Cognitive flexibility has been measured with inductive reasoning or explicit rule tasks in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The Flexible Item Selection Task (FIST) differs from previous cognitive flexibility tasks in ASD research by giving children an abstract, ambiguous rule to switch. The ASD group (N=22; Mean age=8.28 years, SD=1.52) achieved a lower shift percentage than the typically developing verbal mental-age control group (N=22; Mean age=6.26 years, SD=0.82). There was a significant positive correlation between verbal mental age and shift percentage for children with ASD. Group differences on the FIST converge and extend prior evidence documenting an impaired ability to adapt rapidly to changes in task demands for individuals with ASD.
We examined the impact of simultaneous bottom-up visual influences and meaningful social stimuli on attention orienting in young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Relative to typically-developing age and sex matched participants, children with ASDs were more influenced by bottom-up visual scene information regardless of whether social stimuli and bottom-up scene properties were congruent or competing. This initial reliance on bottom-up strategies correlated with severity of social impairment as well as receptive language impairments. These data provide support for the idea that there is enhanced reliance on bottom-up attention strategies in ASDs, and that this may have a negative impact on social and language development.
Bottom-up attention; Saliency; Visual attention; Autism; Eye tracking; Social attention
Using two independent datasets provided by National Institute of Health funded consortia, the Collaborative Programs for Excellence in Autism and Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment (n=642) and the National Institute of Mental Health (n=167), diagnostic validity and factor structure of the new Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI-R) algorithms for toddlers and young preschoolers were examined as a replication of results with the 2011 Michigan sample (Kim & Lord, 2011). Sensitivities and specificities and a three-factor solution were replicated. Results suggest that the new ADI-R algorithms can be appropriately applied to existing research databases with children from 12 to 47 months and down to nonverbal mental ages of 10 months for diagnostic grouping.
Early Diagnosis; Autism Spectrum Disorders; Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised
Fast-mapping paradigms have not been used previously to examine the process of word learning in boys with fragile X syndrome (FXS), who are likely to have intellectual impairment, language delays, and symptoms of autism. In this study, a fast-mapping task was used to investigate associative word learning in 4- to 10-year-old boys with FXS relative to younger typically developing boys and age-matched boys with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Task performance exceeded chance levels for all groups; however, boys with FXS outperformed boys with ASD, despite having lower levels of nonverbal cognition. Memory task demands significantly impacted performance only for boys with typical development. For boys with FXS or ASD, fast-mapping uniquely accounted for small but significant variance in concurrent levels of vocabulary comprehension as did chronological age and nonverbal IQ, but not autism severity. Understanding the fast-mapping process has implications for designing interventions to support word learning and language acquisition in these populations.
autism; fragile X syndrome; fast-mapping; language development; vocabulary
Little research has examined the popular belief that individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely than the general population to gravitate toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, a nationally representative sample of students with an ASD in special education. Findings suggest that students with an ASD had the highest STEM participation rates although their college enrollment rate was the third lowest among 11 disability categories and students in the general population. Disproportionate postsecondary enrollment and STEM participation by gender, family income, and mental functioning skills were found for young adults with an ASD. Educational policy implications are discussed.
autism spectrum disorder; postsecondary enrollment; college; major; science; technology; engineering; and mathematics (STEM); college; young adult
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.
Response to joint attention; Autism; Reflexive gaze following; Word learning
The purpose of this study was to examine patterns of anxiety among siblings of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and determine the characteristics of the child with ASD and their parents that predicted anxiety. Data was collected from 1755 siblings of children with ASD whose families participated in the Simons Simplex Collection; siblings ranged in age from 3 to 18 years (M=9 years). Male siblings were at increased risk for sub-clinical anxiety problems during middle childhood. Parental history of anxiety disorders, higher maternal pragmatic language, and more proband behavior problems predicted higher anxiety. While siblings overall did not show elevated anxiety symptoms, higher rates of sub-clinical anxiety problems among males and siblings in middle childhood are cause for concern.
Anxiety; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Siblings; Broader Autism Phenotype
Research suggests that restricted and repetitive behaviors (RRBs) can be subdivided into repetitive sensory motor (RSM) and insistence on Sameness (IS) behaviors. However, because the majority of previous studies have used the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), it is not clear whether these subcategories reflect the actual organization of RRBs in ASD. Using data from the Simons Simplex Collection (n=1825), we examined the association between scores on the ADI-R and the Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised (RBS-R). Analyses supported the construct validity of RSM and IS subcategories. As in previous studies, IS behaviors showed no relationship with IQ. These findings support the continued use of RRB subcategories, particularly IS behaviors, as a means of creating more behaviorally homogeneous subgroups of children with ASD.
Autism spectrum disorders; repetitive behaviors; subcategories; repetitive sensory motor; insistence on sameness
Difficulties in visual attention are often implicated in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) but it remains unclear which aspects of attention are affected. Here, we used a multiple object tracking (MOT) task to quantitatively characterize dynamic attentional function in children with ASD aged 5–12. While the ASD group performed significantly worse overall, the group difference did not increase with increased object speed. This finding suggests that decreased MOT performance is not due to deficits in dynamic attention but instead to a diminished capacity to select and maintain attention on multiple targets. Further, MOT performance improved from 5–10 years in both typical and ASD groups with similar developmental trajectories. These results argue against a specific deficit in dynamic attention in ASD.
Autism Spectrum Disorder; Multiple Object Tracking; Dynamic Attention; Spatial Attention; Cognitive Development
Repetitive and stereotyped movements (RSMs) in infancy are associated with later diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), yet this relationship has not been fully explored in high-risk populations. The current study investigated how RSMs involving object and body use are related to diagnostic outcomes in infant siblings of children with ASD (Sibs-ASD) and typically developing children (Sibs-TD). The rate and number of different types of RSMs were measured at an average of 15 months with follow-up diagnostic evaluations approximately 18 months later. While Sibs-ASD displayed higher rates of RSMs relative to Sibs-TD, rates did not differ according to diagnostic outcome in Sibs-ASD. However preliminary evidence suggests that qualitative differences in RSM type warrant further investigation as early diagnostic markers.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD); Repetitive and stereotyped movements; Infant siblings of children with ASD; Risk marker; Diagnostic outcome
Standardized Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) scores provide a measure of autism severity that is less influenced by child characteristics than raw totals (Gotham et al. in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(5), 693–705 2009). However, these scores combine symptoms from the Social Affect (SA) and Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors (RRB) domains. Separate calibrations of each domain would provide a clearer picture of ASD dimensions. The current study separately calibrated raw totals from the ADOS SA and RRB domains. Standardized domain scores were less influenced by child characteristics than raw domain totals, thereby increasing their utility as indicators of Social-Communication and Repetitive Behavior severity. Calibrated domain scores should facilitate efforts to examine trajectories of ASD symptoms and links between neurobiological and behavioral dimensions.
Autism spectrum disorders; Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule; Severity; Social Affect; Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have numerous etiologies, including structural brain malformations such as agenesis of the corpus callosum (AgCC). We sought to directly measure the occurrence of autism traits in a cohort of individuals with AgCC and to investigate the neural underpinnings of this association. We screened a large AgCC cohort (n = 106) with the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and found that 45% of children, 35% of adolescents, and 18% of adults exceeded the predetermined autism-screening cut-off. Interestingly, performance on the AQ’s imagination domain was inversely correlated with magnetoencephalography measures of resting-state functional connectivity in the right superior temporal gyrus. Individuals with AgCC should be screened for ASD and disorders of the corpus callosum should be considered in autism diagnostic evaluations as well.
Agenesis of the corpus callosum; autism spectrum disorders; Autism Spectrum Quotient; functional connectivity; magnetoencephalography; superior temporal gyrus
Healthcare costs and service use for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were compared between Medicaid and private insurance, using 2003 insurance claims data in 24 states. In terms of costs and service use per child with ASD, Medicaid had higher total healthcare costs ($22,653 vs. $5,254), higher ASD-specific costs ($7,438 vs. $928), higher psychotropic medication costs($1,468 vs. $875), more speech therapy visits (13.0 vs. 3.6 visits), more occupational/physical therapy visits (6.4 vs. 0.9 visits), and more behavior modification/social skills visits (3.8 vs. 1.1 visits) than private insurance (all p<0.0001). In multivariate analysis, being enrolled in Medicaid had the largest effect on costs, after controlling for other variables. The findings emphasize the need for continued efforts to improve private insurance coverage of autism.
Autism spectrum disorder; children; healthcare costs; service use; Medicaid; private insurance
DSM-5 criteria for ASD have been criticized for being too restrictive, especially for more cognitively-able individuals. It is unclear, however, if high-functioning individuals deemed eligible for research via standardized diagnostic assessments would meet DSM-5 criteria. This study investigated the impact of DSM-5 on the diagnostic status of 498 high-functioning participants with ASD research diagnoses. The percent of participants satisfying all DSM-5-requirements varied significantly with reliance on data from the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS; 33%) versus Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R; 83%), highlighting the impact of diagnostic methodology on ability to document DSM-5 symptoms. Utilizing combined ADOS/ADI-R data, 93% of participants met DSM-5 criteria, which suggests likely continuity between DSM-IV and DSM-5 research samples characterized with these instruments in combination.
Autism; Diagnosis; Assessment; DSM-5; Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS); Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis is based on behavioral presentation; changes in conceptual models or defining behaviors may significantly impact diagnosis and uptake of ASD-specific interventions. The literature examining impact of DSM-5 criteria is equivocal. Toddlers may be especially vulnerable to the stringent requirements of impairment in all three social-communication symptoms and two restricted/repetitive symptoms. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves identified optimal cutoffs for sums of ADOS and ADI-R criteria mapped to each criterion for 422 toddlers. The optimal modification of DSM-5 criteria(sensitivity=.93, specificity=.74) required meeting the ROC-determined cutoffs for 2/3Domain A criteria and 1 point for 1/4 Domain B criteria. This modification will help insure that ASD is identified accurately in young children, facilitating ASD-specific early intervention.
Autism spectrum disorder; DSM-5; Toddlers; Diagnosis
Research shows that Latinos are less likely to be diagnosed with autism than their non-Latino counterparts. One factor that may contribute to these differences is that autism diagnostic instruments have not been adapted for the Latino population. The present study compared scores from the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised for two groups: 48 Latino adolescents and adults with autism and a matched sample of 96 non-Latino Whites. There were no significant differences between the two groups in total impairments in social reciprocity or communication. However, lower levels of restrictive-and-repetitive behaviors were found among Latino adolescents and adults with autism compared to Whites. Findings suggest that there may be cultural equivalency in some domains, but others may warrant further exploration.
ADI-R; Culture; Latino; Adolescents and adults; Autism
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used to analyze highly specific volumetric and morphological features of the brains of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To date, there are few comprehensive studies examining the prevalence of neuroradiologic findings seen on routine MRI scans in children with ASD. This study examined the prevalence of neuroradiologic findings in children with high functioning ASD, and compared these rates to those in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and children who are typically developing (TD). Results showed that approximately 90% of children had normal MRI scans. There was no significant effect of diagnosis on the total number of neuroradiological findings or the number of specific brain findings. Implications and future research directions are discussed.
Autism; Magnetic resonance imaging; Neuroradiological findings
This study examined unisensory and multisensory speech perception in 8–17 year old children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and typically developing controls matched on chronological age, sex, and IQ. Consonant– vowel syllables were presented in visual only, auditory only, matched audio-visual, and mismatched audiovisual (“McGurk”) conditions. Participants with ASD displayed deficits in visual only and matched audiovisual speech perception. Additionally, children with ASD reported a visual influence on heard speech in response to mismatched audiovisual syllables over a wider window of time relative to controls. Correlational analyses revealed associations between multisensory speech perception, communicative characteristics, and responses to sensory stimuli in ASD. Results suggest atypical speech perception is linked to broader behavioral characteristics of ASD.
