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1.  Broader Autism Phenotype in Iranian Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders vs. Normal Children 
Iranian Journal of Psychiatry  2012;7(4):157-163.
Objective
The aim of the present study was to compare the broader autism phenotype in Iranian parents of children with autism spectrum disorders and parents of typically developing children.
Method
Parents of children with ASD and parents of typically developing children were asked to complete the Persian version of the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). In the ASD group, families included 204 parents (96 fathers and 108 mothers) of children diagnosed as having autism (Autistic Disorder, or AD) (n=124), Asperger Syndrome (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA) (n=48) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) (n=32) by psychiatrists based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-4thedition (DSM-IV-TR) criteria. In the control group, 210 (108 fathers and 102 mothers) parents of typically developing children. Parents of typically developing children were selected from four primary schools. Based on family reports, their children did not have any psychiatric problems. Total AQ score and each of the 5 subscales were analyzed using two-way ANOVAs with sex and group as factors.
Results
The mean age of ASD fathers was 40.6 years (SD=5.96; range 31-54), and of ASD mothers was 34.7 years (SD=4.55; range 28-45). The mean age of control fathers was 37 years (SD=4.6; range 29-45) and of control mothers was 34.11 years (SD=4.86; range 28-45). Group differences were found in age (p ‹ 0/001). On total AQ, a main effect for group and sex was found. ASD parents scored higher than controls (F(1,410)=77.876, P ‹ 0/001) and males scored higher than females (F(1,410)=23.324, P ‹ 0/001). Also, Group by Sex interaction was significant (F(1,410)=4.986, P ‹ 0/05). Results of MANOVA analysis displayed significant differences between ASD's subgroups on total AQ and subscales scores (F (15, 1121)=13.924, p < 0.0005; Wilk's Lambda= 0.624, partial =0.145). Pairwise comparisons between ASD's subgroups and Normal group showed that mean scores for the Asperger group are significantly more than other groups in total AQ, attention switching and communication subscales (p < 0.05). The frequencies of BAP (X^2=52.721 (DF=1), P ‹ 0/001), MAP (X^2=17.133 (DF=1), P ‹ 0/001) and NAP (X^2=12.722 (DF=1), P ‹ 0/001) in ASD parents were significantly more than control parents. The frequencies of Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP) (X^2=3.842 (DF=1), P›0/05) and Medium Autism phenotype (MAP) (X^2=0.060 (DF=1), P›0/05) did not significantly differ in ASD fathers and mothers, but the proportion of fathers in Narrow Autism Phenotype(NAP) range was more than mothers (X2=14.344, P ‹ 0/001).
Conclusion
Results of the present study revealed that parents of children with ASD scored significantly higher than control parents on total AQ and its subscales and the rates of BAP, MAP and NAP were higher in ASD parents than in controls. In addition, in ASD's subgroups, the parents of Asperger children scored significantly more than other subgroups (Autism and PDD-nos) and the normal group on total AQ and some subscales.
PMCID: PMC3570573  PMID: 23408558
Autistic disorder; Child; Iran; Parents
2.  Advanced Paternal Age Is Associated with Impaired Neurocognitive Outcomes during Infancy and Childhood 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(3):e1000040.
Background
Advanced paternal age (APA) is associated with an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, as well as with dyslexia and reduced intelligence. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between paternal age and performance on neurocognitive measures during infancy and childhood.
Methods and Findings
A sample of singleton children (n = 33,437) was drawn from the US Collaborative Perinatal Project. The outcome measures were assessed at 8 mo, 4 y, and 7 y (Bayley scales, Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale, Graham-Ernhart Block Sort Test, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Wide Range Achievement Test). The main analyses examined the relationship between neurocognitive measures and paternal or maternal age when adjusted for potential confounding factors. Advanced paternal age showed significant associations with poorer scores on all of the neurocognitive measures apart from the Bayley Motor score. The findings were broadly consistent in direction and effect size at all three ages. In contrast, advanced maternal age was generally associated with better scores on these same measures.
Conclusions
The offspring of older fathers show subtle impairments on tests of neurocognitive ability during infancy and childhood. In light of secular trends related to delayed fatherhood, the clinical implications and the mechanisms underlying these findings warrant closer scrutiny.
Using a sample of children from the US Collaborative Perinatal Project, John McGrath and colleagues show that the offspring of older fathers exhibit subtle impairments on tests of neurocognitive ability during infancy and childhood.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Over the last few decades, changes in society in the developed world have made it increasingly common for couples to wait until their late thirties to have children. In 1993, 25% of live births within marriage in England and Wales were to fathers aged 35–54 years, but by 2003 it was 40%. It is well known that women's fertility declines with age and that older mothers are more likely to have children with disabilities such as Down's syndrome. In contrast, many men can father children throughout their lives, and little attention has been paid to the effects of older fatherhood.
More recent evidence shows that a man's age does affect both fertility and the child's health. “Advanced paternal age” has been linked to miscarriages, birth deformities, cancer, and specific behavioral problems such as autism or schizophrenia.
Rates of autism have increased in recent decades, but the cause is unknown. Studies of twins and families have suggested there may be a complex genetic basis, and it is suspected that damage to sperm, which can accumulate over a man's lifetime, may be responsible. A woman's eggs are formed largely while she is herself in the womb, but sperm-making cells divide throughout a man's lifetime, increasing the chance of mutations in sperm.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is good evidence linking specific disorders with older fathers, but the link between a father's age and a child's more general intelligence is not as clear. A recent study suggested a link between reduced intelligence and both very young and older fathers. The authors wanted to use this large dataset to test the idea that older fathers have children who do worse on tests of intelligence. They also wanted to re-examine others' findings using this same dataset that older mothers have more intelligent children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers gathered no new data but reanalyzed data on children from the US Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP), which had used a variety of tests given to children at ages 8 months, 4 years, and 7 years, to measure cognitive ability—the ability to think and reason, including concentration, memory, learning, understanding, speaking, and reading. Some tests included assessments of “motor skills”—physical co-ordination.
The CPP dataset holds information on children of 55,908 expectant mothers who attended 12 university-affiliated hospital clinics in the United States from 1959 to 1965. The researchers excluded premature babies and multiple births and chose one pregnancy at random for each eligible woman, to keep their analysis simpler. This approach reduced the number of children in their analysis to 33,437.
