Researchers Closer To Untying Autism’s Genetic Knot

Deciphering the functions of multiple rare genes may be at the core of understanding the genetic factors that cause autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), according to a new study published June 9 in the journal Nature by dozens of top autism researchers around the world, including Yale Child Study Center Director Fred R. Volkmar, M.D.

ASDs are a group of conditions marked by impairments in social interaction and communication, and by the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors. Individuals with ASD vary greatly in cognitive development, which can range from above average to intellectual disability.

ASDs are known to be highly inheritable, but scientists are still searching for the underlying genetic determinants. Instead of focusing on a single gene responsible for ASDs, they have been looking for copy number variations (CNV), which are unusual amounts of a gene. It was once thought that people have two copies of one gene – one from the father and one from the mother – but findings have shown that the number of copies can vary. A person can have only one copy of a gene or three copies of a gene, or they can be missing the gene altogether. CNVs were once considered rare, but they are quite common. Deletions or duplications of many genes can have no effect, but other gene variations have been linked to illnesses like breast cancer or Crohn’s disease.

In this study, Volkmar and his co-authors analyzed genome-wide characteristics of rare copy number variations in ASD. They compared 996 individuals with ASD of European descent to 1,287 individuals serving as controls. They found that many of these CNVs appear to be involved in the regulation of central nervous system processes. Identifying the processes related to these genes and then tracing them in animal models may lead to a better understanding of the disorder, as well as aid the search for innovative treatments.

“This paper highlights how very important genetic factors are in causing autism,” said Volkmar, the Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Psychology Yale University School of Medicine. “It builds on earlier work which has identified several potential candidate genes and underscores that there may well be multiple genes acting to cause autism.”

Citation: Nature doi:10.1038/nature09146

Source:
Karen N. Peart
Yale University

Antipsychotic Prescribing For Children Has Risen Sharply

A research team set out to investigate the epidemiologic features of antibiotic prescribing to patients under the age of 18 by GPs (general practitioners, primary care doctors) in Great Britain. They gathered data from the UK General Practice Research Database, involving 384 participating general practices, to identify how many child/adolescent patients were prescribed at least one antipsychotic drug between the beginning of 1992 to the end of 2005. They calculated age-specific prevalences and incidences of antipsychotic prescribing.

You can read about this in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers found that:

– In 1992 there were 0.39 users per 1,000 patient-years

– In 2005 there were 0.77 users per 1,000 patient-years

– Prescribing prevalence for 7-12 year-old patients nearly tripped between start 1992 to end 2005, from 0.23 users per 1,000 patient-years to 0.61 users per 1,000 patient-years.

– Atypical antipsychotic prescribing rose 60-fold during the same period, from 0.01 users per 1,000 patient-years to 0.61 users per 1,000 patient-years.

– Typical antipsychotic prescribing fell from 0.44 users per 1,000 patient-years in year 2,000 to 0.18 users per 1,000 patient-years in 2005.

Although incidences for typical and atypical antipsychotics showed trends similar to those of the respective prevalences “the overall incidence (number of new starters) for all antipsychotics was relatively stable between 1992 and 2005, which suggests that patients remain on treatment longer. ” the researchers wrote.

The researchers concluded that the overall prevalence of antipsychotics nearly doubled during 1992-2005. The increase in the USA during the same period was much greater. Despite lack of conclusive evidence that atypical antipsychotic drugs are superior to older conventional antipsychotics the prescribing of them has increased. The scientists say more research is needed to find out how efficacious and safe these drugs are for children and adolescents.

According to some US newspapers today (Associated Press) children in the United States are prescribed antipsychotic drugs at approximately six times the rate of UK children. Many report that both US and UK kids are probably being over-prescribed.

Most commonly used medications are for treating ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) and Autism.

Possible reasons for higher US rates, compared to the UK:

1. Prescription drug advertising to non-health care professionals is not allowed in the UK, while it is in the USA. Perhaps US consumers are more aware of available prescription drugs and influence their doctors’ prescribing behavior.

2. The UK has a universal health care system which encourages doctors to keep prescription rates low.

3. UK doctors tend to be more conservative than their American counterparts about prescribing psychiatric drugs (quote from Associated Press, Wayne Ray, Vanderbilt University researcher).

“Epidemiologic Features of Antipsychotic Prescribing to Children and Adolescents in Primary Care in the United Kingdom.
Fariz Rani, BPharm, Macey L. Murray, BSc, Patrick J. Byrne, FRCPsych and Ian C. K. Wong, PhD
PEDIATRICS Vol. 121 No. 5 May 2008, pp. 1002-1009 (doi:10.1542/peds.2007-2008)
Click here to view Abstract online

Sources – Pediatrics, AP, BBC and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Emergency Shelter Reaches Nearly 1 Million Haitians

Three quarters of the 1.3 million homeless Haitians in the quake zone have received emergency shelter materials since the January 12 earthquake, with shelter materials being distributed at a rate of 120,000 people a week.

The so-called shelter cluster, which consists of humanitarian organizations working on shelter in Haiti and is coordinated by the Red Cross, is on course to reach 100 percent coverage by May 1st – the original target date and the start of the peak month of the Haitian rainy season.

The number of people reached by what is now a total of more than 50 agencies – including the Red Cross -distributing shelter-relief materials through shelter cluster coordination is now 976,775 – just past the 75 percent mark.

“In the past eight weeks, the shelter cluster has been reaching more than 120,000 people a week on average,” said Gregg McDonald, shelter coordination team leader.

Distribution of shelter relief including tents, tarps and toolkits did not begin in Haiti until after the search and rescue phase was over.

The pace of providing shelter relief in Haiti is faster than it was following other recent major international disasters.

After Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, where the estimated total in need of shelter relief was 2.4 million people, the 50 percent coverage mark was reached after 12 weeks, at an average of just over 100,000 people a week, according to new data compiled by the shelter cluster.

While after the Padang earthquake in Indonesia last year, shelter agencies reached an average of 75,000 people a week with emergency relief, including the search and rescue phase.

“The challenges in Haiti have been huge,” McDonald adds. “Loss of key government agencies, shortage of transport, rubble in the streets, security issues have forced aid organizations to band together to surmount these obstacles.

“Against that backdrop, this is a considerable achievement, and a reflection of the way agencies involved have pulled together.”

Emergency-shelter distribution is just one part of the drive to help quake-affected people survive the looming rainy season. Other measures being pursued as part of the wider disaster-preparedness effort in Haiti include:

- Structural assessment of houses that may be safe to return to;
- Relocation of displaced people to safe sites away from flood zones;
- Clearance of municipal drains in Port-au-Prince; and
- Installation of improved drainage and flood-resistant sanitation in existing camps.

“It’s exactly because the rainy season is fast approaching that agencies continue to deliver emergency shelter as quickly as possible,” said McDonald. “We’re determined to get to full coverage before May 1st.”

“The rains are going to have a massive impact, and things are going to get worse before they get better.”

“Everyone involved in this response needs to do their utmost to make sure people are as prepared as they can be for what is going to be a very tough rainy season.”

Several agencies working with the shelter cluster, including the Red Cross, have now developed prototype “transitional” houses – mainly small, wood-frame structures that can be built cheaply and easily, and potentially in large numbers.

The Haitian government has not yet made any land available for building, but talks to clear the way for humanitarian construction on the small number of possible sites that have been identified are still going on.

The United Nations and the U.S. military have said that 250,000 Haitians out of the estimated 1.3 million left homeless by the quake are camped in parts of Port-au-Prince that are vulnerable to floods when the rains begin in earnest in a couple of weeks.

Of these, some are in extremely hazardous locations, including river beds, valley bottoms and on unstable slopes.

Source
American Red Cross

Vitamin E May Increase Or Decrease The Risk Of Pneumonia Depending On Smoking And Exercise

Depending on the level of smoking and leisure time exercise, vitamin E supplementation may decrease or increase, or may have no effect, on the risk of pneumonia, according to a study published in Clinical Epidemiology.

Dr. Harri Hemila and Professor Jaakko Kaprio, of the University of Helsinki, Finland, studied the effect of vitamin E on the risk of pneumonia in the large randomized trial (Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study) which was conducted in Finland between 1985-1993. There were 898 cases of pneumonia among 29,133 participants of the study.

Vitamin E had no overall effect on pneumonia risk. However, vitamin E decreased pneumonia risk by 69% among participants who had the least exposure to smoking and exercised during leisure time. In contrast, vitamin E increased pneumonia risk by 79% among those who had the highest exposure to smoking and did not exercise. Over half of the participants were outside of these two subgroups and vitamin E did not affect their risk of pneumonia. Thus, the beneficial and harmful effects of vitamin E are restricted to fairly small parts of the population. The researchers concluded the role of vitamin E in susceptibility to pneumonia in physically active nonsmokers warrants further study.

Sources: Helsingin yliopisto, AlphaGalileo Foundation.

Physical Therapy As Effective As Arthroscopic Knee Surgery, New Research Finds

A new study questioning the usefulness of arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee should encourage patients to consider physical therapy as an effective non-surgical option, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

The study found that physical therapy, combined with comprehensive medical management, is just as effective at relieving the pain and stiffness of moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee as surgery.

“This study offers hope and encouragement to persons with osteoarthritis who would like to avoid the pain and emotional toll of surgery,” said APTA President R Scott Ward, PT, PhD. “Too often, the first line of defense is surgery when it need not always be. Physical therapy can be equally effective and should be considered by not only patients themselves, but also the primary care doctors and orthopedists who are treating them.”

According to physical therapist Christopher M Powers, PhD, PT, director of the Biokinesiology program and co-director of the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab at the University of Southern California Division of Biokinesiology & Physical Therapy, “Many times knee pain is associated with abnormal movement patterns that cause increased stress on the joint. Arthroscopic surgery does little to correct the dynamic factors that may be contributing to knee pain and pathology. These findings reinforce the need for a comprehensive treatment approach for such patients.”

The NEJM study adds to a growing body of evidence supporting physical therapy for treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee, including:
A report published in the January 2008 issue of the journal Physical Therapy that reviewed research on osteoarthritis of the knee from 2000 to 2007 and found “high-quality evidence that exercise and weight reduction reduce pain and improve physical function.”

A study published in the Feb 1, 2000 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine that concluded “a combination of manual physical therapy and supervised exercise yields functional benefits for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee and may delay or prevent the need for surgical intervention.”

A physical therapist will perform a thorough examination and design a plan of care that may include:
A series of exercises designed to help improve motion. Activities in this phase might include water walking, swimming, and flexibility exercises.

An exercise sequence to restore strength including a functional progression, that is, a gradual return to normal activities using exercises that simulate the knee stresses of your normal activities.

A knee’s tolerance for stressful activities often decreases with age and loss of conditioning. As a result, stresses that would not have caused pain or injury to the knee last year could today. A decrease in levels of activity over a period of time may also contribute to the vulnerability of knees.

But there are steps one can take to help prevent injury in order to continue enjoying sports and exercise. Pursuing an exercise program designed by a physical therapist can be one of the best protections from injury.

The first step in designing your exercise program is an evaluation by your physical therapist. He or she can identify your predisposing factors, those body traits that may make you more or less vulnerable to a knee injury. Based on this evaluation, your physical therapist can design a program that will help you gain your optimum levels of function, strength and conditioning.

Physical therapy plays a key role in treating and rehabilitating the knee, but the patient’s attitude toward recovery plays a big factor in achieving a successful outcome. For more information on taking care of your knees and to find a physical therapist, visit apta/consumer/.

APTA (apta/) is a national organization representing physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students nationwide. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical therapist education, practice, and research. Consumers can visit findapt.us / to find a physical therapist in their area, as well as apta/consumer/ for physical therapy news and information.

