In the last version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the different subtypes of autism were folded into one label: autism spectrum disorder. A similar revision is being made around the International Classification of Diseases, the system the WHO uses across the world to describe autism and provide appropriate reimbursements for services and supports. In this version, the ICD-11, a combination of 300 different presentations of autism are described. A diagnosis can be made if 1 feature of social-communication and 1 feature of repetitive behaviors are documented, with an onset of any time in life. This is causing a lot of confusion in the community, because since the presentations are not specific to autism, it is difficult to provide an accurate diagnosis using the ICD-11. On this week’s podcast episode we talk to German psychiatrist Inge Kamp-Becker, MD, who outlines what the changes are, and how misdiagnosis can be made and what those consequences might be. Her summary is linked below.
On the first podcast of 2024, we describe a new paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association or JAMA which uses physiological measurements like heart rate and skin conductance to predict severe and dangerous behaviors, specifically aggression. If aggression can be predicted, it might be able to be prevented. It turns out aggression can be predicted up to 3 minutes before an episode occurs, in the future these measures can be used to possibly redirect aggression. In a separate study, the issue of stigma is addressed. There is an intense debate over “person first” vs. “identity first” language in autism, promoting recommendations of using one over the other because fear that person first language promotes stigma against autism. A new study shows that there is no added prejudice or fear using either person first or identity first language, but the stigma associated with schizophrenia is worse than it is for autism. What contributes to stigma? There is a wide range of experiences and perceptions of autism that need to be addressed. It’s not as simple as the language used.
Emerging evidence suggests that the higher prevalence of autism in individuals who are assigned male than assigned female at birth results from both biological factors and identification biases. Autistic individuals who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) and those who are gender diverse experience health disparities and clinical inequity, including late or missed diagnosis and inadequate support. In this Viewpoint, an international panel of clinicians, scientists, and community members with lived experiences of autism reviewed the challenges in identifying autism in individuals who are AFAB and proposed clinical and research directions to promote the health, development, and wellbeing of autistic AFAB individuals. The recognition challenges stem from the interplay between cognitive differences and nuanced or different presentations of autism in some AFAB individuals; expectancy, gender-related, and autism-related biases held by clinicians; and social determinants. We recommend that professional development for clinicians be supported by health-care systems, professional societies, and governing bodies to improve equitable access to assessment and earlier identification of autism in AFAB individuals. Autistic AFAB individuals should receive tailored support in education, identity development, health care, and social and professional sense of belonging
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.
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:
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.