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1.  Minor Physical Anomalies in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Healthy Controls 
Autism Research and Treatment  2014;2014:743482.
Minor Physical Anomalies (MPAs) are subtle abnormalities of the head, face, and limbs, without significant cosmetic or functional impact to the individual. They are assumed to represent external markers of developmental deviations during foetal life. MPAs have been suggested to indicate severity in mental illness and constitute external markers for atypical brain development. Higher frequencies of MPAs can be found in children with autism. The aims of the present study were to examine the prevalence and patterns of MPAs in adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to investigate whether MPAs are associated with symptom severity and overall functioning. Fifty adults with ASD and intelligence within the normal range and 53 healthy controls were examined with the Waldrop scale, an instrument for assessing MPAs. Face and feet were photographed enabling blinded assessment. Significant differences between the ASD and the control group were found on the MPA total scores, and also in the craniofacial region scores. Moreover, the shape of the ears was associated with autistic traits, in the ASD group. High MPA total scores were associated with poorer functioning. The findings suggest a link between MPAs, autistic traits, and level of functioning. Assessment of MPAs may assist in the diagnostic procedure of psychiatric disorders.
doi:10.1155/2014/743482
PMCID: PMC3982266  PMID: 24782925
2.  Utility of Teacher-Report Assessments of Autistic Severity in Japanese School Children 
Autism Research and Treatment  2013;2013:373240.
Recent studies suggest that many children with milder autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are undiagnosed, untreated, and being educated in mainstream classes without support and that school teachers might be the best persons to identify a child's social deviance. At present, only a few screening measures using teacher ratings of ASD have been validated. The aim of this study was to examine the utility of teacher ratings on the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), a quantitative measure of ASD. We recruited 130 participants aged 4 to 17 years from local schools or local pediatric outpatient clinics specializing in neurodevelopmental disorders that included 70 children with ASD. We found that the teacher-report SRS can be reliably and validly applied to children as a screening tool or for other research purposes, and it also has cross-cultural comparability. Although parent-teacher agreement was satisfactory overall, a discrepancy existed for children with ASD, especially for girls with ASD. To improve sensitivity in children at higher risk, especially girls, we cannot overstate the importance of using standardized norms specific to gender, informant, and culture.
doi:10.1155/2013/373240
PMCID: PMC3874348  PMID: 24392224
3.  Effectiveness of Methylcobalamin and Folinic Acid Treatment on Adaptive Behavior in Children with Autistic Disorder Is Related to Glutathione Redox Status 
Autism Research and Treatment  2013;2013:609705.
Treatments targeting metabolic abnormalities in children with autism are limited. Previously we reported that a nutritional treatment significantly improved glutathione metabolism in children with autistic disorder. In this study we evaluated changes in adaptive behaviors in this cohort and determined whether such changes are related to changes in glutathione metabolism. Thirty-seven children diagnosed with autistic disorder and abnormal glutathione and methylation metabolism were treated with twice weekly 75 µg/Kg methylcobalamin and twice daily 400 µg folinic acid for 3 months in an open-label fashion. The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS) and glutathione redox metabolites were measured at baseline and at the end of the treatment period. Over the treatment period, all VABS subscales significantly improved with an average effect size of 0.59, and an average improvement in skills of 7.7 months. A greater improvement in glutathione redox status was associated with a greater improvement in expressive communication, personal and domestic daily living skills, and interpersonal, play-leisure, and coping social skills. Age, gender, and history of regression did not influence treatment response. The significant behavioral improvements observed and the relationship between these improvements to glutathione redox status suggest that nutritional interventions targeting redox metabolism may benefit some children with autism.
doi:10.1155/2013/609705
PMCID: PMC3810468  PMID: 24224089
4.  Presence of Contagious Yawning in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder 
Autism Research and Treatment  2013;2013:971686.
Most previous studies suggest diminished susceptibility to contagious yawning in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, it could be driven by their atypical attention to the face. To test this hypothesis, children with ASD and typically developing (TD) children were shown yawning and control movies. To ensure participants' attention to the face, an eye tracker controlled the onset of the yawning and control stimuli. Results demonstrated that both TD children and children with ASD yawned more frequently when they watched the yawning stimuli than the control stimuli. It is suggested therefore that the absence of contagious yawning in children with ASD, as reported in previous studies, might relate to their weaker tendency to spontaneously attend to others' faces.
doi:10.1155/2013/971686
PMCID: PMC3736493  PMID: 23970970
5.  Sensory Response Patterns in Nonverbal Children with ASD 
Autism Research and Treatment  2013;2013:436286.
