Autism Research: 23 May, 2015 Week in Review

ResearchStudy finds animals ease social anxiety in autism

A new study published by researchers from the NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have found that the mere presence of animals around kids on the spectrum lead to lower anxiety readings when measured. The team of researchers led by Dr. O’Haire used a device to measure anxiety and other types of social arousal that occur while interacting with peers. The findings have been published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology . Companions like cats, dogs and guinea pigs reduced the anxiety levels in children and the researchers concluded that they might be a huge helpful addition to children on the spectrum. It might also help kids with an autism spectrum disorder improve social interaction skills with other people due to lower anxiety.

Journal Reference: Marguerite E. O’Haire, Samantha J. McKenzie, Alan M. Beck, Virginia Slaughter. Animals may act as social buffers: Skin conductance arousal in children with autism spectrum disorder in a social context. Developmental Psychobiology, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/dev.21310

Owning a dog could help the parents of kids with autism

While studies have shown how animals could help kids with spectrum, another study has highlighted how owning a dog could help not just the kids, but their parents as well. This new study published by behavior experts and psychologists was published this week from Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and was headed by Prof. Daniel Mills. Conducted at the University of Lincoln, UK the study showed how parental stress reduced significantly in houses where families introduced a pet dog. The findings were presented at the Research Autism Lorna Wing Conference in London this week. The researchers noted that acquiring a dog in families that previously didn’t own a pet reduced significantly, notwithstanding the stresses of taking care of a pet and training it.

Journal reference: “Acquiring a Pet Dog Significantly Reduces Stress of Primary Carers for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Prospective Case Control Study” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI: 10.1007/s10803-015-2418-5

Device learns and predicts word usage in autism toddlers

The International Meeting for Autism Research held in Salt Lake City, Utah this week had numerous path breaking researches being shared of which one were the findings of a device that can actually predict word usage in toddlers and help further the understanding of verbal development in kids with autism. The study was headed by Tiffany Woynaroski from the Vanderbilt University, Tennessee. The automatic device analyses sounds from 3 year old toddlers and predicts their word use 4 months ahead. This could help not just in understanding the verbal issues, but also develop better therapies to improve targeted speech therapies. The cost and time efficient method will empower clinicians to gauge vocal development.

Reference: http://sfari.org/news-and-opinion/conference-news/2015/international-meeting-for-autism-research-2015/device-predicts-future-word-use-in-toddlers-with-autism

Air pollution associated with higher autism risk again

Yet another study has convicted fine particulate air pollutants in higher risk of autism in kids. The study conducted at University of Pittsburgh, headed by Dr. Talbott and published this week online in the journal Environmental Research. The researchers found that exposure during pregnancy and the 1st two years of childhood might be associated with higher risks of autism in children. Fine particulate pollution is found in air where the particles are below 2.5 micrometers diameter and include dirt, smoke and soot. These tend to reach deep into airways in the lungs, and even get into the blood vessels. The findings are worrisome and alarming as the Pittsburgh area has repeatedly shown very high levels of pollution and associated higher autism risks.

Journal reference: Environmental Research
Provided by University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences