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Current Research on Autism

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Since the term autism was first introduced in 1943, a multitude of research has emerged. Now known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the diagnosis refers to a developmental disorder characterized by impaired social communication skills and restrictive and/or repetitive behaviors or interests.

Growing research on ASD provides valuable information to parents and professionals on the complex disorder. Insight from published studies within areas such as the prevalence of ASD, links to genetic factors, effective programs for parents, and effective treatment approaches can help parents and professionals gain a thorough understanding of the disorder.
Here, we’ll explore current research in the field of autism spectrum disorder that can help ensure parents and therapists are able to help individuals with autism reach their full potential.

Rising Prevalence of ASD

According to current research, the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder is rising.

According to data from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network reported by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), the prevalence of autism among children in the U.S. is now 1 in 36 (2.8%). This is an increase from the prevalence 2 years ago, which was 1 in 44 (2.3%).

Current data also shows that racial and ethnic disparities exist when it comes to the prevalence of ASD. The ADDM Network determined that there is a slightly higher prevalence of ASD in children who are Black, Hispanic, and Asian.
Growing autism rates may be due to a number of factors. Improved diagnostic tools, increased awareness, and possible environmental influences are some potential causes.

New Links to Genetic Factors

Studies are shedding new light on the genetic underpinnings of ASD. In a recent study that was the largest one to ever be completed on families with multiple children with autism, researchers identified 7 new genes potentially linked to an increased ASD risk.

The identification of these specific genes, including the PLEKHA8 and the VPS54, is important for parents and professionals to know because this shows the complex nature of autism. Rare mutations can be passed down from parents, which can combine with more common genetic variations and increase a child’s risk of having ASD.

Growing research on the genetic basis of autism may lead to more precise and timely diagnosis of ASD. This could potentially result in an increased access to early intervention services and improved outcomes for children with autism.

Effective Support for Parents of Children with ASD

Parents and caregivers play a critical role in supporting the development of children with ASD. Recent research in the area of autism has explored the wellbeing of parents who have children with an autism diagnosis, including factors that can support them through their journey.

Parents of children with ASD experience unique stressors, with research often showing that they experience higher levels of stress and anxiety compared to parents of children who are typically developing or who have other disabilities.

A recent study that included 136 parents of children with autism found that 4 specific factors were important for parental adaptation. These included:

  • Positive perceptions of the situation
  • Using healthy coping mechanisms
  • Feeling confident in their parenting abilities (self-efficacy)
  • Having social support
These factors were found to affect how well parents adapted even more than the severity of the child’s behavior problems. Research like this shows that supporting parents in these areas can be critical.
Parents may benefit from interventions like parent training programs that help them learn healthy coping strategies, build confidence in their parenting abilities, and develop a more positive outlook. Parents may also benefit from seeking social support through resources like local support groups, online autism communities, and family therapy.

Other recent studies have explored the effectiveness of specific programs designed to support parents of children diagnosed with autism. One pilot study assessed a new program called Autism Parent Navigators (APN), that involved a 6-week intervention that was delivered by trained parent mentors.

The APN program was found to be a valuable tool, improving parents’ ability to navigate available ASD services, have stronger co-parenting relationships, and an overall increase in wellbeing. More research is needed, as this was a small pilot study, however, findings suggest that this approach may be helpful for families in the early stages following their child’s ASD diagnosis.

Recommended Intervention Practices

Current research is also helping us understand the most effective treatment practices to follow for ensuring that children with ASD are able to make the most progress towards developing skills.

One recent study investigated the link between early autism diagnosis and treatment and social symptoms. The study found that children who were diagnosed with ASD prior to the age of 2.5 were three times more likely to show significant improvement in core social symptoms compared to children who were diagnosed later.

These findings highlight the importance of early diagnosis and intervention for children with autism. For parents, the study reinforces the benefits of completing early screenings and diagnosis of autism if there are any concerns regarding their child’s development. This leads to early intervention, which can significantly improve a child’s developmental skills.

Additional Resources

With the growing rates of autism in the U.S., emerging research can help parents and professionals navigate through this diagnosis to provide the best possible care for children. Recent studies have provided insights on the prevalence of autism, genetic underpinnings of the disorder, effective models of support for parents, and recommended intervention practices.

Research in the area of ASD continuously highlights the effectiveness of early intervention on improving a child’s developmental skills, such as play, social, speech and language, motor, and sensory processing skills. TherapyWorks offers ABA and speech therapy, in addition to occupational and physical therapy both in person and through teletherapy. If you would like to learn more, or discuss your child’s specific needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to TherapyWorks!


Cirnigliaro, M., Chang, T. S., Arteaga, S. A., Pérez-Cano, L., Ruzzo, E. K., Gordon, A., … & Geschwind, D. H. (2023). The contributions of rare inherited and polygenic risk to ASD in multiplex families. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(31), e2215632120. DOI: 

Gabbay-Dizdar, N., Ilan, M., Meiri, G., Faroy, M., Michaelovski, A., Flusser, H., … & Dinstein, I. (2022). Early diagnosis of autism in the community is associated with marked improvement in social symptoms within 1–2 years. Autism, 26(6), 1353-1363.

Genovese, A., & Butler, M. G. (2020). Clinical assessment, genetics, and treatment approaches in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). International journal of molecular sciences, 21(13), 4726. DOI:

Higgins, L., Mannion, A., Chen, J. L., & Leader, G. (2023). Adaptation of parents raising a child with ASD: The role of positive perceptions, coping, self-efficacy, and social support. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 53(3), 1224-1242. DOI:

Hock, R. M., Rovane, A. K., Feinberg, M. E., Jones, D. E., & Holbert, A. A. (2022). A Pilot Study of a Co-parenting Intervention for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 31(8), 2091-2107. DOI:

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