Spectrum Newsletter - Issue 5

Issue 5 - November 2010

Spectrum informs ADDRP Newsletter subscribers about the latest ADDRP activities, reviews recent studies in the field of autism and developmental disabilities, and lists any available educational opportunities through Lucille Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford University.


Welcome. This our fifth issue of our newsletter "Spectrum" that is being provided on quarterly basis to update you information on the activities of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research Program under the direction of Dr. Antonio Hardan. We appreciated the feedback that we've received after our first issue and will look forward to hear your input about this and future issues. We are hoping that you will find this newsletter helpful and informative. Please feel free to forward it to families and friends.



Autism Spectrum Disorders: Educational Series for Parents

The Stanford Autism Center at LPCH is offering a 10 part program, focused on diagnosis, treatment, and services, for parents of children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Sessions are held at 401 Quarry Road on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:00pm for $5 per meeting. Sessions are on a drop-in basis and parents may join at any time for individual sessions.

Register at http://childpsychiatry.stanford.edu

Issue 5, November 2010


Preference for Geometric Patterns Early in Life As a Risk Factor for Autism (Pierce et al., 2010; University of California San Diego).

Early identification efforts are essential for the early treatment of the symptoms of autism but can only occur if robust risk factors are found. Children with autism often engage in repetitive behaviors and anecdotally prefer to visually examine geometric repetition. The extent to which a preference for looking at geometric repetition is an early risk factor for autism has yet to be examined. The objectives of this study were to determine if toddlers with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) aged 14 to 42 months prefer to visually examine dynamic geometric images more than social images and to determine if visual fixation patterns can correctly classify a toddler as having an ASD. Toddlers were presented with a 1-minute movie depicting moving geometric patterns on one side of a video monitor, and children in high action, such as dancing or doing yoga, on the other. Using this preferential looking paradigm, total fixation duration and the number of saccades within each movie type were examined using eye tracking technology. One hundred ten toddlers participated in final analyses (37 with an ASD, 22 with developmental delay, and 51 typically developing toddlers). The main outcome measure was the total fixation time within the geometric patterns or social images and the number of saccades were compared between diagnostic groups. Overall, toddlers with an ASD as young as 14 months spent significantly more time fixating on dynamic geometric images than other diagnostic groups. If a toddler spent more than 69% of his or her time fixating on geometric patterns, then the positive predictive value for accurately classifying that toddler as having an ASD was 100%. The authors concluded that a preference for geometric patterns early in life may be a novel and easily detectable early signature of infants and toddlers at risk for autism.

Pivotal Response Group Treatment Program for Parents of Children with Autism (Minjarez et al., 2010; Stanford University)

The number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders is increasing, necessitating the development of efficient treatment models. Research has demonstrated that parent-delivered behavioral interventions are a viable treatment model; however, little research has focused on teaching parents in groups. The aim of this study was to demonstrate that parents can learn Pivotal Response Training (PRT) in group therapy, resulting in correlated gains in children's language. Baseline and post-treatment data were obtained and examined for changes in (a) parent fidelity of PRT implementation, and (b) child functional verbal utterances. Significant differences were observed for both variables. These findings suggest that parents can learn PRT in a group format, resulting in correlated child language gains, thus future controlled studies are warranted.

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Linking Autism, Preterm Birth and Hormonal Status

We are interested in the relationship between hormones and sex steroids in children with autism.

We are looking for children:
  • Between the ages of 3-12 years old.
  • Born preterm or full term.
  • Willing to provide a blood sample and complete IQ testing.

Participants receive up to $50 for completing the study. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

Study of Memantine in Pediatric Autism

This study is focused on whether the medication mematine can improve social responsiveness and communication skills in children with Autism.

We are looking for children:

  • Between ages of 6-12 years old.
  • With a diagnosis of autistic disorder.
  • Who are verbally fluent (can form at least three-word phrases).
There is no cost to participate in this study. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

Pivotal Response Treatment Group Study

The goal of this study is to examine the effectiveness of pivotal response treatment group in targeting language skills in young children with autism.

We are looking for children:

  • Between the ages of 2-6 years old.
  • Who are diagnosed with ASD.
  • Who meet inclusion based on behavioral screening assessments.
  • Who are willing to complete a 12 week research treatment program and a 3 month follow-up at Stanford University

There is no cost to participate in this study. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

Same-Sex Twins with Autism

This study compares pairs of twins with Autism Spectrum Disorder to typically developing twin pairs.

We are looking for children:

  • In a same-sex twin pair.
  • Between ages 6-14 years old.
  • Willing to complete behavioral testing and a brain-imaging scan.
  • Each twin will receive $100 for completion.

Parents also have the option to enroll their child in the open-label version of this study, in which all participants receive the active medication.

Please contact us at (650) 723-7809 if you are interested.

Editorial Staff:
Mrigendra Steiner, MA
Antonio Hardan, MD

Let us know what you think!
Comments and suggestions are welcome. 

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Autism & Developmental Disabilities
Research Program
Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
401 Quarry Rd., Stanford, CA | 94305-5719
Research: 650-736-1235 | Clinical Services: 650-723-5511