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New Research in Autism

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Autism is one of the serious developmental conditions under the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that emerges in early childhood. The diagnosis can be heartbreaking for parents: autism affects three to six out of every 1,000 children in the United States. Three crucial areas of development: social skills, language and behavior, are affected in autism (from the Mayo Clinic website):

1. Social Skills
• Fails to respond to his or her name
• Has poor eye contact
• Appears not to hear you at times

• Resists cuddling and holding
• Appears unaware of other’s feelings
• Retreats into his or her “own world”

2. Language
• Starts talking later than other children
• Loses previously required ability to say words and sentences
• Doesn’t make eye contact when making requests
• Speaks with an abnormal tone and rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
• Can’t start a conversation or keep one going
• May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn’t understand how to use them

3. Behavior
• Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping
• Develops specific routines or rituals
• Moves constantly
• May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car
• May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch and yet oblivious to pain

Doctors will look for these specific symptoms if they suspect that a child is autistic:
• Doesn’t babble or cue by 12 months
• Doesn’t gesture by 12 months
• Doesn’t say single words by 16 months
• Doesn’t say two-word phrases by 24 months
• Loses previously acquired language or social skills at any age

There have been huge debates about the cause of autism, from the “refrigerator mother” in the 1950s to vaccinations triggering symptoms. However, new research may explain more. MRIs from a recent study, as reported by CNN, show that the amygdala of an autistic child is 13% larger than that of a non-autistic child. The amygdala, which is involved in emotion, has a huge role in autism: autistic children have difficulty in joint attention (processing faces and emotions) and this process is located solely in the amygdala.

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Elizabeth, I just commented on your post on the benefits of DHA and saw this post on Autism. I wanted to make you aware of some research linking Omega3's and Autism. There's alot of great research coming in this area.

Some research that I have looked at is here...http://sublimewealth.com/20090601138/Autism/omega3-and-autism.html

I'd love to share more infomration as alot of work is coming out as we speak regarding this topic...

Have a great day!

Sean Hannigan

June 1, 2009 - 8:24am

A friend of mine has an autistic son. While the image of a child retreated to her own world in the corner of a room might be our first impression or expectation of autism, that is not always the case.

My friend sponsors a very active group of distance runners that frequently gathers together early on Saturday mornings at the popular running store he manages, and his son is often "making his appearance," as my friend says. His son might be engrossed in the Transformers design on the quilt he has spread out on the sidewalk in front of the store. Or, he'll be trying to run about with a pillowcase pulled over his head and we're trying to divert him from running into obstacles and hurting himself.

I don't know how many among our group realize the boy is autistic, or just notice his behavior is somewhat "different." My friend is very open about his son's condition, however, and got involved in a fundraising run for autism research.

Unfortunately, the state we live in, Texas, is "'on the bottom of the totem pole in terms of resources,' said Michelle Guppy, who runs Texas Autism Advocacy, an online network intended to help parents navigate the state's bureaucracy." Read more

I am currently on contract at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and they estimate about 50,000 children have autism-related disorders. We suffer from a shortage of resources and trained professionals in this field.

If you're a runner or triathlete, you can get involved in raising awareness and funding for research through the Organization for Autism Research.

May 6, 2009 - 5:59pm

Interesting article, thanks!

May 6, 2009 - 2:31pm
EmpowHER Guest

Very informative article - one comment it would be nice to have an explanation of what an amygdala is.

The amygdala is an almond shaped mass of nuclei located deep within the temporal lobes of the brain, medial to the hypothalamus and adjacent to the hippocampus.


* Arousal
* Controls Autonomic Responses Associated with Fear
* Emotional Responses
* Hormonal Secretions

May 6, 2009 - 8:13am
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