Can avatars online help autistic children communicate more with peers or family? Check out the March 17, 2011 news release on the study, “Virtual conversation simulator found beneficial for adults with autism.” Did you ever wonder why the autism rate in the USA is increasing so dramatically? See the March 29, 2012 Los Angeles Times article, Autism rates up – Los Angeles Times.
Also a rare gene variant has been found that increases in men over age 35, that shows up with an increase in the number of children born with autism. Check out the April 5, 2012 Fox News article, Study: Autism Linked to Gene Mutations at Conception | Fox News.
Men over the age of 35 are at an increased risk for these sudden genetic mutations. The good news is that there may be some preventative treatments. But men in this age group need to be aware of alcohol consumption and tobacco intake which may lead to DNA damage causing these gene mutations.
The rate of U.S. cases of autism and related disorders is currently about 1 in 88 children. The previous estimate was 1 in 110. What’s happening to the children? Is the diagnosis due to more children being found with autism? Or in the past was the issue diagnosed fewer times?
Did you ever ask why autism cases are on the rise again? The answer you’re likely to get is that the diagnoses of more cases of autism are largely due to wider screening, according to federal health officials.
Why the new figure? There has been a series of studies that have been steadily increasing the government’s autism estimate. This new number means autism is nearly twice as common as officials said it was only five years ago, and likely affects roughly 1 million U.S. children and teens.
So far, few people have attempted to blame the cause of autism on any one issue in particular. What else could drive up the statistics? If you look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, the government is not sure why there’s an increase in autism.
Diagnoses means making judgments about behavior. So far, you can’t take a blood or DNA test for autism. It’s about behavior. Could diagnosis be subjective?
If the diagnosis means looking at the spectrum, that means children with severe language and social impairments and unusual, repetitious behaviors might be labeled as autistic. The definition of autism has gradually expanded over the past few years. That means children with milder symptoms can be diagnoses as autistic. And then there’s the mild symptom of Asperger’s Syndrome.
What’s really happening is that there has been a huge increase in services that treat autism-related behaviors in children. But where’s the funds for research?
The new CDC study released Thursday is considered the most comprehensive U.S. investigation of autism prevalence to date. Researcher gathered data from areas in 14 states — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.
That study focused on 8-year old children. The estimate released Thursday March 29, 2012, has been based on 2008 data, and had a figure of 1 in 88 children in the USA as having autism.
The study also found that autism disorders were almost five times more common in boys. And that an increasingly large proportion of children with autism have IQs of 85 or higher — a finding that contradicts a past assumption that most autistic kids had IQs of 70 or lower.
Why did the study find autism rates higher in Utah than in New Jersey? What happened in Utah that could be related to autism that didn’t happen in New Jersey? Could it be toxins in the environment? Nobody has pointed a finger at any one situation. In Utah, the CDC found in this recent study that
as many as 1 in 47 of the 8-year-olds had an autism spectrum disorder. In New Jersey, 1 in 49 did. Is that such a big (or small) difference to require more research?
Why does Alabama have only about 1 in 210 children identified as autistic? The difference was attributed to less information out of Alabama. Researchers were not able to access school information in that state and a few others, and as a result believe they have a less complete picture, according to the Los Angeles Times article.
Compare current findings to the early 1990s, when only a few out of every 10,000 children were diagnosed with the condition, based on some small studies in individual states or cities. Could it be that it was not diagnosed unless extremely severe?
Autism research began to increase after 2000, according to the CDC. Yet if you’re a parent, you still are left with no answers to the cause. You may ask whether it’s about DNA/genes or some other environmental cause. Could it be about vaccines? No connection as yet has been found in medical journals, but what about reports you read that aren’t in the usual medical journals?
Could the cause be related to using cell phones while pregnant or what medicines the mother took during pregnancy? What about medications given to children? No one knows. So research continues. Next year will see the results a new study by CDC on the issue of medications taken by pregnant women or medicines given to children.
In the meantime, parents may be taking a look at cyberpsychology. For example, if your child is autistic or not, how can cyberpsychology offer some clues to Internet addiction? And on the bright side of Internet use, how can virtual partners online help autistic kids? That’s part of cyberpsychology research. Can ‘avatars’ online help autistic children communicate more and develop better communication skills?
In the Sacramento and Davis regional areas, UC Davis studies cyberpsychology. See the website, Mental Health Organizations And Events UNIVYCALIJ to UNIVCALILZ. At UC Davis, Sacramentans can check out the website of the UQO Cyberpsychology lab research team at the University of California, Davis Center for Neuroscience.
Further south in California, you have the Interactive Media Institute in San Diego studying how cyberpsychology can work within the environment of social networking. Check out the publication, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, from the Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, CA.
UC Davis also studies Internet addiction under the category of cyberpsychology. There’s an excellent article online from UC Davis on Internet addiction. See, Problematic Internet use or Internet addiction?
Locally, you can turn to the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking publications from the Communication Department, University of California Davis, Davis, California. And don’t forget the idea of avatars online from that department. Check out the UC Davis website, Avatars and Emotional Engagement in Asynchronous Online.
Simulated interactions in which adults with autism converse with a virtual partner may help them develop better social interaction skills, according to the latest novel study presented in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The article is available free online.
Check out this latest study. And see the March 17, 2011 news release, “Virtual conversation simulator found beneficial for adults with autism.” According to this news release, more than half of individuals diagnosed with autism have normal intellectual capabilities yet struggle in social and work environments because of their severely impaired abilities to interact and converse with others.
Cheryl Trepagnier, PhD, and Corinne Bell, MA, (The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC), and Dale Olsen, PhD, and Laura Boteler, (SIMmersion LLC, Columbia, MD), report that adults with autism who participated in a prototype conversation simulation program responded positively to the experience, supporting the quality and usefulness of the simulation.
In the article, “Virtual Conversation Partner for Adults with Autism,” the authors describe a simulated environment in which participants with autism who are not otherwise intellectually disabled interact with virtual partners, are given onscreen dialog options, and are scored on their ability to initiate, maintain, and conclude a pleasant conversation on a variety of topics, according to the March 17, news release.
“Over the past two decades, simulations have proven effective at helping people with a variety of physical and mental disorders. This new application could make it so many with Autism Spectrum Disorder could function more effectively in the larger world,” says Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCIA, Editor-in-Chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, from the Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, CA, according to the news release.
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published monthly in print and online that explores the psychological and social issues surrounding the Internet and interactive technologies. Complete tables of content and a free sample issue may be viewed online here.
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research, including Telemedicine and e-Health and Journal of Women’s Health.
Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is currently the industry’s most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm’s 60 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available at the site, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The company, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. is located at 140 Huguenot St., New Rochelle, NY 10801-5215.