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IACC Releases Its 2011 Summary of Advances in Autism Spectrum Disorder Research

Monday, April 2, 2012

On April 2, in honor of the fifth annual World Autism Awareness Day and HHS Autism Awareness Month the IACC has released its annual list of scientific advances that represent significant progress in the field. The twenty studies selected have given new insight into the complex causes of autism, studied clues that could lead to earlier diagnosis, and evaluated promising early intervention strategies. There have been many noteworthy findings in 2011 – a five-minute screen was shown to detect autism and other developmental disorders in 75 percent of affected toddlers, while an early intervention for two year olds led to substantial improvements in social and communication skills. Research has also added to what is known about autism risk and the underlying biology of the disorder – parents with children on the spectrum may be more likely to have another child with ASD than previously thought. New evidence suggests that spontaneous genetic mutations are found in many people with autism. Another notable finding challenges the notion that autism risk is primarily genetic, proposing that environmental factors play a greater role than suggested by previous studies. Researchers have also focused on the needs of adults – examining service use after leaving school, determining adult prevalence, and defining a research agenda to understand the needs of older adults with ASD. As scientists continue to make strides in the field, World Autism Awareness Day is an opportunity to recognize progress and assess what more must be done to fully understand the disorder and ensure that people with autism receive the support they need to achieve their maximum potential. 

The articles selected for the 2011 IACC Summary of Advances are listed below. Articles are organized by question area in the Strategic Plan for ASD Research:

Question 1: When Should I Be Concerned?

Question 2: How Can I Understand What Is Happening?

Question 3: What Caused This To Happen and Can It Be Prevented?

Question 4: Which Treatments and Interventions Will Help?

Question 5: Where Can I Turn For Services?

Question 6: What Does the Future Hold, Particularly for Adults?

Question 7: What Other Infrastructure and Surveillance Needs Must Be Met?


The IACC is a Federal advisory committee that was created by Congress in an effort to accelerate progress in ASD research and services. The IACC works to improve coordination and communication across the Federal government and work in partnership with the autism community. The Committee is composed of officials from many different Federal agencies involved in autism research and services, as well as people with ASD, parents, advocates, and other members of the autism community. The documents and recommendations produced by the IACC reflect the views of the Committee as an independent advisory body and the expertise of the members of the Committee, but do not represent the views, official statements, policies or positions of the Federal government.  For more information on the IACC, please visit:

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