The researchers analyzed the data using two models. In one, they took into account physical factors such as the parents' ages. In the other, they also took into account social factors such as the parents' level of education and income, which are linked to intelligence. In addition, the authors grouped the children by their mother's age and, within each group, looked for a link between the lowest-scoring children and the age of their father.
The researchers found that children with older fathers had lower scores on all of the measures except one measure of motor skills. In contrast, children with older mothers had higher scores. They found that the older the father, the more likely was this result found.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study is the first to show that children of older fathers perform less well in a range of tests when young, but cannot say whether those children catch up with their peers after the age of 7 years. Results may also be biased because information was more likely to be missing for children whose father's age was not recorded.
Previous researchers had proposed that children of older mothers may perform better in tests because they experience a more nurturing home environment. If this is the case, children of older fathers do not experience the same benefit.
However, further work needs to be done to confirm these findings. Especially in newer datasets, current trends to delay parenthood mean these findings have implications for individuals, couples, and policymakers. Individuals and couples need to be aware that the ages of both partners can affect their ability to have healthy children, though the risks for individual children are small. Policymakers should consider promoting awareness of the risks of delaying parenthood or introducing policies to encourage childbearing at an optimal age.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000040.
Mothers 35+ is a UK Web site with resources and information for older mothers, mothers-to-be, and would-be mothers, including information on the health implications of fathering a child late in life
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine published a Patient Information Booklet on Age and Fertility in 2003, which is available online; it contains a small section called “Fertility in the Aging Male,” but otherwise focuses on women
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has a short article on the “Paternal age effect” (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
In 2005, the UK Office of National Statistics published a booklet entitled “Perpetual postponers? Women's, men's and couple's fertility intentions and subsequent fertility behaviour” looking at data from the British Household Panel Survey
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000040
PMCID: PMC2653549  PMID: 19278291
3.  Reduced gaze aftereffects are related to difficulties categorising gaze direction in children with autism 
Neuropsychologia  2013;51(8):1504-1509.
Perceptual mechanisms are generally flexible or “adaptive”, as evidenced by perceptual aftereffects: distortions that arise following exposure to a stimulus. We examined whether adaptive mechanisms for coding gaze direction are atypical in children diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition. Twenty-four typical children and 24 children with autism, of similar age and ability, were administered a developmentally sensitive eye-gaze adaptation task. In the pre-adaptation phase, children judged whether target faces showing subtle deviations in eye-gaze direction were looking leftwards, rightwards or straight-ahead. Next, children were adapted to faces gazing in one consistent direction (25° leftwards/rightwards) before categorising the direction of the target faces again. Children with autism showed difficulties in judging whether subtle deviations in gaze were directed to the left, right or straight-ahead relative to typical children. Although adaptation to leftward or rightward gaze resulted in reduced sensitivity to gaze on the adapted side for both groups, the aftereffect was significantly reduced in children with autism. Furthermore, the magnitude of children's gaze aftereffects was positively related to their ability to categorise gaze direction. These results show that the mechanisms coding gaze are less flexible in autism and offer a potential new explanation for these children's difficulties discriminating subtle deviations in gaze direction.
Highlights
•Adaptive mechanisms are fundamental for perceptual coding.•We found adaptation to gaze direction was significantly attenuated in autism.•The degree of adaptation was also linked to children's gaze acuity.•This study provides potential evidence for the functional benefits of adaptation.
doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.03.021
PMCID: PMC3708125  PMID: 23583965
Autism; Gaze; Adaptation; Aftereffect; Vision
4.  The broad autism phenotype predicts child functioning in autism spectrum disorders 
Background
Broad autism phenotype (BAP) is a milder expression of the social and communication impairments seen in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). While prior studies characterized the BAP in unaffected family members of probands with ASD, the relationship between parental BAP traits and proband symptomatology remains poorly understood. This study utilizes the Broad Autism Phenotype Questionnaire (BAPQ) in parents and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) in children to examine this connection. We hypothesized that in families affected by ASD, elevated maternal and paternal BAPQ scores would correlate with greater autism symptomatology in diagnosed children. In an extension of prior research, we also explored this relationship in families with typically developing children (TDC).
Methods
Two hundred and forty-five children with ASD, 129 TDC and all parents were recruited as part of a larger study investigating relationships between genes, brain and behavior. The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and expert clinical judgment confirmed ASD diagnoses in children. SRS was collected for all children. Parents completed a self-report BAPQ and an informant report BAPQ for their spouse; an average of self-report and informant report for each parent was used in all analyses.
Results
Mothers and fathers of children with ASD had significantly higher rates of BAP traits as compared to parents of TDC. Maternal and paternal BAPQ total scores were not correlated with child IQ in either group. In the ASD group, 10% of mothers and 21% of fathers scored above the established BAP threshold compared to 4% of TDC parents. Crude regression analyses showed that maternal and paternal BAPQ total scores accounted for significant variance in child SRS scores in both ASD (17.1%) and TDC (19.8%) families.
Conclusions
Our results suggest that broad autism symptomatology in parents is moderately associated with their child’s autism symptomatology. This result extended to TDC families, suggesting that the BAPQ and SRS capture subtle, subclinical social variation in both children and adults. These findings could help define multi-generational social impairments in future phenotypic and genetic studies.
doi:10.1186/1866-1955-5-25
PMCID: PMC3848833  PMID: 24053506
Autism spectrum disorders; Broad autism phenotype; Social functioning
5.  Non-Specialist Psychosocial Interventions for Children and Adolescents with Intellectual Disability or Lower-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(12):e1001572.
In a systematic review, Brian Reichow and colleagues assess the evidence that non-specialist care providers in community settings can provide effective interventions for children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
The development of effective treatments for use by non-specialists is listed among the top research priorities for improving the lives of people with mental illness worldwide. The purpose of this review is to appraise which interventions for children with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders delivered by non-specialist care providers in community settings produce benefits when compared to either a no-treatment control group or treatment-as-usual comparator.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched electronic databases through 24 June 2013 to locate prospective controlled studies of psychosocial interventions delivered by non-specialist providers to children with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders. We screened 234 full papers, of which 34 articles describing 29 studies involving 1,305 participants were included. A majority of the studies included children exclusively with a diagnosis of lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders (15 of 29, 52%). Fifteen of twenty-nine studies (52%) were randomized controlled trials and just under half of all effect sizes (29 of 59, 49%) were greater than 0.50, of which 18 (62%) were statistically significant. For behavior analytic interventions, the best outcomes were shown for development and daily skills; cognitive rehabilitation, training, and support interventions were found to be most effective for improving developmental outcomes, and parent training interventions to be most effective for improving developmental, behavioral, and family outcomes. We also conducted additional subgroup analyses using harvest plots. Limitations include the studies' potential for performance bias and that few were conducted in lower- and middle-income countries.
