Spectrum Newsletter - Issue 9

Issue 9 - March 2012

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, the ninth issue of our newsletter, Spectrum, is being sent to provide you with updated information on the activities of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research Program at Stanford University. The research program is under the direction of Dr. Antonio Hardan. We appreciated the feedback that we received about our previous issues and look forward to hearing your input on this and future issues. We hope that you will find this newsletter helpful and informative. Please feel free to share this newsletter with family and friends.


We launched our new website and now have a facebook page! The website and group page on facebook contain important information about our research program and staff, details and descriptions on the wide number of research studies currently underway, information on how to participate in our studies, and links to other organizations and resources.

Special Educational Activity

5th Annual Autism Spectrum Disorder Update

The Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children's Hospital presents the 5th Annual Autism Spectrum Disorders Update on Saturday, May 12, 2012. Translating Science into Treatment is a one day conference. This annual update will concentrate on promising scientific advances that can lead to improved treatment for children with an autism spectrum disorder. Parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, caregivers, media and anyone with an interest in autism are invited to attend.

The program will begin at 8:15 am and end at 4:30 pm. The Symposium will be held at:

Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center
Stanford University
326 Galvez St.
Stanford, CA 94305-6105

To register and learn more please go the autism update event homepage

other events

Autism Parent Support Group

Parents of children with autism face a unique set of challenges. Connecting with other families can be a valuable form of support. Topics for discussion will include:
  • Advocating for your child
  • Dealing with impact on family
  • Navigating school and learning issues
  • Investigating treatment options and resources
  • Upcoming meetings:
    Summer 2012 TBA

    For the latest information please go to http://childpsychiatry.stanford.edu/

    Issue 9, March 2012


    Underutilization of Genetics Services for Autism: The Importance of Parental Awareness and Provider Recommendation (Vande Wydeven et al., 2012; Stanford University).

    Reasons for the underutilization of genetics services by families of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are not well understood. We report the identification of factors associated with this underuse. Survey-based study of parents and/or guardians of children with ASD. One hundred fifty-five families completed the questionnaire. Families were recruited from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research Registry at Stanford University and from the Interactive Autism Network. Thirty-one of 155 (20%) children had seen a genetics professional. Forty-nine of 154 (32%) children had undergone genetic testing. Parents whose child saw a genetics professional were more likely to 1) Have a primary provider refer for or suggest a genetics evaluation 2) Have asked for a referral, and/or 3) Know another person with a genetic cause of ASD. Families of children with ASD who have not received genetics services are less aware of their availability and utility. They are also less likely to have their provider recommend a clinical genetics evaluation. Efforts should be taken to increase awareness of both health providers and parents regarding the usefulness of genetics services for ASD.

    A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial of Oral N-Acetylcysteine in Children with Autism (Hardan et al., 2012; Stanford University).

    An imbalance in the excitatory/inhibitory systems with abnormalities in the glutamatergic pathways has been implicated in the pathophysiology of autism. Furthermore, chronic redox imbalance was also recently linked to this disorder. The goal of this pilot study was to assess the feasibility of using oral N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a glutamatergic modulator and an antioxidant, in the treatment of behavioral disturbance in children with autism. This was a 12-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of NAC in children with autistic disorder. Subjects randomized to NAC were initiated at 900 mg daily for 4 weeks, then 900 mg twice daily for 4 weeks and 900 mg three times daily for 4 weeks. The primary behavioral measure (Aberrant Behavior Checklist [ABC] irritability subscale) and safety measures were performed at baseline and 4, 8, and 12 weeks. Secondary measures included the ABC stereotypy subscale, Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised, and Social Responsiveness Scale. Thirty-three subjects (31 male subjects, 2 female subjects; aged 3.2-10.7 years) were randomized in the study. Follow-up data was available on 14 subjects in the NAC group and 15 in the placebo group. Oral NAC was well tolerated with limited side effects. Compared with placebo, NAC resulted in significant improvements on ABC irritability subscale (F = 6.80; p < .001; d = .96). Data from this pilot investigation support the potential usefulness of NAC for treating irritability in children with autistic disorder. Large randomized controlled investigations are warranted.

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    Below we have highlighted just a few of our studies that we are recruiting for. For a complete list of all currently recruiting research studies please visit our new website at autismdd.stanford.edu

    Children and Adolescents are Needed to Participate in Research Studies

    We are actively recruiting children who are typically developing or who have one of several neuropsychiatric diagnoses for many of our studies. We are looking for individuals who are or who have one of the following:

    • Typically Developing
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis
    • Developmental Disability diagnosis
    • ADHD diagnosis
    • Same-Sex Twins
    • Born Prematurely

    Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

    ICATS - Imaging California Autism Twins Study

    This study compares twins with Autism Spectrum Disorder to typically developing twins.
    Subjects must be a same-sex twin pair:
    • Where one or both have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
    • Where both are typically developing and in good medical health.
    • Between ages 3-14 years old.
    • Willing to complete behavioral testing and a brain-imaging scan.

    Each twin will receive $100 for completion. Please contact us at (650) 723-7809 if you are interested.

    Study of Pharmacokinetics, Safety, Efficacy, and Tolerability of Memantine in Children With Autism

    Researchers at Stanford University are studying the safety and effectiveness of memantine, an investigational medication, to evaluate it's effect on core autistic symptoms such as social responsiveness and communication in children with autism.

    In order to participate you or your child must:
    • Be between the ages of 6 and 12 years
    • Have symptoms or a diagnosis of autistic disorder
    • Be verbally fluent (have at least three-word phrases

    There is no cost to participate in this research study. Qualified participants will be reimbursed for costs associated with study visits.

    New Clinical Trial for Adults with Autism

    This study explores the safety and effectiveness of Pregnenolone, a neuroactive steroid medication to improve behavioral deficits in adults with Autism.

    To be eligible for this study you must:
    • Be between the ages of 18 and 45.
    • Have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
    • Be willing to provide blood and urine samples.

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

    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 (typically developing or with ASD diagnosis):

    • 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.

    Autism and ADHD Study

    Researchers at Stanford University are recruiting individuals with ASD, ADHD, and typically developing children.

    We are looking for children who:

    • Are between ages of 2-18 years old
    • Are in good medical health
    • Are willing to provide blood, saliva and urine samples

    Each participant will receive $50 upon completion of the study. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

    Emotional Reactivity and Regulation in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

    This study looks at how youth with autism experience their emotions, and to what extent they use emotion regulation strategies to change specific emotions and thus alter the way they feel about a given situation. We hope that our research will lead to changes in increasing the effectiveness of current autism therapies.

    In order to participate in this research study your child must:

    • Between the ages of 8-21 years old in good medical health with or without an ASD diagnosis
    • Be willing to participate in psycholophysiological and neuroimaging experiments
    • Be willing to come to Stanford Hospital and Psychophysiology Lab up to four times

    Each participant will be paid $30 for each completed session. For more information please call (650) 353-5777

    Editorial Staff:
    Sean Berquist, BS
    Antonio Hardan, MD
    Mrigendra Steiner, MA

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

    Send feedback to autismdd@stanford.edu.

    To subscribe: send an email to us at autismdd@stanford.edu with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line

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