Spectrum Newsletter - Issue 1

Issue 1 - July 2009

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! We would like to welcome you to the first issue of our newsletter "Spectrum." We are very appreciative of your willingness to be part of our network. The main goal of this quarterly letter is to provide you with updated information on the activities of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research Program under the direction of Dr. Antonio Hardan. We are also aiming at including brief reviews of peer-reviewed research articles related to the field of autism and developmental disabilities. We will also provide information on any educational activies related to our field of interest that are ongoing or planned at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford. 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 1, JULY 2009


A prospective study of toddlers with autism: short-term diagnostic and cognitive outcomes (Chawarska et al., 2009; Yale University).

Despite recent increases in the number of toddlers referred for a differential diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), knowledge of short-term stability of early diagnosis, as well as cognitive outcomes, is limitied. 89 toddlers were assessed at the average age of 21.5 months, and reassessed at 46.9 months. Groups with stable and unstable diagnostic presentation were identified and compared on their profile of cognitive/social/communicative skills. Stability of the ASD diagnosis was 100%; diagnosis of autism was stable in 74% of cases as compared to 83% and 81% in PDD-NOS and Non ASD groups, respectively. Worsening of social disability symptoms resulting in autism diagnosis in 17% of toddlers initially diagnosed with PDD-NOW and in 19% of toddlers with initial diagnosis of non-ASD disorder. However, improvement was noted in approximately 1/4 of children initially presenting with autism, warranting diagnostic reassignment to PDD-NOS at follow-up. An analysis of developmental abilities suggests particular relevance of the assessment of verbal and nonverbal communication skills to diagnositc differentiation between subtypes within ASD in the second year of life. In conclusion, stability of ASD diagnosis in toddlers is high, though marked changes in severity of symptoms is expected in a minority of cases.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety in autism: a randomized, controlled trial (Wood et al., 2009; UCLA).

Children with autism often present with comorbid anxiety disorders. A stanford Cognitive Behavioral Treatmet (CBT) program was designed to accomodate the social and adaptive skill deficits of children with ASD. Forty children (7-11 years old) were randomly assigned to 16 sessions of CBT or a 3-month waitlist. The CBT model emphasized behavioral experimentation, parent-training, and school consulatation. Parents and children completed anxiety symptom checklists at baseline and post-treatment/post-waitlist. 78.5% of the CBT group met improvement criteria at post-treatment, as compared to only 8.7% of the waitlist group. CBT also outperformed the waitlist on diagnostic outcomes and parent reports of child anxiety, but not children's self-reports. Treatment gains were maintained at 3-month follow-up. The CBT manual employed in this study is one of the first adaptations of an evidence-based treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders. Remission of anxiety disorders appears to be an achievable goal among children with autism.

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Oxytocin in Children with Autism and Siblings

We are interested in the relationship between social behaviors and the hormone oxytocin.

We are looking for children:
  • Between the ages of 3-12 years old.
  • In good medical health.
  • 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.

Double-Blind Study of NAC in Pediatric Autism

We are studying the safety and effectiveness of an antioxidant medication in the treatment of behavioral difficulties and social deficits in children with Autism.

We are looking for children:

  • Between the ages of 3-12 years old.
  • With a diagnosis of autistic disorder.
  • Who meet behavioral questionnaire guidelines.

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:
Alexandra Bond, BA
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