Technologies as Support Tools for Persons with Autistic Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review
Source: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
This study analyzes the technologies most widely used to work on areas affected by the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Technologies can focus on the strengths and weaknesses of this disorder as they make it possible to create controlled environments, reducing the anxiety produced by real social situations. Extensive research has proven the efficiency of technologies as support tools for therapy and their acceptation by ASD sufferers and the people who are with them on a daily basis. This article is organized by the types of systems developed: virtual reality applications, telehealth systems, social robots and dedicated applications, all of which are classified by the areas they center on: communication, social learning and imitation skills and other ASD-associated conditions. 40.5% of the research conducted is found to be focused on communication as opposed to 37.8% focused on learning and social imitation skills and 21.6% which underlines problems associated with this disorder. Although most of the studies reveal how useful these tools are in therapy, they are generic tools for ASD sufferers in general, which means there is a lack of personalised tools to meet each person’s needs.
Key factors associated with Asperger’s syndrome and implications for effective teaching to enhance student participation and engagement
Key factors associated with Asperger’s syndrome and implications for effective teaching to enhance student participation and engagement (PDF)
Source: International Journal of Human Sciences
This paper discuses the key factors associated with Asperger’s syndrome and the implications for effective teaching to enhance student participation and engagement. Firstly, it presents a brief introduction to Asperger’s syndrome and its main characteristics. Secondly, it explores student communication, social interaction, challenging behaviours and learning, and the implications for effective teaching. Thirdly, the importance of and the implications for collaborating with parents, teachers, professionals and individuals living with Asperger’s syndrome are discussed.
Autism and Sensory Processing Disorders: Shared White Matter Disruption in Sensory Pathways but Divergent Connectivity in Social-Emotional Pathways
Over 90% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) demonstrate atypical sensory behaviors. In fact, hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment is now included in the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. However, there are children with sensory processing differences who do not meet an ASD diagnosis but do show atypical sensory behaviors to the same or greater degree as ASD children. We previously demonstrated that children with Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD) have impaired white matter microstructure, and that this white matter microstructural pathology correlates with atypical sensory behavior. In this study, we use diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) fiber tractography to evaluate the structural connectivity of specific white matter tracts in boys with ASD (n = 15) and boys with SPD (n = 16), relative to typically developing children (n = 23). We define white matter tracts using probabilistic streamline tractography and assess the strength of tract connectivity using mean fractional anisotropy. Both the SPD and ASD cohorts demonstrate decreased connectivity relative to controls in parieto-occipital tracts involved in sensory perception and multisensory integration. However, the ASD group alone shows impaired connectivity, relative to controls, in temporal tracts thought to subserve social-emotional processing. In addition to these group difference analyses, we take a dimensional approach to assessing the relationship between white matter connectivity and participant function. These correlational analyses reveal significant associations of white matter connectivity with auditory processing, working memory, social skills, and inattention across our three study groups. These findings help elucidate the roles of specific neural circuits in neurodevelopmental disorders, and begin to explore the dimensional relationship between critical cognitive functions and structural connectivity across affected and unaffected children.
See: Kids with autism and sensory processing disorders show differences in brain wiring (Science Daily)
Therapies for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Behavioral Interventions Update (August 6, 2014)
Therapies for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Behavioral Interventions Update (PDF)
Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
We updated a prior systematic review of interventions for children (0–12 years) with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), focusing on recent studies of behavioral interventions.
We searched the MEDLINE® (PubMed®), PsycInfo, and Educational Resources Information Clearinghouse (ERIC) databases as well as the reference lists of included studies and recent systematic reviews. We conducted the search in December 2013.
Methods. We included comparative studies (with treatment and comparison groups) of behavioral interventions with at least 10 participants with ASD in the update, and made our conclusions based on the cumulative comparative evidence across the original report and update. Two investigators independently screened studies against predetermined inclusion criteria and independently rated the quality of included studies.
We included 65 unique studies comprising 48 randomized trials and 17 nonrandomized comparative studies (19 good, 39 fair, and 7 poor quality) published since the prior review. The quality of studies improved compared with that reported in the earlier review; however, our assessment of the strength of evidence (SOE), our confidence in the stability of effects of interventions in the face of future research, remains low for many intervention/outcome pairs. Early intervention based on high-intensity applied behavior analysis over extended timeframes was associated with improvement in cognitive functioning and language skills (moderate SOE for improvements in both outcomes) relative to community controls in some groups of young children. The magnitude of these effects varied across studies, potentially reflecting poorly understood modifying characteristics related to subgroups of children. Early intensive parent training programs modified parenting behaviors during interactions; however, data were more limited about their ability to improve developmental skills beyond language gains for some children (low SOE for positive effects on language). Social skills interventions varied in scope and intensity and showed some positive effects on social behaviors for older children in small studies (low SOE for positive effects on social skills). Studies of play/interaction-based approaches reported that joint attention interventions may demonstrate positive outcomes in preschool-age children with ASD when targeting joint attention skills (moderate SOE); data on the effects of such interventions in other areas were limited (low SOE for positive effects on play skills, language, social skills). Studies examining the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy on anxiety reported positive results in older children with IQs ≥70 (high SOE for improvements in anxiety in this population). Smaller short-term studies of other interventions reported some improvements in areas such as sleep and communication, but data were too sparse to assess their overall effectiveness.
A growing evidence base suggests that behavioral interventions can be associated with positive outcomes for children with ASD. Despite improvements in the quality of the included literature, a need remains for studies of interventions across settings and continued improvements in methodologic rigor. Substantial scientific advances are needed to enhance our understanding of which interventions are most effective for specific children with ASD and to isolate elements or components of interventions most associated with effects.
Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Prenatal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticides: The CHARGE Study
Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Prenatal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticides: The CHARGE Study
Source: Environmental Health Perspectives
Gestational exposure to several common agricultural pesticides can induce developmental neurotoxicity in humans, and has been associated with developmental delay and autism.
To evaluate whether residential proximity to agricultural pesticides during pregnancy is associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or developmental delay (DD) in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) Study.
The CHARGE study is a population-based case-control study of ASD, developmental delay (DD), and typical development. For 970 participants, commercial pesticide application data from the California Pesticide Use Report (1997-2008) were linked to the addresses during pregnancy. Pounds of active ingredient applied for organophophates, organochlorines, pyrethroids, and carbamates were aggregated within 1.25km, 1.5km, and 1.75km buffer distances from the home. Multinomial logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) of exposure comparing confirmed cases of ASD (n = 486) or DD (n = 168) with typically developing referents (n = 316).
Approximately one-third of CHARGE Study mothers lived, during pregnancy, within 1.5 km (just under one mile) of an agricultural pesticide application. Proximity to organophosphates at some point during gestation was associated with a 60% increased risk for ASD, higher for 3rd trimester exposures [OR = 2.0, 95% confidence interval (CI) = (1.1, 3.6)], and 2nd trimester chlorpyrifos applications: OR = 3.3 [95% CI = (1.5, 7.4)]. Children of mothers residing near pyrethroid insecticide applications just prior to conception or during 3rd trimester were at greater risk for both ASD and DD, with OR’s ranging from 1.7 to 2.3. Risk for DD was increased in those near carbamate applications, but no specific vulnerable period was identified.
This study of ASD strengthens the evidence linking neurodevelopmental disorders with gestational pesticide exposures, and particularly, organophosphates and provides novel results of ASD and DD associations with, respectively, pyrethroids and carbamates.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Tax Policy: Economic Benefits of Income Exclusion for U.S. Citizens Working Abroad Are Uncertain. GAO-14-387, May 20.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663323.pdf
2. State Department: Process to Track Responses to Congressional Correspondence Can Be Improved. GAO-14-424, May 20.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663330.pdf
1. Federal Autism Activities: Funding and Coordination Efforts, by Marcia Crosse, director, health care, before the Subcommittee on Government Operations, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-14-613T, May 20.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663314.pdf
2. Nanomanufacturing and U.S. Competitiveness: Challenges and Opportunities, by Timothy M. Persons, chief scientist, applied research and methods, before the Subcommittee on Research and Technology, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-14-618T, May 20.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663320.pdf
3. Medicare: Further Action Could Improve Improper Payment Prevention and Recoupment Efforts, by Kathleen M. King, director, health care, before the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-14-619T, May 20.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663317.pdf
Pet Dog Ownership Decisions for Parents of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder (PDF)
Source: Journal of Pediatric Nursing (pre-publication dissertation)
This study compared the social skills of children wit h Autism Spectrum Disorder who lived with dogs and those who did not live with dogs. Interaction with dogs was investigated in this population, along with the attachment of those children who lived with dogs. This cross – sectional, descriptive study was conducted using a telephone survey. Seventy caregivers rated their child using the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scale, and responded to open – ended questions regarding their child’s interaction with dogs. Children living with dogs completed the Companion A nimal Bonding Scale . Two – sample t – tests were used for comparison of children with and without dogs. Thematic analysis was used to evaluate the qualitative data. In seven of eight social skill areas, the mean social skill scores of children with dogs were greater than for those without dogs . Eighty – nine percent of parents with dogs described their child as “ very attached ” and children reported high bonding to their dogs using the CABS. Parents indicat ed the benefits of dog ownership for their child with ASD were companionship, unconditional love and responsibility opportunities. The findings suggest that dog ownership may be beneficial for some children with ASD.