Autism Research Review: October, 2012

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow

Importance of Early Intervention Confirmed

A study conducted at the Washington University, released on the 26th of October 2012, showed that early intervention in autism improves responses of brain to various social and cognitive cues. A program designed for autistic children diagnosed even at a young age of 12 months determined that intensive behavioural therapy can alter brain responses to people and improve cognitive skills. It boosts both long-term behavioural development as well social interactions.

Geraldine Dawson, Director, UW Autism Centre, recruited 48 autistic children between 18 and 30 months age. The children who received Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) showed improvement in adaptive skills, IQ and language. EEG showed that 73% of those who received ESDM showed greater attention to human faces compared to toys while only 36% of that receiving common community intervention did the same. The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and came as great news for parents.

Autistic at High Risk of Being Bullied at School

A large US-based study, sourced from national surveys, conducted from 2001 to 2012, concluded that bullying, victimization and perpetration were widely prevalent among adolescents with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  The percentages were quite disheartening. Whopping 46.3% adolescents with ASD were victims of bullying while 14.8% were involved in perpetration of the same. Merely 8.9% were subjects of victimization/perpetration.

The study involved data obtained from parents of young adults with some form of ASD, deans/principals of schools the adolescents were enrolled in and school staff that was closest to the children’s study programs. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), poor conversational skills and social engagement capabilities were identified as the root cause of the victimization/perpetration cycle. Victimization was found to be correlated with ADHD, poor social skills, some basic conversational skills, being non-Hispanic and higher number of general education classes. Perpetration too correlated with adolescents having ADHD along with being white and meeting up friends at least once a week. Victimization/perpetration was associated with presence of ADHD, meeting friends at least once each week and being white non-Hispanic.

The researchers suggested that general education settings target the core disabilities of ASD i.e. low social and conversational abilities. Formation of protective groups from the peers at schools to reduce bullying while increasing empathy for ASD children is essential to reduction of victimization, the study concluded.

Helping to Create Independence

Another study assessed the outcome of interventions like individual working methods across educational systems for ASD-afflicted children. It aimed at boosting accuracy of tasks and independence in children with autism. It enlisted autistic children from both general and special educational systems to obtain relative data for adult prompting and individual work methods. TEACCH has structured teaching programs where well-organised visual information is given in programmed sets to children to educate about participation in particular work areas.

A design which probed all participants at multiple levels was used to assess the outcomes of these individualised teaching systems. All the participants showed improvement in work accuracy. There was lesser adult prompting and support needed in both general and special educational institutions. A follow- up at the end of a month maintained the initial results obtained in the study thus concluding that individualised working systems are more effective in increasing ASD independence and task accurateness.