Autism Research: March 21, 2014 Week in Review

Anti-anxiety medications help autism brain, research suggests

 A new study conducted by the University of Washington has found that low doses of drugs used to treat anxiety symptoms can help ‘re-balance’ the brains of children with autism. Dr. Catterall and his team found that the imbalance between the excitatory and inhibitory neurons that characterizes autism could be corrected partially with small doses of drugs used to treat symptoms like anxiety and seizures. Published in the prestigious journal Neuron, the study might be a breakthrough for treating the core developmental problems that afflict children having autism.  The group of drugs called ‘benzodiazepines’ was found to restore the altered balance between the inhibitory and excitatory neurons in mice brains.  The team of researchers is hopeful in this discovery helping correct repetitive behaviors and social skills that make autism a challenge for parents.

Group CBT helps reduce depression, stress in youngsters with ASD, study reveals

The value of group therapy has long been used for psychological disorders. Now, a study has shown that group sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT have high potential in reducing the symptoms of stress, depression, etc in youngsters having autism spectrum disorders. Published in the Journal of Autism and Development Disorders,  the study was headed by J. McGillivray and evaluated 32 adolescents ranging from 15 to 25 years.  The study adapted the CBT for a group setting to treat anxiety, depression and stress symptoms for people on the autism spectrum and found significant reduction in the symptoms of stress and depression although the anxiety related symptoms remained unchanged. The benefits of the group therapy were maintained when the participants were evaluated again at 3 and 9 months follow ups.

 Soy and seizures linked in autism, study suggests

Scientist Cara Westmark and her team from the University of Wisconsin Madison have found elevated rates of seizures in children suffering from autism who were raised on infant formulas having soy protein instead of milk protein. The study also found that the seizures were seen more in the female population of the study group compared to males. The study will help understand the relation and impact of food on neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and might pave way for therapeutic research to help control such conditions. The research was published in the journalPLOS ONE last week.

 Is your toddler repetitive? Could be autism. Study warns.

The Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology published a new paper that will make each parent sit up and observe their child’s behavior. The study published by lead researcher Joseph Piven found that children demonstrating repetitive behaviors like flapping hands, spinning, etc by their first birthday are four times more likely to have autism than children who don’t do such repetitive actions. The study adds weight to the theory that repetitive behaviors might be a red flag sign for autism that all parents should watch out for. The study conducted at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sends mixed signals as repetitive actions like babbling syllables and wiggling arms are often the first developmental milestones that children show.  Distinguishing them from behaviors that point towards autism might need sharper observation and definitely more research.

You can find the original article published by Autism Daily Newscast here  https://www.autismdailynewscast.com/autism-research-march-21-2014-week-in-review/9005/dr-narsaria/

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AmazonSmile

Amazon has started a new program called AmazonSmile that will allow various charitable organizations to benefit from your shopping. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. Shop with Amazon and choose from nearly 1 million eligible 501(c)(3) public charitable organizations to support, including St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital, the organization Lighthouse has chosen to support!

Learn more about AmazonSmile here:

https://smile.amazon.com/about/ref=smi_ge_ul_lm_raas

 

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Telehealth for Autism

This month, Behavior Imaging Solutions announced the successful results of a small pilot study funded by one of Autism Speaks’ first Innovative Small Business Grants. The grant allowed the company to develop and test its new web-based “telehealth” system to improve medication management via the Internet for individuals with autism. Instead of an in-person appointment, the doctor asks caregivers to send relevant video clips using the company’s “Behavior Connect” software. The system may prove of particular value to families in locations remote from major medical centers with autism specialists.

In particular, the pilot study focused on the development and evaluation of a new mobile device app called Med SmartCapture. Through this system, a family can securely share home videos and other health information from their home. The system also includes tools that allow integrated access to personal health records.

Three caregivers and two doctors participated in the pilot study. The doctors reported that the video monitoring provided the behavioral information they needed to monitor and adjust medications appropriately. The participating families reported that they could maintain a consistent and informative relationship with their prescribing doctors.

“I am very excited about what Med SmartCapture will be able to do for patient care and communication between parents, educators and providers so that we are all putting our integrated energies in the same direction to help the kids we are working with,” said psychiatrist Robert Hendren. Dr. Hendren is the vice chair and director of the Autism and Neurodevelopment Program at the University of California, San Francisco Children’s Hospital.

Founded in 2005, Behavior Imaging recently received a $2.2 million grant by the National Institute of Mental Health to pursue Behavior Connect technology for earlier diagnosis of autism and related disabilities.

You can find the original article posted on Autism Speaks website here  https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2014/03/20/your-dollarswork-telehealth-autism

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Autism Speaks Investment Conference

“The second day of the 2014 Autism Speaks Autism Investment Conference closed with a focus on the need for more employment opportunities for teens and adults with autism.

“Adults with autism have an estimated 90 percent unemployment rate,” said moderator Leslie Long, Autism Speaks assistant director of adult services. “We have to explore all options available to advance employment opportunities for this population, including investing in companies that hire and support adults on the spectrum.”

Long stressed the need for employers to understand the value of hiring employees with autism. She encouraged businesses and organizations large and small to tap into the strengths that adults with autism can bring to the workplace.

More and more businesses are hiring individuals with autism, she noted, and many have seen tremendous success as a result. The companies showcased in the sessions illustrated some of the opportunities to capitalize on the potential of young adults and adults living with autism.

Employment Services Showcase

Last year, Autism Speaks featured AutonomyWorks as an exemplary employer in its Small Business Initiative. The company connects individuals who have autism with companies needing workers in areas such as website maintenance and quality assurance. “There are hundreds of thousands of potential workers with autism spectrum disorders whose skills and abilities are perfectly matched to these business tasks,” said Dave Friedman, AutonomyWorks founder and CEO (at left).

AutonomyWorks currently employs 15 adults on the autism spectrum and provides workers for six clients. These clients range from start-up companies to some of the world’s largest ad agencies. AutonomyWorks’ goal is to employ 10,000 associates, have a service centers across the nation and inspire others to develop similar business models. “Workers with autism want to contribute their talents to the business community and to society,” Friedman said. “AutonomyWorks is here to help.”

Houlton Institute is an innovative online education provider. Thanks to a grant from Autism Speaks, Houlton and the Autistic Global Initiative developed an online course that provides training for residential and daily-living care providers. As part of this partnership, Houlton hired several faculty members and teaching assistants on the autism spectrum, said co-founder Dan Merritts (at left).

MindSpark Technologies founder Chad HahnMindSpark Technologies (Santa Monica, Calif.)  is an outsourced information technology company providing employment opportunities for individuals with specialized abilities – including adults with autism. “At MindSpark, we’re about more than just a job,” said founder Chad Hahn (left). “We believe in both the personal and the professional well-being of our team.  We’re creating a family atmosphere in and out of the office, building bonds we hope will last for a lifetime.” Chad and the company’s other principal owners are working without pay to launch and manage the enterprise. Investment will enable MindSpark to train and hire more employees, who will share in profit distributions. Enhancing the investment opportunity, Hahn explained, MindSpark incorporated as one of California’s nonprofit “benefit corporations.”

 

This article was published on March 5, 2014 on the Autism Speaks website. The original post can be found at https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/focus-employment-opportunities-autism-investment-conference

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential