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Monday, February 20, 2012

New Research: Hot off the press!

Hi everyone!

So, this week I found out that my book manuscript did not make it to the Women of Faith amateur author contest finalists list (sigh!). It was hard for me at first, but about a half hour later I felt this incredible sense that it just wasn't God's timing right now. I know my story needs to be told and I know my book will get published someday but that day is not today.

I quickly forgot all about my book situation because so much amazing research has just come out of the National Institute of Health (NIH) this week. As you know, even before Nathan was diagnosed (or even born!), I was an avid fan of research and evidence related to autism spectrum disorders. Now, more than ever, I urge ALL parents to read and learn as much as they can. There is no such thing as knowing too much! Three studies were just published in the past week. I will provide a brief synopsis of each of the studies and the links to the NIH page with the longer article. I've also listed these on my Autism Research News page. For those of you who are regular readers, please keep checking that page. I update it at least once a month!

The most exciting research that came out this week for me as an OT is one that didn't tell us anything new, but found evidence to substantiate my last 17 years of work. This study has now shown that ASD actually inherently includes motor impairments. Both Dr. Kanner, who originally described Autism as a disorder, and Dr. Asperger, who then described a subset of kids similar to Dr. Kanner's but with average to above average intelligence, mentioned motor impairments in the two groups of boys they studied back in the 1940's. As an OT, I have been working on this area of skill with hundreds of kids over the years. It is also one of the main reasons I went back to school and got my master's degree specializing in autism. Here is a brief description of the study and the link:
FRIDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Autism itself seems to be responsible for the problems children with the disorder have in developing motor skills such as running, throwing a ball and learning to write, according to a new study. The investigators studied children from 67 families that had at least one child with autism spectrum disorder and a sibling in the same age group. The test results showed that 83 percent of the children with an autism spectrum disorder were below average in motor skills, while their siblings without the disorder generally scored in the normal range, according to the study released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Autism.
To read more, go to: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122060.html

Two other studies that came out this week were also exciting. One has a more medical/neurological focus, while the other is related to social-emotional issues in teens with ASD. Both are worth checking out, particularly the one about use of video games (the statistics are kind of scary!). Here are the synopses and the links:

FRIDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- In children as young as 6 months old, changes in the brain that can lead to autism spectrum disorder may have already begun, preliminary research suggests. The report was published in the Feb. 17 online edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry. For the study, a team led by Jason Wolff, a postdoctoral fellow at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina, used MRI brain scans to look for early brain development in 92 infants. These babies all had older sisters or brothers who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, putting these infants a higher risk for developing the condition, the researchers noted. Of the 28 infants who developed autism spectrum disorder, the scans showed different white matter development in 12 of the 15 brain pathways the researchers looked at, compared with 64 infants who did not go on to develop autism spectrum disorder. At 6 months, these pathways were denser than usual in the babies who developed autism spectrum disorder, but on later scans development had slowed. At two years, the pathways were less dense than those of typical toddlers, the researchers found. In the future, the new research may have a clinical application, he said, but right now "this is not a diagnostic test and parents should not be asking for it."   http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_122057.html
TUESDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- When given the opportunity to have screen time, children with autism spectrum disorders typically choose television and video games over social interactive media, such as email, a new study finds. The preoccupation with video games could interfere with the children's socialization and learning, warned the researchers, whose study appears online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. In conducting the study, the researchers analyzed information on more than 1,000 teens in special education classes, including those with autism spectrum disorders, learning and intellectual disabilities, and speech problems. About 60 percent of the teens with autism spectrum disorders spent most of their time watching TV or videos, the investigators found. "Television viewing is clearly a preferred activity for children with ASDs, regardless of symptoms, functional level or family status." Moreover, 41 percent of the teens with autism spent most of their free time playing video games, the study authors found. "Given that only 18 percent of youths in the general population are considered to be high users of video games, it seems reasonable to infer based on the current results, that kids with ASDs are at significantly greater risk of high use of this media than are youths without ASDs," Shattuck added. In contrast, the teens with autism spectrum disorders were less likely to use email or social media. "We found that 64.4 percent of youth with ASDs did not use email or chat at all," Shattuck said. "Kids with speech and language impairments and learning disabilities were about two times more likely to use email or chat rooms than those with ASDs." He noted, however, use of social media increased among the teens with autism spectrum disorders as they got older and their cognitive skills improved. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_121913.html
Blessings, everyone! DC

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