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Innovative Tech Companies Take on Autism

In the United States, autism affects one in 68 children. But according to a recent report in The Economist, many American families wait months and even years to get a diagnosis, in part because doctors cannot keep up with demand. The average family does not get an autism diagnosis until two years after initial symptoms appear. This is especially significant because early intervention is often the most effective intervention.

Now, several technology companies have set out to change this situation for the better.

Cognoa is a new company founded by Dr. Dennis Wall, an integrative biologist who has run research labs at both Harvard and Stanford. He has used his research to develop an assessment protocol that predicts a child’s risk for autism or other developmental delay with 90 percent accuracy.

Parents can download the Cognoa app to a mobile device. In just 10 minutes, parents can complete a confidential questionnaire and upload a few videos of their child completing a specific activity. A team of doctors and scientists reviews the profile, and then gets back to parents a few days later with a risk assessment. The resulting information, which parents can give to their family doctor, should assist in getting a more timely diagnosis.

Startups are not the only companies taking on autism. Tech giant Google recently announced a partnership with Autism Speaks to assist in the sequencing of DNA from 10,000 autism patients and their relatives.

Through the use of Google Genomics, genetic researchers will not only be able to access all of the genetic data in one place, but they will also be able to match that data in dynamic ways, such as by region or by sequence. According to Wired magazine, genetic data takes up a lot of storage space, and the use of Google Genomics will give researchers a major leg up in the quest to find the genetic factors that influence autism.

According to ABC News, Google will open its autism database to anyone who would like to access it, meaning that scientists and researchers anywhere in the world can use and analyze the data.

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Wealthy American Parents Face Inheritance Dilemma

Can a large inheritance do more harm than good? According to a new article from the American Association of Retired People (AARP), many wealthy parents still struggle with decisions about how much money should be left to their children, and how that inheritance should be structured.

Wealthy parents from Bill Gates to Sting have publicly declared that their children will have to make their own money. And according to a recent article in CNBC, a number of Bay Area parents are following suit, fearing the implications of handing down too much money.

But increasingly, a number of private individuals and wealth advisors are expressing more nuanced views.

Wealthy parents have a unique opportunity to raise their children to be responsible and principled wealth managers, regardless of the size of their inheritance. Parents with the opportunity to engage in significant charitable giving can and should involve children in the process of examining opportunities and deciding how to give. In addition, many experts recommend that parents engage teens in setting up and managing retirement funds.

On the flip side, some parents must face the reality of a child or family member with personal problems, such as addiction or frequent legal trouble, that cause irresponsible financial decision-making. Wealth experts point out that in these cases, when an inheritance really can do more harm than good, parents now have a host of options for trusts that support their child in meaningful and structured ways.

For most experts, the consensus seems to be that it is not the inheritance that will make or break the child, but rather the understanding of how to use and manage wealth. Regardless of the choices that parents make about the size and distribution of an inheritance, experts agree that clear and open communication with one's children about the what and the why of inheritance decisions is crucial.

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