News from Across the U.S.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Releases Annual List of Scientific Advances!
Each year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) releases its annual list of scientific advances that represent significant progress in the field. According to the IACC, “The 20 studies selected have given new insight into the complex causes of autism and potential risk factors, studied clues that could lead to earlier diagnosis, and evaluated promising early intervention strategies. The advances also address the prevalence of ASD both in the United States and internationally, as well as the service needs of people with ASD across the lifespan.” The articles chosen for the 2012 Summary of Advances are selected by the IACC from a pool of peer-reviewed articles, which are then grouped according to the questions of the IACC Strategic Plan for ASD Research. VCU-ACE is pleased to share that an article co-authored by Executive Director, Paul Wehman, Ph.D. was chosen for inclusion under Question 6: What Does the Future Hold, Particularly for Adults? Please visit the IACC website to review the entire list!
CDC Releases Results of Parent Survey
According to the CDC (March 2013), a new study suggests that 1 in 50 school-aged children is now being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. The results represent a significant increase from the last CDC study in 2008 that suggested approximately 1 in 88 children had an autism spectrum disorder. The study, a phone survey of over 95,000 parents of school-aged children under the age of 17, has created considerable concern among the public regarding the increase. The CDC believes the increase does not necessarily mean that autism is occurring more often, only that physicians are diagnosing autism more frequently. It is important to note that various studies have shown a wide variety of prevalence rates. For more information regarding the study, please visit the CDC website.
The $100 million BRAIN challenge
According to The White House Blog (April 2, 2013), President Obama has released a new BRAIN initiative, or Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. The BRAIN initiative seeks to advance cutting edge science and technologies regarding brain development in an effort to treat, prevent, and even cure disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and autism. The scope and challenge of the BRAIN initiative is being compared to the Human Genome Project, and the President’s 2014 budget is pushing for over $100 million in research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). To find out more about the President’s Grand Challenge BRAIN initiative, please visit The White House Blog here.
Advancements in ASD Research Noted
In a recent article in the Huffington Post (April 2, 2013), Geraldine Dawson, the Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks, noted ten significant advances in our knowledge about ASD over the last year. Dr. Dawson highlighted the best of ASD related research by starting with evidence that suggests early intervention can actually improve brain functioning, and may contribute to many children improving so much they often no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for ASD later in life. Other advancements of note include research that suggests siblings may often have developmental delays (but not ASD); peer training improves a student’s success with social skills; bolting or wandering is a common problem among individuals with ASD; and prenatal folic acid plays an important role in reducing the risk of ASD. Promising results from initial studies also indicate progress in regards to ASD related medications and ASD related products and services. To view the entire article and access the results from these research studies, please click here.
Research indicates that Nonverbal Individuals with ASD may Develop Language Later
According to Autism Speaks (March 4, 2013), a new study by the Scientists at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Baltimore suggests that individuals with ASD who are nonverbal at a young age may still develop language later in life. In a study of over 500 children with ASD, who had not acquired language before the age of 4 years, 70% later learned to speak in simple phrases and 47% developed fluent speech. The study also suggests that cognitive aptitude and level of social ability are two factors influencing the development of speech. However, the level and intensity of repetitive behavior and restricted interests appeared to have no impact on language development. For more information, please click here.
New Employment Tool Kit Developed by Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks has developed an Employment Tool Kit to help individuals with autism research, find, and keep employment in the current, competitive labor market. Stories, tips and resources were developed from a collaboration of people, including adults with autism, dedicated to increasing the employment participation of adults on the spectrum. Families, transition coordinators, vocational rehabilitation staff, business leaders, and anyone who is helping someone with autism find and keep employment will also his resource helpful.
DSM-V Changes Approved
According to Psychiatric News (December 1, 2012), the APA’s Board of Trustees have approved the DSM-V changes, including changes to the criteria and definition of Autism. Previously, the DSM-IV used the term Autistic Disorder. This has been replaced with the term Autism Spectrum Disorder. Other changes include the greatly contested removal of the term Asperger’s Syndrome and incorporating it into the broader diagnostic label, Autism Spectrum Disorder. The DSM routinely evolves as science and research improve our understanding of such disorders, including ASD. The updated DSM-V will be published in May 2013. For more information, please click here.
U.S. House of Representatives Holds Hearing on Rise of Autism Rates in U.S.
On 11/29/2012, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the rise in autism rates for the United States. In the first panel, Colleen Boyle, Director of the CDC—Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, and Alan Guttmacher, Director of the National Institutes of Health - Child and Human Development, testified on the body of evidence surrounding causation, incidence, and prevalence of ASD. Bob Wright, Co-Founder of Autism Speaks, Scott Badesch, President and CEO of Autism Society, Mark Blaxill, Chair of Safeminds, Bradley McGarry, Mercyhurst University - Asperger Initiative, Michael John Carley, Executive Director of Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP), and Ari Ne’eman, President of Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) all spoke in the second panel. Much of both discussions focused on a long list of suspected causes of ASD and many questions focused on the issue of vaccination; however, the issue of improved diagnostic capabilities was also discussed. Bob Wright mentioned the need to move forward with legislation, such as those to support insurance initiatives, and Bradley McGarry emphasized the need to consider higher education supports. Scott Badesch, Michael John Carley, and Ari Ne’eman brought up the issues of quality of life, education, housing, employment, and issues impacting individuals with ASD across the entire lifespan, including Medicaid portability and regulations regarding employment and SSI for adults with ASD.
To watch the hearings, please click here.
Dismal Employment and Post-Secondary Education Statistics for Adults with ASD
One in 3 young adults with ASD have no paid job experience, college or technical school even seven years after graduation (May 13, 2012). The study was based on data from 2007-2008 and was published online in the journal Pediatrics. Two years after high school graduation over half had no paid position or further educational opportunities. By seven years post graduation, 35% were still unemployed and out of college. With 1 out of every 88 children diagnosed with ASD, such statistics will be staggering as adulthood looms for a large portion of our population. VCU-ACE’s own Carol Schall agreed that the results confirm previous research and the reality for thousands of adults with ASD. VCU-ACE is currently researching the efficacy of two different models of employment and training for young adults with ASD. More information on the VCU-ACE research project is available on our web site.