The UC Davis Mind Institute has confirmed two types of autism, with different biological aspects at Perth’s Asia-Pacific Autism Conference.
Whilst different subsets of autism appear likely the behavioural outcomes are the same. This suggests there may be genetic, environmental and immune aspects that whilst different all lead to a common aspect manifesting as autism. For example it’s known that mothers with one autistic child are 18% more likely to have another child with a developmental delay diagnosis.
Boys can develop a subset that presents brain hypertrophy earlier than predicted. Not seen in all boys this form is also not seen in girls, according to Dr. David Amaral from the Autism Phenome Project.
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“We don’t see it in girls, and even in boys we see it only in a subset of children with autism,” he said.
He says in biological terms there are different types of autism, but they all have similar symptoms.
“That’s one of the mysteries at this point. We know that there are different biologies but that the behavioural symptoms of children with autism all look basically the same,” he said.
“Many, many people now are trying to figure out whether all of these various biological causes are focusing on one final common pathway.”
He says as research progresses, one form of autism might be more easily treated than others.
“As one example, about 12 per cent of women who have children with autism have antibodies that are directed at the foetal brain,” Dr Amaral said.
“We’re doing research now to determine whether that really is a cause. And if that’s the case, that leads directly to a diagnostic marker for a subset of families that are going to go on to have children with autism.
“We expect that as we learn more and more about the various subtypes we can develop strategies to more effectively either prevent or treat each one of those different categories.”
The Autism Phenome Project focuses on: