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1.  Occurrence and Family Impact of Elopement in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Pediatrics  2012;130(5):870-877.
Anecdotal reports suggest that elopement behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) increases risk of injury or death and places a major burden on families. This study assessed parent-reported elopement occurrence and associated factors among children with ASDs.
Information on elopement frequency, associated characteristics, and consequences was collected via an online questionnaire. The study sample included 1218 children with ASD and 1076 of their siblings without ASD. The association among family sociodemographic and child clinical characteristics and time to first elopement was estimated by using a Cox proportional hazards model.
Forty-nine percent (n = 598) of survey respondents reported their child with an ASD had attempted to elope at least once after age 4 years; 26% (n = 316) were missing long enough to cause concern. Of those who went missing, 24% were in danger of drowning and 65% were in danger of traffic injury. Elopement risk was associated with autism severity, increasing, on average, 9% for every 10-point increase in Social Responsiveness Scale T score (relative risk 1.09, 95% confidence interval: 1.02, 1.16). Unaffected siblings had significantly lower rates of elopement across all ages compared with children with ASD.
Nearly half of children with ASD were reported to engage in elopement behavior, with a substantial number at risk for bodily harm. These results highlight the urgent need to develop interventions to reduce the risk of elopement, to support families coping with this issue, and to train child care professionals, educators, and first responders who are often involved when elopements occur.
PMCID: PMC4524545  PMID: 23045563
autism spectrum disorders; elopement; wandering
2.  Accuracy of Phenotyping of Autistic Children Based on Internet Implemented Parent Report 
While strong familial evidence supports a substantial genetic contribution to the etiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), specific genetic abnormalities have been identified in only a small minority of all cases. In order to comprehensively delineate the genetic components of autism including the identification of rare and common variants, overall sample sizes an order of magnitude larger than those currently under study are critically needed. This will require rapid and scalable subject assessment paradigms that obviate clinic-based time-intensive behavioral phenotyping, which is a rate-limiting step. Here, we test the accuracy of a web-based approach to autism phenotyping implemented within the Interactive Autism Network (IAN). Families who were registered with the IAN and resided near one of the three study sites were eligible for the study. One hundred seven children ascertained from this pool who were verbal, age 4–17 years, and had Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) scores ≥12 (a profile that characterizes a majority of ASD -affected children in IAN) underwent a clinical confirmation battery. One hundred five of the 107 children were ASD positive (98%) by clinician’s best estimate. One hundred four of these individuals (99%) were ASD positive by developmental history using the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and 97 (93%) were positive for ASD by developmental history and direct observational assessment (Autism Diagnostic Observational Schedule or expert clinician observation). These data support the reliability and feasibility of the IAN-implemented parent-report paradigms for the ascertainment of clinical ASD for large-scale genetic research.
PMCID: PMC4311721  PMID: 20552678
autism; ASD; sample size; genetic studies; rapid phenotyping paradigm
3.  Mood Disorders in Mothers of Children on the Autism Spectrum Are Associated with Higher Functioning Autism 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:435646.
Mood disorders occur more frequently in family members of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than in the general population. There may be associations between maternal mood disorder history patterns and specific ASD phenotypes. We therefore examined the relationship between maternal mood disorders and child autism spectrum disorders in 998 mother-child dyads enrolled in a national online autism registry and database. Mothers of children with ASD completed online questionnaires addressing their child's ASD as well as their own mood disorder history. In multivariate logistic regression models of ASD diagnoses, the odds of an Asperger disorder versus autistic disorder diagnosis were higher among those children whose mothers had a lifetime history of bipolar disorder (OR 2.11, CI 1.20, 3.69) or depression (OR 1.62, CI 1.19, 2.19). Further, maternal mood disorder onset before first pregnancy was associated with higher odds (OR 2.35, CI 1.48, 3.73) of an Asperger versus autism diagnosis among this sample of children with ASD. These data suggest that differences in maternal mood disorder history may be associated with ASD phenotype in offspring.
PMCID: PMC3426171  PMID: 22934172
4.  Parent Report of Community Psychiatric Comorbid Diagnoses in Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Autism Research and Treatment  2011;2011:405849.
We used a national online registry to examine variation in cumulative prevalence of community diagnosis of psychiatric comorbidity in 4343 children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Adjusted multivariate logistic regression models compared influence of individual, family, and geographic factors on cumulative prevalence of parent-reported anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or attention deficit disorder. Adjusted odds of community-assigned lifetime psychiatric comorbidity were significantly higher with each additional year of life, with increasing autism severity, and with Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder—not otherwise specified compared with autistic disorder. Overall, in this largest study of parent-reported community diagnoses of psychiatric comorbidity, gender, autistic regression, autism severity, and type of ASD all emerged as significant factors correlating with cumulative prevalence. These findings could suggest both underlying trends in actual comorbidity as well as variation in community interpretation and application of comorbid diagnoses in ASD.
PMCID: PMC3420588  PMID: 22937248
5.  Factors Affecting Age at Initial Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis in a National Survey 
Autism Research and Treatment  2011;2011:874619.
Entry into early intervention depends on both age of first parent concern (AOC) and age at initial autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis (AOD). Using data collected from a national online registry from 6214 children diagnosed with an ASD between 1994 and 2010 in the US, we analyzed the effect of individual, family, and geographic covariates on AOC and AOD in a multivariate linear regression model with random effects. Overall, no single modifiable factor associated with AOC or AOD emerged but cumulative variation in certain individual- and family-based features, as well as some geographic factors, all contribute to AOC and AOD variation. A multipronged strategy is needed for targeted education and awareness campaigns to maximize outcomes and decrease disparities in ASD care.
PMCID: PMC3420379  PMID: 22937257

Results 1-5 (5)