Autism spectrum disorders; Speech perception; Multisensory integration; Auditory; Visual; McGurk effect; Sensory; Communication
Proposed DSM-5 revisions to the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) include a “severity” marker based on degree of impairment. Although qualitative differences between support levels are described, quantitative methods or practice recommendations for differentiating between levels remain undetermined. This leaves the field vulnerable to potential discrepancies between severity categorizations that may have inadvertent service implications. We examined overlap between mild, moderate, and severe impairment classifications based on autism symptoms, cognitive skills, and adaptive functioning in 726 participants (15 months—17 years) with ASD. Participants with mild, moderate, and severe autism symptoms demonstrated varying levels of adaptive and cognitive impairment. These discrepancies highlight the need for a clearly elucidated method of classifying level of support in ASD diagnosis.
Autism; Severity; Diagnosis; DSM-5
This study used the modality shift experiment, a relatively simple reaction time measure to visual and auditory stimuli, to examine attentional shifting within and across modalities in 33 children and 42 adults with high-functioning autism as compared to matched numbers of age- and ability-matched typical controls. An exaggerated “modality shift effect” relative to the TD children occurred for the children with autism in conditions involving the reaction time when shifting from sound to light but not from light to sound. No exaggerated MSE was found for the adults with autism; rather, their responses were characterized by a generalized slowness relative to the adults with TD. These results suggest a lag in maturational development in autism in basic information processing mechanisms.
autism; attentional shifting; speed of processing; perceptual development
This study examined the extent to which child syndromes and observation context related to mothers’ parenting behaviors. Longitudinal observations were conducted of parenting behavior across ages 3, 4, and 5 years during structured and unstructured activities. The 183 participants included mothers of children with autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, undifferentiated developmental delay, or typical cognitive development. Negative parenting behaviors were higher in structured activities and higher in mothers of children in all developmentally delayed groups. Positive parenting was higher in unstructured activities and especially high for mothers of children with Down syndrome. Despite differences found through direct observation of parenting children in different diagnostic groups, they are not as strong as syndrome-group differences found through more commonly used self-report questionnaires assessing domains like parenting stress.
developmental disabilities; parenting behaviors; autism
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) spend the majority of their lives as adults, and psychosocial interventions show promise for improving outcomes in this population. This research conducted a systematic review of all peer-review studies evaluating psychosocial interventions for adults with ASD. A total of 1217 studies were reviewed, only 13 met inclusion criteria. The majority of studies were single case studies or non-randomized controlled trials, and most focused on applied behavior analysis or social cognition training. Effects of psychosocial treatment in adult ASD were largely positive ranging from d = .14 to 3.59, although the quantity and quality of studies is limited. There is substantial need for the rigorous development and evaluation of psychosocial treatments for adults with ASD.
Asperger’s; Pervasive Developmental Disorder; Treatment; Therapy
Longitudinal research has demonstrated that responsive parental behaviors reliably predict subsequent language gains in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To investigate the underlying causal mechanisms, we conducted a randomized clinical trial of an experimental intervention (Focused Playtime Intervention, FPI) that aims to enhance responsive parental communication (N = 70). Results showed a significant treatment effect of FPI on responsive parental behaviors. Findings also revealed a conditional effect of FPI on children’s expressive language outcomes at 12-month follow up, suggesting that children with baseline language skills below 12 months (N = 24) are most likely to benefit from FPI. Parents of children with more advanced language skills may require intervention strategies that go beyond FPI’s focus on responsive communication.
autism; randomized clinical trial; parent child communication; language; intervention
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulty with social-emotional cues. This study examined the neural, behavioral, and autonomic correlates of emotional face processing in adolescents with ASD and typical development (TD) using eye-tracking and event-related potentials (ERPs) across two different paradigms. Scanning of faces was similar across groups in the first task, but the second task found that face-sensitive ERPs varied with emotional expressions only in TD. Further, ASD showed enhanced neural responding to non-social stimuli. In TD only, attention to eyes during eye-tracking related to faster face-sensitive ERPs in a separate task; in ASD, a significant positive association was found between autonomic activity and attention to mouths. Overall, ASD showed an atypical pattern of emotional face processing, with reduced neural differentiation between emotions and a reduced relationship between gaze behavior and neural processing of faces.
Autism spectrum disorder; Eye-tracking; Event-related potentials; Pupillometry; Emotional face processing