Entries in Austism (7)


Folic Acid Before Pregnancy Linked to Lower Autism Risk, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Folic acid has been recommended to pregnant women for years, usually as a way to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida.

But a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found it may also prevent autism.

The JAMA study, which used data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, found that mothers who took folic acid four weeks before and eight weeks after pregnancy had a 40 percent reduced risk of giving birth to a child with autism. While the researchers found an association between folic acid deficiency and autism, that does not mean that folic acid taken during pregnancy would result in fewer autism cases.

The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study followed more than 85,000 babies born between 2002 and 2008, and their parents. About 270 babies whose parents participated in the study were born with a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum.

Mothers reported whether they were taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy before they found out whether their children had autism, which eliminated some potential bias, said molecular epidemiologist Rebecca Schmidt, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. In 2011, Schmidt was one of the first scientists to publish a study that found that autism arises because of both genetic and external factors, including women’s prenatal vitamin intake before conception.

“Given the replication of findings showing reduced risk of autism associated with folic acid supplements taken near conception, more research is needed to investigate whether this association is casual,” she said. “Interestingly, both studies reported...a nearly 40 percent reduction in risk for autism.”

The number of children with autism spectrum disorders in the United States rose to one in 88 in 2012, up from one in 110 in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a senior medical contributor to ABC News, said she tries to help the patients in her OB/GYN practice to weigh the benefits and risks of things that might affect their pregnancies, such as medications, chemical exposure, or consuming certain foods. She said she knows from her own pregnancy how confusing and frightening it can be, and she aims to alleviate some of that by reassuring mothers that fetuses are resilient.

“Society can sometimes do a really good job of laying blame and guilt, and when there is no medical proof that it is the mother’s fault,” Dr. Ashton said.  “I usually tell women pregnancy is no different than parenting.  There are never 100 percent guarantees of anything.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Autism-Friendly Performance of Broadway’s "Spider-Man" Scheduled

Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- The first-ever “autism-friendly” performance of Broadway hit Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is set for April and tickets went on sale Thursday.

The normally special-effects-heavy show will be specially tailored for the audience’s needs, with a reduction of jarring sounds, strobe lights and other effects. The theater lobby will also feature designated quiet and activity areas staffed with autism experts, in case anyone needs a break during the performance.

Tickets are available to families whose members include people on the autism spectrum.

The Theatre Development Fund (TDF), a nonprofit organization that encourages and provides access to theater, bought all of the tickets for the April 27 show as part of its Autism Theater Initiative.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to share our production with those affected by autism,” Spider-Man producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris said in a news release.  “Part of our mission is to serve our community, and we are grateful to TDF for partnering with us on this initiative.”

This is the fifth autism-friendly initiative by TDF.  The first show to participate was The Lion King, which has since done a second participating performance.  Mary Poppins and Elf have also done these special shows. The initiative has also spread across the country, with TDF advising on similar experiences in Houston, San Diego and other cities.

“When we piloted this program we had a sense that there was a large audience of families in need of this service,” Victoria Bailey, TDF’s executive director, wrote in a statement.  “After the first performance it was clear that our presumption was true.  Watching families experience live theatre together for the first time in an environment that was safe and supportive is a truly emotional and gratifying experience.”

The performance is scheduled for Saturday, April 27, and tickets can be purchased through the TDF website.  Tickets range from $35-$80.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Autism Linked to Maternal Obesity, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(DAVIS, Calif.) -- Obesity during pregnancy can raise the risk of autism, a developmental disorder that affects one in 88 American children, according to a new study.

The study of more than 1,000 children in California found the risk of autism and other developmental delays was 60 percent higher among those born to mothers who were obese, hypertensive or diabetic.

"The prevalence of obesity and diabetes among U.S. women of childbearing age is 34 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively," the study authors wrote in their report published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.  "Our findings raise concerns that these maternal conditions may be associated with neurodevelopmental problems in children and therefore could have serious public health implications."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimates one in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder, up from one in 110 in 2006.  Obesity is also on the rise, affecting more than one-third of U.S. adults.

"It's hard to say if they're linked," said study author Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor of public health sciences at the University of California at Davis.  "It might be there's some environmental factor that contributes both to the obesity epidemic and to the rise in autism cases.  Or it could be the increase in obesity is, in fact, contributing to the increase in autism.  But it's certainly not going to account for all of it."

Hertz-Picciotto and colleagues have also linked autism to poor maternal nutrition, antidepressant use and closely spaced pregnancies.

"The goal of our research program is to try to find the modifiable risk factors," Hertz-Picciotto said.  "You can't control your genetics. … But assuming our study is replicated, you would really want to figure out whether lowering weight and controlling diabetes during pregnancy through physical exercise and diet or more medical means could change the risk of a child developing autism."

How obesity and diabetes during pregnancy might predispose the developing fetus to autism is unclear, but theories include overexposure to glucose, insulin and inflammation.

video platform video management video solutions video player

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mothers With Autistic Children Earn Less, Study Finds

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Mothers of autistic children earn 56 percent less on average than the mothers of children with no health limitations, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. They are also 6 percent less likely to be employed.