Conclusions
The findings of this review support the delivery of psychosocial interventions by non-specialist providers to children who have intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders. Given the scarcity of specialists in many low-resource settings, including many lower- and middle-income countries, these findings may provide guidance for scale-up efforts for improving outcomes for children with developmental disorders or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
Protocol Registration
PROSPERO CRD42012002641
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Newborn babies are helpless, but over the first few years of life, they acquire motor (movement) skills, language (communication) skills, cognitive (thinking) skills, and social (interpersonal interaction) skills. Individual aspects of these skills are usually acquired at specific ages, but children with a development disorder such as an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or intellectual disability (mental retardation) fail to reach these “milestones” because of impaired or delayed brain maturation. Autism, Asperger syndrome, and other ASDs (also called pervasive developmental disorders) affect about 1% of the UK and US populations and are characterized by abnormalities in interactions and communication with other people (reciprocal socio-communicative interactions; for example, some children with autism reject physical affection and fail to develop useful speech) and a restricted, stereotyped, repetitive repertoire of interests (for example, obsessive accumulation of facts about unusual topics). About half of individuals with an ASD also have an intellectual disability—a reduced overall level of intelligence characterized by impairment of the skills that are normally acquired during early life. Such individuals have what is called lower-functioning ASD.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most of the children affected by developmental disorders live in low- and middle-income countries where there are few services available to help them achieve their full potential and where little research has been done to identify the most effective treatments. The development of effective treatments for use by non-specialists (for example, teachers and parents) is necessary to improve the lives of people with mental illnesses worldwide, but particularly in resource-limited settings where psychiatrists, psychologists, and other specialists are scarce. In this systematic review, the researchers investigated which psychosocial interventions for children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning ASDs delivered by non-specialist providers in community settings produce improvements in development, daily skills, school performance, behavior, or family outcomes when compared to usual care (the control condition). A systematic review identifies all the research on a given topic using predefined criteria; psychosocial interventions are defined as therapy, education, training, or support aimed at improving behavior, overall development, or specific life skills without the use of drugs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 29 controlled studies (investigations with an intervention group and a control group) that examined the effects of various psychosocial interventions delivered by non-specialist providers to children (under 18 years old) who had a lower-functioning ASD or intellectual disability. The researchers retrieved information on the participants, design and methods, findings, and intervention characteristics for each study, and calculated effect sizes—a measure of the effectiveness of a test intervention relative to a control intervention—for several outcomes for each intervention. Across the studies, three-quarters of the effect size estimates were positive, and nearly half were greater than 0.50; effect sizes of less than 0.2, 0.2–0.5, and greater than 0.5 indicate that an intervention has no, a small, or a medium-to-large effect, respectively. For behavior analytic interventions (which aim to improve socially significant behavior by systematically analyzing behavior), the largest effect sizes were seen for development and daily skills. Cognitive rehabilitation, training, and support (interventions that facilitates the relearning of lost or altered cognitive skills) produced good improvements in developmental outcomes such as standardized IQ tests in children aged 6–11 years old. Finally, parental training interventions (which teach parents how to provide therapy services for their child) had strong effects on developmental, behavioral, and family outcomes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Because few of the studies included in this systematic review were undertaken in low- and middle-income countries, the review's findings may not be generalizable to children living in resource-limited settings. Moreover, other characteristics of the included studies may limit the accuracy of these findings. Nevertheless, these findings support the delivery of psychosocial interventions by non-specialist providers to children who have intellectual disabilities or a lower-functioning ASD, and indicate which interventions are likely to produce the largest improvements in developmental, behavioral, and family outcomes. Further studies are needed, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, to confirm these findings, but given that specialists are scarce in many resource-limited settings, these findings may help to inform the implementation of programs to improve outcomes for children with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning ASDs in low- and middle-income countries.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001572.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Bello-Mojeed and Bakare
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information (in English and Spanish) on developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disability
The US National Institute of Mental Health also provides detailed information about autism spectrum disorders, including the publication “A Parent's Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder”
Autism Speaks, a US non-profit organization, provides information about all aspects of autism spectrum disorders and includes information on the Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health Initiative
The National Autistic Society, a UK charity, provides information about all aspects of autism spectrum disorders and includes personal stories about living with these conditions
The UK National Health Service Choices website has an interactive guide to child development and information about autism and Asperger syndrome, including personal stories, and about learning disabilities
The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence provides clinical guidelines for the management and support of children with autism spectrum disorders
The World Health Organization provides information on its Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), which includes recommendations on the management of developmental disorders by non-specialist providers; the mhGAP Evidence Resource Center provides evidence reviews for parent skills training for management of children with intellectual disabilities and pervasive developmental disorders and interventions for management of children with intellectual disabilities
PROSPERO, an international prospective register of systematic reviews, provides more information about this systematic review
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001572
PMCID: PMC3866092  PMID: 24358029
6.  Behavioural and skill-based early interventions in children with autism spectrum disorders 
Introduction
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?
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Discussion
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.3205/hta000072
PMCID: PMC3011283  PMID: 21289897
7.  High Concordance of Parent and Teacher Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Ratings in Medicated and Unmedicated Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Abstract
Objective
Parent and teacher ratings of core attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, as well as behavioral and emotional problems commonly comorbid with ADHD, were compared in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Method
Participants were 86 children (66 boys; mean: age=9.3 years, intelligence quotient [IQ]=84) who met American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV) criteria for an ASD on the Autism Diagnostic Interview–Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Parent and teacher behavioral ratings were compared on the Conners' Parent and Teacher Rating Scales (CPRS-R; CTRS-R). The degree to which age, ASD subtype, severity of autistic symptomatology, and medication status mediated this relationship was also examined.
Results
Significant positive correlations between parent and teacher ratings suggest that a child's core ADHD symptoms—as well as closely related externalizing symptoms—are perceived similarly by parents and teachers. With the exception of oppositional behavior, there was no significant effect of age, gender, ASD subtype, or autism severity on the relationship between parent and teacher ratings. In general, parents rated children as having more severe symptomatology than did teachers. Patterns of parent and teacher ratings were highly correlated, both for children who were receiving medication, and for children who were not.
Conclusions
Parents and teachers perceived core symptoms of ADHD and closely-related externalizing problems in a similar manner, but there is less agreement on ratings of internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety). The clinical implication of these findings is that both parents and teachers provide important behavioral information about children with ASD. However, when a clinician is unable to access teacher ratings (e.g., during school vacations), parent ratings can provide a reasonable estimate of the child's functioning in these domains in school. As such, parent ratings can be reliably used to make initial diagnostic and treatment decisions (e.g., medication treatment) regarding ADHD symptoms in children with ASDs.
doi:10.1089/cap.2011.0067
PMCID: PMC3422050  PMID: 22849541
8.  Independent and Dependent Contributions of Advanced Maternal and Paternal Ages to Autism Risk 
LAY ABSTRACT
Previous reports on autism among children born to older parents have yielded conflicting results as to which parent, or whether neither, or both, contributes to the risk. We analyzed ten years of births in California, comprising approximately 5 million children. Autism cases were identified from the California Department of Developmental Services database and linked to birth files from 1990–1999. Due to the size of this population, we were able to observe the trend in autism risk for each parent’s age, restricted to a narrow age range of the other parent. Analysis was confined to singleton births with complete data on ages and educational levels of both parents (n=4,947,935, cases=12,159). We observed consistent stepwise increased risk for autism with advancing maternal age regardless of the father’s age, whereas increased risk with advancing paternal age was primarily observed among younger mothers, namely those <30 years of age. The different effects of father’s age depending on the mother’s age may indicate that the risk for autism from advancing maternal age past 30 years overwhelms the risk contributed by the father’s age. Additionally, we showed that if the distribution of mothers’ age had been the only factor to change between 1990 and 1999, then we would have expected the cumulative incidence to have risen only 4.6% during the decade from 1990 to 1999.
SCIENTIFIC ABSTRACT
Reports on autism and parental age have yielded conflicting results on whether mothers, fathers, or both, contribute to increased risk. We analyzed restricted strata of parental age in a ten-year California birth cohort to determine the independent or dependent effect from each parent. Autism cases from California Department of Developmental Services records were linked to State birth files (1990–1999). Only singleton births with complete data on parental age and education were included (n=4,947,935, cases=12,159). In multivariate logistic regression models, advancing maternal age increased risk for autism monotonically regardless of the paternal age. Compared with mothers 25–29 years of age, the adjusted odds ratio (aOR) for mothers 40+ years was 1.51 (95% CI: 1.35–1.70), or compared with mothers <25 years of age, aOR=1.77 (95% CI, 1.56–2.00). In contrast, autism risk was associated with advancing paternal age primarily among mothers <30: aOR =1.59 (95% CI, 1.37–1.85) comparing fathers 40+ vs. 25–29 years of age. However, among mothers > 30, the aOR was 1.13 (95% CI, 1.01–1.27) for fathers 40+ vs. 25–29 years of age, almost identical to the aOR for fathers <25 years. Based on the first examination of heterogeneity in parental age effects, it appears that women’s risk for delivering a child who develops autism increases throughout their reproductive years whereas father’s age confers increased risk for autism when mothers are <30, but has little effect when mothers are past age 30. We also calculated that the recent trend towards delayed childbearing contributed approximately a 4.6% increase in autism diagnoses in California over the decade.
doi:10.1002/aur.116
PMCID: PMC4068119  PMID: 20143326
autism; maternal age; paternal age; effect measure modification; attributable risk; advanced maternal age; advanced paternal age; interaction
9.  Shared and idiosyncratic cortical activation patterns in autism revealed under continuous real-life viewing conditions 
Scientific abstract
Although widespread alterations in cortical structure have been documented in individuals with autism, the functional implications of these alterations remain to be determined. Here, we adopted a novel inter-subject (inter-SC) and intra-subject (intra-SC) correlation technique to quantify the reliability of the spatio-temporal responses of functional MR activity across the entire cortex in adults with autism during free-viewing of a popular audio-visual movie. Whereas these complex stimuli evoke highly reliable shared response time courses in typical individuals, cortical activity was more variable across individuals with autism (low inter-SC). Interestingly, when we measured the responses within an autistic individual across repeated presentations of the movie, we observed a unique, idiosyncratic response time course that was reliably replicated within each individual (high intra-SC). Encouragingly, after filtering out the idiosyncratic responses from each individual time course, we were able to uncover a more typical response profile, which resembles the shared responses seen in the typical subjects. These findings indicate that, under conditions approximating real-life situations, the neural activity of individuals with autism is characterized by individualistic responses that, although reliable within an autistic individual, are both highly variable across autistic individuals and different from the responses observed within the typical subjects. These idiosyncratic responses may underlie the atypical behaviors observed in autism. At the same time, we are encouraged by the presence of the more typical activation pattern lurking beneath these idiosyncratic fluctuations. Taken together, these findings may pave the way to future research aimed at characterizing the idiosyncratic response profiles, which, in turn, might contribute to a better understanding of the heterogeneity of the autism spectrum and its diagnosis.
doi:10.1002/aur.89
PMCID: PMC2775929  PMID: 19708061
10.  Spontaneous and cued gaze-following in autism and Williams syndrome 
Background
From a young age the typical development of social functioning relies upon the allocation of attention to socially relevant information, which in turn allows experience at processing such information and thus enhances social cognition. As such, research has attempted to identify the developmental processes that are derailed in some neuro-developmental disorders that impact upon social functioning. Williams syndrome (WS) and autism are disorders of development that are characterized by atypical yet divergent social phenotypes and atypicalities of attention to people.
Methods
We used eye tracking to explore how individuals with WS and autism attended to, and subsequently interpreted, an actor’s eye gaze cue within a social scene. Images were presented for 3 seconds, initially with an instruction simply to look at the picture. The images were then shown again, with the participant asked to identify the object being looked at. Allocation of eye gaze in each condition was analyzed by analysis of variance and accuracy of identification was compared with t tests.
Results
Participants with WS allocated more gaze time to face and eyes than their matched controls, both with and without being asked to identify the item being looked at; while participants with autism spent less time on face and eyes in both conditions. When cued to follow gaze, participants with WS increased gaze to the correct targets; those with autism looked more at the face and eyes but did not increase gaze to the correct targets, while continuing to look much more than their controls at implausible targets. Both groups identified fewer objects than their controls.
