Updated: Mar 27
One big discovery, unlimited hope. Parents biggest fear has always been their offspring’s well-being. The panic after the discovery of their offspring being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has always been a shocking news. Parents tend to fall in the state of misery along with the stress caused physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. The burden on families creates unimaginable lifelong obstacles for them to hurdle.
The future is here! Novel Biomarkers for Autism Early Diagnosis & Treatment
To date, the causes of ASD are not yet known, there is no single cause that contributed to the development of ASD. Yet, scientists believe that both genetic and environmental factors may play a role in ASD. But little did you know, the recent novel discovery of gut microbiota also has influence on ASD.
At the HATCH 2023 Child Health Forum, one of the keynote speaker, Professor Siew Ng from the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong highlighted the potential of novel biomarkers in the microbiome to facilitate earlier diagnoses and improve treatments for children with ASD.
“Within 1 teaspoon of stool would help risk prediction in the near future”, Professor Ng said.
This innovation would not only facilitate the accuracy of diagnosis but also shorten the time of making formal diagnosis given there is lack of definitive diagnostic medical test and child with suspected ASD could only be diagnosed at the age of three currently.
Collective Wisdom of Health Experts at Child Health Forum
After uncovering the remarkable potential of gut microbiota's influence on autism development, many are left wondering what else ASD entails and what immediate steps can be taken to help children with ASD.
Our second keynote speaker, Doctor Oscar Wong from the Department of Psychiatry, The Chinese University of Hong Kong shared his clinical observation and research on psychological conditions of children with ASD. He found that high anxiety level is commonly seen among children with ASD when compared with their normally developing counterparts, and the elevated level of anxiety in ASD with Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder (FGID) was found from his research.
The gastrointestinal complains are often related to dietary habit. And it is known to be crucial for children’s brain development to consume enough nutrients. Our third keynote speaker, Miss Winsy Leung who is a registered dietitian emphasized the importance of balanced diet and shared her experiences working with autistic children for their picky eating behaviours and recommended 10 tips to overcome mealtime challenges to parents.
The second part of the forum invited five panellists – scientists, psychiatrists, dietitians, social workers, and parents – to share their expertise and insights on how to best support children with ASD. Professor Sandra Chan from the Department of Psychiatry, the Chinese University of Hong Kong was the moderator of the panel discussion to facilitate the fluid discussion among panellists.
Ms Daisy Yiew, the representative from The Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong mentioned the need of early diagnosis and how desperate parents felt when they could do nothing without a proper diagnosis. “I encountered a case who have seen over 11 clinical psychologists with 4 of them making diagnosis on the kid with ASD while the other 4 denied. The parent came to me with sense of helplessness for the unclear result”, Daisy said.
The father of an autistic kid continued to share how despair he felt at the time he knew his kid was diagnosed with ASD and the importance of early diagnosis.
“If the diagnosis can be made earlier, perhaps we can have more time for early intervention to enhance the treatment outcome” father said.
New discovery on the potential faecal bacteria biomarkers creates new hope for children with ASD and their families. Yet, there is still more work to be done to expedite the development of microbiome modulation services for better treatment outcome and to launch a risk prediction test for early ASD detection.
(HATCH - 2023 Child Health Forum co Opening Ceremony, Feb 3, 2023)