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Autism News Round-up: Older Fathers, Telehealth, and Autism in the Workplace

In our weekly roundup of news related to autism, we take a closer look at why older fathers might pose a higher risk of autism, the role of telehealth training in providing parents with the tools they need as parents to children with autism, and a new study looking at how autism can be a strength in the workplace.


First up, a new study that recently came out has disproved the belief that the mutations in their sperm that older men accumulate as they age likely do not account for their increased risk of having a child with autism. This belief was given support through several massive epidemiological studies that found that the older a man is, the more likely he is to have a child with autism or schizophrenia.


The findings from the study suggest that de novo mutations in sperm account for, at most, 20 percent of the increased autism and schizophrenia risk associated with the father’s advanced age. “The small number of additional mutations in children with older fathers can’t really explain the increase in risk that we see,” Jacob Gratten says.


Moving onto a recent study at Michigan State University, federally funded research into the efficacy of Telehealth training—an online program designed to train parents to provide the necessary therapy themselves. Findings from the federally funded pilot study on telehealth training at Michigan State University show the online program successfully helped parents of children with autism improve their child’s social communication using research-based intervention techniques.


“We now have good preliminary evidence that telehealth can increase access to parent training interventions for families of young children with autism spectrum disorder,” said Brooke Ingersoll, lead investigator on the study. “The ultimate goal is to use these types of methods to assist parents who live in rural and medically underserved areas, underrepresented groups, and even countries that don’t have the infrastructure for more intensive service delivery.”


Finally, moving from childhood to adulthood, we continue our look at employment amongst those with autism and continue to find that as the rate of diagnoses goes up, so does their unemployment rate. Despite the fact that many young adults with autism are high-functioning, roughly 40% are currently unemployed.


Research scientist Anne Roux, of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute in Philadelphia, studies young adults with autism and was the lead author of that study. “When we learned that last year—that about 40 percent of people were never getting employment or continuing their education—we wondered, ‘Why is that, and what happens to them?'” While young adults on the spectrum are eager to enter the workforce, the available options available to them in terms of government and non-government begin to dry up after high school, making it much harder for them to make a meaningful and supported transition to the work place.


Still, with baby boomers starting to retire, and with talent in increasingly short supply, companies as varied as Microsoft, Walgreens, Capital One, AMC Theaters, and Procter & Gamble are all starting to actively recruit people who have autism spectrum disorder. While these companies are only making a dent in the overall unemployment numbers, they are leading the way to a new horizon.