Conclusions
The atypicalities found are likely to be entwined with the deficits shown in interpreting social cognitive cues from the images. WS and autism are characterized by atypicalities of social attention that impact upon socio-cognitive expertise, but, importantly, the type of atypicality is syndrome specific.
doi:10.1186/1866-1955-5-13
PMCID: PMC3766200  PMID: 23663405
Williams syndrome; Autism; Gaze behavior; Social attention; Social cognition
11.  Atypical sulcal anatomy in young children with autism spectrum disorder 
NeuroImage : Clinical  2014;4:593-603.
Autism spectrum disorder is associated with an altered early brain development. However, the specific cortical structure abnormalities underlying this disorder remain largely unknown. Nonetheless, atypical cortical folding provides lingering evidence of early disruptions in neurodevelopmental processes and identifying changes in the geometry of cortical sulci is of primary interest for characterizing these structural abnormalities in autism and their evolution over the first stages of brain development. Here, we applied state-of-the-art sulcus-based morphometry methods to a large highly-selective cohort of 73 young male children of age spanning from 18 to 108 months. Moreover, such large cohort was selected through extensive behavioral assessments and stringent inclusion criteria for the group of 59 children with autism. After manual labeling of 59 different sulci in each hemisphere, we computed multiple shape descriptors for each single sulcus element, hereby separating the folding measurement into distinct factors such as the length and depth of the sulcus. We demonstrated that the central, intraparietal and frontal medial sulci showed a significant and consistent pattern of abnormalities across our different geometrical indices. We also found that autistic and control children exhibited strikingly different relationships between age and structural changes in brain morphology. Lastly, the different measures of sulcus shapes were correlated with the CARS and ADOS scores that are specific to the autistic pathology and indices of symptom severity. Inherently, these structural abnormalities are confined to regions that are functionally relevant with respect to cognitive disorders in ASD. In contrast to those previously reported in adults, it is very unlikely that these abnormalities originate from general compensatory mechanisms unrelated to the primary pathology. Rather, they most probably reflect an early disruption on developmental trajectory that could be part of the primary pathology.
Highlights
•A new single-site cohort of 73 young children (1.5–11 years) with autism and controls•State-of-the-art methodology used to compare geometrical attributes of sulci•Combination of automatic extraction of descriptors with manual identification of sulci•Clearly evidence localized sulcal shape abnormalities in the autism group•Different relationships between age and structural changes in brain morphology
doi:10.1016/j.nicl.2014.03.008
PMCID: PMC4053636  PMID: 24936410
Autism; MRI; morphometry; sulci
12.  Dental caries experience, oral health status and treatment needs of dental patients with autism 
Journal of Applied Oral Science  2011;19(3):212-217.
Objectives
Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder. The aims of this study were to investigate whether children with autism have higher caries prevalence, higher periodontal problems, or more treatment needs than children of a control group of non-autistic patients, and to provide baseline data to enable comparison and future planning of dental services to autistic children.
Material and Methods
61 patients with autism aged 6-16 years (45 males and 16 females) attending Dubai and Sharjah Autism Centers were selected for the study. The control group consisted of 61 non-autistic patients chosen from relatives or friends of autistic patients in an attempt to have matched age, sex and socioeconomic status. Each patient received a complete oral and periodontal examination, assessment of caries prevalence, and caries severity. Other conditions assessed were dental plaque, gingivitis, restorations and treatment needs. Chi-square and Fisher's exact test of significance were used to compare groups.
Results
The autism group had a male-tofemale ratio of 2.8:1. Compared to controls, children with autism had significantly higher decayed, missing or filled teeth than unaffected patients and significantly needed more restorative dental treatment. The restorative index (RI) and Met Need Index (MNI) for the autistic children were 0.02 and 0.3, respectively. The majority of the autistic children either having poor 59.0% (36/61) or fair 37.8% (23/61) oral hygiene compared with healthy control subjects. Likewise, 97.0% (59/61) of the autistic children had gingivitis.
Conclusions
Children with autism exhibited a higher caries prevalence, poor oral hygiene and extensive unmet needs for dental treatment than non-autistic healthy control group. Thus oral health program that emphasizes prevention should be considered of particular importance for children and young people with autism.
doi:10.1590/S1678-77572011000300006
PMCID: PMC4234331  PMID: 21625735
Autism; Autistic disorder; Dental caries; Dental care for disabled; Dental care for children; Oral health
13.  PLAY Project Home Consultation Intervention Program for Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
ABSTRACT:
Objective:
To evaluate the effectiveness of the Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters (PLAY) Project Home Consultation model, in combination with usual community services (CS), to improve parent-child interaction, child development, and autism symptomatology in young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) compared with CS only.
Methods:
Children (N = 128) with autism or PDD-NOS (DSM-4 criteria) aged 2 years 8 months to 5 years 11 months and recruited from 5 disability agencies in 4 US states were randomized in two 1-year cohorts. Using videotape and written feedback within a developmental framework, PLAY consultants coached caregivers monthly for 12 months to improve caregiver-child interaction. CS included speech/language and occupational therapy and public education services. Primary outcomes included change in parent-child interactions, language and development, and autism-related diagnostic category/symptoms. Secondary outcomes included parent stress and depression and home consultant fidelity. Data were collected pre- and post-intervention.
Results:
Using intent-to-treat analysis (ITT), large treatment effects were evident for parent and child interactional behaviors on the Maternal and Child Behavior Rating Scales. Child language and developmental quotient did not differ over time by group, although functional development improved significantly. PLAY children improved in diagnostic categories on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). PLAY caregivers' stress did not increase, and depressive symptomatology decreased. Home consultants administered the intervention with fidelity.