We sought to examine concurrent and longitudinal associations between sensory response patterns (i.e., hyperresponsiveness, hyporesponsiveness, and sensory seeking) and verbal status of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a potential factor influencing the development of verbal communication. Seventy-nine children with ASD (verbal, n = 29; nonverbal, n = 50) were assessed using cross-sectional analyses (Study 1), and 14 children with ASD (verbal, n = 6; nonverbal, n = 8) were assessed using prospective longitudinal analyses (Study 2). Data were collected regarding sensory response patterns and verbal ability. Hyporesponsiveness and sensory seeking behaviors were associated with verbal status in both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses; nonverbal children were more likely to demonstrate higher hyporesponsive and sensory seeking patterns. Hyperresponsiveness did not significantly differ between verbal and nonverbal groups in either design. Sensory hyporesponsiveness and seeking behaviors may be important factors hindering the development of functional verbal communication in children with ASD. Unusual sensory responsiveness can often be observed before the onset of speech and may yield important prognostic capabilities as well as inform early interventions targeting verbal communication or alternative communication options in young children with ASD.
doi:10.1155/2013/436286
PMCID: PMC3727194  PMID: 23956859
6.  Comparison of Adaptive Behavior Measures for Children with HFASDs 
Autism Research and Treatment  2013;2013:415989.
Adaptive behavior rating scales are frequently used to gather information on the adaptive functioning of children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASDs), yet little is known about the extent to which these measures yield comparable results. This study was conducted to (a) document the parent-rated VABS-II, BASC-2, and ABAS-II adaptive behavior profiles of 6- to 11-year-olds with HFASDs (including relative strengths and weaknesses); (b) examine the extent to which these measures yielded similar scores on comparable scales; and (c) assess potential discrepancies between cognitive ability and adaptive behavior across the measures. All three adaptive measures revealed significant deficits overall for the sample, with the VABS-II and ABAS-II indicating relative weaknesses in social skills and strengths in academic-related skills. Cross-measure comparisons indicated significant differences in the absolute magnitude of scores. In general, the VABS-II yielded significantly higher scores than the BASC-2 and ABAS-II. However, the VABS-II and ABAS-II yielded scores that did not significantly differ for adaptive social skills which is a critical area to assess for children with HFASDs. Results also indicated significant discrepancies between the children's average IQ score and their scores on the adaptive domains and composites of the three adaptive measures.
doi:10.1155/2013/415989
PMCID: PMC3683422  PMID: 23819048
7.  Prevalence and Predictors of Psychotropic Use in Children with High-Functioning ASDs 
Autism Research and Treatment  2013;2013:384527.
This study examined (1) the prevalence of psychotropic medication use for a sample of children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASDs), (2) the extent to which psychotropic agents were linked to targeted symptoms, and (3) predictors of psychotropic use. A total of 115 children, ages 6–13, with HFASDs who were enrolled in psychosocial treatment trials were included in this study. Parents completed extensive background and rating forms prior to treatment that included data on demographic characteristics, child health, child medication use, and child ASD-related symptoms. Results indicated that 33% (n = 38) of the sample was taking psychotropic medication with the most common being stimulants (25%; n = 29), antidepressants (10%; n = 12), and neuroleptics (6%; n = 7). All children taking stimulants had target symptoms that were appropriate for stimulant medication, whereas 57% of those taking neuroleptics and 42% of those taking antidepressants did not have targeted symptoms consistent with the medication. Logistic regression for the major psychotropic drug categories indicated that lower IQ was a significant predictor of increased antidepressant and neuroleptic use. A higher level of ASD-related symptoms was related to the likelihood of stimulant use.
doi:10.1155/2013/384527
PMCID: PMC3671274  PMID: 23762550
8.  Investigating the Relationship between Self-Injurious Behavior, Social Deficits, and Cooccurring Behaviors in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:156481.