Source: Stephanie Block

American Physical Therapy Association

Developing Rapid Diagnostic Test Chip For Human Respiratory Infections Including Test For Avian Flu Infection

Sydney-based Ambri Limited (ASX: ABI) today released additional detail about its recently announced program to develop a rapid diagnostic test chip for human respiratory infections including a test for avian flu infection.

AMBRI has shown in a laboratory test bed system that three different assays can be performed simultaneously on its current biosensor chip configuration. The new chip configuration is on an inexpensive plastic base and fits the existing laboratory test bed reader developed by AMBRI.

The common Flu A (influenza type A) was one of the tests demonstrated in the Company’s 16 sensor diagnostic test chip.

AMBRI is now extending the ICS biosensor chip development program to include avian influenza type H5N1. The near term objective of this strategy is to develop a prototype of a chip that would be the basis of a product to simultaneously detect in a nasal or throat swab, the presence of any one of three influenza viral types. These viral infections all begin with very similar symptoms and it is important to rapidly distinguish serious infections such as Bird Flu from common influenza such as Flu A or Flu B.

According to AMBRI CEO, Roman Zwolenski, “progressing down this development path with multiple yes or no tests on the same chip gives AMBRI the best chance of attracting a commercial partner to incorporate the ICS biosensor technology in a marketable product”.

For the triple test respiratory diagnostic chip, AMBRI intends to use a new 16 sensor ICS configuration which AMBRI expects to be able to gold imprint and fully assemble in house.

“This gives us flexibility to advance quickly with the product prototyping,” said Mr
Zwolenski.

For further information contact:

Roman Zwolenski, Managing Director/CEO AMBRI
Sydney, Australia Tel: +61.2. 9422 3000

ABOUT AMBRI

Ambri Limited is pioneering the integration of Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and Electronics with a major focus in the human medical diagnostics market.

The Company is Australian owned and was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX:ABI) in August 2001 and is currently located in Chatswood, Sydney, Australia.

Ambri has developed the Ion Channel Switch (ICS ™) Technology which is a patented, self assembling synthetic bio-membrane. This is one of the world’s first true ‘bio nano’ devices and has a wide and varied potential of applications in which benefit from rapid, quantitative biosensing.

Ambri has retained exclusive commercialisation rights to professional human medical diagnostic applications, while it has licensed out other biosensor applications to its alliance partner Biosensor Enterprises LLC (BEL) – a joint venture company of Dow Corning Corporation and Genencor International Inc.)

Ambri has a strong market focus and seeks to develop strongly demanded diagnostic tests on its commercially superior ICS™ platforms.

Ambri is focused on the developing Point-of-Care diagnostic products. Currently 6 tests are under development – these tests will be developed as product concepts using Ambri’s ICS™ Chip platform, in order to develop industry interest and partnering opportunities.

ambri

WFP Delivers Nutritional Boost For Somali Children

? The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is to begin
delivering emergency supplies of a highly nutritious, peanut-based food to
Somalia in a bid to combat the growing threat of severe malnutrition
amongst children in the war-ravaged nation.

“Children are the first to suffer when food is scarce and conditions harsh,
which is why we are taking this step to protect them from the ravages of
the very worst stages of malnutrition,” said WFP Somalia Country Director
Peter Goossens. “This specialised product is expensive, but worth every
penny for its ability to save lives, particularly given the depth of
current crisis in Somalia.”

The shipment of food – known by its brand name, “Supplementary Plumpy” –
arrived in Kenya over the weekend and will be moved by air and road to
Somalia, where it will be targeted at 63,800 children over the next six
months.?  This is the first time that WFP has used Supplementary Plumpy on a
large scale and it will be delivered through WFP’s existing network of
feeding centres run by international, national and local NGOs.

Supplementary Plumpy — a ready-to-eat food that is delivered in sealed
sachets — has both curative and preventative properties.?  Trials have
demonstrated that malnourished children who take a daily dose for two
months, recover quickly, and are normally protected from?  malnourishment
for a further four months.