Conclusions:
PLAY intervention demonstrated substantial changes in parent-child interaction without increasing parents' stress/depression. ADOS findings must be interpreted cautiously because results do not align with clinical experience. PLAY offers communities a relatively inexpensive effective intervention for children with ASD and their parents.
doi:10.1097/DBP.0000000000000096
PMCID: PMC4181375  PMID: 25264862
developmental outcomes; early intervention; parent-mediated intervention
14.  In-Home Training for Fathers of Children with Autism: A Follow up Study and Evaluation of Four Individual Training Components 
Literature regarding fathers of children with autism remains sparse, and because mothers are the more common intervening parent, few training methods have focused on fathers. Thus, we sought to evaluate effects of in-home training directed at fathers and their ability to train mothers in the same manner in which they were trained. Fathers were taught four skills commonly associated with in-home training interventions for parents of children with autism: following the child’s lead, imitation with animation, commenting on the child, and expectant waiting. Father skills were evaluated twice a week for 12 weeks during videotaped in-home father–child play sessions. Analyses included visual inspection of graphed data and statistical analyses of father skill acquisition, mother skill acquisition, and child behaviors with both parents. A multivariate repeated measures analysis of 18 dyads revealed significant increases in frequencies of fathers’ imitation with animation, expectant waiting, and commenting on the child. Child initiating rates increased significantly as did frequencies of child non-speech vocalizations. Analysis of mothers revealed significant increases in frequencies of imitation with animation, expectant waiting, and following the child’s lead. Child behaviors had similar results for father and mother sessions. Findings are consistent with those from our first study indicating that fathers can effectively implement skills that promote father–child social interactions and that children respond positively to this approach.
doi:10.1007/s10826-010-9387-2
PMCID: PMC3087101  PMID: 21654918
Autism; Fathers; Parent training
15.  Atypical Gaze Following in Autism: A Comparison of Three Potential Mechanisms 
In order to evaluate the following potential mechanisms underlying atypical gaze following in autism, impaired reflexive gaze following, difficulty integrating gaze and affect, or reduced understanding of the referential significance of gaze, we administered three paradigms to young children with autism (N = 21) and chronological (N = 21) and nonverbal mental age (N = 21) matched controls. Children with autism exhibited impaired reflexive gaze following. The absence of evidence of integration of gaze and affect, regardless of diagnosis, indicates ineffective measurement of this construct. Reduced gaze following was apparent among children with autism during eye-tracking and in-person assessments. Word learning from gaze cues was better explained by developmental level than autism. Thus, gaze following may traverse an atypical, rather than just delayed, trajectory in autism.
doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1818-7
PMCID: PMC4066873  PMID: 23619947
Response to joint attention; Autism; Reflexive gaze following; Word learning
16.  Investigating Gaze of Children with ASD in Naturalistic Settings 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44144.
Background
Visual behavior is known to be atypical in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Monitor-based eye-tracking studies have measured several of these atypicalities in individuals with Autism. While atypical behaviors are known to be accentuated during natural interactions, few studies have been made on gaze behavior in natural interactions. In this study we focused on i) whether the findings done in laboratory settings are also visible in a naturalistic interaction; ii) whether new atypical elements appear when studying visual behavior across the whole field of view.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Ten children with ASD and ten typically developing children participated in a dyadic interaction with an experimenter administering items from the Early Social Communication Scale (ESCS). The children wore a novel head-mounted eye-tracker, measuring gaze direction and presence of faces across the child's field of view. The analysis of gaze episodes to faces revealed that children with ASD looked significantly less and for shorter lapses of time at the experimenter. The analysis of gaze patterns across the child's field of view revealed that children with ASD looked downwards and made more extensive use of their lateral field of view when exploring the environment.
Conclusions/Significance
The data gathered in naturalistic settings confirm findings previously obtained only in monitor-based studies. Moreover, the study allowed to observe a generalized strategy of lateral gaze in children with ASD when they were looking at the objects in their environment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044144
PMCID: PMC3454390  PMID: 23028494
17.  Defining the broader, medium and narrow autism phenotype among parents using the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) 
Molecular Autism  2010;1:10.
Background
The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) is a self-report questionnaire for quantifying autistic traits. This study tests whether the AQ can differentiate between parents of children with an autism spectrum condition (ASC) and control parents. In this paper, the use of the AQ to define the broader, medium and narrow autism phenotypes (BAP, MAP, NAP) is reported, and the proportion of parents with each phenotype is compared between the two groups.
Methods
A sample of 571 fathers and 1429 mothers of children with an ASC completed the AQ, along with 349 fathers and 658 mothers of developing typically children.
Results
Both mothers and fathers of the diagnosed children scored higher than the control parents on total AQ score and on four out of five of the subscales. Additionally, there were more parents of diagnosed children with a BAP, MAP or NAP.
Conclusions
The AQ provides an efficient method for quantifying where an individual lies along the dimension of autistic traits, and extends the notion of a broader phenotype among first-degree relatives of those with ASC. The AQ is likely to have many applications, including population and clinical screening, and stratification in genetic studies.
doi:10.1186/2040-2392-1-10
PMCID: PMC2913943  PMID: 20678260
18.  Children with Autism Show Reduced Somatosensory Response: An MEG Study 
Lay Abstract
Autism spectrum disorders are reported to affect nearly one out of every one hundred children, with over 90% of these children showing behavioral disturbances related to the processing of basic sensory information. Behavioral sensitivity to light touch, such as profound discomfort with clothing tags and physical contact, is a ubiquitous finding in children on the autism spectrum. In this study, we investigate the strength and timing of brain activity in response to simple, light taps to the fingertip. Our results suggest that children with autism show a diminished early response in the primary somatosensory cortex (S1). This finding is most evident in the left hemisphere. In exploratory analysis, we also show that tactile sensory behavior, as measured by the Sensory Profile, may be a better predictor of the intensity and timing of brain activity related to touch than a clinical autism diagnosis. We report that children with atypical tactile behavior have significantly lower amplitude somatosensory cortical responses in both hemispheres. Thus sensory behavioral phenotype appears to be a more powerful strategy for investigating neural activity in this cohort. This study provides evidence for atypical brain activity during sensory processing in autistic children and suggests that our sensory behavior based methodology may be an important approach to investigating brain activity in people with autism and neurodevelopmental disorders.