Research suggests that self-injurious behavior (SIB) is related to social deficits and cooccurring problem behaviors in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. A sample of 95 participants with ASD was assessed on presence and frequency of SIB (Behavior Problems Inventory), social deficits (the Matson Evaluation of Social Skills with Youngsters-II) and cooccurring problem behaviors (ASD-Comorbidity-Child version). A model was created and tested to explain the relationship between these variables. Results showed that the model was acceptable in presenting the relationships between these variables. This information could be used to help predict which individuals are at risk of developing further cooccurring behavioral problems and determine risk markers for the development of social deficits.
doi:10.1155/2012/156481
PMCID: PMC3502765  PMID: 23193469
9.  Facing Your Fears in Adolescence: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders and Anxiety 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:423905.
Adolescents with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are at high risk for developing psychiatric symptoms, with anxiety disorders among the most commonly cooccurring. Cognitive behavior therapies (CBTs) are considered the best practice for treating anxiety in the general population. Modified CBT approaches for youth with high-functioning ASD and anxiety have resulted in significant reductions in anxiety following intervention. The purpose of the present study was to develop an intervention for treating anxiety in adolescents with ASD based on a CBT program designed for school-aged children. The Facing Your Fears-Adolescent Version (FYF-A) program was developed; feasibility and acceptability data were obtained, along with initial efficacy of the intervention. Twenty-four adolescents, aged 13–18, completed the FYF-A intervention. Results indicated significant reductions in anxiety severity and interference posttreatment, with low rates of anxiety maintained at 3-month follow-up. In addition, nearly 46% of teen participants met criteria for a positive treatment response on primary diagnosis following the intervention. Initial findings from the current study are encouraging and suggest that modified group CBT for adolescents with high-functioning ASD may be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. Limitations include small sample size and lack of control group. Future directions are discussed.
doi:10.1155/2012/423905
PMCID: PMC3471403  PMID: 23091719
10.  Improving Psychiatric Hospital Care for Pediatric Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Intellectual Disabilities 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:685053.
Pediatric patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and/or intellectual disabilities (ID) are at greater risk for psychiatric hospitalization compared to children with other disorders. However, general psychiatric hospital environments are not adapted for the unique learning styles, needs, and abilities of this population, and there are few specialized hospital-based psychiatric care programs in the United States. This paper compares patient outcomes from a specialized psychiatric hospital program developed for pediatric patients with an ASD and/or ID to prior outcomes of this patient population in a general psychiatric program at a children's hospital. Record review data indicate improved outcomes for patients in the specialized program of reduced recidivism rates (12% versus 33%) and decreased average lengths of inpatient stay (as short as 26 days versus 45 days). Available data from a subset of patients (n = 43) in the specialized program showed a decrease in irritability and hyperactivity behaviors from admission to discharge and that 35 previously undetected ASD diagnoses were made. Results from this preliminary study support specialized psychiatric care practices with this population to positively impact their health care outcomes.
doi:10.1155/2012/685053
PMCID: PMC3420632  PMID: 22934179
11.  IGF1 as a Potential Treatment for Rett Syndrome: Safety Assessment in Six Rett Patients 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:679801.
Rett syndrome (RTT) is a devastating neurodevelopmental disorder that affects one in ten thousand girls and has no cure. The majority of RTT patients display mutations in the gene that codes for the methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). Clinical observations and neurobiological analysis of mouse models suggest that defects in the expression of MeCP2 protein compromise the development of the central nervous system, especially synaptic and circuit maturation. Thus, agents that promote brain development and synaptic function, such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), are good candidates for ameliorating the symptoms of RTT. IGF1 and its active peptide, (1–3) IGF1, cross the blood brain barrier, and (1–3) IGF1 ameliorates the symptoms of RTT in a mouse model of the disease; therefore they are ideal treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders, including RTT. We performed a pilot study to establish whether there are major risks associated with IGF1 administration in RTT patients. Six young girls with classic RTT received IGF1 subcutaneous injections twice a day for six months, and they were regularly monitored by their primary care physicians and by the unit for RTT in Versilia Hospital (Italy). This study shows that there are no risks associated with IGF1 administration.
