Research Update – July 2014

Typing on a keyboard
A selection of recent news, research, reports and events

In the news

Cooling babies ‘helps reduce longer-term brain damage’
The BBC reports on a study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine that suggests that cooling babies deprived of oxygen at birth improves their chances of growing up without disabilities such as cerebral palsy.

Possible pesticide link to autistic spectrum disorders
NHS Choices takes a look at the evidence behind a Mail Online article that reports “Pregnant women who live near fields sprayed with pesticides can run more than three times the risk of having a child with autism,”.

Male hormones in the womb linked to autism
NHS Choices examines the research evidence behind a Daily Telegraph article that states “Boys who develop autism may be exposed to higher levels of hormones…in the womb”.

Why children with autism often fall victim to bullies
This article in The Conversation, discusses the growing body of research that indicates that young people on the autism spectrum are considerably more vulnerable to bullying than their peers.

ADHD drug review call in Wales by Psychologists
BBC News Wales highlights a call by psychologists to review the drug treatment of children with ADHD in Wales, following a 57% rise in prescriptions for the most common drug to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) between 2007 and 2013.

Foundation for people with learning disabilities – An ordinary life
In a project led by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, a number of technology-dependent children with complex health needs and their families from across the country who were benefitting from person-centred approaches were interviewed. These stories of the people were written up into a booklet for families and professionals called ‘An Ordinary Life’ and includes information on how to overcome some of the barriers to leading a full life.

More practical research needed on autism
Following the publication of a report by the institute of Education and Research Autism, asking ‘what should autism research focus upon?‘, the Guardian writes an article promoting the call for more research that influences autism services and societal issues.

New app relieved patients’ fear of the dentist
Scientists from Dundee and St Andrews Universities, NHS Tayside and Capability Scotland have developed a speech app ‘Stories at the Dentist’ to help people with learning or communication disabilities prepare for a visit to the dentist. This communication app helps patient deal with any anxiety or stress by helping them understand what to expect and get more involved in their care.


Peninsula Cerebra Research Unit – Research terms
Are you sometimes confused by research terms and what they mean? Peninsula Cerebra Research Unit (PenCRU) lists some of the terms used in research and provide an explanation of each.

Gene mutation linked to distinct type of autism
NHS choices reports on a genetic study that found children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were more likely to have a mutation in a gene called CHD8 than children without the disorder. However, talk of a single autism gene is premature. This is relatively early stage research. The genetic test will need to be further tested and validated in large and diverse groups to ensure it accurately identifies people with ASD.

iPads may help kids with autism develop communication skills
Medical Xpress reports on a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry that has shown that children with autism who use computer tablets as part of their language and social communication treatments may develop better speaking skills.

Researchers at the University of California gave 61 children aged five to eight with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) access to an iPad as part of their treatment. They discovered that the tablet had a positive effect on the kids’ communication skills. They did however emphasise that the iPad is just a tool and that for it to work, the children must use it in conjunction with treatment.

Epilepsy research uncovers ‘On-Off switch’ for brain
Epilepsy Research UK reports that scientists in the US have found a possible new method of toggling a person’s consciousness on and off, opening the door for new approaches to treating epilepsy.

A team from George Washington University uncovered a means of using deep brain stimulation to instantly send a patient with epilepsy into unconsciousness, before bringing her back again through the same method. According to study findings published in the medical journal Epilepsy & Behavior, it is thought that this technique could be explored as a potential means of resetting or correcting the uncontrolled and destructive brain activity that occurs during an epileptic seizure.

Autism the most costly disorder in the UK
In June, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), published research that shows that that autism costs the UK £32.1 billion per year, more than heart disease (£8bn), cancer (12bn) and stroke (5bn) combined. The LSE estimates that autism costs the country at least £32 billion per year in treatment, lost earnings, care and support for children and adults with autism. This has led Autism charities to call for a greater spend on autism research in the UK, because we spend just £4m per year on autism research, as compared to cancer (£590m) heart disease (£169m) or stroke (£32m).

Autism is not the only neurodevelopmental disorder on the rise
Sfari reports on a study published in May in European Child and Adolecent Psychiatry, found evidence that the growing prevalence of autism is no different from that of other neurodevelopmental disorders. The results were based on data collected from more than 4.5 million people in four countries,

Ocular and visual status among children in special schools in Wales: the burden of unrecognised visual impairment

The high prevalence of visual defects among children with special needs is well reported and guidelines for vision screening are in place. However, recent research has suggested that vision care for such children is neglected. This study set out to evaluate the current status of vision screening and eye care in special schools in Wales and concludes that pupils of special schools in Wales are not receiving equitable eye care since screening is patchy.

Bullying experiences among disabled children and young people in England: Evidence from two longitudinal studies
Bullying among school-aged children and adolescents is recognised as an important social problem, and the adverse consequences for victims are well-established. Despite growing interest in the profile of victims, there is limited evidence on the relationship with childhood disability. Results from two longitudinal studies by the Institute of Education reveal an independent association of disability with bullying, suggesting an overlooked mechanism contributing to negative long-term outcomes among disabled children.

Limited motor skills in early infancy may be a sign of autism
Research reported in Science Daily announces findings that provide evidence for reduced grasping and fine motor activity among six-month-old infants with an increased familial risk for autism spectrum disorders.


Looking for an ordinary life
This briefing summarises findings about some of the current issues affecting children and young people with complex health needs (who may also be using medical technology) and their families. It is based on a development project funded by the Department of Health Voluntary Sector Investment Programme and carried out by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities.

From the pond into the sea
The Care Quality Commission have published a report detailing the findings from a recent review showing that young people with complex health needs do not always receive the necessary care and support when they move on to adult care services.

Mental health and behaviour – information and tools for schools
This is advice from the Department for Education. All pupils will benefit from learning and developing in a well ordered school environment that fosters and rewards good behaviour and sanctions poor and disruptive behaviour. This behaviour and discipline in schools advice sets out the powers and duties for school staff and approaches they can adopt to manage behaviour in their schools.

Bullying and the law – a report for schools
The anti-bullying Alliance has produced a briefing that provides information about bullying and the law for schools and the wider children’s workforce in England. It is particularly written in relation to children and young people with special educational needs and / or disabilities (SEND) but can apply to all children and young people.


National Autistic Society (NAS) – Girls on the autism spectrum

London – 9th October 2014 (Early bird rate if booked before 29th August)

The NAS is holding a conference aiming to further the discussion around diagnosis and support for girls and women with autism. Delegates can choose the seminars from three streams: health, social care and education. Dr Wenn Lawson (formerly Wendy Lawson) will be giving the keynote address at the conference on the unique challenges that women on the spectrum face and their unique strengths.