Autism Research: September 5, 2013 week in review

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow


Virtual reality games to assist academic success for children with autism

Studying children with high-functioning autism, researchers lead by Peter Mundy at the UC Davis School of Education are utilizing a virtual game to understand how they overcome social deficits that prevent academic success in others.  The study has 200 participants between 8 and 15 years of age with high-functioning autism and is evaluating the participants’ social attention, math, reading and public speaking skills.

The setting for the study is the Social Attention Virtual Reality Laboratory which is the product of collaboration between the MIND Institute, Center for Mind and brain and School of Education. The research will answer questions about how impaired social attention can affect social learning developed in the classroom setting.


Bottom-up attention orientation in ASD sidelines social stimuli, study reveals

A new study published on 1st September 2013 in the prestigious Journal of Autism and Developmental disorders unearths the importance of bottom-up data processing in children on the autism spectrum. The study lead by Dima Amso examined the effect of simultaneous bottom-up processing of visual influence and sensible social stimuli on orientation of attention in adolescents with ASD. The results showed that children on the autism spectrum were impacted much more by a bottom-up type of visual stimulus irrespective of whether the social and visual stimuli were identical or competitive. The study raises hope to develop education patterns that employ bottom-up visual processing to grab and sustain attention of autistic children. Also, it lays bare the negative effect that such processing has on language development and social skills.


Empathic responses poorer in children with ASD

A paper published in Autism Research evaluated the empathic responses of children and adolescents diagnosed with high-functioning autism. The study that was lead by Anke Scheeren aimed to determine the influence of age and/or intelligence on a child’s responsiveness to other people’s emotions. The team studied 50 typical intelligent peers and 151 children and young adults with normal intelligence having an ASD. The results showed that although the emotional display in both groups was equal towards the interviewer, the parents of the ASD group reported significantly lesser responsiveness to empathy.


Job opportunities tougher to come for adults on autism spectrum

 2 new studies outline the grim situation for getting financial and social success through good employment and independent living for youth on the autism spectrum. The study highlights the need to expand services for such young adults. Dr. Paul Shattuck of A. J. Drexel Autism Institute and Drexel University School of Public Health, co-author of both the papers, feels the necessity to integrate children with ASD into employment and community and give them as well as their families equal opportunity.

Shattuck and his team reported that the job outcomes as well as pays for youth with autism in the initial years post high school were much lesser than peers with other kinds of disabilities. In Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the team reported that barely 20 percent youngsters with ASD had worked on a full-time job within the 1st eight years post high school education.

The study on the other hand gives hope from the fact that half the youngsters with ASD did get employed. Thus, with the aid of specially formulated employment programs, young people can be assisted into working and living independently and improving their quality of life.

Autism Daily Newscast  reported last Thursday on a  story about the challenges adults with autism face in achieving independence.