Autism Research Review: December, 2012

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow

Emotional transition necessary in autism, research reveals

On the 3rd of this month, a research team lead by Mikle South from Brigham Young University revealed that children with autism struggle with the baggage of old fears that they cannot let go. The rigid old fears are linked with the repetitive motions and aversion to change that is so characteristic of the disorder.

The kids are not equipped to deal with change of rules in their brain and often are unaware of what must be expected from their surroundings, Mikle said. This is where parents, teachers and researchers need to help, in planning ahead. In a simple study comparing 30 autistic and 29 regular students, it was found that autism delayed significantly the process of learning to make changes. The severity of autism symptoms correlated with the time taken to extinguish the fear produced during the test.

Taking a novel approach to autism, the team concluded that anxiety and repetitive behavioural traits were linked strongly. The persistent and groundless fears are detrimental to health in the long run due to the hormonal reactions they produce.

Autistic children 9 times more likely to visit the ER for psychiatric reasons

In a one-of-its-kind study comparing children with and without ASD who visit the ER, a whopping 9 times higher likelihood of visiting the ER with a psychiatric crisis was found in children having ASD. On 5th December, 2012 Peadiatric Emergency Care journal unveiled the results of this unique study.

Aggression and other severe behaviours were found to be the leading causes of a visit to the ER amongst children diagnosed with any ASD. Dr. Roma Vasa, senior author, said that many children were probably not receiving adequate OPD mental treatment to manage autistic children, driving them to such emergencies.

It also emerged that families with private medical assurance were 58% more likely to visit the ER for a psychiatric reason than those with state medical assistance. The study thus brought to light the need for more training at all levels to handle a psychiatric emergency in those dealing with autistic children, better insurance and better outpatient mental therapy.

Video-based tests to assess language development in autistic toddlers

Autism affects the social and communication skills of a child most sharply. This has been the interest of many researchers, language and its deficits in autism.

The Journal of Visualized experiments (JoVE) published a video on the 20th December, 2012 that showed an innovative way to test language comprehension in children and toddlers afflicted with autism.

Body language gives small clues that show a parent the degree of understanding their child has about the world around it. Similarly, the understanding of language is also expressed and can now be measured by this video test. The test called IPL i.e. portable intermodal preferential looking assessment was developed by Dr. Letitia Naigles. The test tracks the eye movements of a child while watching two videos simultaneously. Children understanding language tend to observe the video which corresponds with the video. Thus, with portable and simple equipment, the degree of language development can be measured.

As it can be done in the comfort of the child’s home, it eliminated the excessive anxiety that a test environment elicits in a child with autism and makes the entire assessment more evaluable.