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A trial of an iPad™ intervention targeting social communication skills in children with autism

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

This study evaluated a technology-based early intervention for social communication skills in pre-schoolers in a randomised controlled trial. Participants were 54 children aged under 6 years with a diagnosis of autism, assigned to either intervention or control conditions. The app engaged children, who played consistently, regardless of developmental level, and was rated highly by parents. There were no significant group differences in parent-report measures post-intervention, nor in a measure of parent–child play at follow-up. Therefore, this intervention did not have an observable impact on real-world social communication skills and caution is recommended about the potential usefulness of iPad apps for amelioration of difficulties in interaction. However, positive attitudes among participants, lack of harms and the potential of apps to deliver therapeutic content at low economic cost suggest this approach is worth pursuing further, perhaps targeting other skill domains.




Diagnosis lost: Differences between children who had and who currently have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

Autism spectrum disorder diagnoses sometimes change due to misdiagnosis, maturation, or treatment. This study uses a probability-based national survey—the Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Services—to compare currently diagnosed (n = 1420) and previously diagnosed (n = 187) children aged 6–17 years based on retrospective parental reports of early concerns about their children’s development, responses to those concerns by doctors and other healthcare providers, the type of provider who made the first autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, and the autism spectrum disorder subtype diagnoses received (if any). Propensity score matching was used to control for differences between the groups on children’s current level of functioning and other current characteristics that may have been related to diagnosis loss. Approximately 13% of the children ever diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder were estimated to have lost the diagnosis, and parents of 74% of them believed it was changed due to new information. Previously diagnosed children were less likely to have parents with early concerns about verbal skills, nonverbal communication, learning, and unusual gestures or movements. They were also less likely to have been referred to and diagnosed by a specialist. Previously diagnosed children were less likely to have ever received a diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder or autistic disorder.




Assessing early implementation of state autism insurance mandates

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

In the United States, health insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorder treatments has been historically limited. In response, as of 2015, 40 states and Washington, DC, have passed state autism insurance mandates requiring many health plans in the private insurance market to cover autism diagnostic and treatment services. This study examined five states’ experiences implementing autism insurance mandates. Semi-structured, key-informant interviews were conducted with 17 participants representing consumer advocacy organizations, provider organizations, and health insurance companies. Overall, participants thought that the mandates substantially affected the delivery of autism services. While access to autism treatment services has increased as a result of implementation of state mandates, states have struggled to keep up with the demand for services. Participants provided specific information about barriers and facilitators to meeting this demand. Understanding of key informants’ perceptions about states’ experiences implementing autism insurance mandates is useful for other states considering adopting or expanding mandates or other policies to expand access to autism treatment services.




Does sex influence the diagnostic evaluation of autism spectrum disorder in adults?

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

It is unknown whether sex influences the diagnostic evaluation of autism spectrum disorder, or whether male and female adults within the spectrum have different symptom profiles. This study reports sex differences in clinical outcomes for 1244 adults (935 males and 309 females) referred for autism spectrum disorder assessment. Significantly, more males (72%) than females (66%) were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder of any subtype (x2 = 4.09; p = 0.04). In high-functioning autism spectrum disorder adults (IQ > 70; N = 827), there were no significant sex differences in severity of socio-communicative domain symptoms. Males had significantly more repetitive behaviours/restricted interests than females (p = 0.001, d = 0.3). A multivariate analysis of variance indicated a significant interaction between autism spectrum disorder subtype (full-autism spectrum disorder/partial-autism spectrum disorder) and sex: in full-autism spectrum disorder, males had more severe socio-communicative symptoms than females; for partial-autism spectrum disorder, the reverse was true. There were no sex differences in prevalence of co-morbid psychopathologies. Sex influenced diagnostic evaluation in a clinical sample of adults with suspected autism spectrum disorder. The sexes may present with different manifestations of the autism spectrum disorder phenotype and differences vary by diagnostic subtype. Understanding and awareness of adult female repetitive behaviours/restricted interests warrant attention and sex-specific diagnostic assessment tools may need to be considered.




