Folic acid may mitigate autism risk from pesticides

Researchers at UC Davis and other institutions have shown that mothers who take recommended amounts of folic acid around conception might reduce their children’s pesticide-related autism risk | ScienceDaily

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Image source: FedEx – Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the paper, which used data from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study, researchers looked at 296 children between 2 and 5 who had been diagnosed with ASD and 220 who had developed typically. Mothers were interviewed about their household pesticide exposure during pregnancy, as well as their folic acid and B vitamin intake. The team also linked data from California Pesticide Use reports, which provide important details about agricultural spraying, with the mothers’ addresses.

Mothers who took less than 800 micrograms and encountered household pesticides had a much higher estimated risk of having a child who developed an ASD than moms who took 800 micrograms of folic acid or more and were not exposed to pesticides. The associated risk increased for women exposed repeatedly. Women with low folic acid intake who were exposed to agricultural pesticides during a window from three months before conception to three months afterward also were at higher estimated risk.

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Antidepressant use in early pregnancy does not increase autism & ADHD risk in kids

Large-scale analysis suggests fewer risks than previously thought from exposure to antidepressant medications in early pregnancy | ScienceDaily

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A study led by Indiana University suggests that mothers’ use of antidepressants during early pregnancy does not increase the risk of their children developing autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conditions previously associated with these medications.

The research, reported today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found significant evidence for only a slight increase in risk for premature birth in the infants of mothers who used antidepressants during the first trimester of pregnancy.

After controlling for multiple other risk factors, the researchers did not find any increased risk of autism, ADHD or reduced fetal growth among exposed offspring. The risk for premature birth was about 1.3 times higher for exposed offspring compared to unexposed offspring.

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The original research abstract is available here

Frequent interactions with grandparents lowers the age of autism diagnosis

Children who have older siblings or frequent interaction with grandparents are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) earlier than those who do not, according to new research | ScienceDaily

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Study results show that approximately 50 percent of friends and family members reported that they had suspected a child to have a serious condition before they were aware that either parent was concerned. Maternal grandmothers and teachers were the two most common relationship categories to first raise concerns

While interactions with grandparents and friends played an important role, family structure also impacted the age of diagnosis. Children with no siblings were diagnosed 6 to 8 months earlier than children with siblings. Among children with siblings, children with older siblings were diagnosed approximately 10 months earlier than those without older siblings, suggesting that older siblings may serve as a reference point, helping parents calibrate whether younger siblings are on target developmentally.

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Improving Early Identification and Intervention for Children at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Rotholz, D. et al. (2017) Pediatrics. 139(2)

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Objectives: To provide an example of a successful, novel statewide effort to increase early identification of young children at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using a 2-tiered screening process with enhanced quality assessment, interagency policy collaboration and coordination.

Conclusions: Improvements in early identification and intervention are feasible through collaborative policy change. The South Carolina Act Early Team and its key stakeholders committed to improving outcomes for this population used existing tools and methods in new ways to improve early identification of children with ASD and to make available evidence-based intervention services. This example should be replicable in other states with key stakeholders working collaboratively for the benefit of young children with

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Trait Mindfulness Attenuates the Adverse Psychological Impact of Stigma on Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Chan, K.K.S. & Lam, C.B. Mindfulness (2017). doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0675-9

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Stigma attached to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is prevalent, but few studies have examined its psychological impact on parents of children with ASD and the potential protective factors in this family context. The present study aimed to test the associations of public stigma and courtesy stigma with depression, anxiety, and caregiving burden among parents of children with ASD and to explore whether trait mindfulness would moderate these associations.

Cross-sectional questionnaire data were collected from 424 parents of children with ASD residing in Hong Kong, China. Hierarchical regressions revealed significant interactions between public stigma and trait mindfulness and between courtesy stigma and trait mindfulness in predicting depression, anxiety, and caregiving burden.

Our findings contributed to the theoretical literature by highlighting the adverse impact of both public stigma and courtesy stigma on the mental health and caregiving experience of parents of children with ASD, as well as the potential protective effects of trait mindfulness in such processes. Our findings also had important practical implications for the design of effective interventions for this stigmatized group of families.

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Association between breastfeeding duration and cognitive development, autistic traits and ADHD symptoms

Boucher, O. et al. Pediatric Research. Published online: 4 January 2017

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Background: Several studies have related longer breastfeeding duration to better intellectual performance in children. By contrast, few studies have investigated the potential protective effects of breastfeeding against behavioral problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, and even fewer on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) traits.

Conclusion: This study provides further evidence of a positive association of breastfeeding with cognitive function apart from socio-environmental factors, and also suggests a protective role against autistic traits. Results are in agreement with recommendations for prolonged breastfeeding duration to promote child development.

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Automated assessment of early autism

ScienceDaily | Published online: 3 November 2016

anatomy-1751201_960_720Autism Spectrum Disorder is usually diagnosed in early childhood, but genetic detection of this brain disorder could mean more timely interventions that improve life for the patient and their carers. Research suggests that machine learning might be used to analyze genetic data that points to an ASD diagnosis before symptoms become obvious.

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Read the original research abstract here