Mapping the futures of autistic children

Published by: Spectrum
Written by: Elizabeth Svoboda

Kimberlee McCafferty knew something was different about her son Justin when he was just a baby. He had stopped babbling around his first birthday. He rarely accepted the food she offered or interacted with others, and his favorite pastime was spinning his toys across the wood floor. Before he turned 2, Justin was diagnosed with autism.

The diagnosis sent McCafferty, of Brick, New Jersey, on the kind of medical odyssey familiar to many parents: batteries of behavioral tests, dietary changes and a menu of therapy options. A few months into this journey, an autism specialist at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., examined Justin, who is now 18, and rendered a sweeping judgment about his future. “Your child will never speak or live independently,” the doctor told McCafferty flat out. His words dropped like an anvil, leaving McCafferty shaken. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s a pretty damning statement to make when the child is not yet potty trained.’”

Specialists say families are right to be skeptical of such point-blank verdicts. The business of making such forecasts in young children is fraught, especially because some children defy them in unexpected ways. “We see huge variability in how symptoms progress,” says So Hyun “Sophy” Kim, assistant professor of psychology in clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. “It’s not always easy to predict what’s going to happen down the road.”

Yet researchers have assembled a rich body of data about how autistic people do over time and can provide certain kinds of nuanced projections. The work points to several broad life trajectories for autistic children — rough sketches of how a child’s adolescence and adulthood may unfold. The data also point to subtle, early behavioral markers of future growth or difficulties in specific areas, as well as genetic variants that affect the arc of a child’s trajectory. Some of the research could help clinicians gauge an autistic child’s risk of having mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression as well. Click here to read the rest of the story

Validating autism subtypes: A crucial but often overlooked step in research

Published by: Spectrum Autism Research News
Written by:  HILDE GEURTS, JOOST AGELINK VAN RENTERGEM

The practice of categorizing autistic people into subtypes based on similarities in their traits and abilities is divisive. Subtypes can have negative connotations, evoking images of stereotyping and marginalization.

For decades, the autism spectrum was, by definition, a collection of subtypes, including Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified. But there was no clear clinical distinction between the subtypes, and they did not fully capture the inherent variation among people on the spectrum. So the fifth and most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, to which clinicians refer to make diagnoses, retired them from use in 2013.

That said, there are often good reasons for subtyping. Identifying subtypes of people who share particular genetic variants may be useful, because these variants may be associated with specific medical issues. Subtyping analysis can also be used to demonstrate the nonexistence of certain subtypes. Or it can help researchers to identify who benefits most from a particular kind of support, without focusing on etiology or ontology.

For these reasons, we should not categorically stop conducting subtyping analyses. But research should focus on the discovery of meaningful subtypes of autism. To seek consensus among scientists on the number and nature of subtypes, we conducted a systematic review of the autism subtyping literature. We limited our search to articles published since 2001 that had used a statistical or machine-learning method to discover subtypes of autistic people. These subtyping methods are data-driven: The researchers did not search for a specific number of subtypes and did not specify in advance what the subtypes would look like; they let the data speak for itself.

We identified 156 articles that met our criteria. Of these, 82 percent found that two to four subtypes described their data well. But these subtypes reflected a highly diverse set of measures, including levels of inflammatory markers, scores on autism trait and sensory sensitivity questionnaires, tests of language skills, hormone levels and patterns of facial features, and this diversity made it difficult to find consensus or draw any firm conclusions. Because the samples included variables that are so heterogeneous across many of these studies, it is impossible to determine whether researchers were looking at the same subdivision from different angles or discovering different subdivisions every time. Click here to read the rest of the story.

Coping with Loneliness When Your Spouse Has ADHD

Published by: Healthline
Written by: Erica Cirino

Are you in a relationship with someone who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? If so, you’re not alone. While many people associate ADHD with childhood, it’s also commonly diagnosed in adults.

And while much research has been done to study the lives and well-being of adults with ADHD, less research has been done to understand what it’s like to be a non-ADHD partner who’s in a relationship with or dating someone with ADHD.

However, as more studies are done and more people share their stories, it’s clear there are some challenges to being a spouse or partner of someone with ADHD. Although this condition can affect a marriage or partnership in a variety of ways, one of the most frequent difficulties is an overwhelming feeling of loneliness.

We’ll discuss the many ways ADHD can affect adult relationships, how to seek professional help, and how to cope if you’re the non-ADHD partner.

What symptoms of ADHD can affect a relationship?

ADHD is a chronic mental health disorder that’s marked by symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors and speech. In the United States, it’s estimated that ADHD affects 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults.

Experts aren’t completely sure what causes this common mental health disorder. However, research suggests that genetics, physical makeup, and external factors — like a person’s home environment — may contribute to developing the disorder. Click here to read the rest of the story.

 

11 strategies that improve emotional control at school and home

Published by: ADDitude Magazine

Written by:

Emotional regulation is a life-long skill that yields benefits in school, work, and relationships. Here are simple strategies for teaching kids to recognize, name, and mange their intense ADHD emotions. Executive function and emotional control walk in lockstep. Stress and emotional flooding affect how children with ADHD learn, play, engage with classmates, follow directions, and retain information. When they enter a heightened state of arousal, their ADHD brain wiring can interfere with social-emotional learning and sabotage self-regulation, making it difficult to access the curriculum, respond appropriately, reframe challenges, react with strategies, or problem solve. Click here to read the rest of the story

‘Sounding it out’ not so easy for children with dyslexia

Published by: Western News
Written by: Jeff Renaud

For years, competent and well-educated elementary school teachers and well-intentioned, if exasperated, parents have routinely repeated a mantra to struggling early readers: “Sound it out.”

But what if a child can’t? What if something in a child’s brain is blocking their very efforts to achieve such a seemingly simple task?

As part of a multi-year project, partly funded by BrainsCAN, cognitive neuroscientists at Western’s Brain and Mind Institute studied children’s brains using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). After a deep dive into the data, they discovered a biological deficit for some that impairs phonological decoding – the ability to sound words out. Click here for the rest of the story.