New Screening Tool Could Help Identify Autism in Infants
A simple five-minute questionnaire could help detect autism in babies as young as 12 months. Researchers tested such a screening tool on nearly 10,500 California children, and diagnosed about 32 with autism, as well as another 100 with other language or developmental delays. On average, those children began treatment at 19 months—far earlier than the typical child diagnosed with the disorder, according to findings published Thursday in the Journal of Pediatrics. Autism is difficult to detect in young children, who tend to show only subtle signs until age 2 or 3, when symptoms like a lack of eye contact and engagement become more evident. In the study, parents were asked a series of questions about their 1-year-old, including: Can you predict when your baby is likely to be happy or upset? Does your baby use gestures and make babbling sounds, and look to see if you're watching her play? The screening tool should become standard during 1-year check-ups, the researchers say. Currently, less than half of pediatricians report screening for autism before age 2. "The earlier we can identify a child with autism, the earlier we can intervene with treatment, and the better off the child will be in the long run," study author Karen Pierce, a neuroscientist at the University of California--San Diego, told The Boston Globe. "It's simple for parents to fill out, simple to score, and simple for a doctor to make a referral right there on the spot."
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4 Promising Autism Treatments, From Vitamin B12 to Alzheimer's Drug Namenda
Medicine hasn't come up with a cure for autism, the often-devastating developmental disorder that now affects 1 in 150 children, and one big reason is that doctors don't yet know what causes it. Parents frustrated by the lack of options often turn to the Internet for help, where dozens of medical and behavioral treatments are promoted.
Unfortunately, most of the treatments out there have not been tested to find out if they work, making it tough for parents to figure out what might help. Those that have been rigorously tested so far have failed to measure up. That includes secretin, a hormone affecting liver and pancreas function that was popular until a 2003 trial found it did nothing to alleviate symptoms.
Yet treatments for autism do exist. Those proven to work include structured behavioral interventions that teach children social and language skills, as well as medications that reduce disabling symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal disorders. Increasingly, researchers are looking at autism as a "state" that could be changed rather than a "trait," according to Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. And researchers are starting to rigorously test other potential treatments, including methyl vitamin B12 and an Alzheimer's drug known as Namenda. [Read more: 4 Promising Autism Treatments, From Vitamin B12 to Alzheimer's Drug Namenda.]
10 Things That Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss
So you've got your plot to drop the extra pounds. It certainly seems sensible: You're going to eat right, eat less, and exercise. After weeks of declining dessert and diligently hitting the treadmill, you step on the scale and...only 2 pounds gone? You conclude that something or someone must be sabotaging you.
You might be right. While experts say weight loss can always be reduced to the simple "calories in, calories out" mantra—meaning if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight—a host of oft-hidden saboteurs may be meddling with the balance. Here's a smattering of them:
1. Treating healthy foods as low-calorie foods. "A lot of times they're not consistent," says Scott Kahan, co-director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, D.C. So while whole grains, avocados, and nuts might be kind to your heart or cholesterol levels, dieters who binge on such foods can, before they know it, add hundreds of calories to the day's total. Enjoy calorie-rich healthy foods, dietitians urge, but ration them out: a quarter of an avocado on a salad or a small handful of almonds for a snack.
2. Shunning shuteye. Some research has linked shorter sleep duration to a higher body mass index (a measure of body fat) and increased hunger and appetite. Additionally, if you're tired, you might be prone to grab a sugar-laden treat for a midday boost, skip the gym, and have takeout for dinner to avoid cooking. It's a vicious cycle. Aim for seven or eight hours a night. [Read more: 10 Things That Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss.]
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