Study Sheds Light on Early Intervention, but Suggests All Treatment Types Are Equal

Autism professionals, especially early intervention specialists, prepare yourself for what you are about to read: a new study suggests that young children with autism will benefit from your services, but it may not matter which kind of method you are using. Now I know this may offend some readers, as specialists in the field feel strongly about their particular type of therapy service, but everyone is still in agreement that early intervention is crucial for the development of a child with autism.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill designed this study to compare the outcomes of the LEAP (Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and their Parents) and TEACCH (known by its acronym and developed at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), and the effects of these approaches with special education programs that have no set model. 74 teachers and 198 3-5 year olds in public schools were involved in the study. Regardless of the model (or lack of model), children made progress over the school year as co-author Kara Hume explained,

“Each group of children showed significant positive change in autism severity, communication and fine-motor skills. No statistically significant differences were found among models, which challenged our initial expectations—and likely the field’s.” [i]

The cost of these therapies is sky rocketing, leaving the parents of these children in distress. Perhaps the results of this study will lead to a re-examination of therapies, reducing the costs for the parents.

Don’t worry, everyone is still in agreement as statistics prove that early intervention is crucial and beneficial for young children diagnosed with autism, but as co-author and principal investigator of the study, Samuel L. Odom, suggests, “Perhaps it’s not the unique features of the models that most contribute to child gains but the common features of the models that most influence child growth.”



[i] “Futurity” In preschool, autism treatment types are equal. 18 Jul 2013. Web. < http://www.futurity.org/health-medicine/in-preschool-autism-treatment-types-are-equal/>

New Online Course For Parents of Children With Autism Designed by Medical & Educational Experts

 

 

 

 

 

The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center has launched an online course designed to help parents of children with autism better understand behavioral intervention, advocate for their child’s needs in school programs, and navigate the legal rights of disabled persons. The course is divided into ten-modules, allowing parents to set the pace, and is intended for use as early as diagnosis. The lessons follow six families of children with autism spectrum disorder through common scenarios to guide parents in the implementation of Behavioral Intervention strategies. The program manager, Maura Buckley, a mother of two young teenagers with autism, used her experience navigating the various systems of care and education to form this parental guide. Buckley notes having felt uninvolved and uninformed about her children’s daily lives while in school and therapy. She asserts the benefits of the new program saying, “Being able to interact with the professionals who are helping my child, and being able to advocate for what they need is so important.”[i] Seminars can be difficult to coordinate attending, especially for a parent of a child with autism, so an online program allows accessibility to up-to-date information on intervention strategies and educational approaches, bridging the gap between specialists and parents. Additionally, equipping parents with the knowledge of behavioral intervention will allow parents to reinforce their children’s progress from school and therapy programs, providing the most comprehensive care for individuals on the autism spectrum. Parents who take the course will know what and how to inform specialists of behavior at home as well as how to best respond in particular circumstances. The course is available for monthly, quarterly, and annual subscription atudiscovering.org. The experts responsible for the course are in the process of creating an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) course for paraprofessionals, to be released this summer.



[i] Meindersma, Sandy. “Medical School Launches Online Course for Parents of Children with Autism.” Worcester Telegram & Gazette. N.p., 26 May 2013. Web. 28 May 2013. <http://www.telegram.com/article/20130526/NEWS/305269985/1237>.

New Research Suggests Girls With ASD Need Different Treatment Approach Than Boys

Interesting new research for parents of daughters presented today at the International Meeting for Autism Research. The gender distribution of autism spectrum disorder has raised flags for researchers for years. Males are 4 to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than females. The current diagnostic criteria for ASD were designed primarily from symptoms in boys, so if symptoms manifest differently in girls, then some girls may be slipping through the diagnostic cracks. Because more boys are diagnosed with ASD than girls, research populations often have imbalanced gender distributions—leaving us knowing less about autism for girls. Other studies pertaining to neuropsychiatries have proved that symptoms can be different for girls, and different symptoms require different treatment. This week, at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Spain, two new studies are presenting results on the association between autism and gender.

One study,[i] conducted by Yale University researchers, found that the extra X chromosome in girls is protecting from autism, so the diagnosed cases of autism in girls is often associated with higher-risk mutation that “overwhelmed” their “protective mechanism.”[ii] The second study[iii] tested the success of the computer-based intervention Let’s Face It! (LFI!)  in improving identity recognition with changes in expression, viewpoint, features, face process strategies, and attention or ability to ascertain information from eyes. The researchers found that while the intervention had overwhelming success for boys, it actually posed adverse affects for girls in the study. The chief of the division of autism and related disorders at Emory University elaborated on the findings, saying “In boys, the more they looked at the eyes, the less socially disabled they are. In girls, the more they looked at the eyes, the more disabled they are… we have to take gender as a mediating factor.”i

Both studies confirm speculation that ASD manifests diversely between genders. This information is a game changer for education, therapy, and other treatment practices for autism. The findings will propel research to design strategies better suited for the needs of girls with autism. At Shema Kolainu, we recognize that all of our children are on a spectrum and are sensitive to the nuances of the disorder. We will take this information to heart when designing the individualized plans for our kids and await eagerly new evidence of successful treatment strategies.

Parents, please share your feelings regarding these findings with us here or personally. Do you feel like your daughter’s symptoms differ from your idea of the typical autistic? Do you feel like treatment that improves others, upsets your daughter?


[i] Whole-Exome and CNV Data for ASD Sex Bias. S. J. Sanders* and M. W. State, Yale University School of Medicine

[ii] “Girls with Autism May Need Different Treatment | Health24.” Health24. N.p., 2 May 2013. Web. 03 May 2013. <http://www.health24.com/Parenting/Child/News/Girls-with-autism-may-need-different-treatment-20130502>.

[iii] Effects of a Targeted Face-Processing Intervention On Visual Attention to Naturalistic Social Scenes. P. Lewis*1, J. M. Moriuchi1, C. Klaiman1, J. Wolf2, L. Herlihy3, W. Jones1, A. Klin1, J. W. Tanaka4 and R. T. Schultz5, (1)Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta & Emory University School of Medicine, (2)Yale Child Study Center, (3)University of Connecticut, (4)University of Victoria, (5)Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

 

 

 

New Study Estimates 1 in 50 School-Age Children Have Autism

One in 50 school-age children have been diagnosed with autism, according to a new study published this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This figure is a marked increase from last year’s report released by the CDC, which cited a figure of 1 in 88. However, researchers attribute improvements in earlier detection of the disorder for the dramatic rise—not necessarily more cases. Often symptoms of mildly affected children go unnoticed until the child enters school, when challenges with social interaction, communication, and behavior among peers become evident.

While these new findings show strides in making earlier diagnoses of the disorder, for many families, intervention needs to happen much sooner, instead of observing signs and symptoms when a child enters an educational facility. Symptoms can be seen in children as early as 18 months, and doctors are now encouraged to screen children for developmental delays by age 2.

Results were assembled from a telephone survey conducted among 100,000 parents, revealing that an estimated 2 percent of children ages 6 to 17 have autism (1 in 50), up from 1.16 percent in 2007, when the study was first conducted. Researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say that this figure translates to 1 million school age children ages 6 to 17 that were reported by their parents to have autism spectrum disorder. Similar to prior studies, boys were much more likely to have the disorder, comprising nearly all of the overall increase in diagnoses.

The finding emphasizes the importance of early screening for developmental delays, in order to undertake early intervention and treatment.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/21/us-usa-autism-idUSBRE92K00C20130321

Read the full report from The National Center for Health Statistics:

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf