Category Archives: Early Intervention

Interpreting the Correlation between Infant Communication and Autism Onset

autism diagnosis

Over the years, researchers have fiercely debated the origins of autism. Theories regarding its conception have targeted everything from inattentive parents to biological bases. Despite their sundry allegations, these theories all have one thing in common: an emphasis on infant development.

Experts maintain that a clear diagnosis of autism cannot be established until early toddlerhood. Before then, behaviors vary too much to create a firm connection. Studies regarding eye movement and tracking have come close to identifying early clues to autism’s onset; however, they remain somewhat insufficient to establish an accurate diagnosis.

Jonathan Green, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Manchester, strives to substantiate an intensive evaluation and therapy approach that could create a stronger, more accurate method for infant diagnoses. He is currently supervising a study following 53 at-risk infants in order to document autism’s manifestation.

Green believes that it is a combination of genetic and parenting influences that activates autism during infancy. He has not been satisfied with the popular notion that biology alone determines autism development so he hopes to outline compounding factors. Thus far, he’s discovered that an intensive parental intervention correlates to increased social interaction and attention in the infants.

It is important to note that Green does not place the origin of autism on parents. Rather, he believes that parent-child relationships may simply influence the trajectory at which a biological predisposition towards autism may begin.

His intervention consists of training parents to recognize and interpret attempts at communication, fostering an interest in the infant’s changing attentions, and translating gestures into words to build verbal understanding. It also expounds on electroencephalography findings regarding brain response to speech sounds.

It is too soon to say whether this training can truly alter the course of autism’s development. Nevertheless, Green’s program does provide important feedback to parents regarding how their interactions play into the child’s development, whether they be typically developing or not.

“I don’t want to say that one can ‘cure’ autism like this, that’s not true,” Green says. “But I hope we’ll be able to make a difference.”

Sara Power, Fordham University



The Autism Impact Measure: The New Gold Standard

Autism Impact Measure

Tools, measures, and assessments for diagnosing what is now called Autism Spectrum Disorder have been around since the early 1960s when treatment plans began to take shape.

ASD first appeared as ‘Infant Autism’ in 1980 in the DSM III. Since then, the name, markers, and symptoms for autism have changed in almost every version of the DSM up until the umbrella term Autism Spectrum Disorder was used. Through the years, many types of tools have been created to diagnose cases of ASD, and many adhered to the definition and symptoms described in the current version of the DSM (III through V). 

Currently, the DSM V has made major changes to how autism is seen in the clinical world, and the diagnosing process has widened the spectrum. Previously, the two ‘gold standards’ of diagnosing tools were the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), and the Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised (ADI-R). While these two still hold the spots for top diagnostic tools, they have many limitations that call for a revision of assessments. 

The ADOS and ADI-R, while reliable in diagnosing cases, are not well suited to assess and track the outcome measures of treatments, meaning that they are unable to assess chances in core symptoms of ASD over time. These tools focus on placing an individual onto the spectrum through ‘categorical caseness’, which leaves no room for changes in core symptom expression during and after treatments. Luckily, there is a new player in town.

In 2013, Kanne and his team created a new measure for assessing and diagnosing cases of ASD while focusing on a “finer gradation of symptom expression both short and long term”. The Autism Impact Measure, or AIM, targets the sensitivity of changes in core ASD symptoms during and after treatment sessions. The assessment itself is a 24 item questionnaire which looks at frequency and intensity of behaviours and symptoms of the individual. It has proven to have high reliability and validity when measured by professionals in the field.

This measure would be issued by a behavioral therapist during a regular session with the individual. It is used with a 2 week recall period, meaning that the initial measure is followed up two weeks after with a second assessment. Using this assessment tool in regular treatment settings allows for the individual’s immediate team to watch as their symptoms change in a natural fluid way, rather than have the individual placed on a scale and have them stagnate there. This means that if the the ‘gold standard’ becomes the Autism Impact Measure, individuals would have a constantly updated version of their symptoms on file, as well as a completely tailored treatment plan that would help them thrive.

By Sydney Chasty, Carleton University



Robot Tutor for Children with Autism

robots helping autism

A Texas-based company called RoboKind has recently developed an innovative teaching tool geared towards children with Autism.