Experiences of diagnosing autism spectrum disorder: A survey of professionals in the United Kingdom

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

To date, research exploring experiences of diagnosing autism spectrum disorder has largely focused on parental perspectives. In order to obtain a more complete account of the autism spectrum disorder diagnostic process, it is essential that the views and experiences of professionals are heard. In this study, 116 multidisciplinary professionals involved in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder in the United Kingdom completed an online questionnaire exploring their experiences and opinions of three key areas of service: accessibility, the diagnostic process and post-diagnostic support. Although professionals were largely satisfied with service accessibility, around 40% of services were failing to provide timely assessments. Standardised diagnostic tools were perceived as helpful and were used consistently, but concerns were raised about their validity in detecting atypical autism spectrum disorder presentations (e.g. females). Several challenges regarding giving autism spectrum disorder diagnoses were reported; these included making sure caregivers understood the diagnosis, pitching information at the correct level and managing distress. Furthermore, the practice of ‘upgrading’ to a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in uncertain or complex cases was reported by many, albeit infrequently, and reasons for this varied widely. Professionals expressed dissatisfaction with post-diagnostic provision, especially onward and long-term support options. They also felt that service improvements were required across populations and across the three key areas of service.




Development and psychometric evaluation of a psychosocial quality-of-life questionnaire for individuals with autism and related developmental disorders

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

This study investigated the psychometric properties of the Child and Family Quality of Life scale, a measure of psychosocial quality of life in those with autism and related developmental disorders. Parents of 212 children suspected of autism spectrum disorder completed the Child and Family Quality of Life prior to a diagnostic evaluation. Results indicated that the Child and Family Quality of Life measured six unique quality-of-life constructs (child, family/caregiver, financial, external support, partner relationship, and coping), had good reliability across score ranges and exhibited expected patterns of convergent validity. Caregivers of autism spectrum disorder–affected children reported reduced family quality of life prior to the time of diagnosis relative to caregivers of children with other developmental disabilities. The Child and Family Quality of Life is a brief, reliable measure for assessing psychosocial quality of life in families affected by developmental disability. This study is the first to demonstrate impairments in family quality of life early in the developmental course of autism spectrum disorder, prior to formal diagnosis. In addition to traditional child-focused intervention strategies, families with autism spectrum disorder–affected children require early, broad intervention strategies that positively impact the whole family.




A mixed-method evaluation of the feasibility and acceptability of a telehealth-based parent-mediated intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

Research within the autism spectrum disorder field has called for the use of service delivery models that are able to more efficiently disseminate evidence-based practices into community settings. This study employed telehealth methods in order to deliver an Internet-based, parent training intervention for autism spectrum disorder, ImPACT Online. This study used mixed-methods analysis to create a more thorough understanding of parent experiences likely to influence the adoption and implementation of the program in community settings. Specific research questions included (1) What are parents’ perceptions of the online program? (2) How does ImPACT Online compare to other services that parents are accessing for their children? And (3) Do parents’ experience in, and perceptions of, the program differ based on whether they received a therapist-assisted version of the program? Results from 28 parents of a child with autism spectrum disorder indicate that parents saw improvements in their child’s social communication skills and their own competence during the course of the program, regardless of whether they received therapist assistance. However, qualitative interviews indicate that parents who received therapist assistance were more likely endorse the acceptability and observability of the program. These findings support the potential for Internet-based service delivery to more efficiently disseminate evidence-based parent training interventions for autism spectrum disorder.




