News by Region

Treating suspected autism at 12 months of age improves children's language skills

Andrew Whitehouse; Kandice Varcin, and Kristelle Hudry

Therapies given to infants before they receive a diagnosis of autism may lead to important improvements in their language abilities, according to our new research published today in the journal Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.

Children with autism typically begin therapy after receiving a diagnosis, which usually doesn’t occur until at least two years of age.

However, our new study suggests that starting therapy with 12-month-old infants who show early behavioural signs of autism may provide additional benefit.

Majority of autism risk resides in genes, multinational study suggests

About 81 percent of autism risk comes from inherited genetic factors, according to an analysis of more than 2 million children from five countries, published today in JAMA Psychiatry1.

The study is the largest yet to estimate the heritability of autism risk in a multinational population. The findings are consistent with results from a large 2017 study of twin and non-twin sibling pairs in Sweden that suggested about 83 percent of autism risk is inherited2. A third study — also in Sweden and also in twins — reported in 2010 that these factors contribute to about 80 percent of autism risk3.

The new study improves upon the previous work by analyzing multiple generations of families from several countries.

Phew! Indian Catholic priest who claims parents' sins cause autism in children cancels Australia tour

An Indian Catholic priest who claims to have "cured" autism through prayer and compared autistic children to "animals", has cancelled a planned series of religious retreats in Australia.

Key points:

  • Father Dominic Valanmanal was due to hold a sold-out retreat on Phillip Island and another in Canberra
  • The Indian Catholic community in Australia hails largely from the Indian state of Kerala, where Father Valanmanal is based
  • A campaign to stop his visit was backed by Autism support groups

Father Dominic Valanmanal was recently forced to cancel similar events in Ireland and Canada, after a video clip appeared online showing him preaching that autism in children was caused by the vice of their parents.

Report highlights deep-rooted inequality in NDIS

This article relates to people with disability generally; it is not specific to ASD.

Shannon Jenkins

Males and people with higher incomes are more likely to benefit from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) than other demographic groups are, according to a new report.

The article by BMC Public Health, a journal which looks at the community impact of health policy and practice, studied how social determinants of health at the individual level can contribute to deep-seated health inequalities when combined with complex policy-delivery systems.

It found the ability to exercise choice is distributed unequally through personalisation schemes like the NDIS.

Unusual eating behaviors may be a new diagnostic indicator for autism

Atypical eating behaviors may be a sign a child should be screened for autism, according to a new study from Penn State College of Medicine.

Research by Susan Mayes, professor of psychiatry, found that atypical eating behaviors were present in 70% of children with autism, which is 15 times more common than in neurotypical children.

Atypical eating behaviors may include severely limited food preferences, hypersensitivity to food textures or temperatures, and pocketing food without swallowing.

Autism, a neurotype not an insult

Sandra Jones

A decade ago I was participating in a research seminar at an Australian university and one of the academics responded to a presentation about autism with the comment “all academics are a little bit autistic”.

Recently, I was speaking to a colleague about a someone from another university that she found hard to deal with. My colleague told me of the trouble she was having and finished up with “you know how he is … a bit on the spectrum”.

Family struggling to find carers for autistic daughter despite NDIS funding

Helen Campbell knows the risk her daughter Annie poses to the community because she has experienced it herself.

Key points:

  • Annie Campbell has complex care needs
  • Her mother says she has struggled to find carers willing to work with her
  • The NDIA says it is working with the family to find a solution

In 2013, a small change to Annie's routine during a tenpin bowling excursion resulted in a violent meltdown.

Child Development Institute opens in Wollongong to help kids with autism

Lisa Wachsmuth

Just weeks after starting sessions at Wollongong's new early intervention centre, little Samson Howari stretched out his arms, looked his mum in the eye and asked for a cuddle.

For most parents of toddlers that's pretty cute - for the mother of a two-year-old with a severe level of autism, it was monumental.

