10 Most Promising Breakthroughs About Autism in 2013

puzzleWe're still far from understanding the full picture of autism. But with every passing year, more research brings us closer to figuring out the perplexing puzzle. This year there were several compelling breakthroughs that gave parents of kids on the spectrum hope. Are any of these studies going to bring us closer to effective intervention, treatment, and prevention? We can only hope.


1. So-called 'love hormone' oxytocin may help children with autism learn more about social interaction. This doesn't mean the hormone banishes any of the symptoms of autism. However, the findings give doctors hope that more research will bring them closer to effective treatment.

2. New tool helps parents spot early signs of autism. The free online video, "Bringing Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders Into Focus," can help bring about an earlier diagnosis for children with autism. The tutorial isn't a replacement for a diagnosis by a medical professional; however, it can help alert parents to signs they should bring to their doctors' attention.

3. Study identifies 25 gene variants linked to increase risk of autism. Understanding autism's roots can help bring about earlier diagnosis and intervention.

4. Study reveals link between low birth weight and autism. This is another example of how understanding the roots of autism could lead to early diagnosis and intervention.

5. Breastfeeding may reduce risk for autism. A protein found in breast milk could help compensate for any deficiency of the growth factor found in newborns.

6. Taking folic acid may reduce the risk for autism. This makes for a good reason to take your prenatal supplements.

7. Inducing labor could increase risk for autism. Inducing labor, on the other hand, seems to be potentially harmful to your baby.

8. Research uncovers link between anorexia and autism. Girls with anorexia share common traits with children with autism.

9. Parents who use severe corporal punishment may increase the risk of autism for their grandchildren. A study shows women who were abused as children are more likely to have children with autism.

10. Children who have spent time in the NICU have a significantly higher chance of having autism spectrum disorder. This is a link, keep in mind, not a cause-and-effect. But it's a clue into understanding autism, anyway.

Which of these breakthroughs did you find especially encouraging?


Image via Arman Zhenikeyev/Corbis

Read More >