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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