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1.  How to diagnose autism 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  2007;92(6):540-545.
Over the past two decades, there has been an explosion of interest in autism and autism spectrum disorders. Knowledge and awareness of the condition has grown exponentially at all levels among the general public, parents, health professionals, the research community and, more recently, at parliamentary level. Alongside the increased understanding of these complex and disabling conditions is the acknowledgment of a broadening of the diagnostic criteria away from a narrow definition of autism to the autism spectrum with less clear diagnostic boundaries. Growing evidence of the importance of early diagnosis and intervention demands knowledge and skills from all professionals working with young children and in particular those involved in recognising early concerns about a child's development. This article outlines current clinical and research findings in relation to early diagnosis and considers the role of the paediatrician in this process. Reference is also made to the National Autism Plan for Children.
PMCID: PMC2066173  PMID: 17515625
2.  Communication, Interventions, and Scientific Advances in Autism: A Commentary 
Physiology & behavior  2010;100(3):268-276.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect approximately 1 in 150 children across the U.S., and are characterized by abnormal social actions, language difficulties, repetitive or restrictive behaviors, and special interests. ASD include autism (autistic disorder), Asperger syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS or atypical autism). High-functioning individuals may communicate with moderate-to-high language skills, although difficulties in social skills may result in communication deficits. Low-functioning individuals may have severe deficiencies in language, resulting in poor communication between the individual and others. Behavioral intervention programs have been developed for ASD, and are frequently adjusted to accommodate specific individual needs. Many of these programs are school-based and aim to support the child in the development of their skills, for use outside the classroom with family and friends. Strides are being made in understanding the factors contributing to the development of ASD, particularly the genetic contributions that may underlie these disorders. Mutant mouse models provide powerful research tools to investigate the genetic factors associated with ASD and its co-morbid disorders. In support, the BTBR T+tf/J mouse strain incorporates ASD-like social and communication deficits and high levels of repetitive behaviors. This commentary briefly reviews the reciprocal relationship between observations made during evidence-based behavioral interventions of high- versus low-functioning children with ASD and the accumulating body of research in autism, including animal studies and basic research models. This reciprocity is one of the hallmarks of the scientific method, such that research may inform behavioral treatments, and observations made during treatment may inform subsequent research.
PMCID: PMC2860058  PMID: 20093134
autism spectrum disorders; social; communication; language; gender differences; behavior modeling; Picture Exchange Communication System; mice; genetics; BTBR; Center for Autism and Related Disabilities; education programs; translational research
3.  A Step Towards Developing Adaptive Robot-Mediated Intervention Architecture (ARIA) for Children With Autism 
Emerging technology, especially robotic technology, has been shown to be appealing to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Such interest may be leveraged to provide repeatable, accurate and individualized intervention services to young children with ASD based on quantitative metrics. However, existing robot-mediated systems tend to have limited adaptive capability that may impact individualization. Our current work seeks to bridge this gap by developing an adaptive and individualized robot-mediated technology for children with ASD. The system is composed of a humanoid robot with its vision augmented by a network of cameras for real-time head tracking using a distributed architecture. Based on the cues from the child’s head movement, the robot intelligently adapts itself in an individualized manner to generate prompts and reinforcements with potential to promote skills in the ASD core deficit area of early social orienting. The system was validated for feasibility, accuracy, and performance. Results from a pilot usability study involving six children with ASD and a control group of six typically developing (TD) children are presented.
PMCID: PMC3860752  PMID: 23221831
Rehabilitation robotics; robot and autism; robotassisted autism intervention; social human–robot interaction
4.  Improving Motivation for Academics in Children with Autism 
Many children with autism show very little interest in academic assignments and exhibit disruptive behavior when assignments are presented. Research indicates that incorporating specific motivational variables such as choice, interspersal of maintenance tasks, and natural reinforcers during intervention leads to improvements in core symptoms of autism and may possibly be effective in academic areas. Using a multiple baseline across children and behaviors design with four pre- and elementary school children with autism, we assessed whether the above variables could be incorporated into academic tasks to improve performance and interest. Results indicated that the intervention decreased the children’s latency to begin academic tasks, improved their rate of performance and interest, and decreased their disruptive behavior. Theoretical and applied implications are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2926912  PMID: 20221791
Academics; Motivation; Pivotal response treatment; Autism
5.  Clinical Assessment and Management of Toddlers With Suspected Autism Spectrum Disorder: Insights From Studies of High-Risk Infants 
Pediatrics  2009;123(5):1383-1391.
With increased public awareness of the early signs and recent American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that all 18- and 24-month-olds be screened for autism spectrum disorders, there is an increasing need for diagnostic assessment of very young children. However, unique challenges exist in applying current diagnostic guidelines for autism spectrum disorders to children under the age of 2 years. In this article, we address challenges related to early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders in this age group. We provide a comprehensive review of findings from recent studies on the early development of children with autism spectrum disorders, summarizing current knowledge on early signs of autism spectrum disorders, the screening properties of early detection tools, and current best practice for diagnostic assessment of autism spectrum disorders before 2 years of age. We also outline principles of effective intervention for children under the age of 2 with suspected/confirmed autism spectrum disorders. It is hoped that ongoing studies will provide an even stronger foundation for evidence-based diagnostic and intervention approaches for this critically important age group.
PMCID: PMC2833286  PMID: 19403506
autism; early detection; toddlers; longitudinal studies; child development
6.  Early diagnosis of autism and impact on prognosis: a narrative review 
Clinical Epidemiology  2013;5:33-43.
Autism spectrum disorders involve a set of clinical phenotypes that mirror an early onset of neurodevelopmental deviations, with core symptoms that can probably be related to a deficiency in the social instinct. Underlying the cognitive impairments there are physiological brain problems, caused by a large number of medical factors. This narrative review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses from the last 5 years (2008–2012) presents aspects from many areas in autism spectrum disorder research, with a particular focus on early intervention and the subsequent impact on prognosis. Other major areas discussed are epidemiology, early symptoms and screening, early diagnosis, neuropsychology, medical factors, and the existence of comorbidities. There is limited evidence that any of the broadband “early intervention” programs are effective in changing the natural long-term outcome for many individuals with an early diagnosis of autism. However, there is some evidence that Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) is an effective treatment for some children with ASD. Nevertheless, there is emerging consensus that early diagnosis and information are needed in order that an autism-friendly environment be “created” around affected individuals.
PMCID: PMC3583438  PMID: 23459124
autism spectrum disorder; epidemiology; screening; etiology; intervention; outcome
7.  Behavioural and skill-based early interventions in children with autism spectrum disorders 
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) comprise typical or infantile autism (Kanner syndrome), Asperger’s disorder and atypical autism or pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified. The syndrome is characterized by deficits in (1) verbal and nonverbal communication, (2) reciprocal social interaction and (3) repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests and activities.
Early behavioural interventions are based on learning theory and behaviour therapy. They take into account specific deficits in perception, emotional reactions, social interaction and communication. In Germany, these comprehensive models are not widely evaluated and implemented.
Research questions
What are the clinical effectiveness and safety of early behavioural or skills-based early interventions in autism compared to other interventions or to treatment as usual?What are specific factors responsible for the effectiveness?What are the cost-effectiveness and cost consequences of different early interventions in autism?Which legal, social and ethical aspects are relevant with regard to the implementation of the respective interventions in persons with autism?
Following a systematic review of the literature, controlled studies on early behavioural or skills-based interventions published since 2000 in English or German with children until the age of twelve are included and critically appraised. Studies must have at least ten participants per intervention group.
In total, 15 publications based on 14 studies, eight systematic reviews and one health economic study are included. Most studies evaluate early interventions based upon the Lovaas model (Early intensive behavioural treatment (EIBT), Applied behavioural analysis (ABA)). Other evaluate pragmatic interventions or interventions based on other theoretical models like specific parent interventions, responsive education and prelinguistic milieu teaching, joint attention, symbolic play, and picture exchange communication system. Behaviour analytic interventions referring to the Lovaas model remain the most empirically evaluated early interventions in autism. Preschool children with autism can achieve improvements in cognitive and functional domains when treated within behavioural interventions with a frequency of at least 20 hours per week. It is not clear which is the minimum duration of effective interventions, and which active components are necessary for the effectiveness. There was no high quality evidence for other comprehensive early interventions. The identified health economic study is not suitable to evaluate the cost-effectiveness or cost consequences of early interventions. No publications concerning legal, ethical or social aspects were identified. The financial situation of persons with autisms and their families will be improved through the implementation of the “Pflege-Weiterententwicklungsgesetz” (Pf-WG). Further questions concern the organisation of care and the legal representation of autistic patients. Ethical questions arise mainly in the context of the equal supply of care to each individual patient in all regions of the country and the situation of the caregivers.
There are only a few studies with high methodology evaluating early interventions in children with autism. Most studies have a short duration with a lack of blinded outcome assessment in many cases. The lack of high quality comparative studies does not allow answering questions of comparative effectiveness of early interventions in autism. It can be concluded that interventions referring to the Lovaas model seem to have the highest effectiveness. This seems to be especially true when they are run clinic-based. However, there was no solid evidence with regard to factors responsible for the effectiveness of programms according to the ABA model. With regard to communication improvement, a systematic parent training seems to be superior to treatment as usual where a mixture of therapeutic elements is used. As well for clinical and health economic studies there is a substantial problem of generalisability into the German context. The identified health economic study is not suitable to evaluate the cost-effectiveness or cost consequences of early interventions.
Based on the available studies, there is no sufficient evidence for any of the evaluated behavioural early intervention programmes. Studies suggest that preschool children with autism in behavioural intervention programmes with a frequency of at least 20 hours per week can achieve improvements in cognitive and functional domains. There is no evidence that in a substantial portion of the children a normal development can be achieved by early interventions. Most research evidence is available for ABA. A minimal necessary intensity of interventions to achieve positive outcomes cannot be derived from literature. There are no valid statements possible as to cost-effectiveness or consequences of these interventions. Effective early interventions may reduce total autism costs in the long run. This may be achieved when the initial high treatment expenditures are more than compensated later if persons with this disorder have better social functioning.
PMCID: PMC3011283  PMID: 21289897
8.  Application of integrated yoga therapy to increase imitation skills in children with autism spectrum disorder 
International Journal of Yoga  2010;3(1):26-30.
Children with autism exhibit significant deficits in imitation skills, which impede the acquisition of more complex behavior and socialization. Imitation is often targeted early in intervention plans and continues to be addressed throughout the child’s treatment. The use of integrated approach to yoga therapy (IAYT) as a complementary therapy for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is rarely reported and little is known on the effectiveness of such therapies. This study investigated IAYT as a treatment method with children with ASD to increase imitative skills.
Materials and Methods:
Parents and six children with ASD participated in a 10-month program of 5-weekly sessions and regular practice at home. Pre, mid and post treatment assessments included observers and parent ratings of children’s imitation skills in tasks related to imitation skills such as gross motor actions, vocalization, complex imitation, oral facial movements and imitating breathing exercises.
Improvement in children’s imitation skills especially pointing to body, postural and oral facial movements. Parents reported change in the play pattern of these children with toys, peers and objects at home.
This study indicates that IAYT may offer benefits as an effective tool to increase imitation, cognitive skills and social-communicative behaviors in children with ASD. In addition, children exhibited increased skills in eye contact, sitting tolerance, non-verbal communication and receptive skills to verbal commands related to spatial relationship.
PMCID: PMC2952122  PMID: 20948898
Autism; Yoga; Imitation
9.  A Web-Based Tutorial for Parents of Young Children with Autism: Results from a Pilot Study 
Telemedicine Journal and e-Health  2011;17(10):804-808.
Objective: Early intervention can significantly improve long-term outcomes for children with autism. Unfortunately, many children do not receive early intervention services due to a critical shortage of trained professionals in this area. To bridge this gap, we evaluated a Web-based parent training tutorial (Enhancing Interactions), based on evidence-based practices and utilizing the Web-based platform to maximize learning. Methods: Twenty-three parents with a child between 18 months and 6 years with an autism spectrum disorder participated. Pre- and posttest scores of parents' knowledge were used to evaluate tutorial effectiveness. The system usability scale (SUS) evaluated technical user-friendliness and the user satisfaction questionnaire (USQ), gauged satisfaction with content. Results: The mean number of correct items on the posttest significantly increased, from 12.6 to 20.4, p<0.001. The mean SUS score was 85 (standard deviation=17), corresponding to a score of “excellent.” All participants found the tutorial user friendly, well integrated, and 96% (all but one participant) thought it was easy to use, felt confident using the technical features, and would use a tutorial like this again. On the USQ, all participants found that the tutorial was well organized, clearly presented, and easy to understand; that it increased their knowledge about communicating with their child; and that they felt capable of applying these techniques with their child. Conclusions: The tutorial appears effective in increasing parents' knowledge with high user satisfaction.
PMCID: PMC3228592  PMID: 22011005
distance learning; telehealth; telepsychiatry
10.  Clinical outcomes of an early intervention program for preschool children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a community group setting 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:3.
Available evidence indicates that early intervention programs, such as the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), can positively affect key outcomes for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, programs involving resource intensive one-to-one clinical intervention are not readily available or deliverable in the community, resulting in many children with ASD missing out on evidence-based intervention during their early and most critical preschool years. This study evaluated the effectiveness of the ESDM for preschool-aged children with ASD using a predominantly group-based intervention in a community child care setting.
Participants were 26 children (21 male) with ASD with a mean age of 49.6 months. The ESDM, a comprehensive early intervention program that integrates applied behaviour analysis with developmental and relationship-based approaches, was delivered by trained therapists during the child’s attendance at a child care centre for preschool-aged children with ASD. Children received 15–20 hours of group-based, and one hour of one-to-one, ESDM intervention per week. The average intervention period was ten months. Outcome measures were administered pre- and post-intervention, and comprised a developmental assessment - the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL); and two parent-report questionnaires - the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) and Vineland Adaptive Behaviours Scales–Second Edition (VABS-II).
Statistically significant post-intervention improvements were found in children’s performance on the visual reception, receptive language and expressive language domains of the MSEL in addition to their overall intellectual functioning, as assessed by standardised developmental quotients. Parents reported significant increases in their child’s receptive communication and motor skills on the VABS-II, and a significant decrease in autism-specific features on the SCQ. These effects were of around medium size, and appeared to be in excess of what may have been expected due to maturation. Nonetheless, these results need to be confirmed in a controlled study.
This study suggests community dissemination of the ESDM using predominantly group-based intervention may be an effective intervention. Making the ESDM accessible to the wider ASD community in child care settings has the potential for significant clinical and economic benefits. Further studies are indicated in this area, including those with younger children, and which incorporate a control group and standardised ASD assessments.
Trial registration
This trial is registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: Registry number ACTRN12612000461897.
PMCID: PMC3631131  PMID: 23294523
Autism; Behavioral intervention; Early intervention; Cognitive function; Developmental outcomes
11.  Evidence to practice: treatment of anxiety in individuals with autism spectrum disorders 
Clinical question
What treatment improves social interactions and reduces reports of anxiety symptoms in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and a co-occurring anxiety disorder?
Systematic reviews and randomized clinical trials suggest that cognitive behavior therapy in tandem with direct instruction of social skills using applied behavior analysis intervention components may be effective for treating anxiety in individuals with high functioning ASD. For individuals with ASD, an anxiety disorder, and an intellectual disability, systematic desensitization may be effective.
Intervention should emphasize teaching social skills. Reinforcers (ie, rewards based upon the client’s interests) should be used to encourage participation in therapy. Treatment should incorporate visual aides and family involvement. Intervention components involving abstract concepts, visualization, and discussions of emotions are less useful given difficulties in abstract reasoning and communication inherent to ASD.
PMCID: PMC3035599  PMID: 21326652
autism; ASD; Asperger’s; anxiety; cognitive behavior therapy; applied behavior analysis
12.  Early Behavioral Intervention Is Associated With Normalized Brain Activity in Young Children With Autism 
A previously published randomized clinical trial indicated that a developmental behavioral intervention, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), resulted in gains in IQ, language, and adaptive behavior of children with autism spectrum disorder. This report describes a secondary outcome measurement from this trial, EEG activity.
Forty-eight 18- to 30-month-old children with autism spectrum disorder were randomized to receive the ESDM or referral to community intervention for 2 years. After the intervention (age 48 to 77 months), EEG activity (event-related potentials and spectral power) was measured during the presentation of faces versus objects. Age-matched typical children were also assessed.