It is a 22-inch tall robot named Milo with cool, spiky hair, wide-eyes and a child-like voice. He is equipped with a video screen, sensors, cameras, and facial recognition software to evaluate the child’s responses and progress. They hope to help children with expressing empathy, self-motivation, and how to navigate social situations.

Two iPads are used, one for the student and one for the (human) instructor, to carry out each lesson. It is dependent upon the instructor whether they move on to next part or if they re-do the lesson. Throughout the entire session Milo is monitoring and recording data such as eye contact, speed and accuracy of answers, and frustration and interest levels. Lessons are also structured around particular social situations such as every day greetings, birthday party behavior, interpreting expressions, predicting others’ feelings, and how to be a good friend.

At the moment, Milo is being distributed regionally and used within private homes, treatment centers, therapy clinics, and schools. There are also some that are being tested for research in American and European universities.

One may think it is an odd approach to therapy, a robot teaching human emotions? It doesn’t make much sense. However, researches have found that children who are on the autism spectrum tend to respond better to technology rather than people. It is somewhat similar to when animals (such as dogs and horses) are used for therapy treatment. The Milo robots are different methods that help to achieve goals.

However, the company makes it very clear they are not replacing the traditional human therapist. Their goal is to create a new tool in which aides the therapists as part of their treatment plan. We all know that children with Autism can fall anywhere within the spectrum. So their therapies, as well, can be varied. The company states that the robot is best used for children who have the following skills: picture symbol recognition, ability to answer yes/no questions, ability to understand cause and effect, and the ability to use a tablet to communicate.

By Raiza Belarmino



Video Therapy Improving Life for Children with Autism

video therapy autism

In this latest study, Prof. Green and his team investigated the effectiveness of early intervention with an adapted Video Interaction for Promoting Positive Parenting Program (iBASIS-VIPP) for improving social interaction among young infants at high familial risk of autism.
This program involved 54 families with children who were either at risk for Autism or have been diagnosed with autism. Each of the families were videotaped while interacting with the child. The videos were archived and replayed for the families. The videos allowed the families the opportunity to see their child’s likes, dislikes, and triggers. Studies have typically made the person living with autism the subject, but this study makes the family the subject for evaluation.
Here at ICare4Autism, believe that the efforts we take to assist a child with autism should be as a group. The world is a child with Autism’s family. It is our responsibility to make them happy, comfortable, safe, and knowledgable!


Compliments to Complementary Therapy for ASD

autism alternative treatment

One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with ASD is that there is no one solution.

In order to properly care and provide for persons with this disorder, treatment must be given in a multi-faceted manner. Therapists such as the renowned Steven Rudelhoff recognize just how important this is.

This past week, Rudelhoff received a Highly Commended award in the category of Best Complementary Medicine Practitioner. This award is in conjunction with the Institute of Complementary Natural Medicine Awards, held in London England. The reason? His amazing work with integrating aromatherapy massage, sound healing, and energy healing.

Alternative medical treatments are readily available, but the science behind such healing is hotly debated. Though such treatments spark a lot of controversy regarding whether or not they truly address the symptoms of ASD, Rudelhoff is confident that he is making a difference.

“Both caregivers and parents have seen big improvements in the behavioral patterns of my clients,” he said in an interview. “They have become calmer in general and when they need to release stress, it is released more gently. They have become more balanced in every part of their lives and are happier within themselves.”

Clearly, the Institute of Complementary Natural Medicine agrees. To find out more about Rudelhoff’s work, you can check out his website at www.reikiwithrudelhoff.com where you will find his contact info.

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Sara Power, Fordham University



Georgia Joins the Ranks of States Requiring Insurance Coverage for Autism Treatment

autism insurance laws

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 was a happy day for 10-year-old Ava Bullard and her mother, Anna Bullard. After years of hard work, Senate Bill 1, also know an Ava’s Law, was approved in an unanimous decision requiring insurance companies to provide evidence driven treatment that’s been shown to help children with autism spectrum disorder.

At the age of 2 Ava couldn’t speak a word, respond to her name or seem to recognize her mother.  “She was staying the same, like she was 6 months old” says Bullard.

