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.
Everyone who has looked for support for autism spectrum disorder is familiar with waitlists. Waitlists for evaluation, diagnosis, intervention, consultations and referrals. These waitlists prevent important opportunities for services and many groups developing technologies, policies, and approaches to reduce the waitlists or work around them. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Dr. Sharief Taraman from Cognoa to hear about their recent study on the scope of the problem on waitlists, what causes them, and how digital therapeutics may help them.
Can biomarkers that measure things like visual social attention be a good proxy for an in person behavioral diagnosis? Why would this be important? This week’s podcast explores two new studies the the Journal of the American Medical Association that show a simple device called EarliPoint can be used to shorten the wait times to receive a diagnostic evaluation. Currently autism can be diagnosed at 18 months but most families do not get into an appointment until 4-5 years of age. That can change. Families were able to easily complete it, it predicted things like not just a diagnosis but behavioral features and cognitive ability. It’s been deployed in 6 speciality centers, been approved by the FDA, and hopefully coming to a clinic near you soon.
Objectives: Autism spectrum disorder (autism) is a heterogeneous condition that poses challenges in describing the needs of individuals with autism and making prognoses about future outcomes. We applied a newly proposed definition of profound autism to surveillance data to estimate the percentage of children with autism who have profound autism and describe their sociodemographic and clinical characteristics.
Methods: We analyzed population-based surveillance data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network for 20 135 children aged 8 years with autism during 2000-2016. Children were classified as having profound autism if they were nonverbal, were minimally verbal, or had an intelligence quotient <50.
Results: The percentage of 8-year-old children with profound autism among those with autism was 26.7%. Compared with children with non-profound autism, children with profound autism were more likely to be female, from racial and ethnic minority groups, of low socioeconomic status, born preterm or with low birth weight; have self-injurious behaviors; have seizure disorders; and have lower adaptive scores. In 2016, the prevalence of profound autism was 4.6 per 1000 8-year-olds. The prevalence ratio (PR) of profound autism was higher among non-Hispanic Asian/Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander (PR = 1.55; 95 CI, 1.38-1.73), non-Hispanic Black (PR = 1.76; 95% CI, 1.67-1.86), and Hispanic (PR = 1.50; 95% CI, 0.88-1.26) children than among non-Hispanic White children.
Conclusions: As the population of children with autism continues to change, describing and quantifying the population with profound autism is important for planning. Policies and programs could consider the needs of people with profound autism across the life span to ensure their needs are met.
Keywords: autism; public health; surveillance.
Best practice for the assessment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptom severity relies on clinician ratings of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd Edition (ADOS-2), but the association of these ratings with objective measures of children’s social gaze and smiling is unknown. Sixty-six preschool-age children (49 boys, M = 39.97 months, SD = 10.58) with suspected ASD (61 confirmed ASD) were administered the ADOS-2 and provided social affect calibrated severity scores (SA CSS). Children’s social gaze and smiling during the ADOS-2, captured with a camera contained in eyeglasses worn by the examiner and parent, were obtained via a computer vision processing pipeline. Children who gazed more at their parents (p = .04) and whose gaze at their parents involved more smiling (p = .02) received lower social affect severity scores, indicating fewer social affect symptoms, adjusted R2 = .15, p = .003.
Keywords: Autism diagnostic observation schedule; Autism spectrum disorder; Objective measurement; Smiling; Social gaze.
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 disparity in diagnosis between Black kids and white kids is narrowing, but not by luck or coincidence. Based on previous research, clinicians are altering their professional training and their outreach to make sure more Black families are diagnosed and receive interventions. On today’s podcast, we highlight a recent study that focused on different ways to lower the age of diagnosis and improve access to early intervention in Black families. This intervention improved cognitive outcomes in Black kids.
Last week in Stockholm, Sweden, 2200 researchers and scientists working to understand and help those on the spectrum, met to share their most recent findings and exchange ideas. What were the main takeaways as ASF saw them? In our latest podcast episode, we cover why some autistic people don’t want genetics to be studied, how to better engage families with IDD and who are non-speaking, females, adults, international studies and yes, diversity. The program book was released a day before the meeting and can be found here: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.autism-insar.org/resource/resmgr/docs/annualmeeting/insar2023_program_book.pdf
Literature examining emotional regulation in infants with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has focused on parent report. We examined behavioral and physiological responses during an emotion-evoking task designed to elicit emotional states in infants. Infants at an increased likelihood for ASD (IL; have an older sibling with ASD; 96 not classified; 29 classified with ASD at age two) and low likelihood (LL; no family history of ASD; n = 61) completed the task at 6, 12, and 18 months. The main findings were (1) the IL-ASD group displayed higher levels of negative affect during toy removal and negative tasks compared to the IL non-ASD and LL groups, respectively, (2) the IL-ASD group spent more time looking at the baseline task compared to the other two groups, and (3) the IL-ASD group showed a greater increase in heart rate from baseline during the toy removal and negative tasks compared to the LL group. These results suggest that IL children who are classified as ASD at 24 months show differences in affect, gaze, and heart rate during an emotion-evoking task, with potential implications for understanding mechanisms related to emerging ASD.
Keywords: ASD; affect; autism; baby sibling; gaze; heart rate; physiology.
Quick answer: 26.7%. But what is “profound autism” and why is this label necessary? Have the rates of profound autism changed over time? How many do not have profound autism and are their needs different and how? Listen to this week’s ASF podcast and read the paper here: https://autismsciencefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/CDC-Profound-Autism-Statistics_ASF-Copy.pdf
On this week’s podcast, we conduct an interview with Michelle Hughes, PhD, epidemiologist with the CDC, who answers all of our questions about how many people have autism, how they are counted, what has changed since the last count and why the CDC are counting more kids than they were 10 years ago.
You can read more about her here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michellemergler/
Here is a link to the 8 year old counting study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36952288/
Here is the follow up to when they turned 16: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36849336/
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.