European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 167, Issue 10, pp 1091–1101

What’s new in autism?

Authors

    • Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryKatholieke Universiteit Leuven (UZ Leuven)
    • Department of Clinical GeneticsUniversity Hospital of Maastricht
  • Wouter De La Marche
    • Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryKatholieke Universiteit Leuven (UZ Leuven)
Review

DOI: 10.1007/s00431-008-0764-4

Cite this article as:
Steyaert, J.G. & De La Marche, W. Eur J Pediatr (2008) 167: 1091. doi:10.1007/s00431-008-0764-4

Abstract

This review on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) focusses on recent insights in the clinical picture, such as continuity of the phenotype and the concept of broader phenotype, on epidemiology and on clinical issues relevant to physicians, including new methods for early screening and diagnosis, psychiatric and somatic co-morbidity, and the expansion of so-called complementary and alternative treatments. ASD is a disorder with mainly genetic causes and recent insights show that a variety of genetic mechanisms may be involved, i.e. single gene disorders, copy number variations and polygenic mechanisms. Technological advances in genetics have lead to a number of promising findings, which, together with other lines of fundamental research, suggest that ASD may be a disorder of connectivity in the brain, at least in a subgroup of patients. It is possible that part of the genetic load in autism actually reflects gene–environment interaction, but there is no evidence for purely environmental causes in a substantial number of cases. Clinical research suggests that ASD may be a multi-system disorder in at least a subgroup of subjects, affecting the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, the immune system and perhaps other systems. Behavioural treatments remain the cornerstone of management, and are mainly aimed at stimulation of the domains of impaired development and reducing secondary behaviours. These treatments are constantly being refined, but the main progress in this area may be the increase of research on effectiveness.

Keywords

Autism Review Autism spectrum disorders Pervasive developmental disorders

Abbreviations

ADHD

Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder

ASD

Autism spectrum disorder

BAP

Broader autism phenotype

CAM

Complementary and alternative medical treatments

CDD

Childhood disintegrative disorder

DSM-IV

Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th edition

GERD

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disorder

LKS

Landau-Kleffner syndrome

MEG

Magnetoencephalography

MNS

Mirror neuron system

PECS

Picture exchange communication system

PDD

Pervasive developmental disorder

PDD-NOS

Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified

NLD

Non-verbal learning disability

SLI

Specific language impairment

TEACCH

Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children

TSC

Tuberous sclerosis complex

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008