After months of research, Bullard found that there are children with autism whose worlds were rediscovered through intense therapy.  Once a formal diagnosis was made, Bullard could not believe nor afford the price tag of treatment. She soon learned that her insurance company wouldn’t cover any of the expenses.

Research has shown that intensive behavioral therapy can significantly improve cognitive and language skills in young children with autism spectrum disorder. During an interview conducted by the Autism Heath Insurance Project, Dr. Karen Fesset, DrPh, founder and executive director of the Autism Health Insurance Project said  “Without these therapies, children will likely cost their states considerably more money in the long run, by requiring special education programs, and possible needing a lifetime of public assistance,”

Georgia joins New York, Nebraska, Oregon, plus 33 other states including Washington DC which have autism insurance mandates. 

For a list of states that provide coverage for Autism Treatment please see the attached link: http://www.autismhealthinsurance.org/health-plan/affordable-care-act



Video-based therapy may help treat infants at risk for autism

video based therapy for autism

In the year 2000, one child out of 150 children born was diagnosed with autism.  Today, one out of 68 children will now be affected by it.  As the number of children born with autism increases each year, doctors are attempting to treat the condition by testing children as early as three or four years old.

Early signs of autism in babies, such as not responding to their names by one year of age or not showing any interest in objects by 14 months, can be an indicator that therapy may be needed to prevent further advancement of the condition.  Some families have a relatively low risk of having a child born with autism, while other families are more likely to have a child who has the condition if they have a family history of autism.

Dr. Jonathan Green and his team at the University of Manchester in the UK are now studying the effects of an adapted Video Interaction for Promoting Positive Parenting Program (i-BASIS-VIPP), a new treatment for early onset autism in infants.  The treatment uses video feedback that allows parents to learn how to communicate with their child’s unique communication style.  Over time, this could help the child develop stronger communication and social skills.

With the help of a therapist, video recordings of parent-infant interactions are done privately in the parents’ home.  When reviewing the recordings, parents can view how they can improve their interactions with their infant.  The study used 54 families who had an infant between seven to 10 months old.  During a five month period, some families used i-BASIS-VIPP treatment, while the other families received no treatment.

At the end of the experiment, the Autism Observation Scale for Infants (AOSI) was used to determine autism scores of the infants in the study.  The infants of the families who used the new treatment showed improved attention and social behavior and had lower AOSI scores than the children who received no treatment at all.

Although the study has not yet proven to eliminate autism in babies, it is a stepping stone for more research that will reveal more about the effects of i-BASIS-VIPP and its possibilities of reducing early autism symptoms.

Mara Papleo, Cleveland State University



“Happy Birthday!” means “Hallelujah!” for Parents of Autistic Girl

5 year old autistic girls speaks after years of silence

Picture a sweet babbling toddler. Now picture a three-year-old screaming and slamming her head every time you try to exit the house. Cue the early years of Ave Arreola.

Despite a rough birth in which her twin sister died, Ave began life similarly to any other baby. She followed typical developmental patterns, babbling and engaging with her surroundings, until the age of 2, when she abruptly fell silent and stopped interacting with her parents and peers. A diagnosis of “autism” shortly followed as her temper tantrums escalated. Her parents desperately sought a solution to calm their daughter’s seemingly unstable reality.

The Arreola family started bringing Ave to therapy at the Center for Children with Autism at Metrocare Services in Dallas, TX. Metrocare Services opened a few years ago after administration noticed the growing population of autistics in the Dallas area. The center just opened a second location recently, so they are now able to serve an additional 270 children with ASD who come from low-income backgrounds.

Despite a rocky start, therapists there have been able to begin developing routines and coping mechanisms for Ave to attach to during times of emotional duress. The center teaches social skills to the children and helps parents develop custom programs to help their children.

After years of silence, 5 year old Ave unexpectedly wished her 19 year-old brother a “Happy Birthday!” while the family was celebrating. They are the first words she has spoken since she was two. Since then, she’s begun singing along to TV shows, and her speech therapists have had greater success in reciprocally communicating with her.

“I don’t think we ever give up on the hope that a child will talk,” said Sarah Loera, program manager at the Center for Children, to Dallas News.