Stability of early risk assessment for autism spectrum disorder in preterm infants

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

Stability and change in early autism spectrum disorder risk were examined in a cohort of 99 preterm infants (<=34 weeks of gestation) using the Autism Observation Scale for Infants at 8 and 12 months and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule—Toddler Module at 18 months. A total of 21 infants were identified at risk by the Autism Observation Scale for Infants at 8 months, and 9 were identified at risk at 12 months, including 4 children who were not previously identified. At 18 months, eight children were identified at risk for autism spectrum disorder using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule—Toddler Module, only half of whom had been identified using the original Autism Observation Scale for Infants cutoffs. Results are discussed in relation to early trajectories of autism spectrum disorder risk among preterm infants as well as identifying social-communication deficiencies associated with the early preterm behavioral phenotype.




Self-regulated compliance in preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder: The role of temperament and parental disciplinary style

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

Regulatory difficulties are common in children with autism spectrum disorder. This study focused on an important aspect of self-regulation—the ability to willingly comply with frustrating demands of socialization agents, termed "self-regulated compliance." We studied compliance to parental demands in 40 preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder and 40 matched typically developing preschoolers, during separate interactions with mother and father, while engaging in two paradigms: toy pick-up and delayed gratification, which tap the "do" and "don’t" aspects of self-regulated socialization at this age. Parents’ disciplinary style was micro-coded from the two paradigms and child temperament was parent reported. Compared to their typically developing peers, children with autism spectrum disorder showed more noncompliance and less self-regulated compliance to parental demands and prohibitions and greater temperamental difficulties across several domains. No group differences were found in parental disciplinary style. Child self-regulated compliance was associated with parental supportive disciplinary style and with child attention focusing. Findings highlight the importance of parental supportive presence in structuring the development of socialization in children with autism spectrum disorder. Implications for parent–child emotion regulation interventions are discussed.




Maternal experience of Lego Therapy in families with children with autism spectrum conditions: What is the impact on family relationships?

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

This study aimed to explore mothers’ experience of implementing Lego Therapy at home within the family. Following a Lego Therapy training session, mothers carried out hourly sessions with their child with an autism spectrum condition and the child’s sibling, once a week, for 6 weeks. Mothers were interviewed following the intervention, and the data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Themes emerged around improved family relationships, a positive impact on the child as an individual, and changed maternal, sibling and child perspectives. Challenging and facilitative aspects also emerged, as did some ambivalence about the impact of the intervention in the wider context. The findings are supportive of previous Lego Therapy studies and have implications for strengths-based service provision.




Stability and change in autism spectrum disorder diagnosis from age 3 to middle childhood in a high-risk sibling cohort

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00

Considerable evidence on autism spectrum disorder emergence comes from longitudinal high-risk samples (i.e. younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder). Diagnostic stability to age 3 is very good when diagnosed as early as 18–24 months, but sensitivity is weaker, and relatively little is known beyond toddlerhood. We examined stability and change in blinded, clinical best-estimate diagnosis from age 3 to middle childhood (mean age = 9.5 years) in 67 high-risk siblings enrolled in infancy. Good agreement emerged for clinical best-estimate diagnoses (89.6% overall; kappa = 0.76, p < 0.001, 95% confidence interval = 0.59–0.93). At age 3, 18 cases (26.9%) were classified with "autism spectrum disorder": 17 retained their autism spectrum disorder diagnosis (94.4%; 13 boys, 4 girls) and 1 no longer met autism spectrum disorder criteria at follow-up. Among "non–autism spectrum disorder" cases at age 3, 43/49 remained non–autism spectrum disorder at follow-up (87.8%; 22 boys, 21 girls) and 6/49 met lower autism symptomatology criteria ("Later-Diagnosed"; 3 boys, 3 girls). Later-diagnosed cases had significantly lower autism spectrum disorder symptomatology and higher receptive language at age 3 and trends toward lower autism symptoms and higher cognitive abilities at follow-up. Emerging developmental concerns were noted in all later-diagnosed cases, by age 3 or 5. High-risk children need to be followed up into middle childhood, particularly when showing differences in autism-related domains.




Lay abstracts

2016-09-07T04:28:53-07:00