Doctors and families across the country are eagerly awaiting the results of a study that took a new approach to identifying environmental factors that might contribute to autism, the New York-based Autism Speaks organization said recently.
For the first time, families of children with
autism were followed in real time, beginning with when the mother became
pregnant again and continuing through the newborn's first 36 months of life. The
study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), followed
235 families in the hopes of advancing the understanding of how
environmental risk factors – such as a mother’s age, prenatal
health and exposure to chemicals – contribute to autism.
study was led by Craig Newschaffer, an epidemiologist and director of
Drexel University’s AJ Drexel Autism Institute. He described the
study as potentially pivotal.
collecting information in real time, rather than relying on clues in
medical records or someone’s memory of what she was or wasn’t
exposed to during a past pregnancy,” Newschaffer said. “We
believe this information will deepen our understanding of autism’s
complex causes. In particular, we want to see how genetic makeup
might make some children more vulnerable to the effects of
Newschaffer said the
study’s main goals are to offer better strategies for preventing
autism and treating the impairments it causes.
“We would love to
provide direct guidance to parents on actions they can take to
safeguard healthy brain development and reduce the risk of
impairments associated with autism,” he said.
the study are currently undergoing evaluation.
Real-time study offers hope for early autism identification
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