"They have to be advocate, lawyer and case manager for their children," said study author Dr. David Mandell, associate director of the Center for Autism Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  "They learn early on you don't get what your kids need, you get what you negotiate.  Those time commitments result in parents -- usually mothers -- saying they just can't manage a job, too."

The income lag compounds the economic burden of autism, a condition already fraught with out-of-pocket costs.

"There's a lot of debate about the cost of treating autism and who should pay," Mandell said.  "We really wanted to show the cost of not treating autism, what happens to families when kids are not getting the care they need."

The study also found that mothers of children with autism earn 35 percent less -- $7,189 on average -- than parents of children with another health limitation.

"I don't think there's anything more challenging per se than the health needs of a child with autism compared to those of a child with cystic fibrosis or cerebral palsy," Mandell said.  "I think what's different is the system of care.  There's a level of fragmentation for autism services, which means a lot of finger pointing about whose paying."

Many mothers of children with autism are well-educated, Mandell said.

"What this means, to some extent, is that we're taking the most educated and potentially most valuable employees out of the work force," he said.  "These are women with a tremendous amount of perseverance, grit and knowledge.  If we can figure out a more way for them to remain in the workplace, it would be a real societal boon."

Instead of employers offering 12 weeks of leave to care for children with chronic conditions, for example, they should have a more flexible approach that allows mothers to run to appointments when necessary, Mandell said.

"They need the flexibility to do these things and still be a contributing member at their place of employment," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Autism Epidemic' Challenged by UK Study

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Is autism a growing epidemic or not?

Recent reports have suggested that autism is on the rise, but a new study from the U.K. finds that the prevalence of this developmental disorder has remained stable.  It may be that doctors are diagnosing it more often in young people -- not that it's actually happening more.

Researchers performed clinical assessments of 618 adults and found that nearly one percent of Britons over age 16 suffered from autism -- meaning the adult rate is no higher than that seen among children in the U.K.

"If the rate of autism is actually increasing rapidly, you'd expect rates to be much lower in older adults, but we didn't find that," says Dr. Traolach Brugha, lead author on the study and psychiatrist at the University of Leicester, U.K.  "We found similar rates at 16 up to the 70s and 80s.  That suggests that the number of people developing the condition have not changed over the last 70 or 80 years."

Though this study -- published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry -- deals with the U.K. population, these findings call into questions whether the much-discussed "autism epidemic" in the U.S. is a real phenomenon.

"It has never been fully clear whether the much increased rate of autism over the past few decades is due to increased recognition…or whether there has been a genuine increase.  This study suggests that there is no true increase," says Dr. Shlomo Shinnar, professor of neurology and pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

Because the U.K. and the U.S. have similar rates of autism in children (about one percent), these U.K. findings speak to the autism debate in the states as well, says Shinnar.

"The fact that similar rates of one percent are being seen in the adult population when screened is a strong indication that these results are highly relevant to the U.S. as well," he said.

Fears of an autism epidemic were sparked in 2009 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of autism in children had increased 57 percent since 2002.  The most recent data puts the prevalence of autism in children the U.S. at about one in 100 -- a similar rate to that found in the U.K. population.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Brain Overgrowth in Autistic Children May Occur before Age 2, Study Says

David De Lossy/Digital Vision(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) -- It is known that children with autism have somewhat larger brains than unaffected children, and now a new study, published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, reports that the enhanced growth leading to the difference in size occurs before the age of two.

Using brain scans, researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill School of Medicine found that rate of growth was the same in children with and without autism when they were both two and four years of age, indicating that the enlargement of the brain must have occurred prior to two years of age.

The authors argue that this information now allows researchers to focus on the first two years of life as the time period during which some of the abnormalities occur.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


One Year Olds Can Now Be Screened for Autism, Study Finds

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Currently, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) can reliably be detected by the age of three, however, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children be screened for subtle signs as early as 18 months of age. 

Most pediatricians would agree that early detection is crucial as early detection can lead to early intervention, and therefore possibly a better outcome. 

A new study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, shows that a simple, five minute parent questionnaire can detect subtle signs in children as young as 12 months of age.

Pediatricians gave the parents of over 10,000 infants a 24-point checklist to fill out while sitting in the waiting room, which asked them to provide answers about their child's communication, gesture and verbal capabilities.  Some of the questions included:

1. Does you child let you know that he/she needs help or wants an object out of reach?
2. Does your child show objects to you without giving you the object?
3. Does you child string sounds together, such as "uh oh, mama, gaga, bye bye, bada?"
4. Does your child show interest in playing with a variety of objects?

Children who failed the screen were referred for advanced behavioral therapy.

The screen was able to provide an accurate diagnosis of a language, developmental or some other form of delay, 75 percent of the time.

Autism experts agree that the implementation of a check-list screening process at one year well-baby visits has huge, positive implications for the diagnosis and treatment of ASD.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio