Parents whose first child has received a diagnosis of autism may be a third less likely to have a second child. This tendency may also have an effect on estimates of the risk that the second child will receive this diagnosis.
A recent study, reported in JAMA Psychiatry, looked at birth rates in 19,710 Californian families in which the first born had received an ASD diagnosis. The researchers compared the incidence of second births in this group, with 36,215 families in which the first child was developing normally. Second births happened with the same frequency in both groups for the first three years, perhaps leading up to the time when a diagnosis of ASD might be expected to be confirmed. However, second birth rates tended to diverge after that, with families in which the first born was autistic having only two thirds the second birth rate as the control families.
The researchers went on to evaluate whether or not the tendency not to have a second child had any impact on estimates of the risk that the second child would also be diagnosed as autistic. They calculated that without taking this tendency into account, the risk of a second child being autistic was 8.7% for full siblings and 3.2% for maternal half siblings. However, when they allowed for this tendency, the recurrence risks increased to 10.1% for full siblings and 4.8% for half siblings.
Parents are understandably concerned when they consider whether or not to have a second child following a diagnosis of autism for their first child. They are aware of the risk that the second child may also receive this diagnosis. They also may be concerned that in meeting the needs of their first born, they will not have the necessary emotional and other resources needed for a subsequent child. And any parent, when thinking of having a second child, may wonder if this new addition will eclipse their first child and relegate it to a poor second place.
However, many parents in this situation do have a second child and find that they can appreciate the unique and special qualities of both their first and their second child. What remains important is to see each child as a unique personality, no matter what their needs, and to seek help at the earliest stage if there are any concerns.
via Medscape (free registration required to view article)
Congratulations to Lisa Moir, who raised over £600 for the charity with a craft and fun day. The day was a great success, with support from local people and businesses.
A fantastic result by Lisa with her first fundraising event.
La Nounou, a bilingual nursery based in London specializing in communication and development of language in both French and English, has selected the Charity ipAn as its charity of the year. Alexandra Albery, La Nounou’s Founder and Manager commented:
“Our target for 2014 is to consider the emotional development of the child. In the UK autism is not formally diagnosed until the age of at least two and a half and I have tried many times in the past to alert or find contacts to help babies and their parents so it was really interesting to attend last October a conference on ‘Catch it when you can : early signs and treatment of autism’ sponsored by the charity. I was impressed with the work done by the charity and hope our support will help them grow their activities and increase awareness that early intervention can make a real difference. At the same time it is important to develop a sense of community in our children and we plan a series of exciting events during the year”
Mike Reardon ipAn’s Interim Chief Executive commented:
“The Charity is currently sponsoring research into identifying the early risk of autism; raising awareness through conferences/workshops on early signs and treatment of autism; and raising funds to help children, as well as their families, whom would not otherwise receive help. We are therefore delighted that La Nounou has chosen to support us this year and I look forward to working closely with Alexandra to make sure that her events are well supported and enjoyable”
A new study from researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine reports on some early indicators that a child may later be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The researchers found that 6-month-old infants who were later diagnosed with ASD tended to look away from key facial features when that face is speaking.
The researchers used eye tracking technology to assess the way that a group of 99 infants looked at videos of various faces. The faces were either still, smiling or speaking. Eye tracking technology maps where an infant’s eyes are focussed and is an effective way to study an infant’s reaction to social stimuli. An altered reaction to those stimuli is a key characteristic of individuals diagnosed with ASD.
When the infants were assessed at the age of 3 years, the researchers found that those who had later been diagnosed with ASD had spent less time looking at the faces at the age of 6 months than the other infants. Interestingly, they also found that the infants diagnosed with ASD tended to look away from key facial features, such as the eyes of mouth, when the face was speaking.
‘Our study suggests that infants later diagnosed with ASD have difficulties regulating attention to complex social scenes. It also suggests that the presence of speech might uniquely disturb the attention of infants who later develop ASD at a critical developmental point when other infants are acquiring language and learning about their social world.’
Speech Disturbs Face Scanning in 6-Month-Old Infants Who Develop Autism Spectrum Disorder. by Frederick Shic, Suzanne Macari, and Katarzyna Chawarska (doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.07.009). Biological Psychiatry, Volume 75, Issue 3 (February 1, 2014), published by Elsevier.
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The latest ‘Grim Challenge’ was held at Aldershot over the weekend of 30th November/1st December and entails an 8 mile off road race through mud and water. To quote what the participants are to expect:
This land is used to test Army vehicles so expect it to be interesting! You will reach a long hill shortly after the start before descending again eventually reaching a water filled ravine. You will run on over puddle-strewn paths before having to crawl under camouflage netting. You’ll eventually reach some man-made mounds before arriving at and running through some rather large puddles. Expect to get very wet! You’ll run on to the fast vehicle driving circuit where it is rocky underfoot. This brings you to some more large areas of water and the finish area.
Emily took time out of her University work to compete and chose ipAn as the charity she was going to raise funds for: “I picked the charity as it has relevance to my life and I believe you to do a world of good to those affected by autism. I also wanted to select a less popular charity, one where my donations would be truly appreciated and put to good use”.
