IACC Seeking Input on National Autism Research Plan

On behalf of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), the National Institute of Mental Health is seeking comments to inform the annual update of the IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Research as required by the Combating Autism Act of 2006

The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to solicit input from ASD stakeholders to inform the next update of the Strategic Plan.   In the RFI form, there will be an opportunity to provide input on each section of the IACC Strategic Plan Please include suggestions regarding missing or underrepresented knowledge areas, new opportunities needed for advancing research and knowledge about ASD, and suggestions for prioritizing research objectives.

The RFI will close on August 21, 2009. 

Responses must be submitted electronically via this web based form.  

New Study Questions Whether Kids with Autism have More Gastro Issues than Peers

A new Mayo Clinic study, published in the August 1 edition of Pediatrics,  finds that autistic kids in the study were more likely than their nonautistic counterparts to be picky eaters or constipated. But the researchers did not find a significant difference between the two groups when it came to diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, bloating, reflux or vomiting.

According to Pediatrics, “as constipation and feeding issues/food selectivity often have a behavioral etiology, data suggest that a neurobehavioral rather than a primary organic gastrointestinal etiology may account for the higher incidence of these gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism.”

For years, parents, physicians and researchers have wondered whether people with autism suffered from more digestive problems than the rest of the population. Many autistic children are following aggressive medical regimens aimed at treating suspected gut trouble, including multiple nutritional supplements, and anti-fungal, anti viral and antibiotic medications. Some also are on a restrictive diet.

Pediatrics is the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Science and Sandwiches Event Focuses on Need for Better Understanding of Autism Prevalence

Dr. Grinker, Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and ASF President Alison Singer at "Science and Sandwiches"
Dr. Grinker, Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and ASF President Alison Singer at "Science and Sandwiches"

The Autism Science Foundation’s “Science and Sandwiches” program this week featured a presentation  by Dr. Richard Grinker, Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University and author of critically acclaimed and extremely popular book “Unstrange Minds: Mapping the World of Autism”.  Dr. Grinker spoke about the science of autism as a cultural system. He emphasized the importance of culture in understanding how societies view illnesses, and discussed how in a variety of different historical contexts, radical shifts in how illnesses are identified, treated, and counted resulted not from new scientific discoveries but from cultural changes. Grinker then noted that a number of factors produced the global rise in autism awareness, with some being more salient than others depending upon cultural context. For example, autism awareness has increased significantly in South Korea as the result of a new documentary film, highlighting both the strengths and deficits of people with autism and their families, while in the United States, awareness was a result of deinstitutionalization, diagnostic substitution, and changes in disability rights, among others, all acting in concert.

Despite the increase in awareness, Grinker noted that there is little scientific knowledge about ASD outside of North America and Western Europe.  Indeed, there are insufficient data to estimate the prevalence of autism in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and the entire continent of Africa. Although, he said, most researchers expect that the onset and core symptoms of ASD are consistent across cultures, this remains an assumption. He stated that ASD experts to date know little about how genetic heterogeneity and cultural differences interact to influence the kind and range of impairments that are associated with ASD, its prevalence, course, or familial patterns. He concluded by praising advocates – including his own autistic daughter – for showing that autism can be reconfigured as possibility rather than limitation.

Additional “Science and Sandwiches” presentations are currently being planned for Philadelphia, South Florida and New York City. If you’re interested in hosting an event, write to contactus@autismsciencefoundation.org

IACC to hold Town Hall Meeting to Discuss Autism Services Research

A Town Hall meeting of the IACC Services Subcommittee will take place on Friday, July 24, 2009 from 10:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. CT at the 2009 Autism Society of America National Conference at the Pheasant Run Resort and Spa in St.Charles, IL.

The meeting will be open to the public, with attendance limited to space available in the main room and overflow room. The meeting  will begin with a 30 minute presentation by members of the IACC, followed by an open microphone session in which comments may be shared on topics related to services for people with ASD. Topics of particular interest include: Questions 5 and 6 of the
 IACC Strategic Plan for ASD Research: “Where can I turn for services?” and “What does the future hold?”

Click here to learn how you can partcipate

Science Magazine Reports on Autism Groups’ Vaccine Disagreements

Highly prestigious Science Magazine has published an article about Dr. Eric London’s resignation from Autism Speaks entitled “Resignations Highlight Disagreement on Vaccines in Autism Group“.  Although usually only available to paying subscribers, Science Magazine has given the Autism Science Foundation special permission to link to the full article from its web site. Click here to access the link.

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