doi:10.1155/2012/679801
PMCID: PMC3420537  PMID: 22934177
12.  Gait Symmetry in Children with Autism 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:576478.
Most studies examining gait asymmetry have focused on infants and toddlers and have tended to use subjective methods of evaluating movement. No previous studies have examined gait symmetry in older children with autism using objective motion capture systems. The purpose of this paper was to quantify gait symmetry in children with autism versus age-matched controls. Fourteen children with autism (N = 14) and twenty-two (N = 22) age, height, and weight-matched controls participated in the study. An eight camera Vicon motion capture system and four Kistler force plates were used to compute temporal-spatial parameters and symmetry indices during walking. Group differences in these measures were tested using MANOVAs. No significant differences between the autism and control group were found for any of the temporal-spatial measures or symmetry indices. Therefore, results suggest that children with autism demonstrate typical symmetry or interlimb movement during gait. Further research is needed to examine the use of different gait inputs to the symmetry indices (e.g., joint angles and moments). A greater awareness of the movement patterns associated with autism may increase our understanding of this disorder and have important implications for treatment planning.
doi:10.1155/2012/576478
PMCID: PMC3420413  PMID: 22934175
13.  Meta-Analysis of Studies Incorporating the Interests of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders into Early Intervention Practices 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:462531.
Incorporating the interests and preferences of young children with autism spectrum disorders into interventions to promote prosocial behavior and decrease behavior excesses has emerged as a promising practice for addressing the core features of autism. The efficacy of interest-based early intervention practices was examined in a meta-analysis of 24 studies including 78 children 2 to 6 years of age diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Effect size analyses of intervention versus nonintervention conditions and high-interest versus low-interest contrasts indicated that interest-based intervention practices were effective in terms of increasing prosocial and decreasing aberrant child behavior. Additionally, interest-based interventions that focused on two of the three core features of autism spectrum disorders (poor communication, poor interpersonal relationships) were found most effective in influencing child outcomes. Implications for very early intervention are discussed in terms addressing the behavior markers of autism spectrum disorders before they become firmly established.
doi:10.1155/2012/462531
PMCID: PMC3420674  PMID: 22934173
14.  Visual Scanning in Very Young Children with Autism and Their Unaffected Parents 
Autism Research and Treatment  2012;2012:748467.
This study of gaze patterns in very young children with autism and their parents included 23 cases (with 16 fathers and 19 mothers) and 46 controls (with 14 fathers and 28 mothers). Children (mean age 3.3 ± 1.5 years) with autism met DSM-IV and ADOS-G diagnostic criteria. The participants' gaze patterns were recorded while they viewed four simple movies that did not feature people. In children, severity of autism is related to spending more time watching irrelevant regions in one of the four movies. The mothers of children with autism showed an atypical pattern for three movies, whereas the fathers of children with autism did not show an atypical gaze pattern. The gaze pattern of the mothers was positively correlated with that of their children. The atypical viewing pattern of autistic individuals appears not to be restricted to people and social situations but is also seen in other situations, suggesting that there is a perceptual broad autism phenotype.
doi:10.1155/2012/748467
PMCID: PMC3420630  PMID: 22937259
15.  High Complement Factor I Activity in the Plasma of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Autism Research and Treatment  2011;2012:868576.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are neurodevelopmental and behavioural syndromes affecting social orientation, behaviour, and communication that can be classified as developmental disorders. ASD is also associated with immune system abnormality. Immune system abnormalities may be caused partly by complement system factor I deficiency. Complement factor I is a serine protease present in human plasma that is involved in the degradation of complement protein C3b, which is a major opsonin of the complement system. Deficiency in factor I activity is associated with an increased incidence of infections in humans. In this paper, we show that the mean level of factor I activity in the ASD group is significantly higher than in the control group of typically developed and healthy children, suggesting that high activity of complement factor I might have an impact on the development of ASD.
doi:10.1155/2012/868576
PMCID: PMC3420436  PMID: 22928102
16.  Association of Sensory Processing and Eating Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Autism Research and Treatment  2011;2011:541926.
“Selective” or “picky eating” is a frequent problem in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Many of these children do not treat sensory input, particularly olfactory, auditory, visual, and tactile information in the same manner as their typically developing peers of the same age. The purpose of this paper was to examine the relationship between problems of sensory processing and the number of eating problems in children with ASD. Of 95 children with ASD, 3 to 10 years of age, 65 percent showed a definite difference and 21 percent a probable difference in sensory processing on the total score of the Short Sensory Profile. These results were significantly related to an increase in the number of eating problems measured by the Eating Profile. These results could not be explained by age, sex, mental retardation, attention deficit disorder, or hyperactivity. Timely interventions focusing on the sensory components of eating must now be developed.
doi:10.1155/2011/541926
PMCID: PMC3420765  PMID: 22937249

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