Scientific Abstract
The neural underpinnings of sensory processing differences in autism remain poorly understood. This prospective magnetoencephalography (MEG) study investigates whether children with autism show atypical cortical activity in the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) in comparison to matched controls. Tactile stimuli were clearly detectable, painless taps applied to the distal phalanx of the second (D2) and third (D3) fingers of the right and left hands. Three tactile paradigms were administered: an oddball paradigm (standard taps to D3 at an inter-stimulus interval (ISI) of 0.33 and deviant taps to D2 with ISI ranging from 1.32–1.64s); a slow-rate paradigm (D2) with an ISI matching the deviant taps in the oddball paradigm; and a fast-rate paradigm (D2) with an ISI matching the standard taps in the oddball. Study subjects were boys (age 7–11 years) with and without autism disorder. Sensory behavior was quantified using the Sensory Profile questionnaire. Boys with autism exhibited smaller amplitude left hemisphere S1 response to slow and deviant stimuli during the right hand paradigms. In post-hoc analysis, tactile behavior directly correlated with the amplitude of cortical response. Consequently, the children were re-categorized by degree of parent-report tactile sensitivity. This regrouping created a more robust distinction between the groups with amplitude diminution in the left and right hemispheres and latency prolongation in the right hemisphere in the deviant and slow-rate paradigms for the affected children. This study suggests that children with autism have early differences in somatosensory processing, which likely influence later stages of cortical activity from integration to motor response.
doi:10.1002/aur.1247
PMCID: PMC3474892  PMID: 22933354
Cognitive Neuroscience; Event Related Potential; School age; Low-level perception; Magnetoencephalography
19.  Infantilizing Autism. 
Disability studies quarterly : DSQ  2011;31(3):dsq-sds.org/article/view/1675/1596.
When members of the public envision the disability of autism, they most likely envision a child, rather than an adult. In this empirically based essay, three authors, one of whom is an autistic self-advocate, analyzed the role played by parents, charitable organizations, the popular media, and the news industry in infantilizing autism. Parents portrayed the face of autism to be that of a child 95% of the time on the homepages of regional and local support organizations. Nine of the top 12 autism charitable organizations restricted descriptions of autism to child-referential discourse. Characters depicted as autistic were children in 90% of fictional books and 68% of narrative films and television programs. The news industry featured autistic children four times as often as they featured autistic adults in contemporary news articles. The cyclical interaction between parent-driven autism societies, autism fundraising charities, popular media, and contemporary news silences adult self-advocates by denying their very existence. Society's overwhelming proclivity for depicting autism as a disability of childhood poses a formidable barrier to the dignity and well-being of autistic people of all ages.
PMCID: PMC4266457  PMID: 25520546
Autism; charity; infantilization; media; parents
20.  Individual Differences in the Real-Time Comprehension of Children with ASD 
Lay Abstract
Spoken language processing is related to language and cognitive skills in typically developing children, but very little is known about how children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) comprehend words in real time. Studying this area is important because it may help us understand why many children with autism have delayed language comprehension. Thirty-four children with ASD (3–6 years old) participated in this study. They took part in a language comprehension task that involved looking at pictures on a screen and listening to questions about familiar nouns (e.g., Where’s the shoe?). Children as a group understood the familiar words, but accuracy and processing speed varied considerably across children. The children who were more accurate were also faster to process the familiar words. Children’s language processing accuracy was related to processing speed and language comprehension on a standardized test; nonverbal cognition did not explain additional information after accounting for these factors. Additionally, lexical processing accuracy at age 5½ was related to children’s vocabulary comprehension three years earlier, at age 2½. Autism severity and years of maternal education were unrelated to language processing. Words typically acquired earlier in life were processed more quickly than words acquired later. These findings point to similarities in patterns of language development in typically developing children and children with ASD. Studying real-time comprehension in children with ASD may help us better understand mechanisms of language comprehension in this population. Future work may help explain why some children with ASD develop age-appropriate language skills, whereas others experience lasting deficits.
Scientific Abstract
Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) demonstrate deficits in language comprehension, but little is known about how they process spoken language as it unfolds. Real-time lexical comprehension is associated with language and cognition in children without ASD, suggesting that this may also be the case for children with ASD. This study adopted an individual differences approach to characterizing real-time comprehension of familiar words in a group of 34 three- to six-year-olds with ASD. The looking-while-listening paradigm was employed; it measures online accuracy and latency through language-mediated eye movements and has limited task demands. On average, children demonstrated comprehension of the familiar words, but considerable variability emerged. Children with better accuracy were faster to process the familiar words. In combination, processing speed and comprehension on a standardized language assessment explained 63% of the variance in online accuracy. Online accuracy was not correlated with autism severity or maternal education, and nonverbal cognition did not explain unique variance. Notably, online accuracy at age 5½ was related to vocabulary comprehension three years earlier. The words typically learned earliest in life were processed most quickly. Consistent with a dimensional view of language abilities, these findings point to similarities in patterns of language acquisition in typically developing children and those with ASD. Overall, our results emphasize the value of examining individual differences in real-time language comprehension in this population. We propose that the looking-while-listening paradigm is a sensitive and valuable methodological tool that can be applied across many areas of autism research.
doi:10.1002/aur.1304
PMCID: PMC3808474  PMID: 23696214
autism; comprehension; language processing; receptive vocabulary; eye-gaze methodology; individual differences
21.  Atypical gaze patterns in children and adults with autism spectrum disorders dissociated from developmental changes in gaze behaviour 
Eye tracking has been used to investigate gaze behaviours in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, traditional analysis has yet to find behavioural characteristics shared by both children and adults with ASD. To distinguish core ASD gaze behaviours from those that change with development, we examined temporo-spatial gaze patterns in children and adults with and without ASD while they viewed video clips. We summarized the gaze patterns of 104 participants using multidimensional scaling so that participants with similar gaze patterns would cluster together in a two-dimensional plane. Control participants clustered in the centre, reflecting a standard gaze behaviour, whereas participants with ASD were distributed around the periphery. Moreover, children and adults were separated on the plane, thereby showing a clear effect of development on gaze behaviours. Post hoc frame-by-frame analyses revealed the following findings: (i) both ASD groups shifted their gaze away from a speaker earlier than the control groups; (ii) both ASD groups showed a particular preference for letters; and (iii) typical infants preferred to watch the mouth rather than the eyes during speech, a preference that reversed with development. These results highlight the importance of taking the effect of development into account when addressing gaze behaviours characteristic of ASD.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0587
PMCID: PMC2982027  PMID: 20484237
eye tracking; eye movements; autism; development; mouth viewing; turn taking
22.  Familial Aggregation of Quantitative Autistic Traits in Multiplex versus Simplex Autism 
Objective
Recent research has suggested that the mode of inheritance for simplex autism (SA, one individual in the family affected) may be distinct from that for multiplex autism (MA, two or more individuals affected). Since sub clinical autistic traits have been observed in “unaffected” relatives of children with autism, we explored whether the distributions of such traits in families supported differential modes of genetic transmission for SA and MA autism.
