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Autism News Round-Up: 11 November 2016

Parent and child playing with bubbles on grass surrounded by coloured paper heartsNewcastle Uni research shows benefits of early autism intervention

Experts from Newcastle University have co-authored a study showing the benefit of early intervention for children with autism. They found that children aged two to four who were given play therapy with their parents had less severe symptoms six years later. The children displayed improved social communication skills and a reduction in repetitive behaviours.

Mums and dads learned better ways to react to their child’s communication patterns during play therapy sessions. The focus was not on pressuring the autistic child to respond but on encouraging them to communicate through play. It’s similar to the play therapy we use here at The Toby Henderson Trust. We know it can have an amazing positive effect for autistic children and their families. We hope this study will be a reminder to authorities across the world of the importance of early intervention for children with autism.

Girl wearing paper tiara holds hands over ears to protect from noiseAutism in girls may advance research possibilities

Autism may not be the same thing in boys and girls. And that is now a hot topic in autism research – one that could lead to new ways of diagnosing and treating the condition.

Brain imaging suggests that brain regions involved in social behaviour are less severely impaired in girls than in boys. In addition, recent studies have found that girls can have the same kinds of genetic mutations seen in boys with autism, but not show symptoms.

Researchers are now trying to identify the factor that might explain this. They hope that it could lead to new autism treatments and possibly even a cure.

letters spelling ADHDChildren with autism over-diagnosed for ADHD

A popular screening tool for ADHD may be faulty when used with children who have autism. The tool is less reliable when the user does not differentiate between behaviours stemming from social deficits and those caused by attention issues.

Researchers analysed results from the ADHD Rating Scale. They found that children on the spectrum raised red flags on some questions whether or not they actually had ADHD. This has led to some children being misdiagnosed with ADHD.

This misdiagnosis could lead to children being given inappropriate and unhelpful treatments.

Tub or bottle of prenatal vitamin tabletsToo much folic acid in pregnancy may increase autism risk

Pregnant women have been told for years to make sure they get enough folic acid. But researchers may have just discovered that you can have too much of a good thing.

If a new mother has a very high level of folate, her child is twice as likely to develop autism. High B12 levels may be even worse, tripling the risk that the woman’s baby will develop autism. A high level of both bumps the risk up to more than 17%.

This is only the case in instances of recorded levels of about four times the RDA. That means that as long as you only take the recommended doses of B12 and folate, you’ll still be doing your baby good. In fact this can reduce the risk of autism.

Gatwick autism friendly awardGatwick is UK’s first autism friendly airport

Gatwick is the UK’s first Autism Friendly Airport.

The National Autistic Society has praised the airport for providing clear information for autistic passengers. The Society also commended them for the help provided by staff in planning journeys.

In April 2016 our own Newcastle Airport signed the Autism Charter. They are working on making the passenger hub easier to use for people with autism and their families.

Donald Trump at lecternWhat might the Trump Presidency mean for disabled Americans?

There’s lots of potential bad news, but some hope according to this Vox piece.

Trump’s plans for healthcare are vague. They include ending Obamacare. That will lead to cuts in federal funding for disability services. And in excluding people with pre-existing conditions from access to affordable health insurance.

Trump believes in the link between vaccines and autism. A look at who is supporting him suggests that it’s possible that money will be moved towards finding an autism cure instead of being spent on treatment.

However, there may be one positive outcome. Opposition to these measures is likely to re-energise disability rights activists. That could lead to co-operation with other activity groups  and a louder, stronger, more effective voice.

Autistic William Ryan wins a prize by dancing to Michael Jackson's ThrillerAutistic eight-year-old nails Thriller dance to win prize

 This is 8-year-old William Ryan, busting a move to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

William was diagnosed with autism when he was five. He struggles with all of the social aspects of the condition that we’re familiar with.

William’s dad showed him some Michael Jackson videos on YouTube. In the 18 months since, William has taught himself Jackson’s dance moves.

When his mum found out that a local travel agent was holding a competition, she knew she had to enter William. The shop had set up a webcam and invited people to show off their dancing skills. William had a go, and proved that not all children on the spectrum have motor skills issues! He deservedly won the shop’s prize. Just watch!