Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why trials of autism treatments have a placebo problem

People with autism — and their family members — are susceptible to powerful placebo effects. Some researchers are using the problem to better understand this mystifying phenomenon.

Read more here on Spectrum. 

Devising spectrum of tests for different types of autism

One of the biggest challenges in studying autism is the condition’s heterogeneity. By definition, each person with autism has difficulties interacting and communicating with others and engages in repetitive and restricted behaviors. But the nature and severity of these features vary significantly. This diversity represents a major hurdle for developing treatments for individuals on the spectrum.
Most studies ignore this diversity and instead focus on what makes people with autism different from a ‘neurotypical’ control group. No single psychological or neurobiological feature has emerged that characterizes all people with autism1. Rather, there appear to be distinct subtypes of the condition that vary in their cognitive profile, underlying biology and prognosis.
This variability means that subgroups of people with autism may need different treatments. A certain treatment may be effective for a subtype of the condition, but clinical trials that include people of all subtypes may not pick up on its benefit.

Webinar - Navigating the Transition Years for People with ASD: From Preteen to Adulthood

The journey from adolescence to adulthood is exciting and complicated, with unique challenges for people with autism and related disorders. This webinar will focus on some of those challenges and strategies to assist during this critical time of life. 

Webinar - Live Q&A: Anxiety and OCD in ASD

Have a question about anxiety and OCD that you would like to ask an expert? Join Dr. Lauren Moskowitz for this as she answers questions about these challenging behaviors in real time. 

Register here with the Autism Research Institute.
 


Watch archived webinar here






 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Autism Starts Months before Symptoms Appear

Parents often notice the first signs of autism in their children at around 12 to 18 months. Maybe a child isn’t making eye contact, or won’t smile when mom or dad walks in the door.

But a new study suggests there is evidence of autism in the brain even earlier—well before a child’s first birthday—and that the signs can be seen on a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. “We’re learning that there are biological changes that occur at [the time] or before the symptoms start to emerge,” says Geraldine Dawson, a clinical psychologist and autism researcher at Duke University who was not involved in the new work. “It’s the ability to detect autism at its very earliest stages that’s going to allow us to intervene before the full syndrome is manifest.”

Read more here in Scientific American.

There is a deeper exploration of the study here in Forbes magazine. 

The Flawed Designs of Drug Trials for Autism

 
Problems with study design and improper measures have continued to plague autism clinical trials, leading to the deaths of once-promising drugs. Many of these studies also continue to test drugs in broad groups of participants, a practice that is inappropriate for conditions as heterogeneous as autism and fragile X, says Eric London, director of the Autism Treatment Research Laboratory at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities. “That’s the number one reason drug trials fail,” he says.

Read more here in The Atlantic.

Why do children with autism make less eye contact?

Children watched a series of carefully made videos. Before each video, we flashed a small picture to draw the child’s attention. When they looked to where the picture had been, they found that they were either looking right at another person’s eyes or looking away from the eyes.

It was when we presented varying levels of socially meaningful eye contact that children with autism looked less at other people’s eyes.

Together, these findings went against the idea that these young children with autism were avoiding eye contact on purpose or had an aversion to eye contact. Instead, they seemed to not understand or pick up on the underlying social cues and social significance of eye contact.

Read more here

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Understanding Life Skills, Intense Interests and Meltdowns

Great Falls   March 25, 2017

Jennifer McIlwee Myers, author of How to Teach Life Skills to Kids with Autism or Aspergers and Growing Up with Sensory Issues, will give an enlightening understanding of how to teach life skills, how to harness the power of intense interests (i.e. obsessions) and how to comprehend meltdowns from the inside out.

Jennifer was diagnosed with Asperger's at the age of 36 and has since devoted her time to learning and teaching about autism. It is her life goal is to promote understanding between those who have autism spectrum disorders and everybody else. She comes highly recommended by Temple Grandin and Ellen Notbohm (Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew). 

Do not miss this event! She will give her unique perspective to help everyone in attendance understand the autism mind and equip each one with creative, practical solutions for better day-to-day functioning.
 

