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Archive for August, 2011

ASF called “A shining star to those interested in real science and evidence based interventions.”

The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding autism research, has been named the number one startup nonprofit in the “Disabilities” category by Philanthropedia/Guidestar.

GuideStar is a nonprofit organization working to help donors make smarter donations by connecting them with some of the highest impact nonprofits in a cause. The rankings are based on the recommendations of over six dozen experts in the field.

“We are thrilled to be recognized as one of the nation’s most promising nonprofits” said Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation. “We are committed to funding critically needed autism research and to using our resources where they will have the greatest impact.”

The Autism Science Foundation began funding research grants in its first year of operations and has increased its funding levels each year. Since 2009, it has funded nearly half a million dollars in research grants. (more…)

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This report, issued today, by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies of Sciences, is the first comprehensive report on vaccine side effects since 1994.

Fears that vaccines might cause autism or other health problems have led some parents to skip vaccinating their children, despite repeated reassurances from health authorities.

“We looked at more than 1,000 articles evaluating the epidemiological and biological evidence about whether vaccines cause side effects,” said committee chair Ellen Wright Clayton, professor of pediatrics and law, and director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

“The big take-home message is that we found only a few cases in which vaccines can cause adverse side effects, and the vast majority of those are short-term and self-limiting,” she said in a telephone interview.

Click here to read the full Reuters article.

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(August 18, 2011—New York, NY)–The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding autism research, today announced that it had issued a new request for scientific proposals. ASF is inviting applications for Pre- and Postdoctoral Training Awards from graduate students, medical students and postdoctoral fellows interested in pursuing careers in basic and clinical research relevant to autism spectrum disorders. In the past two years, ASF has funded over $400,000 in pre- and postdoctoral grants.

“This is one of our most important funding mechanisms” said Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation. “The pre- and postdoctoral fellowships not only build our knowledge about what causes autism and how best to treat it, but also build our future by encouraging outstanding young investigators to dedicate their careers to autism research.”

“Outstanding research is the greatest gift we can offer our families” said Karen London, ASF co-founder. “We are so grateful to all our donors and volunteers who have come together to support autism research and who make these grants possible.”

The proposed training must be scientifically linked to autism. Autism Science Foundation will consider for training purposes all areas of related basic and clinical research including but not limited to: human behavior across the lifespan (language, learning, communication, social function, epilepsy, sleep, repetitive disorders), neurobiology (anatomy, development, neuro-imaging), pharmacology, neuropathology, human genetics/genomics, immunology, molecular and cellular mechanisms, studies employing model organisms and systems, and studies of treatment and service delivery. Applications must be received by November 18, 2011.

Additional information about the RFA can be found at www.autismsciencefoundation.org/ApplyForaGrant.html

The Autism Science Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting, facilitating, publicizing and disseminating autism research. The organization also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism.

Grant applications will be reviewed by members of ASF’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) and other highly qualified reviewers. Current SAB members include Dr. Joseph Buxbaum (Mt. Sinai School of Medicine); Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom (UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School); Dr. Sharon Humiston (University of Rochester); Dr. Bryan King (University of Washington, Seattle); Dr. Ami Klin (Emory University); Dr. Harold Koplewicz (The Child Mind Institute); Dr. Eric London (New York Institute for Basic Research); Dr. Catherine Lord (New York Institute for Brain Development); Dr. David Mandell (University of Pennsylvania/CHOP); and Dr. Matthew State (Yale Medical School).

To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation’s grant programs, and to read about projects funded through this mechanism in prior years, visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org/ApplyForaGrant.html

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Media Contact Info:

Dawn Crawford
Autism Science Foundation
dcrawford@autismsciencefoundation.org

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With permission from Pediatrics.

Recurrence Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study

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Dr. Eric London and his wife Karen receive the INSAR Advocate Award at IMFAR 2011

ASF Scientific Advisory Boardmember and High Risk Baby Siblings Research Consortium (BSRC) founder Dr. Eric London provides his unique perspective on the recent ASD sibling re-occurance study. You can click here to read the study’s abstract and here to read the ABC News article.