Methods
We measured patterns of familial aggregation of quantitative autistic traits (QAT) in children and parents in 80 SA families and 210 MA families, using the Social Responsiveness Scale.
Results
When considering all SA and MA siblings who scored below a uniform quantitative (clinical-level) severity threshold, MA brothers exhibited a distinct pathological shift in the distribution, compared to SA brothers (p<.0001). Such aggregation of QAT was also observed in fathers but not among females in MA families. Significant spousal correlations for QAT—suggestive of assortative mating—were observed in both SA and MA families, but neither group was characterized by a greater-than-chance level of concordant elevation among spousal pairs in this volunteer sample.
Conclusions
Among male first degree relatives, there exist distinct patterns of QAT manifestation for simplex versus multiplex autism. These findings are consistent with the results of molecular genetic studies that have suggested differential modes of intergenerational transmission for SA and MA. Characterization of QAT and other endophenotypes among close relatives may be useful for reducing sample heterogeneity in future genetic and neurobiologic studies of autism.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.b.30810
PMCID: PMC2819431  PMID: 18618672
Pervasive Developmental Disorders; Genetics; Social Responsiveness Scale; Family Studies; Complex Disease
23.  Concerns and considerations among caregivers of a child with autism in Qatar 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:290.
Background
Autism impacts the lives of the family looking after a child with the condition in different ways, and forces family members to modify their daily lives to suit their reality. To our knowledge, no previous research investigated concern and considerations of parents/caregivers of children with autism in Qatar or the Arabic speaking Middle Eastern region.
Methods
Caregivers of a child who was between the age of 3 to17 years old at the time of the study and who was diagnosed with ASD (Autistic Group or AG) were recruited from the two main developmental pediatric and children rehabilitation clinics in Qatar. The control group (non-autism group, or NAG) was represented by caregivers of a non-autistic child between the age of 3 to 17 years old at the time of the study and who were visiting a family clinic of a primary health care facility for routine medical check-up. Data collected from both groups included related to the child (e.g. the child’s date of birth, his/her relation to the caregiver, number of siblings, number of hours of sleep in a day, number of hours spent watching television or videos prior to age 3, time spent indoors prior to age 3, absenteeism from school, and use of a nanny to care for the child) and to the caregiver (education level, profession, level of consanguinity using the phylogram method). In addition to these questions, caregivers in the AG were asked specific questions around maternal concern and considerations in respect to the future of their children and the specialized services they receive.
Results
Children in the autism group spent more time indoors, watching television, or sleeping than children in the non-autism group. Only around 40% of caregivers in the autism group said they would encourage their child to get married and become a parent when s/he grows up. A number of caregivers of children with autism frequently utilize specialized rehabilitation services; others did express their needs for these services and made comments about having to wait a long time before they were provided with some of the services. Religious faith helped caregivers in accepting having a child with autism. General health-related quality of life did not differ significantly between the caregivers of the two groups, although mental health was consistently poorer in the autism group of caregivers.
Conclusions
The study draws attention to the concerns of the families of children with autism and their expectations about the future of their children. The findings can be used by policy makers in planning services to support these families in Qatar.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-290
PMCID: PMC3392732  PMID: 22695064
Autism; Qatar; Caregivers; Pessimism; Rehabilitation services; Faith
24.  Abnormal social reward processing in autism as indexed by pupillary responses to happy faces 
Background
Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) typically show impaired eye contact during social interactions. From a young age, they look less at faces than typically developing (TD) children and tend to avoid direct gaze. However, the reason for this behavior remains controversial; ASD children might avoid eye contact because they perceive the eyes as aversive or because they do not find social engagement through mutual gaze rewarding.
Methods
We monitored pupillary diameter as a measure of autonomic response in children with ASD (n = 20, mean age = 12.4) and TD controls (n = 18, mean age = 13.7) while they looked at faces displaying different emotions. Each face displayed happy, fearful, angry or neutral emotions with the gaze either directed to or averted from the subjects.
Results
Overall, children with ASD and TD controls showed similar pupillary responses; however, they differed significantly in their sensitivity to gaze direction for happy faces. Specifically, pupillary diameter increased among TD children when viewing happy faces with direct gaze as compared to those with averted gaze, whereas children with ASD did not show such sensitivity to gaze direction. We found no group differences in fixation that could explain the differential pupillary responses. There was no effect of gaze direction on pupil diameter for negative affect or neutral faces among either the TD or ASD group.
Conclusions
We interpret the increased pupillary diameter to happy faces with direct gaze in TD children to reflect the intrinsic reward value of a smiling face looking directly at an individual. The lack of this effect in children with ASD is consistent with the hypothesis that individuals with ASD may have reduced sensitivity to the reward value of social stimuli.
doi:10.1186/1866-1955-4-17
PMCID: PMC3461481  PMID: 22958650
Autism; Pupillary response; Reward processing
25.  Cross-sectional associations between the screen-time of parents and young children: differences by parent and child gender and day of the week 
Background
Greater time spent screen-viewing (SV) has been linked to adverse health outcomes. The aim of this study was to examine whether parental SV time is associated with child SV time on week and weekend days.
Methods
Cross-sectional survey of 1078 children aged 5–6 and at least 1 parent. Child and parent SV was reported for weekday and weekend days. Logistic regression examined whether parental SV time was associated with child SV time, with separate analyses for mothers and fathers and interaction terms for child gender.
Results
12% of boys, 8% of girls and 30% of mothers and fathers watched ≥2 hours of TV each weekday. On a weekend day, 45% of boys, 43% of girls, 53% of mothers and 57% of fathers spent ≥2 hours watching TV. Where parents exceeded 2 hours TV-watching per weekday, children were 3.4 times more likely to spend ≥ 2 hours TV-watching if their father exceeded the threshold with odds of 3.7 for mothers. At weekends, daughters of fathers who exceeded 2 hours watching TV were over twice as likely as sons to exceed this level. Evidence that parent time spent using computers was associated with child computer use was also strongest between fathers and daughters (vs. sons) (OR 3.5 vs. 1.0, p interaction = 0.027).
Conclusions
Strong associations were observed between parent and child SV and patterns were different for weekdays versus weekend days. Results show that time spent SV for both parents is strongly associated with child SV, highlighting the need for interventions targeting both parents and children.
doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-54
PMCID: PMC4004449  PMID: 24758143

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