Autism Research: November 15, 2013 Week in Review

adn iconGirls under-diagnosed with autism, London reveals

A new study published by the University College London has revealed that although autistic symptoms were commoner in girls, teachers and parents were six and two times more likely to detect a boy with autism spectrum disorder than a girl, respectively. Lead author Dr. Radha Kothari observed that there was no association between difficulties in social communication and emotional facial gesture recognition for girls showing that girls might be compensating for emotion recognition. Involving more than 3500 children at the University of Bristol, using a series of tests, researchers identified that girls were better at identifying emotions on faces compared to boys. The team concluded that girls might be masking autism symptoms better in social situations and thereby being under-diagnosed.

The paper published in the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry indicates important implications in gender-specific identification of children with ASD and thereby individual treatment.

PSE to reduce parental stress for children with autism

A child with autism is blissfully unaware of the difficulties that lie ahead of him but what the parents of a child, who has been newly diagnosed with autism undergo is another chapter altogether. A new therapy has been designed for such parents to help cope with the stress that such news might plunge them into. Problem-solving education (PSE) is a new cognition and behavioral intervention constructed to help parents deal with stress and depression that they might undergo on knowing that their child has a diagnosis of ASD. Emily Feinberg of the Boston University School of Public Health said the therapy reduced stress levels by almost 26 percent.

In a study involving 122 mothers of children under 6 whose children had been newly diagnosed with an ASD, 59 mothers received six sittings of PSE and 63 mothers received usual care. Maternal depression, stress and social isolation was just 3.8 percent in mothers receiving PSE compared to those receiving regular care. Potential long term benefit with the therapy will be studied amongst various subgroups of mothers to identify groups that would derive maximum benefit with the same.

Potential biomarker for autism identified

 A new chemical identified in pregnant mice might prove to be a potential biomarker in identifying maternal stress, a known agent for developmental disorders like autism and schizophrenia. The chemical is released from the placenta and influences development in mice. The paper was published in Neuroscience in 2013 by Tracy Bale.

 Woman behind autism research honoured

Diane Williams, an Associate professor of speech-language pathology at the Duquesne University has been silently researching autism and how the communication skills can be improved, since 2006. She was honored with the Anna Rangos Rizakus Endowed Chair in Health Sciences and Ethics in 2013 at Duquesne.  Using MRI scans of the brain while participants perform simple activities like reading, she has been studying how brains work while processing words and language. As communication is a major barrier for people with autism, her research is an excellent example of need for researchers and physicians to collaborate to solve problems faced by children with autism and their families.

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Dr. Rachita Narsaria, M.D. About Dr. Rachita Narsaria, M.D.

Dr. Rachita Narsaria is an physician with a passion for prose. Armed with an MD in Internal Medicine, she juggles between clinics and writing. When medicine gets overwhelming, poetry is her escape. Her maiden venture, Spellbound Inc., is a culmination of years of experience in creative writing.