One of the most agonizing decisions which families who have a child diagnosed with autism have to make is whether or not to have other children. Some families easily decide to assume the risk of having more children with autism; however, other families are more reluctant to go ahead and are in need of counseling for this decision. As opposed to other developmental disorders where genetic screening tests are available, the best that genetic counselors can do is to offer the overall re-occurrence rates for autism.

Ozonoff et al., in the September issue of Pediatrics in their publication Recurrence Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Baby Siblings Reseach Consortium Study, present the data accumulated from this consortium. In this 12 site study 664 infant siblings of already diagnosed older siblings with autism were studied. The main finding is that 18.7% of the infants developed Autism or PDD-NOS. This is in contrast to the previously quoted numbers of 3-10% — although  the generally quoted figure was about 5%.

It is very likely that this study is producing more a more accurate assessment of the true reoccurrence rate in a family.

One large factor is that in studies of the general population,  the phenomena of “stoppage”, or families who elect not to  have more children, makes the numbers of younger siblings with autism artificially lower than the real risk of a family who elects continue to have children. However, in this sample “stoppage” is not a factor. A second advantage of this study is that it is the largest study to date on this topic.

A limitation of the study is that the mean age of enrollment in the study was at the age of 8 months. The authors address this issue by noting that the age of enrollment was not related to the outcome. However, it would seem that parents who are noting some problems in development might be more likely to enroll in the research programs. The authors comment on this by saying they doubt that problems will be recognized by the parents at this early age (2/3 enrolled by 6 months of age) however I would not underestimate the ability of a parent with one autistic child to pick up on even very subtle developmental anomalies.

Also, this study (like most clinical studies of autism) cannot account for the heterogeneity of autism In fact, those families with 2 autistic older siblings had a 32% chance of having the infant sibling become autistic. Whether this is because of a particular genetic predisposition or some yet unknown environmental risk that has a greater effect on that family, the individualization of counseling for a given family is still difficult due to our continued lack of knowledge of the etiology of the various autisms.

Overall this publication provides a very valuable higher estimate of the re-occurrence risk which has immediate value to the community.

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A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics found that infants with an older autistic sibling have a near 19 percent risk that they too will develop the disorder. The study is considered the largest autism study to follow infants for sibling recurrence.

Read the ABC News article on the study.

Read the study abstract.

 

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Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., is one of the nation’s leading child and adolescent psychiatrists. Dr. Koplewicz is the founder and director of the Child Mind Institute (CMI)—a non-profit, started in 2010, dedicated to improving the mental health of children. Dr. Koplewicz is a member of the Autism Science Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. ASF intern Max Rolison interviewed Dr. Koplewicz about the Child Mind Institute and psychiatric components of autism.

What is the goal of the Child Mind Institute?

Simply put, the goal of the Child Mind Institute is to transform mental health care for the world’s children. We are building the only independent non-profit exclusively dedicated to improving the mental health of children everywhere, and collaboration is the key to our success. We provide the latest evidence-based treatment at our offices in New York and around the country and the world via travel and telemental health; pursue and enable cutting-edge basic science and clinical inquiry both by our own researchers and in our network of partners; and educate the public about children’s mental health and the need to address it through our website, our partners, and through national public education campaigns.

What is the Child Mind Institute currently focusing on?

Our core missions: we’re expanding the reach of our clinical practice with technology but also with scholarships so that children who might not otherwise have gotten care get treatment. We’re building up our research arm so we can launch studies at the end of the year. And we’re moving towards our next education event, a symposium in the fall featuring top scientists that we hope will encourage a younger generation of researchers called On the Shoulders of Giants.

What services are available at the Child Mind Institute for individuals with ASDs?

Diagnostic services like the ADOS; medication management for disruptive symptoms and comorbid conditions; and neuropsychological testing and educational assessment to help parents get their children into the classes that can benefit them and the accommodations they deserve. (more…)

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