on self-report qualitative data.
Results: Common themes across the happy and unhappy domain involved social partners, social interactions, and engagement in recreational and employment activities, with additional distinct themes specific to happy or unhappy mood. Top themes identified in the happy domain emphasizes encouraging quality relationships and positive interactions with others and cultivating supportive work/societal environments to build a sense of achievement and value. Meanwhile, emotional tolls accompanied negative relationships and interactions, underscoring the necessity to provide autistic adults with conflict resolution and coping skills to increase feelings of happiness.
Conclusion: Overall, the wide range of sources of happy and unhappy everyday experiences highlights the importance of considering personal preferences in engagement with others and activities in treatment.
Keywords: Adulthood; Autism; Daily life experiences; Happiness; Mood; Qualitative study.
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:
Genetics study is OPEN ACCESS: https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.2215632120?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub++0pubmed
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.
The title gets you, right? Well, on this week’s podcast we report on a new study that examines epigenetic profiles of sperm and how they related to child outcomes. Do some of the marks on bio-dad’s sperm match to those found in kids with ASD? what about genes related to autism? Also, can parents be good proxies of their child’s intellectual ability? For the most part yes, but sometimes they tend to overestimate this ability. This means they are good, but not perfect reporters. How could they be if the child has a severe intellectual disability?
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.
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/
Last week a publication (see below) was published as a commentary in the journal Autism Research. It states that researchers, parents, clinicians, educators and the overall community should not be limited in their use of language to describe the broad condition of autism. Some people experience impairments, deficits, and have limitations. Not only is it true, we should be talking about it. This podcast describes the motivation for the paper and the potential consequences of mandating the use terms that may not accurately reflect the diversity of experiences. While some papers have been published with the opposite sentiments, it’s important to understand both sides of this debate. We hope this paper leads to further conversation about this topic. Listen to the podcast here.
Like ASD, the prevalence of ADHD has increased significantly in the past 2 decades. A critical analysis examines the factors, and many of them can be applicable to the increase in the rise of autism diagnoses: increased diagnosis in adults, looser diagnostic criteria, and untrained professionals making the diagnoses. While they are not of course the same, listen to some of their arguments and read their comments (link below) to see if you agree with my assessment.
Large-scale genomic studies have identified over 100 genes associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, important phenotypic variables are captured inconsistently. In many cases, the resources required for comprehensive characterization hinder the feasibility of collecting critical information, such as intellectual ability. Thus, electronic collection of important phenotypes would greatly facilitate large-scale data collection efforts. This study assessed the utility of two electronic assessments as a proxy of cognitive ability relative to clinician-administered cognitive assessments. Ninety-two participants completed the study, including individuals with ASD (probands, n = 19), parents of probands (n = 46), and siblings without ASD (n = 27). Participants were administered the electronic-Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Fourth Edition (e-PPVT-4), an electronic visual reasoning (VR) test, and a clinician-administered Wechsler Abbreviated Scales of Intelligence, Second Edition (WASI-II). Probands also completed a full, in-person, cognitive assessment and Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, 2nd Edition. Correlations between scores on electronic and clinician-administered measures were examined. Classification accuracy of individual scores based on 95% confidence intervals and score range (below average, average, above average) were also assessed. Moderate to strong correlations were identified between both electronic measures and the clinician-administered WASI-II (ρ = 0.606–0.712). Mean difference between standard scores ranged from 10.7 to 14.8 for the cohort. Classification accuracy based on WASI-II 95% confidence interval was consistently low (27.5%–47.3%). Classification accuracy by score range (below average, average, above average) was variable, ranging from 33% to 86% for probands. All participants unable to complete the electronic assessments met DSM-5 criteria for intellectual disability. e-PPVT-4 and VR scores were strongly correlated with scores on the WASI-II full-scale IQ (ρ = 0.630, 0.712), indicating utility of these measures at the group level in large-scale genomic studies. However, the poor precision of measurement across both measures suggests that the e-PPVT-4 and VR are not useful alternatives to in-person testing for the purpose of clinical assessment of an individual’s IQ score.
Large-scale studies designed to identify genes associated with autism have been successful in identifying over 100 genes. However, important clinical information about participants with autism and their family members is often missed—including cognitive functioning. Cognitive testing requires in-person administration by a trained clinician and therefore can be burdensome and often reduces feasibility of diverse samples. Here, we assessed whether electronic assessments could take the place of in-person cognitive testing. We found that at the group level, for large-scale studies, electronic measures added valuable information; however, they were not accurate enough to be used on an individual level (i.e., to offer feedback about an individual’s predicted IQ score).