Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 autism research review on Questioning Answers

All hail The Onion
So, it comes around again. The annual 'what was hot in autism research this year' review for 2017.

I'm a bit pressed for time as you probably are too, so I'll make it short this year and pull together a sort of top 5 research areas that emerged/continued in 2017 based on the 300-odd entries made on this here Questioning Answers blog this year. So, in no particular order...

1. Physical activity and autism received a whole lotta research attention this year (see here). Guess what? Exercise is kinda good for lots of different reasons (see here and see here for examples), some of which may well tie into various aspects of a diagnosis of autism too (see here).

2. Psychosis and/or schizophrenia can manifest alongside autism and vice-versa (see here and see here). And such symptom combinations may have important implications for management too (see here). I know this area of research potentially carries a lot of 'baggage' with it, but burying heads in the sand isn't gonna help. It also reiterates the ideas that (a) there is no substitute for a thorough professional assessment when autism is suspected (see here) and (b) overlaps with a bigger question on whether quite a lot of the 'comorbidity' discussed with reference to autism, might in some cases be something so much more 'core'...

3. We should all be listening a lot more to autistic people / people with autism (see here and see here, and yes, it should be 'who speaks for whom'!). This doesn't mean that important parent/carer voices are somehow silenced given the important role(s) they can and do play (see here). Just that we can learn a lot more when voices are combined. I'm also minded to suggest disposing of the term 'neurotypical' or NT in 2018 and beyond (see here) given the absurdity of assuming that anyone is at all 'neurotypical' or indeed, assuming that everyone on the autism spectrum are somehow 'neurodiverse'. Oh, and going back to the representation of autism in the media, don't assume that fictional portrayals are always going to please everyone all of the time (see here)...

4. Sexual identity and preference(s) in relation to autism is rising in research terms (see here and see here). Granted, some of the associations that have been reported on need quite a bit more study (see here) but alongside talk about gender dysphoria rates in autism (see here), important questions need asking and answering. I know some people might see this research area as a bit 'so what?' but one shouldn't underestimate how important gender and sexual identity can be to a person for lots of different reasons.

5. The continued rise and rise of the systematic review and/or meta-analysis in relation to autism research. Not everyone is (or should be) completely enamoured with such collected analyses, particularly in light of the term 'if you've met on person with autism, you've met one autistic person'. But such data are casting a little more 'generalised' light on many areas of autism research and practice and providing some nice general directions for further study. A few this year included: fatty acid use and autism (see here and see here), anxiety and autism (see here), visual issues and impairments and autism (see here) and breastfeeding and autism (see here). For the most part, such analyses have added to the ideas that (a) autism does not normally reside in some sort of diagnostic vacuum; and (b) receipt of a diagnosis of autism should represent a 'starting point' for further investigations not the finishing line.

So there you have it.

I'm also going to make a prediction about one important direction that autism research (and practice) will continue on in 2018: even more recognition that the diagnosis of autism rarely exists in a diagnostic vacuum...

I'll hopefully catch you all in 2018. Happy New Year!

Music to close the year, and I'm going for the Eye of the Tiger yet again. C'mon, get up and practice your punching arms (or Sanbon tsuki if you prefer) to the beat. You know you want to*.

* No medical advice is given or intended. Please consult your medical professional in you have an existing health condition before beginning any new exercise regime. I mean it...

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