University research focuses on the early diagnosis of autism

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World Autism Day (today) is an opportunity to highlight the need for vital research into the condition, according to a researcher at the University of Sheffield.

Sheffield Autism Research Lab is currently working towards developing new techniques which could be used to enable easier and earlier diagnosis of autism – a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to those around them.Autism

Dr Elizabeth Milne, of Sheffield Autism Research Lab, said: “It is vitally important to raise awareness of autism. Autism affects 1 in 100 people, it is a life-long condition and can be very debilitating for people affected.

“World Autism Day means different things to different people. For many it is a chance to celebrate the creativity and diversity of autism. For others it is an opportunity to raise awareness of the condition.

“Here in Sheffield, we are working towards developing new techniques that can be used to enable earlier and easier diagnosis. Specifically we are working to find a brain-based signal for autism that can be used to identify individuals who have, or are likely to have, autism.

We are also studying sensory function in autism in an attempt to understand why people with autism often experience heightened sensitivity to some sensory stimuli. In addition, we are collaborating with social psychologists in order to understand the public perception of autism, and to develop interventions that will improve the public perception of autism.

Dr Milne added: “Living with autism, or with a family member who has autism poses a number of challenges. Researchers and the medical community are working hard to understand the causes of autism and to develop techniques and interventions that can provide support to people with autism and their families.

“There is still a long way to go in this regard though, which is why raising awareness of autism through World Autism Day is so important.

“The amount of funding for autism research differs between countries. According to a report produced by the Institute of Education, in 2010 the US allocated £75.79 per person with autism to autism research, whereas the UK allocated just £4.26 per person with autism.

“World Autism Day is an opportunity to highlight autism as a priority area for practitioners, clinicians, local authorities and researchers and to encourage the government to allocate more resources to this condition.”

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 25,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

In 2011 it was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline and Siemens, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

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