UK

World's largest autism grant will transform research landscape

The largest research grant ever given for neurodevelopmental conditions has been awarded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative to an international consortium academically led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London.

The €115 million grant, titled Autism Innovative Medicine Studies-2-Trials (AIMS-2-Trials), will increase our understanding of autism and help develop new therapies to improve health outcomes and quality of life for autistic people.

Autistic people at greater risk of becoming homeless – new research

William Mandy

Tony had lived on the streets for 45 years, and in recent years had become increasingly physically unwell. Despite this he refused all offers of help, and it became clear to his support workers that he found social engagement of any kind very distressing. It was only when it was recognised that he had autism that staff were able to adapt their approach to support him to move off the streets into a hostel.

Autism screening tool may not detect the condition in some women

Rachel Moseley, Bournemouth University and Julie Kirkby, Bournemouth University

Diagnosing autism is expensive and time consuming, so a screening tool is used to filter out those people who are unlikely to be diagnosed as autistic. This is all well and good, but our latest research suggests that a widely used screening tool may be biased towards diagnosing more men than women.

Inclusion is best for people with autism

Professor Rita Jordan

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s article on access for autistic individuals recognised that “autism friendly” sessions are not necessarily a solution, and carry their own dangers (Guess what – people with autism like the cinema too, 2 May).

Many conferences on autism now have modifications such as quiet withdrawal spaces, reduced lighting and “deaf clapping” (silent waving). It is reasonable to meet the needs of known autistic individuals attending an event but not to assume all “autistic” needs are common.

British Film Institute apologises after woman with Asperger's 'dragged' from cinema for laughing

The British Film Institute has apologised after a woman with Asperger's syndrome was "forcibly dragged out of" their London cinema for "laughing too much".

Key points:

  • Tamsin Parker shouted "I'm sorry I have Asperger's" as security staff removed her
  • Some audience members applauded, while some protested, with many walking out
  • BFI apologised and said it was investigating the incident

Why there need to be more autistic characters in children’s books

3 children sitting reading books

The children’s writer Michael Morpurgo has written a new novel inspired by his autistic grandson, which is set to be published later this year. Flamingo Boy is set in the Camargue in the south of France during World War II and features a boy who “sees the world differently”.

Morpurgo explained how it didn’t occur to him to write a book about autism until his grandson was born, which isn’t totally surprising – as autistic characters in books are few and far between.

Fiction plays a significant role in shaping how people understand and respond to autism. And in this way, books are often used by both schools and parents to help children and young people understand more about autism.

2017 was a great year for autism-inspired TV

Chris Packham and his black curly-haired dog

 Chris Packham, whose programme Asperger’s and Me
was one of last year’s TV highlights for Ann Hickman.
Photograph: Richard Ansett/BBC

Ann Hickman

As a parent with two out of three children on the autistic spectrum, I nodded with many points by Jem Lester (Seen Rain Man? That doesn’t mean you know my son, Family, 30 December). However, despite the common feelings around having our verbal and non-verbal autistic kids, I feel that actually 2017 provided plenty of great autism-inspired TV.

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