Work with the Metrocare clinic has not only given the Arreola’s daughter’s voice back, but has stabilized their entire family structure. Therapists have helped them design behavioral strategies for Ave to follow, and have given them advice on how to make Ave’s immediate world a little less daunting.

Sara Power, Fordham University



Quick Behavioral Observations Frequently Overlook Signs of Autism

Lynn Burton reads to her daughter Adelaide. Many toddlers her age are not receiving potentially life-saving autism screenings. | Medical XPress

Lynn Burton reads to her daughter Adelaide. Many toddlers her age are not receiving potentially life-saving autism screenings. | Medical XPress

Parents should not rely solely on a medical professional to detect a child’s autism, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Research shows that bringing a child to a 10-20 minute pediatric behavior monitoring session is not sufficient to determine if a child has autism. Parents who trust that their child’s doctor will be thorough in their examination without paying attention to their child’s developmental signs day to day could be missing some key information.

These short sessions simply do not give the clinician enough time with your child to make an accurate diagnosis. The medical professional cannot gather enough information at a simple checkup. Thus, many children with autism will show normal behavior during this window, and will not get referred to a professional who can provide the treatment needed.

If autism symptoms are missed early on in a child’s life, they may miss a crucial point in their development in which early intervention is most effective. Autistic children who receive early intervention and treatment before age three have been shown to vastly conquer or eliminate their symptoms before entering school. Just like learning a new language, changing the child’s brain in this way becomes more difficult after they leave the toddler years behind.

In the study, ten minute videos of children ages 15-33 months were viewed by experts in the field. Children with autism, speech delays, and normal development were all included. It was found that the quick observation was not sufficient to gather accurate conclusions, and the experts missed 39 percent of the children with autism since they displayed typical behavior during this time.

The CDC reports that autism diagnoses have increased 30 percent during the past two years, when the statistic jumped from 1 in 88 to 1 in 68 children. This is why a correct diagnosis early on is especially important.

What this means for young children with autism is that they would benefit from more detailed observation. Exploring in-depth autism screenings and extra attention from parents are key steps in understanding a child’s development.

A parent usually knows their children more intimately than anyone else, and if educated properly, can recognize the symptoms of autism on their own, and alert the child’s care provider to determine the next step.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a formal autism screening for children at the 18 and 24 month mark. A few simple screening tools that help parents know the signs to look for are available to use free of charge. One of these is the M-CHAT-R Checklist. Another resource to use is the CDCs Learn The Signs, Act Early campaign.



Early Intervention: How Effective Is It?

early intervention success

Children are the most precious gifts that any mother could have.

Before the child even takes its first breath of air in this world, a mother carries him or her for a full for nine months. In those nine months, a woman is advised to take care of herself, her body, and her soon-to-be child by  exercising as much caution as possible with her daily routine. A mother creates a relationship with her child in those nine months through the simple things such as the way he or she may kick or move. As we all know, having a child comes great responsibility, no matter what kind of problems it may come with on both the physical and mental spectrum.

Normally, autistic children do not show noticeable signs of their disorder until they are around the age of three. Even though the signs may be hard to find when they are very young, there are ways to determine if your child may have autism. To begin, it is common for children that have autism to lag in their speech development. They cannot make certain sounds or many noises to “talk” or communicate with their loved ones, or whoever it may be. They also tend to be focused on one object or concept for a very long period of time, which makes it hard to direct his or her attention towards something else.

Kristin Hinson, who is a mother of four, participated in a study conducted by Sally Rogers, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral studies at UC Davis MIND Institute. Hinson began to see signs indicating that her son Noah may have autism when he was just nine months old. Rogers was curious what a difference it would make if parents intervened before their children were officially diagnosed with autism.

The study involved behavioral therapy for twelve weeks, in which Hinson was taught behavioral mechanisms and techniques, including sensory. Six other parents that saw signs of autism with their toddlers participated as well.  After therapy was over, 18 month-old Noah caught up developmentally with other children his age, if not even better. He became more engaged. Along with Noah, the six other children showed much more improvement.

The sample size for this study was small, so it is difficult to draw a conclusion stating that early intervention before age three can prevent autism symptoms from becoming severe later on. But in general, scientists do agree that early intervention can change the outcome for toddlers at risk for the disorder.

Taja Nicolle Kenney, Eerie Community College