Ballarat Tech School will host The Lab for 10-16 year olds with ASD interested in technology

Michelle Smith

Young people with Asperger's Syndrome or high functioning autism and an interest in technology will have a new place to come together when The Lab begins in Ballarat next month.

The Lab offers individual and group mentoring, for children aged 10 to 16 on the autism spectrum, from IT professionals in web and digital design, programming and game making in a fun and safe place where they can socialise with others who share their interests.

Positive Behaviour Support Capability Framework for NDIS providers and behaviour support practitioners

The NDIS Quality and Safety Commission has published its Positive Behaviour Support Capability Framework for NDIS providers and behaviour support practitioners June 2019.

This document defines Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) as:

Why We All Need to Stop Referring to People With Autism as 'High Functioning'

Mike McRae

My son explained to me this morning why the ground gets frosty in winter. He did a good job, too. Once, he might have been described as being on the 'high functioning' end of the autism spectrum.

Our language has changed since his diagnosis at age three, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so into the future. Now, a new study shows why it's important we all stop using the term 'high functioning autism'.

The 'problematic' rise in students excluded from mainstream classes

Henrietta Cook

An increasing number of students with autism are being excluded from mainstream classes according to new research which raises concerns about the segregation of children with disabilities.

The Monash University research found that between 2009 and 2015, the inclusion of autistic students in mainstream classes dropped from 18.8 per cent to just 3.3 per cent.

Can gut bacteria cause autism (in mice)?

High profile study claims mice show “autism-like” behaviour. But does the evidence stack up?

Jon Brock

Two weeks ago, a paper published in the journal Cell claimed to provide evidence that microbes in the gut contribute to the development of autism. The researchers, led by Gil Sharon and Sarkis Mazmanian at the California Institute of Technology, found that mice with gut bacteria from autistic children exhibited more “autistic-like” behaviours than mice whose gut bacteria came from non-autistic children.

We transplanted gut microbiota from human donors with ASD or TD controls into germ-free mice and reveal that colonization with ASD microbiota is sufficient to induce hallmark autistic behaviors.

Leave No Autistic Mother Behind: Autism and Motherhood – Experiences, Challenges and Positive Strategies (COSP12 Side Event)

A4 and AFDO represented in UN Side Event

13 Jun 2019 -  Autism is a partially genetic, lifelong neurodevelopmental difference, yet there is limited research examining parenting in autistic mothers.

This side-event will discuss, from both an academic and an experiential point of view – including through 2 panellists who would be speaking both as researchers and as autistic mothers – the experiences of autistic mothers in areas related to parenthood: pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, self-perception of parenting strengths and weaknesses, communication with professionals in relation to one's child, and the social experience of motherhood, including disclosing one’s diagnosis of autism in parenting contexts.

Eating disorders can mask autism in girls

Girls and women on the autism spectrum are at higher risk of anorexia nervosa than males, research suggests.

But girls are also more likely than boys to have undiagnosed autism and their symptoms could be mistaken for an eating disorder.

An article in Current Psychiatry Reports by researchers from Kings College London reports between 4 and 52.5 per cent of anorexia patients meet a clinical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, depending on the study. In the general population just 1 per cent have autism.

'Something is wrong': Inquiry hears harrowing school violence stories

Sherryn Groch, Kirsten Lawson

A nine-year-old boy who feels "all hope is lost" after being punched, kicked and strangled in the schoolyard remains in the same class as the child responsible.

A family was forced to send their daughter interstate to escape bullying and violence at school, after footage of her assault spread across social media last year.

These are some of the harrowing stories parents have shared with an ACT inquiry into school violence

Research explores role of gut bacteria in autism behaviours

Gabriella Rogers A new gut-based approach is being trialled in Australia in the hope of overcoming some of the challenges of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

ASD is a group of neurodevelopmental conditions which is often characterised by difficulties in social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviours.

Males are four times more likely than females to have the condition.


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