Mike Reardon, Interim Chief Executive of ipAn, stated “It is really great that Emily thought of us. Her photos indicate that she enjoyed the experience but I wonder how long it took her to get the mud off afterwards! Thanks also to all her friends and family that sponsored her.”
You can still contribute to Emily’s fundraising page at http://www.justgiving.com/emily-johnson11
A recent study, reported in Nature, has shown declining eye contact from as young as two months in infants who were later diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. This has important implications for early diagnosis and treatment.
The study followed 110 infants from birth, around half of whom were in a high risk group, having an older sibling who had already been diagnosed with ASD. The researchers tracked the infants’ eye movements when shown videos of their caregiver. EEG readings were also taken to assess the associated brain activity.
Those infants who were later diagnosed with ASD tended to show a marked decline in the attention that they gave to their caregiver’s eyes, so that by the age of 24 months they looked at their caregiver’s eyes for half the time of infants not given that diagnosis. The decline tended to start between the ages of two and six months.
The researchers noted their surprise that the difference in eye contact only seemed to emerge after the two-month point. This “contradicts prior hypotheses of a congenital absence of social adaptive orientation and suggests instead that some social adaptive behaviors may initially be intact in newborns later diagnosed with ASD”.
These are important findings which, if replicated, could eventually lead to tools with which to make earlier diagnosis. Early diagnosis is vital for effective treatment. The findings also show that at least some infants who go on to be diagnosed with ASD are born with a capacity for social engagement which then declines. More effective treatments could be developed if the causes for this subsequent decline are discovered.
An abstract of the Nature article is available here. Medscape carries a discussion of the study. (Free log in required)
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ipAn is pleased to announce that it has appointed Mike Reardon as Interim Chief Executive. Following a thirty year career in the pharmaceutical industry Mike brings experience from the public and charity sectors including acting as Interim CEO and then Chair of Bridge Mental Health and Chair of Positive East. He has also served as a Governor of Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and as a NED of Tower Hamlets NHS Community Services and the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland.
Commenting on his appointment, Dr Marcus Johns, Chair of ipAn’s Board of Trustees said “We are really pleased to have Mike on board and that he brings with him a wealth of experience. The Charity is currently sponsoring research into identifying the early risk of autism; raising awareness through conferences/workshops on early signs and treatment of autism; and raising funds to help children, as well as their families, whom would not otherwise receive help. I and the Board look forward to working closely with Mike to expand the charity’s activities and to safeguard its future sustainability in times when demand as well as economic pressure are both at a high”
The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest reports on a small scale study that aimed to look at the way that children with autism trust others. The study compared a group of children with autistic spectrum disorder with a control group of neurotypical children. The average age of the children was seven years.
The study involved an adult indicating which of three boxes held a reward. Most of the autistic children chose the box indicated by the adult, while fewer neurotypical children followed the adult’s suggestion. The researchers speculated that this apparently more trusting behaviour by the autistic children could have been due to them having problems in understanding the mental states of others. In that case the autistic children might not question the intentions of the adults. The ability to attribute mental states to others is sometimes referred to as having a Theory of Mind.
The post can be found here.
A recent study has looked at the prevalence of autism in 8-year-old children within the UK and has found that ‘the incidence and prevalence rates…reached a plateau in the early 2000s and remained steady through 2010’. The study found that annual prevalence rates for each year were steady at approximately 3.8/1000 boys and 0.8/1000 girls.
This leveling off of incidence rates is a significant finding, given that these rates increased fivefold in the UK during the 1990s.
The authors discuss possible reasons for the earlier increase in incidence rates, including changes to diagnostic criteria and increased awareness of the condition. As yet there does not seem to be a definitive explanation, either for the earlier rise nor for the recent steady state. However, the authors cite many studies which show that the earlier increase was unrelated to the MMR vaccine.
The study also notes the significant difference in the percentage of children diagnosed as autistic in the UK and the USA.
The estimated prevalence rates of autism in the UK population, about 4 per 1000 in 8-year-old boys in 2008, is far lower than 11 per 1000 in 8-year-old boys reported by the CDC from the USA for the same calendar year. This large difference between countries is closely similar to differences in rates reported for children diagnosed and treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the two countries
This large difference in prevalence rates between the two countries may be due to differences in the ways that cases of autism are recognised, diagnosed or recorded in each country, or may reflect real differences in prevalence. At this stage we just do not know.
The study used the UK General Practice Research Database (GPRD), which is one of the largest sources of primary care data in the world. The study authors claim that their study is fully representative of the UK general population.
The study is published by BMJ Open and is available here.
Thanks to Questioning Answers for alerting us to this study.
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A UK study has shown significantly reduced durations of sleep for children diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) from the age of 30 months onwards
This was a prospective longitudinal study that looked at a cohort of children born in 1991–1992. Parental reports of sleep duration were collected by questionnaires at eight time points from 6 months to 11 years. Children with an ASD diagnosis at age 11 years (n=73) were identified from health and education records.
The study did not find any difference in sleep patterns up until the age of 30 months between those children diagnosed with ASD and those who did not have that diagnosis. However, significant sleep differences did emerge from the age of 30 months onwards with reduced duration of sleep and more frequent night time waking.
A report of the study can be found here.
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