The Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc. (CARD), has been named one of the top three largest non-governmental financial supporters of autism research in the United States, and the only for-profit organization in the top three-tier ranking. The research findings come from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), whose mission is to provide a blueprint for autism research that is advisory to the Department of Health and Human Services and serves as a basis for partnerships with other agencies and private organizations involved in autism research and services.
Potential participants were identified through the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS). Both identical and fraternal twin pairs were eligible to participate if they were born between 1987 and 2004, and at least one twin was reported to have an ASD diagnosis. A total of 1,156 twin pairs were identified through the DDS, however, due to limited participation from families, only 202 twin pairs were included in the study. All participants received comprehensive diagnostic evaluations to confirm diagnoses of autistic disorder or broader ASD.
Although this statistic has been used time and again, its origin and supportive research are unknown. While there have been many speculations about elevated parental divorce rates for children with ASD, very little research has actually been conducted to estimate the frequency of divorce in this population. For this reason, Dr. Freedman and colleagues conducted the first population-based study to explore family structures of children with ASD.
Dr. Al-Qabandi and colleagues set out to review existing research in order to determine whether routine ASD screening would be appropriate for the entire population. Findings of various research studies were used to evaluate how routine ASD screening measured against a number of criteria.
We come in contact with countless chemicals found in the products we use day-to-day. Although we encounter these chemicals regularly, little is known about the extent to which these chemicals adversely affect our health. Moreover, the ways in which these chemicals impact the health of children during crucial developmental stages (e.g., in utero, infancy, childhood, and adolescence) is not fully understood. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Council on Environmental Health suggests revisions to United States (U.S.) policy on chemical management to better support the health of children, pregnant women, and other populations.
Childhood vaccination is a controversial topic with high stakes in the field of autism. The danger in declaring a positive association between autism and vaccinations that is based on unsound research methods, like those described above, is that other findings that are grounded on more solid research methods may be discarded as a result. No matter what your beliefs are in regards to vaccinations, I urge you to take caution when interpreting the results of this study.
While these are very real concerns, they do not take away from the scientific evidence that the disorder is best described as falling along a spectrum and that the APA’s revised diagnostic criteria likely offers a more accurate clinical definition of the disorder. As we move forward with the revised diagnostic criteria, we will surely run into obstacles; however, in the long run I believe we will have a much more clinically useful definition of autism. I am interested in hearing what you have to say on the matter. What are your thoughts on the APA’s revised diagnostic criteria?
Participants included 278 children with typical development, 288 children with autistic disorder, and 141 children with ASD, ages 24 to 60 months. Via telephone interviews, mothers were questioned retroactively about their consumption of vitamin supplements during the three months prior to conception and throughout the gestational period. Furthermore, blood samples were collected from the families of 232 participants with typical development and 238 participants with autistic disorder. Maternal, paternal, and child blood samples were tested for various one-carbon metabolism gene variations, which have been found in previous research studies to be associated with ASD.
Due to the severe drop off in participation from those who were qualified to receive diagnostic evaluations but did not, Dr. Kim and colleagues employed methods to adjust for the missing data. For starters, all the children reported in the Ilsan Disability Registry as having ASD were assumed to have it. As for the children enrolled in mainstream education, likelihood of having ASD was predicted based on the data collected from the participants who did undergo diagnostic evaluations, as well as each child’s ASSQ score, sex, and age. Thus, the 1 in 38 statistic that we see reported is based off of these adjusted data, not the actual observed children.
According to Dr. Brugha and colleagues, these findings suggest that the increased prevalence of ASD seen today may not be the result of increased incidence of ASD, but rather under-diagnosis of ASD across previous generations. While further research is needed to replicate these findings, the results of this study offer preliminary evidence that incidence of ASD may have remained more or less stable over time and that improved screening and diagnostic practices may account for the greater rate of ASD diagnoses today.