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World Autism Awareness Week 2019 - Article Highlights

As part of World Autism Awareness Week, we highlight articles published in Molecular Autism from the last twelve months.

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Monday 1st to Sunday 7th April is World Autism Awareness Week, with Tuesday being the UN’s recognized World Autism Awareness Day. The theme this year is “Assistive Technologies, Active Participation”, with a focus on eliminating barriers to participation for people with autism through the use of affordable assistive technology.

To mark this week, we have highlighted eight articles published in Molecular Autism in the last year, based on research ranging from the use of robots in aiding the development of toddlers with autism, to the study of the relationship between sensory abnormalities and disturbed sleep in children on the autistic spectrum.


A cross-cultural study of autistic traits across India, Japan and the UK 
Across different cultures, there are similarities and differences in traits and indicators used to identify autism. Five key indicators appeared across India, Japan and the UK, whereas other indicators were highly discriminative in some countries, and poorly discriminative in others. Findings from this article have the potential to inform global screening tools. 

Self-reported sex differences in high-functioning adults with autism: a meta-analysis
Differences between the sexes in the exhibition of autism symptoms may contribute to many girls and women with autism remaining undiagnosed. Literature on childhood sex differences is compared with new research on a sample of adults with and without autism. Different interpretations are explained where childhood sex differences do not persist into adulthood.


Savant syndrome has a distinct psychological profile in autism
Savant syndrome is a condition in which prodigious talent, for example music, memory or arithmetic, occurs alongside developmental conditions including autism. The results of this research show that adults with autism and savant syndrome have different cognitive and behavioral profiles to adults with autism but without savant syndrome.


Sleep disturbances are associated with specific sensory sensitivities in children with autism
A survey on sleep disturbance was completed by parents of children with and without autism. Children with autism exhibited more sleep disturbance and sensory sensitivities than their age-matched controls. In this study, it was shown that hypersensitivity towards touch seems to have the strongest relationship with sleep disturbance.


Risk markers for suicidality in autistic adults
This study confirms previous research showing high rates of suicidality in adults with autism. Risk markers unique to adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions include ‘camouflaging’ and unmet support needs, whilst risk markers shared with the general population such as self-injury, employment and mental health problems are more prevalent in people with autism.

Network-specific sex differentiation of intrinsic brain function in males with autism
There are currently two competing models on predicting neurophenotypic convergence of autism-related characteristics and typical sex differences. One predicts that autism is associated with enhanced brain maleness, while the other predicts it is associated with enhanced brain maleness in females, and enhanced brain femaleness in males. This study measures the statistical overlap between typical sex differences and autism related atypicalities in resting functional MRI datasets.


The impact of robotic intervention on joint attention in children with autism spectrum disorders
A joint attention task was carried out by 30 children with autism and 38 children with typical development, in which they had to interact with either a human or a robot with moving eyes. Joint attention was better in children with autism during robotic intervention than during human intervention.


Practice patterns and determinants of wait time for autism spectrum disorder diagnosis in Canada
In this study, the diagnostic practices of Canadian pediatricians were described, and determinants for longer wait times to autism diagnosis were identified. The median wait time for an autism diagnosis was 7 months. Diagnostic practices varied widely, with over a fifth of pediatricians reporting no use of diagnostic tools, but the use of diagnostic tools did not significantly affect wait time.

Every article published in Molecular Autism is free to read, and more can be found at

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