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New Research Finds Two Distinct Types of Autistic Brain Development

Sep 19, 2011 at 3:45 PM Chime in now

Strains of autism



As the saying goes: “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.”

While there are certainly markers of autism that are consistent across the spectrum – like poor eye contact – as a parent of an autistic child, I can tell you that each child is unique. In fact, this is one of the main challenges in treating autism -- no two cases are the same.

And now, researchers from the University of California Davis's MIND Institute in Sacramento have found one more piece of the puzzle with the Autism Phenome Project, which started in 2006. By studying brain growth, environmental factors and genetics of a group of 350 children between two and three-and-a-half years of age, they have been able to find two distinct types of autistic brain development.

The first group -- all boys -- were found to have enlarged brains and the majority were reported to have regressed into autism after the age of 18 months. The second group was entirely different. They appeared to have improperly functioning immune systems.

This study is promising, because if researchers are able to identify different types of autism (outside of the current breakdown of Asperger's Syndrome, Autism, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder,) then treatment plans can be more individualized and therefore more effective.

In our case, our son didn’t regress in skills as some children with autism do -- he simply missed milestones such as pointing, waving, and talking. He also had a head circumference in the 120th percentile compared to other boys his age and difficulty with transitions. As autism research progresses, perhaps a strain will be discovered that our son will fit into. One can always hope.

Read More:
Early Autism Screening: One Mom's Opinion
Link Between Autism & ADHD Discovered
When Your Child is Diagnosed With Autism: 10 Things You Need to Know

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