There are many different factors that go into successful employment for people with and without autism. As part of the ASF policy brief on employment, the US, Australia and Sweden held meetings with autistic adults, family members and employers and asked “what are the issues in your words”? Then they were mapped onto areas of functioning, not ability or disability. One thing that stands out is “matching interests and skills to job requirements”. This is important, but a complicated issue. This week’s podcast reviews what autistic people say, how it maps onto functioning and why we need to be careful about taking a one – sided approach to autism. Listen to the podcast here.
This week a 5 country collaboration including the largest number of people EVER revealed 80% of the causes of autism are heritable. This is incredibly important to understand autism and move forward with research that matters to families. What it did not do was calculate the role of gene x environment interactions which seems to be the forgotten stepchild of autism research. This week’s #ASFpodcast explains why it is important to understand the heritability while at the same time study the combined effects of genetic and environmental factors.
This week’s ASF podcast is a special treat – Dr. Daniel Geschwind from UCLA provides an understanding of the brains of people with autism, focusing on those with a mutation in chromosome 15. He goes over how they are similar and different (teaser: they are more similar) and answers questions from families about how this research is important for helping improve the lives of people across the spectrum. Listen to the podcast here.
This week two groups of heroes of autism research published studies that may not be the type of major breakthrough that the media reports on, but they are more important to families: These studies help translate what works in the research clinic into the community. Specifically, is it even possible, how, and what do families need to know when they receive an intervention that has yet to be “field tested”. This is a whole field of research called implementation science, and it deals with how scientists and community services implement what is learned in research settings into real world settings. Listen to the podcast here.
This holiday weekend always triggers a reincarnation, a resurrection of the vaccine – autism hypothesis. Many of you have read about the measles epidemics that are hitting many areas of the country. But besides vaccines, there are other aspects of the immune system that may be linked to autism in some people. The include family history of autoimmune disorders as well as specific genetic mutations that confer protection against subtypes of ASD. This week’s ASF podcast will explore these theories and present different ideas on how the immune response is involved in autism, and if it is at all. Listen to the podcast here.
This week’s podcast is dedicated to the “T” in LGBTQ – trans. Several studies over the past few years have linked higher rates of gender variance in people with autism and higher rates of autism traits in those who are trans. Why? Are they biologically or psychologically linked or both? This is important for understanding, not treatment or intervention. This week’s podcast celebrates trans people who are also autistic.
A new animal model of autism appeared this week: the monkey. This adds to the ever growing list of different model systems from autism, from fruit flies to mice and rats now up to monkeys. Are these animal models useful and for what, and why isn’t there just ONE model of autism rather than the dozen that exist? This week’s podcast discusses research from scientists at the UC Davis MIND Institute and what they are doing to improve these models of ASD.
People with autism are less likely to be physically active and more likely to be sedentary. A number of studies have looked into different physical activities, both group based and individually, on improvements in health as well as core features of autism, and most have had positive results. New animal model research demonstrates a benefit of exercise using the maternal immune activation model of ASD, pruning back the excess of connections and cell fibers. As people with autism also have too many connections in the brain, this may have a direct therapeutic benefit. But besides all the scientific conjecture, we all need more exercise, physical activity interventions seem to only help, not hurt, people across the spectrum, and should be used to complement, not replace existing therapies. Listen to the podcast here.
This week’s podcast includes a summary of the new study, this time in an animal model, looking at microbiome transplantation. Because this was more of an experimental model, the researchers could be more rigorous in their design and look at things like behavior, brain activity, and specific biological pathways. While a mouse does not have autism, transplantation of the autism microbiome resulted in autistic-like behaviors. Second, a hopeful message of the value of participating in research on outcomes – those infants that were tracked prospectively showed improved outcomes later on, suggesting that all of the extra attention they get leads to a reduction in symptoms and an improvement in adaptive behavior. Even if you do not have a family history of autism – participate in research. It’s good for your child, and it’s good for other people’s children. Listen to the podcast here.
Did you know that in addition to the DoD’s support of the military, they all have funded $65 million in autism research? This podcast discusses some of their programs and how they support military families and benefit the autism community. Want to read more about what they fund? There’s a list here: https://cdmrp.army.mil/search.aspx. Listen to the podcast here.
This week’s podcast is dedicated to the recently released INSAR – supported employment policy brief. This was a 2 year project by ASF, Stony Brook, University, Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Curtin University in Australia to provide a cross-cultural perspective on getting autistic people who want to work, employed, and stay employed. Thank you to all the participants in the surveys, community meetings, and GNF Marketing for putting together a document that is not just informative, but fun to read. Listen to the podcast here.
This week’s podcast combines two important post Mother’s Day topics – parents and eating. Two recent studies have shown the promise of using parent – delivered interventions to help improve food selectivity and food aversions in kids with autism. These two behaviors can be one of the most frustrating and challenging for parents and kids, and can lead to nutritional deficiencies. These behaviors can range from mild to severe, and previously, only inpatient or outpatient clinic based approaches seemed to have any benefit. Now it seems that with coaching, encouragement and instruction from trained experts, parents can help their kids eat better foods. Listen to the podcast here.