We’re used to it by now. Like a pantomime refrain, every time time researchers think they’ve found the thing that causes autism, other experts will reply with “Oh no it doesn’t!” Last week’s news that taking paracetamol during pregnancy increased the likelihood of autism and ADD/ADHD has been rebutted with a lengthy piece on the NHS website and other stories elsewhere. They say that the Spanish research paper doesn’t provide enough evidence that there is a link between paracetamol use in pregnancy and the presentation of symptoms of autism and attention deficit disorders. This is partly because the mothers were asked to recall how much of the drug they had taken and of course could not provide details of exact doses. Also, the study did not take into account other health, hereditary and environmental factors like smoking, so it is impossible to say that acetaminophen was the cause of the ASD and ADD/ADHD symptoms in the children in the study.
Research has shown that the brains of some people with autism spectrum disorder grow faster than usual early on in life. Researchers at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies took skin cells from people with autism spectrum disorder and turned them into neurons in order to explore the mechanisms driving the excess growth. The findings open up the potential for the use of stem cell reprogramming technologies to model the earliest stages of complex disorders like autism. Those models can then be used to evaluate potential therapeutic drugs. Interestingly, when compared to neurons derived from healthy people they found that they were less able to make connections with other neurons. When a drug called IGF-1 was added to the neurons, that ability to make connections was improved or restored. IGF-1 is currently being clinically evaluated as a drug to treat autism.
The Westminster Commission on Autism has produced a report that says that it is critical that NHS staff receive more training to support people with autism. The study includes survey of more than 900 autistic people, parents and professionals. Nearly three-quarters of them said that they felt that the treatment received by people with ASD was not as good as that given to others. They also said that they felt that there was very little understanding among the medical profession about the effects autism has on physical and mental health. This is despite the Autism Act of 2009 stipulating that autism-awareness training should be given to health and social care staff on an ongoing basis. It appears that many as 70% of local areas are failing to comply with the act in this respect.
Tesco employee Steve Young missed the Euro 2016 final this year because he trapped himself inside a box in his store for 50 hours to raise funds for the Caudwell Children charity. Isolated, with no phone and no privacy, reduced, poor sleep and being stared at, Steve thinks living in a 3×2 metre box can highlight children with autism and their parents can feel. Do you think you could live in a box for 50 hours to raise money and awareness for autism? Sign up here!