Federal Autism Panel To Increase Focus On Services
With an “overwhelming” volume of autism research being produced, a federal advisory panel says that significant strides are being made in understanding the disorder, but serious gaps persist.
In a report released this week, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee — a federal advisory panel comprised of government officials and members of the autism community — outlined progress made in the last two years. Specifically, the group highlighted new autism prevalence numbers, better information about co-occurring conditions like gastrointestinal issues and sleep problems as well as evidence that brain changes accompany behavioral improvements as some of the most remarkable advances.
“It is clear… that recent investments in ASD research and increasing coordination in the community are paying off,” said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health and chair of the IACC, in a statement. “The volume of research is almost overwhelming, and new insights into areas such as brain circuitry, behavioral neuroscience, intervention approaches, genetics, immunology, environmental risk factors and services needs are creating opportunities to really change outcomes.”
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However, the IACC acknowledged that it has not done enough to address autism services and indicated that the group is looking to increase its focus on that issue this year.
The report is the latest annual update to the IACC’s Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorders Research, which serves as a blueprint for federal priorities in addressing the developmental disorder. The panel focused on progress in seven areas — screening and diagnosis, the underlying biology of autism, risk factors, treatments and interventions, services, lifespan issues and surveillance and infrastructure.
During the two-year period, the IACC said that there were over 1,000 research papers published related to autism genetics or imaging. That’s more than three times the amount produced a decade prior.
Despite the progress noted, however, the panel indicated that much work remains. Far too little is known about autism in adults, the role that environmental factors play in development of the condition and what the impact will be of new criteria for autism in the forthcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, among other issues.