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Recent Advances in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Updated on April 7, 2015
A commentary and analysis of the diagnosis of autism. Defines autism, identifies the latest prevalence figures and describes the latest research and clinical trials. Includes early intervention.
A commentary and analysis of the diagnosis of autism. Defines autism, identifies the latest prevalence figures and describes the latest research and clinical trials. Includes early intervention. | Source

How to Search

Clinical Trials is a wonderful resource for participating in and evaluating studies. Many studies are divided into specific topics and sub-groups. Studies include but are not limited to:


  • abdominal pain
  • abnormalities
  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • behavioral symptoms
  • brain diseases
  • language development
  • pervasive developmental disorders
  • chromosome disorders
  • sleep disorders

I encourage all parents of children on the spectrum to browse through the various studies available. New interventions are actively being evaluated and pursued.

Current recruitments for up and coming autism studies can be found here:

What is autism?

Autism: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

First and foremost, autism can vary in characteristics and severity. Autism is a disorder in the brain. The disorder usually affects communication skills, social interactions and may alter sensory reactions. Common characteristics include repetitive behaviors and low tolerance to change. Sensory issues can provoke severe meltdowns and tantrums. Most autistics have fixations, prefer structure, relish in patterns and exhibit various behaviors of self stimulation. This may include humming, rocking, spinning, jumping, spontaneous laughing or yelping. Stimming varies and not always visible. Also, it is not uncommon to see someone in the spectrum looking off into the distance and smiling, as if recollecting a pleasant memory.

Autism can be subtle or severe and profound. Recent interventions have provided the ability of aiding some autistics to communicate through technology. Some suddenly exhibit the ability to type and explain what they are thinking or feeling, astonishing their family and educators due to their non verbal characteristics.

Although autism characteristics are similar, not all are similar. A one size fits all approach to therapy should be approached with caution.

Autism Prevalence

Better Detection or an Actual Increase?

In March 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The disorder is now affecting 1 in 88 children. In addition, the announcement identifies that 1 in 54 boys are affected by autism. This is an increase of 78% from the numbers released in 2002 and up 23% from 2006. As a mom of a fourteen year old son in the spectrum this is an alarming increase in the prevalence of autism. I have some reservations about the rise and have come across some interesting interpretations and inquiries.

Thomas Insel from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMI) raises a very valid question,

“Are more children affected or more detected? Does the increase reflect a growing problem, or do these new numbers reflect improvement in our ability to diagnose and serve those affected?”

Truthfully, Insel’s question would be difficult to assess and measure. Is it better detection of those affected or are more children in fact affected? The data collected is not meant to answer why those identified has changed or increased overtime. Although, I would suspect there are epidemiologists collecting data on outreach and how it relates to the diagnosis of autism. It will be interesting to see how this information is disseminated in future announcements, studies and journals.

It is important to note, the surveillance the CDC uses to collect data on providing the 1 in 88 statistic is not based on how they were diagnosed. In fact, the data is based on health records of 8 year olds born in 2000. Data was then compared across 14 states. Incidentally, Insel states the CDC reported a four-fold variation across collection sites. Therefore, we don't even know what the various symptoms were identified by the parents that caused them to seek a diagnosis or evaluation in the first place. Isn't this information helpful in determining prevalent symptoms and characteristics? And would this data not lead to improved detection? Either way, all of the data needs to be analyzed separately and statistics need to be formulated accordingly.

Continued collection of data with the improvement of methods will help support forthcoming studies and statistics. Regardless, the fact is there is definitely an increase in those identified with autism. Whether it is due to improvements in detection or an increased population still remains a provocative mystery and valid question. I look forward to the continued dissemination of autism research and the various elements affecting prevalence data.

Source: Autism Prevalence: More Affected or More Detected?

Early Intervention

ESDM: The Early Start Denver Model

Benefits of ESDM: The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics validates the importance of early detection and intervention in autism. Clinical studies show children receiving ESDM therapy for over 2 years and for 10 hours a week display significant improvements in language, behavior and cognitive skills. in addition, autism symptoms were reduced.

What is ESDM? A comprehensive form of early intervention for children with autism between the ages of 12 to 48 months. The ESDM integrates the teaching strategies used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and was developed by Dr. Sally Rogers and Dr. Geraldine Dawson. The program was specifically designed for caregivers, teachers and therapists of infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Example of the Early Start Denver Model of autism treatment.

ESDM and the Ingham Institute

Phone Applications for Kids with Autism Apps can help you and your child gain the focus and communication that will enhance their growth in a variety of social and academic areas.

Potty Training the Autistic Child: How to Toilet Train with Autism Potty training any child can be quite a challenge. Every child handles this event differently.

The Best Toys and Gifts for Autistic Children Gifts and toys should be unique and match a child's interests.

© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares


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    • breathing profile image

      Sajib 20 months ago from Bangladesh

      Great to see such advancement in case of autism disorder. Indeed there have been significant advances in the field which is good news for those families who have autistic members. Only those who have autistic family members know the pain. But this post will give them a new light of hope and they can help the affected person lead a good and healthy life by following the things discussed here. Also we should be sympathetic towards the autistic so that they can feel better while being with. This view is very much important. By doing so we can make our surroundings a great one.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 3 years ago from Texas

      RTalloni, thank you so very much, this means so much to me, I greatly appreciate it.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      Now that I'm using Pinterest I can post this on my Home Education board. Glad to see that this one has been highlighted with interesting comments over the last year. Thanks again for your posts on the topic of autism.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 4 years ago from Texas

      Lastheart, how sweet of you! Thank you for your support and encouragement.

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 4 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      I am so happy to know you are writing about autism. This is very good!! I will share it!! Thanks!

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 4 years ago from Texas

      chef-de-jour, I'm fascinated with your background. You are so right about early intervention providing meaningful care. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. My Tony is fascinated by vacuums and he enjoys taking them apart and putting them back together. He says that is the area he wants to grow in.

      RTalloni, thank you for your wonderful and supportive words. I do hope this information is useful and enlightening to others. We need to keep at it and keep searching for answers, methods and positive outcomes. Again, I truly appreciate you stopping by to read and comment.

      jagerfoods, as your neighbor grows older it will be easier to monitor his care. The toddler years are pretty tough for 'autie families'. Each level of development brings new obstacles, of course this is common in all children. I'm glad to hear they are vigilant though, interestingly, children with autism can be easily influenced as they tend to be somewhat gullible. Sarcasm and joking is hard for them to grasp, usually.

      Londonlady, thank you. Discerning the various studies and research articles in the field of autism is not always an easy task. Many studies are sponsored by specific products or theorists and they can be biased in their conclusions. It is unfortunate the doctor lost his license. I wish he would have used his intelligence and cunningness for the positive in depth studies of valuable autism research. With that said, it IS fortunate he lost his license so others can see how greed and persuasion can negatively affect clinical studies...shame on him. Thanks for your comment and votes.

      Diane Woodson, very good points. As I continue my research I am beginning to see that PERHAPS there is a 'fine line difference' between actual autism and autism like symptoms. There SEEMS to be external factors that can lead to symptoms and then there are the genetic factors found in the actual brain tissue. All very fascinating and I pray research continues to advance and discern the various levels, causes and outcomes of autism. Thank you very much for your support.

      DDE, thank you so very much. I appreciate you stopping by to read and comment.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Well informed for parents with or without kids of autism.

    • Diane Woodson profile image

      Diane Minton 5 years ago from Evansville, Indiana

      I contend that what I learned in Special Education courses at USI Grad School has credence. Mercury Binders are the big culprit in this disorder affecting so many children. Developmental Delays and related monopolizes are ever present in clusters of various symptoms affecting so many young children. The incidence of this will not decrease until drug companies which manufacture the vaccines that children must take, change the chemical composition of the vaccines. Best wishes you have a great well written and researched HUB. May you do well on Hubpages in the future.

    • Londonlady profile image

      Laura Writes 5 years ago

      This is a really thought out article. I actually just heard a speaker talk about the link between childhood vaccinations and autism and she explained how the results of the study that proved autism was linked to the vaccines, were actually falsified. The doctor that was paid to falsify the experiment lost his license. Really interesting stuff. Great hub, voted wayyy up!

    • jagerfoods profile image

      jagerfoods 5 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thank you for shedding light on this subject. Our neighbor's little boy is autistic and we can see the strain it has on the parents. They're not over protective but they must remain vigilant about his well being and the other children that he plays with.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      So interesting, but that's no surprise since I've read some of your previous posts on autism. Your work to highlight research, clinical trials, and evolving therapies in hubs is always well done and I'm sure it benefits more people than we realize.

      Documenting your own study must benefit your personal efforts, but posting it also gives everyone else responsibly written resources to use or to share with others so it's always good to see a new post from your computer.

      Insel's question on whether we are seeing a true rise in autism or whether we are just better able to identify it via the focus and work going into autism today is important for researchers to keep in mind.

      Thanks for another post that is both useful and encouraging. To help nurture thinking that promotes research and therapies is to do a great thing. The videos are interesting and the Ingram Institute's work seems quite significant.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Early diagnosis is the key if parents and carers are to work meaningfully with autism and this means more core funding. More awareness from the medical world (and society at large) means a natural increase in detection - that has to be a good thing.

      As someone who works with autistic young adults I'm often involved with transition and behavioural issues but for me the research into the causes of autism makes for fascinating reading.

      Thank you for the information - your son, I'm sure, will benefit from your care and consideration. Let's hope you can find the right niche for him to progress in life.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

      carol7777, thank you, the statistics are startling. And, I have to say, whether it is better detection or there are actually more cases I am glad they are being identified and diagnosed earlier. Plus, early intervention can greatly improve a child's academic and social performance. Thanks for the votes and shares.

      teaches12345, absolutely. I have many acquaintances in the school system and they also see the rise, especially in the elementary system. I'm certainly seeing it in middle school. Although I can't turn back the hands of time for things like ESDM, I'm going to keep trying to give my son any of the help he needs. Not as easy at 14 but he has come a long way. Plus, insurance does not always cover autism therapies. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I have friends who work with autistic children and they have seen an increase in children with autism. They wish parents knew to have children tested earlier, but then the tests are not always available at a young age. I hope the research does continue and that they will be able to help overcome this growing concern. Thankfully, there are many support systems now available to help families.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      As always interesting and thought provoking. I am amazed at the statistics and how autism has increased throughout the years. Even with more diagnostic tools it seems strange that the numbers seem to be getting higher. It is now a high risk condition. Great job and voting up and sharing.