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US Autism & Asperger Association
December 29, 2011

Welcome to USAAA WeeklyNews, an email newsletter that addresses a range of topics on Autism Spectrum Disorders including Asperger's Syndrome.


Social Competence Intervention for Elementary Students with Aspergers Syndrome and High Functioning Autism

Stichter JP, O'Connor KV, Herzog MJ, Lierheimer K, McGhee SD
Department of Special Education, University of Missouri

studentsDespite frequent reports of academic success, individuals with high functioning autism or Aspergers Syndrome (HFA/AS) often manifest deficits in social abilities. These deficits can lead to daily difficulties, and negative long-term outcomes.

Deficits in social competency are evident in this population from an early age...Results indicate significant improvements on direct assessments measuring theory of mind and problem solving.

Deficits in social competency are evident in this population from an early age, as children with HFA/AS present unique challenges relating to peers, interpreting complex contextual cues, and transitioning across settings. A paucity of social interventions exist that target elementary-age children with HFA/AS and their combination of core social competence deficit areas: theory of mind (ToM), emotional recognition, and executive functioning. The current study expanded on the Social Competence Intervention (for adolescents; SCI-A), as detailed in Stichter et al. (J Autism Dev Disorders 40:1067-1079, 2010), by adjusting the curriculum to meet the needs of an elementary population.

Results indicate significant improvements on direct assessments measuring theory of mind and problem solving, and parent perceptions of overall social abilities and executive functioning for 20 students, aged 6-10, with HFA/AS. The elementary SCI program appears promising, however, additional replications are necessary including expansion to school settings.

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A potential pathogenic role of oxalate in autism

oxalate imageBackground: Although autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) are a strongly genetic condition certain metabolic disturbances may contribute to clinical features. Metabolism of oxalate in children with ASD has not yet been studied. Aim: The objective was to determine oxalate levels in plasma and urine in autistic children in relation to other urinary parameters.

Hyperoxalemia and hyperoxaluria may be involved in the pathogenesis of ASD in children. This appears to be the first report of plasma and urinary oxalate in childhood autism.

No differences between the two groups were found in urinary pH, citraturia, calciuria or adjusted CaOx crystallization rates based on BRI. Despite significant hyperoxaluria no evidence of kidney stone disease or lithogenic risk was observed in these individuals.

Conclusions: Hyperoxalemia and hyperoxaluria may be involved in the pathogenesis of ASD in children. Whether this is a result of impaired renal excretion or an extensive intestinal absorption, or both, or whether Ox may cross the blood brain barrier and disturb CNS function in the autistic children remains unclear. This appears to be the first report of plasma and urinary oxalate in childhood autism.

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Serum neurokinin A levels were elevated in some autistic children

Mostafa GA, Al-Ayadhi LY

research image Background: Neurogenic inflammation is orchestrated by a large number of neuropeptides. Tachykinins (substance P, neurokinin A and neurokinin B) are pro-inflammatory neuropeptides that may play an important role in some autoimmune neuroinflammatory diseases. Autoimmunity may have a role in the pathogenesis of autism in some patients. We are the first to measure serum neurokinin A levels in autistic children. The relationship between serum levels of neurokinin A and anti-ribosomal P protein antibodies was also studied.

Serum neurokinin A levels were elevated in some autistic children and they were significantly correlated to the severity of autism

Conclusions: Serum neurokinin A levels were elevated in some autistic children and they were significantly correlated to the severity of autism and to serum levels of anti-ribosomal P protein antibodies. However, this is an initial report that warrants further research to determine the pathogenic role of neurokinin A and its possible link to autoimmunity in autism. The therapeutic role of tachykinin receptor antagonists, a potential new class of anti-inflammatory medications, should also be studied in autism.

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Serum osteopontin levels were increased in many autistic children

Al-ayadhi LY, Mostafa GA

research imageAutoimmunity to brain may play an etiopathogenic role in autism. Osteopontin is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that has been shown to play an important role in various autoimmune neuroinflammatory diseases. Osteopontin induces IL-17 production by T-helper 17 lymphocytes, the key players in the pathogenesis of autoimmune disorders. Anti-osteopontin treatment reduces the clinical severity of some autoimmune neuroinflammatory diseases by reducing IL-17 production. We are the first to measure serum osteopontin levels, by ELISA, in 42 autistic children in comparison to 42 healthy-matched children. The relationship between serum osteopontin levels and the severity of autism, which was assessed by using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), was also studied.

Anti-osteopontin treatment reduces the clinical severity of some autoimmune neuroinflammatory diseases by reducing IL-17 production.

In conclusions, serum osteopontin levels were increased in many autistic children and they were significantly correlated to the severity of autism. Further wide-scale studies are warranted to shed light on the etiopathogenic role of osteopontin in autism and to investigate its relation to IL-17 and brain-specific auto-antibodies, which are indicators of autoimmunity, in these patients. The therapeutic role of anti-osteopontin antibodies in amelioration of autistic manifestations should also be studied.

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