The ESDM group exhibited greater improvements in autism symptoms, IQ, language, and adaptive and social behaviors than the community intervention group. The ESDM group and typical children showed a shorter Nc latency and increased cortical activation (decreased α power and increased θ power) when viewing faces, whereas the community intervention group showed the opposite pattern (shorter latency event-related potential [ERP] and greater cortical activation when viewing objects). Greater cortical activation while viewing faces was associated with improved social behavior.
This was the first trial to demonstrate that early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized patterns of brain activity, which is associated with improvements in social behavior, in young children with autism spectrum disorder.
PMCID: PMC3607427  PMID: 23101741
autism; early behavioral intervention; Early Start Denver Model; event-related potentials; brain activity
13.  Parent and Multidisciplinary Provider Perspectives on Earliest Intervention for Children at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Infants and young children  2011;24(4):344-363.
Early identification and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children younger than age 3 years is becoming an increasingly common area of concern and study. Research suggests that systematic, early intervention can significantly improve outcomes and reduce the cost of caring for children with ASD through the lifespan. Therefore, it is imperative that evidence-based practices (EBPs) for this young age group are translated effectively into community settings. One method of promoting EBPs and developing capacity for implementation is active collaboration between researchers and community stakeholders. This requires a precise understanding of the perspectives of stakeholders regarding the benefits and barriers of specific practices and early intervention in general. In the current study, we gathered feedback from families and a multidisciplinary group of community providers regarding early intervention values for infants/toddlers at risk for ASD and their families through focus groups. The opinions and values of the community sample were examined using mixed qualitative and quantitative methods to facilitate efforts to build long-term capacity for implementing efficacious ASD intervention for children younger than 3 years. Results indicated that, the values of community providers and parents were highly similar and were aligned with EBP strategies. Recommendations for translating EBPs for this population into community settings are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3779141  PMID: 24058266
autism spectrum disorders; community values early intervention; evidence-based practice; infants; toddlers
14.  Training Community Mental Health Therapists to Deliver a Package of Evidence-Based Practice Strategies for School-Age Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Pilot Study 
Research on moving evidence-based practice (EBP) intervention strategies to community service settings for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is urgently needed. The current pilot study addresses this need by examining the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary outcomes of training therapists practicing in community mental health (CMH) clinics to deliver a package of EBP strategies aimed to reduce challenging behaviors in school-age children with ASD. Results indicate that CMH therapists participated in both initial and ongoing training, were able to deliver the intervention with fidelity, and perceived the intervention strategies as useful. Parents participated in almost all sessions with their children and remained in therapy when therapists delivered the intervention. Meaningful reductions in child problem behaviors occurred over 5 months providing promising support for the intervention.
PMCID: PMC3546546  PMID: 22102293
Autism spectrum disorders; Therapist training; Challenging behaviors; Community mental health services; Evidence-based practice
15.  Reciprocity in Interaction: A Window on the First Year of Life in Autism 
Autism Research and Treatment  2013;2013:705895.
From early infancy onwards, young children appear motivated to engage reciprocally with others and share psychological states during dyadic interactions. Although poor reciprocity is one of the defining features of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), few studies have focused on the direct assessment of real-life reciprocal behavior; consequently, our knowledge of the nature and the development of this core feature of autism is still limited. In this study, we describe the phenomenon of reciprocity in infant-caregiver interaction by analyzing family movies taken during the first year of life of 10 infants with ASD and 9 infants with typical development (TD). We analyzed reciprocal behaviors by means of a coding scheme developed for this purpose (caregiver-infant reciprocity scale (CIRS)). Infants with ASD displayed less motor activity during the first semester and subsequently fewer vocalizations, compared to TD infants. Caregivers of ASD infants showed in the second semester shorter periods of involvement and a reduction of affectionate touch. These results suggest that from the first months of life a nonsynchronic motor-vocal pattern may interfere in different ways with the development of reciprocity in the primary relationship between infants later diagnosed with ASD and their caregivers.
PMCID: PMC3671510  PMID: 23762551
16.  Photoanthropometric Study of Dysmorphic Features of the Face in Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome 
Iranian Journal of Psychiatry  2012;7(1):41-46.
Childhood autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social interactions, verbal and non-verbal communication and by a pattern of stereotypical behaviors and interests. The aim of this study was to estimate the dysmorphic facial features of children with autism and children with Asperger syndrome.
The examination was conducted on 60 children (30 with childhood autism and 30 with Asperger syndrome). The photo anthropometric method used in this study followed the protocol established by Stengel-Rutkowski et al.
The performed statistical analysis showed that in patients with childhood autism, the anteriorly rotated ears and the long back of the nose appeared more often. In the group of children with autism, there was a connection between the amount of dysmorphies and the presence of some somatic diseases in the first-degree relatives. There was also a connection between the motor coordination and the age the child began to walk.
In patients with childhood autism, there were certain dysmorphies (like the anterior rotated ears and the long back of the nose) which appeared more often. Although the connection was not statistically significant, it seemed to concur with data from the literature.
Formulation of the other conclusions would require broader studies e.g. dealing with a familial analysis of dysmorphic features.
PMCID: PMC3395970  PMID: 23056117
Autistic Disorder; Asperger syndrome; Etiology; Feature
17.  State Infant/Toddler Program Policies for Eligibility and Services Provision for Young Children with Autism 
The importance of early developmental and behavioral treatment for children with autism is increasingly recognized. Little is known, however, about early intervention policies that may affect service delivery to these children. The current study describes states’ policies for providing early intervention services to children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part C and examines how Part C policies are associated with the proportion of school-age children diagnosed with autism served under IDEA. Results indicate few consistencies among states in policies and practices regarding the identification and care of infants and toddlers with autism. The implications of state variation for policy makers are discussed.
PMCID: PMC1764439  PMID: 16758329
Autism; Early intervention; Part C; State agencies; Infant mental health
18.  Relaxation Response–Based Yoga Improves Functioning in Young Children with Autism: A Pilot Study 
The study objectives were to develop and objectively assess the therapeutic effect of a novel movement-based complementary and alternative medicine approach for children with an autism-spectrum disorder (ASD).
A within-subject analysis comparing pre- to post-treatment scores on two standard measures of childhood behavioral problems was used.
Settings and location
The intervention and data analysis occurred at a tertiary care, medical school teaching hospital.
Twenty-four (24) children aged 3–16 years with a diagnosis of an ASD comprised the study group.
The efficacy of an 8-week multimodal yoga, dance, and music therapy program based on the relaxation response (RR) was developed and examined.
Outcome measures
The study outcome was measured using The Behavioral Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2) and the Aberrant Behavioral Checklist (ABC).
Robust changes were found on the BASC-2, primarily for 5–12-year-old children. Unexpectedly, the post-treatment scores on the Atypicality scale of the BASC-2, which measures some of the core features of autism, changed significantly (p=0.003).
A movement-based, modified RR program, involving yoga and dance, showed efficacy in treating behavioral and some core features of autism, particularly for latency-age children.
PMCID: PMC3221508  PMID: 21992466
19.  Intervention Targeting Development of Socially Synchronous Engagement in Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
Social and communication impairments are core deficits and prognostic indicators of autism. We evaluated the impact of supplementing a comprehensive intervention with a curriculum targeting socially synchronous behavior on social outcomes of toddlers with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Fifty toddlers with ASD, ages 21 to 33 months, were randomized to one of two 6-month interventions: Interpersonal Synchrony or Non-Interpersonal Synchrony. The interventions provided identical intensity (10 hours per week in classroom), student-to-teacher ratio, schedule, home-based parent training (1.5 hours per month), parent education (38 hours), and instructional strategies, except the Interpersonal Synchrony condition provided a supplementary curriculum targeting socially engaged imitation, joint attention, and affect sharing; measures of these were primary outcomes. Assessments were conducted pre-intervention, immediately post-intervention, and, to assess maintenance, at six-month follow-up. Random effects models were used to examine differences between groups over time. Secondary analyses examined gains in expressive language and nonverbal cognition, and time effects during the intervention and follow-up periods.
A significant treatment effect was found for socially engaged imitation (p=0.02), with more than doubling (17% to 42%) of imitated acts paired with eye contact in the Interpersonal Synchrony group after the intervention. This skill was generalized to unfamiliar contexts and maintained through follow-up. Similar gains were observed for initiation of joint attention and shared positive affect, but between-group differences did not reach statistical significance. A significant time effect was found for all outcomes (p<0.001); greatest change occurred during the intervention period, particularly in the Interpersonal Synchrony group.
This is the first ASD randomized trial involving toddlers to identify an active ingredient for enhancing socially engaged imitation. Adding social engagement targets to intervention improves short-term outcome at no additional cost to the intervention. The social, language, and cognitive gains in our participants provide evidence for plasticity of these developmental systems in toddlers with ASD.
PMCID: PMC3059234  PMID: 21126245
Autistic Disorder; Intervention
20.  Physical Therapy for Young Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders–Clinical Frameworks Model in an Israeli Setting 
Recent research findings suggest that many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) demonstrate delayed and atypical motor achievements. It has now become clear that a more holistic, integrative and multi-disciplinary intervention is required to effectively address the motor-related impairments of this population. It is also crucial to ensure that this group of clients has access to early physical therapy (PT) interventions. Despite accumulating research on physical interventions, little is known about intervention model for implementation at a national level. This report introduces a model that uniquely illustrates implementation of PT services for a large number of children with ASD. The model has been operating for the past 2 years in one country (Israel), and includes an optional implementation model of PT practice settings for young children diagnosed with ASD. The Israeli setting offers a unique opportunity for implementing PT services for a multitude of children with ASD on a regular basis as an accepted/needed service. The initial outcomes of the present implementation suggest that an intensive PT intervention program might enhance therapeutic outcomes for this population, and contribute to our knowledge on the potential of PT for individuals with ASD.
PMCID: PMC3860886  PMID: 24400265
physical therapy; intervention; ASD; autism; Israel
21.  Randomized Controlled Trial of the Focus Parent Training for Toddlers with Autism: 1-Year Outcome 
This randomized controlled trial compared results obtained after 12 months of nonintensive parent training plus care-as-usual and care-as-usual alone. The training focused on stimulating joint attention and language skills and was based on the intervention described by Drew et al. (Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatr 11:266–272, 2002). Seventy-five toddlers with autism spectrum disorder (65 autism, 10 PDD-NOS, mean age = 34.4 months, SD = 6.2) were enrolled. Analyses were conducted on a final sample of 67 children (lost to follow-up = 8). No significant intervention effects were found for any of the primary (language), secondary (global clinical improvement), or mediating (child engagement, early precursors of social communication, or parental skills) outcome variables, suggesting that the ‘Focus parent training’ was not of additional value to the more general care-as-usual.
PMCID: PMC2980624  PMID: 20440639
Autism; Parent training; Toddler; Early intervention; Randomized controlled trial
22.  Diagnostic Stability in Very Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) diagnosis in very young children may be delayed due to doubts about validity. In this study, 77 children received a diagnostic and developmental evaluation between 16 and 35 months and also between 42 and 82 months. Diagnoses based on clinical judgment, Childhood Autism Rating Scale, and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule were stable over time. Diagnoses made using the Autism Diagnostic Interview were slightly less stable. According to clinical judgment, 15 children (19%) moved off the autism spectrum by the second evaluation; none moved onto the spectrum. Results indicate diagnostic stability at acceptable levels for diagnoses made at age 2. Movement off the spectrum may reflect true improvement based on maturation, intervention, or over-diagnosis at age 2.
PMCID: PMC3625643  PMID: 17924183
Autism; PDD-NOS; Diagnostic stability; Early detection
23.  Caregiver-mediated approaches to managing challenging behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder 
A significant proportion of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are referred to mental health centers due to the presence of challenging behaviors. Because challenging behaviors in children and adolescents with ASD often result from underlying social and communication difficulties and comorbid anxiety, traditional caregiver-mediated behavior intervention techniques developed for children with disruptive behavior disorders may need to be adapted for this population. Behavioral interventions that target communication skills, social skills, anxiety, and sensory responsiveness in children with ASD may be needed. Notably, while best practice necessitates the involvement of caregivers in treating children and adolescents with ASD, few randomized control studies have examined the effectiveness of caregiver-implemented interventions in reducing challenging behaviors. This review summarizes the current literature with regard to caregiver-mediated behavioral interventions for children with ASD, and suggests areas for intervention development and research.
PMCID: PMC3811093  PMID: 24174896
autism; communication, social skill; anxiety; sensory functional behavioral assessment; behavior intervention; parent coaching; parent-mediated intervention
24.  Extending the Reach of Early Intervention Training for Practitioners: A Preliminary Investigation of an Online Curriculum for Teaching Behavioral Intervention Knowledge in Autism to Families and Service Providers 
Infants and young children  2010;23(3):195-208.
Early behavioral intervention, based on the methods of applied behavior analysis, has the strongest and most consistent scientific support as a means of teaching skills to young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and reducing their restricted and maladaptive behavior. Though individual ABA-based treatment plans are usually developed, designed and supervised by a senior-level clinician, they are most often implemented by a practitioner, such as a parent, direct service provider, aide, or an early childhood professional from a related discipline. Unfortunately, few practitioner-orientated training programs are available to geographically disparate persons. Online distance-learning education offers a potential solution to this problem. Fifty-one individuals participated in an initial study of a short, three-module online course. The results showed a highly statistically significant difference between the mean pre-test and post-test score. The outcomes suggest the feasibility and user satisfaction of teaching BI knowledge acquisition online, and thus bolster confidence that future, larger-scale curricula aimed at teaching BI in a distance-learning format is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3597432  PMID: 23504540
Early Intervention (Education); Autism; Health Education; Behavior Modification; Developmental Disabilities; Developmental Disorders; Child; Children; Children; Disabled; Intellectual Disability
25.  Assessment of knowledge about childhood autism among paediatric and psychiatric nurses in Ebonyi state, Nigeria 
There is increasing public and professional awareness of autism spectrum disorders with early recognition, diagnosis and interventions that are known to improve prognosis. Poor knowledge about childhood autism among paediatric and psychiatric nurses who are members of multidisciplinary teams that care for such children may be a major barrier to early interventions that could improve quality of life and prognosis in childhood autism. Factors that influence knowledge about childhood autism among these nurses are not known. This study assessed knowledge about childhood autism among paediatric and psychiatric nurses in Ebonyi state, Nigeria and determined the factors that could be influencing such knowledge.
Forty specialist paediatric and forty psychiatric nurses, making a total sample of eighty, were randomly selected from all the health care facilities in Ebonyi state, Nigeria. A socio-demographic questionnaire and knowledge about childhood autism among health workers (KCAHW) questionnaire were administered to them and the study was a point survey.
The total mean score on the KCAHW questionnaire among the nurses that participated in the study was 12.56 ± 3.23 out of a total of 19 possible. The mean score for the paediatric nurses was 11.78 ± 3.64 while psychiatric nurses had mean score of 13.35 ± 2.58. The mean scores in Domain 1 were 6.17 ± 1.75 for the paediatric nurses and 6.52 ± 1.43 for the psychiatric nurses. The mean scores in Domain 2 were 0.65 ± 0.48 for the paediatric nurses and 0.80 ± 0.41 for the psychiatric nurses. Domain 3 showed mean scores of 1.97 ± 1.25 for the paediatric nurses while psychiatric nurses scored 2.62 ± 1.23. Domain 4 yielded the mean scores of 2.97 ± 1.54 and 3.42 ± 0.98 for the paediatric and psychiatric nurses respectively.
There was significant relationship between the total mean score on the KCAHW questionnaire for the two groups and the area of specialisation of the nurses (t = -2.23, df = 78, p = 0.03) and there was also significant relationship between previous involvement in managing children with childhood autism as a specialist paediatric or psychiatric nurse and the total mean score on the KCAHW questionnaire (t = 6.90, df = 78, p = 0.00).
The scores reflect deficits in knowledge about childhood autism among the study cohorts. Paediatric and psychiatric nurses as members of multidisciplinary teams that care for children with childhood autism are expected to provide holistic care and adequate counselling to the families of these children. Unfortunately in this environment, they are not fully equipped with enough knowledge about childhood autism. Education on childhood autism is therefore needed and can be provided through continuing medical education and emphasizing childhood autism in their training curriculum. This will enhance early identification and diagnosis of childhood autism with early interventions that are known to improve prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3022827  PMID: 21214953

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