Somalia is in the grip of a deepening humanitarian crisis, brought on by
conflict, successive failed or poor harvests, and hyperinflation. Recent
assessments indicate critical rates of malnutrition throughout South
Central Somalia and among internally displaced populations in the North.
The median rate of acute malnutrition in 20 surveys conducted this year has
been found to be more than 18 per cent – which is well above the 15 percent
emergency threshold.

WFP is currently expanding its operation to reach 2.4 million of the 3.25
million people expected to need food by the end of the year, a 77 percent
increase since the start of the year.

This year, Somali waters have been plagued by piracy as never before, and
naval escorts have become essential to guarantee the safe passage of ships
carrying WFP food into the country. Ninety percent of WFP’s food for
Somalia arrives by sea.?  The Canadian navy is just concluding its naval
escorts and the Dutch navy is due to take over escort duties before the end
of October. WFP has been further heartened by recent announcements from
both NATO and the European Union that they will be joining the effort to
safeguard food deliveries to Somalia.

“Since November we’ve shipped more than 137,000 tons of food into Somalia
under escort – food that is saving lives. Without the support of France,
Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada, the situation in Somalia would be even
worse right now,” said Goossens.

Rampant insecurity inside Somalia remains a major obstacle to the delivery
of humanitarian supplies. However, even though aid workers have been
targeted in recent months, WFP continues to get food supplies through,
reaching 1.6 million people in September.

Donors to WFP’s ongoing operation in Somalia include United States (US $205
million), Multilateral funds (US$57 million), United Kingdom (US$24
million), Canada (US$20 million), Netherlands (US$10 million), Japan (US$9
million), Italy (US$5 million), Germany (US$4.6 million), Saudi Arabia
(US$3.3 million), Norway (US$3.2 million), Switzerland (US$3 million),
(US$2.8 million), UN CERF (US$2.5 million), Finland (US$2 million), Belgium
(US$1.6 million), Denmark (US$1 million) and several others.

WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency and the UN’s frontline
agency for hunger solutions. This year, WFP plans to feed 90 million people
in 80 countries.

WFP

Neurological Diseases May Be Caused By Fatal Protein Interactions

In a collaborative study at the University of California, San Diego, investigators from neurosciences, chemistry and medicine, as well as the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) have investigated how proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease interact to form unique complexes. Their findings explain why Alzheimer’s patients might develop Parkinson’s, and vice versa. The new and unique molecular structures they discovered can now be used to model and develop new drugs for these devastating neurological diseases. Their findings will be published in the September 3 issue of Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE on September 4, 2008.

The team, led by Eliezer Masliah, M.D., professor of neurosciences and pathology in the UC San Diego School of Medicine, found that “fatal” or abnormal interactions among the a-synuclein protein (a-syn, involved in Parkinson’s disease) and Abeta amyloid (A??, which leads to the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease) interact and form unique “hybrid” complexes. These hybrid abnormal protein interactions result in combined neurodegenerative diseases.

“Clinically, we knew that having one neurological disease, such as Alzheimer’s, put patients at risk for another neurological disease in combination with it, for example, Parkinson’s disease or frontotemporal dementia. But as doctors and scientists, we didn’t understand why this occurred until now,” Masliah said. Through computer modeling, they discovered that when the A?? and a-syn interacted they formed a new hybrid protein with a small hole called a “nanopore” that alters neuronal activity. Masliah described the model of the hybrid complex as being “like looking at a boat with holes in it. Because we can now see the holes, we can learn how to stop the leak.”

Misfolding and aggregation of neuronal proteins has been proposed to play a critical role in the development of neurodegenerative disorders, including the leading disorders in the aging population – Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease – which result in dementia and movement disorders. More than five million Americans live with such neurological conditions, and it is estimated that this country alone will see a 50 percent increase in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease alone by the year 2025.

In Alzheimer’s, A?? accumulates in the intracellular and extracellular spaces of the brain, leading to the formation of plaques. In Parkinson’s, intracellular accumulation of an abundant synaptic protein, a-syn, results in the formation of characteristic foreign substances called “Lewy bodies.” The mechanisms through which A?? and a-syn interactions might lead to additional neurodegeneration have been the subject of intense scientific investigation, according to Masliah.

Working with researchers at the SDSC, Masliah and colleagues, including first author Igor Tsygelni from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, developed a dynamic model using computer simulations. These included the so-called “molecular dynamics process,” which allows insight into molecular motion on an atomic scale. Used to determine the properties of complex systems that contain a vast number of particles through use of numerical methods, molecular dynamics allowed the team to model how the abnormal neuronal proteins docked with other proteins or with cell membranes, and to measure the energies of interaction.

“This sort of modeling, to determine the structure of these complexes, was never before possible,” said Masliah, adding that it was only possible at UC San Diego with its strong culture of scientific collaboration and the computing power of the San Diego Supercomputer Center. “With this novel technology, we have come to a new understanding of these combined neurological diseases, and have a model for developing new drugs to treat them.”

These studies were supported by electron microscopy, along with cell and tissue studies of both mice and human brains, to characterize the nature of the interaction between the two proteins.

Co-investigators on this paper, all at UC San Diego, include first author Igor F. Tsigelny, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the San Diego Supercomputer Center; Jason X.-J. Yuan and Oleksandr Platoshyn, Department of Medicine; Leslie Crews, Department of Pathology; Paula Desplats, Gideon M. Shaked, Hideya Mizuno, Brian Spencer, Edward Rockenstein and Margarita Trejo, Department of Neurosciences; and Yuriy Sharikov, San Diego Supercomputer Center.

The study was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, IBM under its Institutes of Innovation program as well as computational support on its BlueGene computers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center and at the Argonne National Laboratory.

Source: Debra Kain

University of California – San Diego

Folic Acid May Improve Asthma, Allergies

Folic acid, or vitamin B9, may help treat allergic reactions and allergy symptoms, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Folate occurs naturally in food while folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Sources include cereals, baked goods, leafy vegetables, asparagus, fruits, legumes, yeast, mushrooms and organ meat (such as beef liver or kidneys).

Previous studies have noted a potential link between folate and inflammatory conditions such as heart disease.

In the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers reviewed medical data from in 8,083 patients ages 2-85 who participated in the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). During the study, serum folate levels and total IgE levels were measured. IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is a class of antibodies that mediates allergic reactions. The authors also recorded asthma and respiratory symptoms.

Higher levels of folate were linked to lower IgE levels, fewer reported allergies, less wheezing and a lower likelihood of developing asthma. People with the lowest folate levels (less than eight nanograms per milliliter of blood) had a 40 percent increased risk of wheezing, 30 percent increased risk of having elevated IgE levels, 31 percent increased risk of allergic symptoms and a 16 percent higher risk of asthma compared to those with the highest levels of folate (above 18 nanograms per milliliter of blood).

However, additional research is needed to confirm these early findings and to determine exactly how folate may work. The researchers plan to compare the effects of folic acid to placebo in people with allergies and asthma.

References:

1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. naturalstandard. Copyright © 2009.
2. Matsui EC, Matsui W. Higher serum folate levels are associated with a lower risk of atopy and wheeze. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Apr 29. View Abstract

Source
Natural Standard

NAO Issue New Report And Research Autism Asks: ‘Falling Through The Cracks’: Why Is The Outcome So Poor For Adults With Autism?

The National Audit Office (NAO) on Friday released findings from a new report exploring the problems and challenges of supporting adults with autism. The aim of the report was to assess current service provision in areas including: health, social care, education, benefits and employment support. It also identified how these areas could be made more effective, efficient and appropriate to the needs of adults with autism and their carers.

There are currently over half a million children and adults with autism in the UK, the large majority of whom are adults. The numbers of those diagnosed with autism are on the rise. Autism in adults costs the economy just over ??25 billion* each year, yet the NAO report reveals that the provision of services for this vulnerable group is inconsistent. In fact, it showed that the majority of Local Authorities and their NHS partners do not have robust data on the actual number of adults with autism within their area, so they are unable to identify needs and plan accordingly.

Key findings of the NAO report:

– Primary health care struggling to cope:

- 80% of GPs feel that they need more training to manage patients with autism more effectively and that local training plans for NHS and social care staff often fail to specifically address the needs of adults with autism.

- 70% of GPs said that they were not confident that adults with autism in their region were receiving appropriate and adequate care for their needs.

- Only 1 in 5 GPs reported that they kept registers of patients with autism.

– Local Authorities and NHS struggling to cope:

- Only 18% of Local Authorities and their NHS partners were able to give precise numbers of adults with low functioning autism and only 12% could give numbers of those with high functioning autism.

- Only 10% of Local Authorities and their NHS partners commissioned ongoing support for adults with high functioning autism from specialist teams; yet this support could enable more adults with autism to live relatively independently in the community.

- Only 22% of Local Authorities said that their Supporting People strategy specifically addressed the needs of adults with autism. 74% of Local Authorities and their NHS partners do not have a specific commissioning strategy for autism in place and only 50% have a strategic planning group dealing with the needs of adults with autism.

- 21% of Local Authorities did not know how many children there were with autism and special educational needs in their area and only 45% knew how many children there were with autism and a statement of special educational needs (SEN) that had a completed transition plan in place.

- Around two-thirds of Local Authorities and their NHS partners find it difficult to find appropriate residential placements or supported housing within their area for adults with autism; leading to placements further afield.

– Potential not realised:

- Only 15 % of adults with autism are in full-time employment despite the fact that this group can often offer employers valuable skills. This leads to not only a waste of potential but also severe pressure on families supporting these adults and to Local Authorities. In fact, regular employment can bring positive psychological and social benefits to adults with autism and greatly increase their self esteem and social integration.

Geoffrey Maddrell, Chairman of Research Autism says:

“Research Autism is not surprised with the NAO’s findings, which confirm what people with autism, professionals and their families have long been saying; that there is an appalling lack of joined up and accessible provision for adults with autism. Help for autism in children has improved greatly in recent years; in theory this should mean that these children are known to government services and should benefit from a planned and tailored transition from education into adult life. However, the report found that despite good intentions in many areas, there was a general lack of planning and it is clear that the level of expertise is seriously below that which is required.

Therefore, the knowledge base of professionals at key contact points needs to be improved otherwise there will be a continued lack of recognition, misdiagnosis and lack of timely and appropriate help; greatly compounding the level of difficulty faced by those affected and increasing the cost to the nation.”

Maddrell continues: “The report also most importantly reveals that with the correct employment support and mentoring, many of these adults can sustain long term education and career paths in various sectors. But at present this is not happening in many places. This is something that Research Autism feels passionately about and is currently working on a project to address this based on our recent research into employment.

We are also planning a high profile conference next month, where Government officials and Local Authorities will be invited to attend, to further examine just why the outcome is so poor for adults and to identify ways forward.

To conclude, we may not know the exact causes of autism, but this report confirms the need for better coordinated and informed responses across the lifespan. We know that with correct and timely intervention the quality of life and outlook can be much improved and adults with autism can live fulfilling lives and make a valued contribution to the community.

The way that services are currently organised results in a struggle for support and poor outcomes. Research Autism therefore welcomes the NAO’s report and hopes that it allows the Government to start work to resolve this unfair and wasteful situation. Research Autism will also play an important role in this work; evaluating autism interventions and informing key professionals of the results.

Otherwise, there is an increasing danger that adults with autism will remain ignored with the attendant human and economic costs that this entails. This must not be allowed to happen.”

Citation:
Knapp et al.,
The Economic Consequences of Autism in the UK.

Source
The National Audit Office