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Advances in Neurobiology Help Us Understand Causes of Autism

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

In a webinar sponsored by Scientific Learning (now a part of Carnegie Learning), Dr. Burns covered recent research on the brains of individuals with autism. While she discussed some complicated genetic factors one thing that researchers have observed is that the brain of individuals with autism have a unique development of long trace fibers. This white matter runs along divisions of the different lobes and actually intersects with many areas of the brain.

Burns reported that research supports the following contributing factors to autism: age of parents, environmental chemicals and other neurotoxins, immune factors. What surprised me was her denial that any research connected vaccinations as a contributing factor. I believe that many factors contribute and sometimes vaccinations serve as the straw that broke the camel's back.

Mind Institute is developing a test that will identify antibodies that exist in some, but not all individuals on the autism spectrum. Others are working on a scan of the eye that can identify those who are at risk in the early months of life. Early identification and intervention produce hope for families.

Researchers also recognized value in specific therapies’ as well as computer software (such as Fast ForWord). While computer software provides a valuable contribution, other areas of intervention must include perceptual and sensory.

More and more new research leads to a greater understanding of the underlying causes of autism spectrum disorders. Not only does it explain why new technologies work, it also explains why interventions used as early as the 1930s by founders of the neurodevelopmental approach work. All of this leads to more effective interventions and hope for families.

Image of brain from Scientific American.

We at Unlocking Learning Potential and Family Academy Online provide access to computer software that we call Learning Accelerator and Reading Booster (Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant Plus). and


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