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Sunday, December 31, 2023

IACC Summary of Advances in Autism Research

From the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee 
The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) has released its 2022 Summary of Advances in Autism Research. This publication provides short, plain language summaries of the top 20 advances in autism biomedical and services research selected by members of the IACC. In addition, the IACC has released an accompanying easy-read version that summarizes the full publication in a briefer, more accessible format.

The 20 studies selected for 2022 highlight potential ways to improve early screening and diagnosis of autism, including through the use of telehealth, and insight into brain differences that may contribute to autism and impact social communication, language development, and sensory processing. The studies also improve our understanding of disparities between autistic adults from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. In addition, a study using data from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network found significant racial and ethnic disparities in the receipt of early intervention services. However on a positive note, a separate ADDM study found that the number of U.S. children identified early in life has increased greatly since 2002, providing greater opportunity for the receipt of early intervention services and supports. Lastly, several studies selected for the Summary of Advances investigate important lifespan issues such as disruptions in Medicaid services, vocational outcomes, and differences in the prevalence of co-occurring conditions between autistic individuals diagnosed as children versus those diagnosed as adults.

Articles in the Summary of Advances are grouped according to the topics represented by the seven Questions of the 2021-2023 IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Research, Services, and Policy. Citations for the articles selected for the Summary of Advances, as well as a complete listing of nominated articles, are included in the publication. The 2022 Summary of Advances meets the requirements of the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (Autism CARES) Act of 2019.

Among the research findings that the publication summarizes:

  • Less than half of the children in New Jersey diagnosed with autism between 2006 and 2016 received early intervention services, and significant socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities were observed, underscoring the urgency to address disparities and increase access to early intervention. 
  •  Pediatricians can identify early mental health concerns in school-age children with autism through screening during well-child appointments, and opp
  •  International survey results indicate several barriers, particularly communicating with providers and sensory challenges in waiting rooms, that may affect autistic adults in scheduling and completing primary care visits, leading to worse health outcomes. 
  • Factors measured in childhood such as IQ, adaptive functioning, and degree of autistic traits may predict levels of independence, employment and education, and, to a lesser extent, physical health in autistic adults. 
  • Autistic people diagnosed as adults are more likely to have co-occurring psychiatric conditions than those diagnosed as children, highlighting the importance of mental health supports across the lifespan and the need for research on how timing of diagnosis affects well-being. 
  • Work readiness skills (e.g., adaptability, success in daily routines) may improve employment outcomes for autistic adults. 
  • Medicaid data suggest that co-occurring health conditions among autistic adults, which occur more often than in non-autistic peers, differ based on race and ethnicity. 
  • Lack of lifelong Medicaid coverage for autistic adults in many states leads to higher rates of coverage loss and lower re-enrollment compared to non-autistic peers with intellectual disabilities. 
  • The number of autistic children identified early increased substantially between 2002 and 2016 in the United States, though racial and ethnic disparities remained; analyses suggest median age should not be used to measure progress.