A goldmine of information

Asha Patel listens to a podcast from the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

I was born in Barnsley, the third of five children, in many ways I am a classic ‘middle child’. I feel I have to try harder and this has made me more determined and competitive. I always thought big and I was the first to move away from home, family and Yorkshire and make different career choices from my brother and sisters. However, my place in the family has meant I had to relate to older and younger children, and I think this has made me more sociable. So I was interested in a new podcast from the Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH) featuring postdoctoral research fellow Gail Alvares, of the Telethon Kids Institute, Perth, Australia, in conversation with freelance journalist Jo Carlow.

Alvares looked at research showing that birth order might impact on intelligence, education attainment, sexual orientation, and more. As part of her ongoing research she has had access to the Western Australia Autism Diagnostic Registry. This was started in 1999 and now has detailed centralised records of more than 6,000 children diagnosed with autism. It includes their siblings and diagnostic information looking at intellectual levels, functional abilities and co-occurring symptoms. The research shows that later born children have an increasing likelihood of functional difficulties, a lower IQ and higher incidence of ASC. However, first-born children without siblings at the time of diagnosis also exhibited decreased cognitive functioning. 

The Telethon Kids Institute is working on other autism projects, including the impact of intranasal oxytocin on children with autism; an interactive game to pinpoint attention difficulties and to increase children's ability to focus on faces; and developing interventions for very young children on the autistic spectrum who have an intolerance of uncertainty. 

The work in Perth bridges the gap between publishing the research and bringing it into clinical practice. 'Children with autism can be adults before get offered therapy,' said Alvares. Their approach is to produce videos explaining their research in simple language, and to offer families coming through clinics the chance to benefit from ongoing clinical best practice. 

The Telehub approach means more people can be trained and more participants can be involved in the trials. They run training for clinicians, locally and nationally via Zoom. This is a response to the disparity in training and provision between different parts of Australia. 'There is a huge disparity, said Alvares. 'Because of the size of the country, people in the cities and areas of high population density are more privileged than those in more sparsely populated areas. '

Overall, the podcast is a goldmine of information for professionals that are interested in understanding the latest research, and how it transfers into clinical practice within the field of child and adolescent mental health. 

- Listen to 'Birth order and autism diagnostic phenotypes'

Find much more on autism in our archive.

Reviewed by Dr Asha Patel, Clinical Psychologist & CEO, Innovating Minds. Twitter: @InnovatingM

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