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Autism News Round-Up: B12, Gender Variance, and Low-Cost Services

In this week’s autism news round-up, we scour the web to find the newest and most exciting autism-related news stories, including autism’s relationship with gender variance, the role of B12 in autism and schizophrenia, and how a new donation to the University of Northern Texas will help that area’s citizens with autism to gain access to the treatment they need.

First off, a pharmacist is speaking out about recent research that draws a relationship between low levels of B12 and autism. Richard C. Deth is a pharmacist and professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Nova Southeastern University who recently told Pharmacy Times that pharmacists are an important resource for patients when it comes to supplementation education. “Indeed, I think that there is an unmet need for such expertise and, to the extent they are able to do so, pharmacists can fill this role,” Dr. Deth said.

As an example of the insight that pharmacists can bring to the table, Deth cited several studies have touted the benefits of methylcobalamin (methyl B12) in autism, so pharmacists may want to consider recommending these supplements when suggesting ways to treat symptoms of autism. “It is important to recognize that methyl B12 is the active form of B12 for supporting methylation, while the more commonly available cyanocobalamin is inactive until it is converted to methyl B12, and impaired conversion can be a problem,” Dr. Deth explained. “Therefore, methyl B12 would be the preferred form.”

In other news, a new study is drawing a surprising connection between cases of autism and gender variance, arguing that the two might be related in some way. At one U.S. Medical Center, researchers found that participants who had been diagnosed with autism were seven times more likely to report gender variance when answering a questionnaire compared to their neurotypical counterparts. “Like many research ideas, this is one that was born from clinical experience,” said lead researcher Dr. Aron Janssen, director of NYU Langone Medical Center’s Gender and Sexuality Service in New York City. He added that over the past several years, those who study ASD and gender variance have been identifying a trend between the two conditions.

Gender variance describes variability between the sex a person is assigned at birth and their experienced or expressed gender, Janssen and colleagues write in the journal Transgender Health. As to why individuals with autism were more likely to display gender variance, one possible explanation is that children with autism are less aware of societal expectations as regards gender and thus may arrive at what is more natural for them at an earlier age. Janssen also added that it could also be that those who are gender variant are more socially isolated, and thus may demonstrate traits similar to those with autism.

Finally, a new grant given to the Kristin Farmer Autism Center at the University of Northern Texas is expected to help 28 families in the area receive help they otherwise could not afford. The grant was awarded by the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services for the amount of $167,000.

“We’re thrilled to have been selected as a service provider for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services,” said Kevin Callahan, executive director of the Kristin Farmer Autism Center. “We look forward to working with additional families to address the critical needs of children with autism in our community.” We’ll be following this case going forward to see how the families and recipients make use of the funds.