Find more information and register here.

Temper tantrums up odds of autism diagnosis in girls

Girls who show severe emotional or behavioral problems are more likely to be diagnosed with autism than those who do not, suggests a new study1.
The findings may help to explain why some girls with autism go undiagnosed or are diagnosed later than boys.

Girls in the study were just as likely as boys to show certain autism features, such as poor awareness of social cues. But “having these traits is not necessarily enough for a diagnosis,” says senior investigator Kirstin Greaves-Lord, head of the Autism Research Collaboration at Erasmus MC-Sophia Children’s Hospital and Yulius Mental Health in the Netherlands.

Girls may also need to show emotional or behavioral problems as a prerequisite for diagnosis, Greaves-Lord says. The work was published 9 December in Autism.
“It suggests that if you’re a girl and you want to get a diagnosis, you’d better be disruptive,”

Read more here at Spectrum.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Study shows birth complications may increase risk of autism

Researchers found that children exposed to birth complications were 10 percent more likely to develop ASD than children who were not exposed to birth complications. Children exposed to complications before labor began were 22 percent more likely to develop ASD and children exposed to complications before and during birth were at a 44 percent higher risk of developing ASD.

Read more here. 

New autism diagnoses shifting toward mild end of spectrum


Although the number of people diagnosed with autism is on the rise, the proportion with severe features has declined since 2000, according to a study of children in Western Australia1.
The findings, published 19 January in Autism Research, highlight a shift in the perception of autism. Until the 1990s, clinicians typically diagnosed the condition only when a child had significant intellectual disability or language problems.
“What a child with autism looks like has changed over time,” says lead investigator Andrew Whitehouse, head of autism research at Telethon Kids Institute in Subiaco, Western Australia. “We have greater awareness that autism isn’t just children with intellectual disability who show autistic symptoms; it can be far broader than that.”

Strategies for Individuals with Autism to Manage Death, Grief and Loss

Grief and loss are two components of human life, which, unfortunately, everyone must deal with at some point in their lives. Everyone, including autistic individuals, grieve.Everyone has a different way of expressing loss, and it varies greatly from one individual to another. Some people tend to get angry, whereas others grieve with tears.

For those on the autism spectrum, a mix of behavioral, cognitive and emotional reactions can manifest when dealing with grief. It is important to respect each individual, and to be considerate of his/her unique reaction. A few of the possible reactions are shared below.

Read more here at AutisMag.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Implementation and Effectiveness of Using Video Self-Modeling with Students with ASD

The research literature suggests that video modeling and video self-modeling are effective interventions for working with children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (see Bellini & Akullian, 2007 for meta-analysis). In addition, video modeling has been endorsed as an evidence-based practice by the National Professional Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (see more information at: http://autismpdc.fpg.unc.edu/content/video-modeling). 
Not only is video self-modeling evidence-based, but it is an easy intervention to implement that requires limited materials and time. A teacher, parent, or instructional assistant can easily use this strategy to teach a student a variety of different types of skills such as academic, social, functional, and vocational skills. 
Steps for the Implementation of a Video Self-Modeling Intervention
(Adapted from the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders)


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

This is a story of autism in small-town America

(A really good article about parenting, living rural and innovative service options. )
Her parents face their own struggles at home. Izzy tends to bolt, as she did once when her father, Shane Green, stepped outside their home for a minute to take out the trash. Date nights are out of the question, because the couple has trouble trusting a babysitter to prevent Izzy from running away or getting hurt.
In a larger town, they might have been able to find a counselor trained in applied behavioral analysis (ABA), the intensive therapy that is usually recommended for children with severe behavior problems. But their community of 2,500 people has no qualified ABA providers — either state-funded or private — and they live hours away from the nearest one.
Many families in other parts of rural America face similar struggles, says Alacia Stainbrook, a behavior analyst and coordinator of an early intervention program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “The farther you are from a major metropolitan city, the less likely you are to find a behavioral analyst,” she says. “It’s not feasible to drive two hours for a 30-minute therapy session and then back home again.”