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Research by Topic: Toddlers
Recently, Clare Harrop from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published two papers which help explain the differences between boys and girls with autism, at least in kids and toddlers. She graciously agreed to talk with ASF about these findings and what it means for better identification and diagnosis of girls with ASD, and […]
This week’s podcast includes two important studies which examine early influences of language development. First, we are lucky that Dr. Aaron Shield from Miami University joined to explain why studying children who are deaf and have autism, as well as parents of deaf children, are important for understanding language development. He explores how autism is […]
A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry analyzes the changes made to the DSM-5 in regards to autism symptom structure in toddlers with ASD. The DSM-5 model was found to be a superior fit to the data than other models used during toddler assessment.
A recent pilot study linked the JASPER intervention (Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement and Regulation) to core deficit improvement in minimally verbal 3 to 5 year olds with autism.
Researchers at Kennedy Krieger examined prevalence and predictors of language attainment in severely language-delayed children with ASD. 70% of the sample attained phrase speech and 47% attained fluent speech at or after age 4, indicating that later gains in language are likely in toddlers with severely delayed language. Children with high nonverbal intelligence and high levels of social interest and engagement were most likely to attain language. ASD-related features such as repetitive and sensory behaviors were not associated with language attainment.
Beyond Autism: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study of High-risk Children at Three Years of AgePublished February 8, 2013 in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
This study is the first large-scale examination of ASD behavioral characteristics and developmental functioning in high-risk (HR), non-autistic 3-year-olds with siblings on the spectrum. 79% of HR children were either no different from low-risk children (LR; no known ASD family history) with respect to ASD behavioral severity and developmental functioning, or were developmentally on target with high levels of ASD-related behaviors. 21% of HR children with no ASD diagnosis had an “early manifestation” of a broad autism phenotype: high levels of ASD-related behaviors and/or low levels of verbal and nonverbal functioning. The authors highlight the importance of developmental surveillance and intervention for this HR subset.
Researchers at Virginia Tech examine M-CHAT performance in a very low socio-economic status setting and find it lacks internal consistency across ethnic and educational groups. Caregivers who reported a low maternal educational level or with minority status were more likely to mark items suggestive of autism compared to those with higher maternal education or non-minority status
Researchers examine parent-child dyads during structured and free play and find that that joint engagement lasts longer when parents engage their child at or slightly above the child’s current level of play. Parents of children with autism often find it difficult to estimate their child’s level, which can result in parents engaging at too high of a level and shortening the interaction.
Sleep Disruption as a Correlate to Cognitive and Adaptive Behavior Problems in Autism Spectrum DisordersPublished January 28, 2013 in October 1, 2012
This study examines the effects of sleep problems on daytime cognitive and adaptive functioning in children with ASD.
Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence, and Future StudiesPublished January 16, 2013 in Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
The Institute of Medicine issues a report in response to questions about the safety of the vaccination schedule for children under age six. Thorough examination of the immunization schedule reveals no major concerns associated with adherence to recommended practices.
Portable Intermodal Preferential Looking (IPL): Investigating Language Comprehension in Typically Developing Toddlers and Young Children with Autism.Published December 14, 2012 in PubMed
Researchers at UCONN have developed an intermodel preferential looking assessment that relies on the child’s attention, rather than verbal or gestural responses, to evaluate language comprehension.
A large, prospective study found that children with and without ASD were developmentally similar at 6 months based on clinical tests. Lead author Dr. Rebecca Landa reported, for those children who went on to develop autism, the earliest signs of atypical development were non-specific to autism, such as general communication or motor delay.
This study suggests that non-verbal communication delays in infants with autistic siblings can predict later ASD symptoms.For a Science Daily article on this paper, click here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121001124802.htm
Effects of a Brief Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)-Based Parent Intervention on Toddlers at Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Randomized Controlled TrialPublished October 1, 2012 in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Contrary to their hypothesis, Sally Rogers and colleagues found that toddlers with ASD in a brief, parent-delivered ESDM program did not make greater gains or show reduced core ASD symptoms compared to autistic toddlers in a community ESDM program. Study strongly suggests number of intervention hours and younger age at initiation are key to maximizing intervention benefits, even for 1 and 2 year olds. Authors say, the wait and see approach to early ASD must be replaced by an act now mentality.
“OBJECTIVE: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorders that onset clinically during the first years of life. ASD risk biomarkers expressed early in life could significantly impact diagnosis and treatment, but no transcriptome-wide biomarker classifiers derived from fresh blood samples from children with autism have yet emerged.RESULTS: Potential ASD biomarkers were discovered in one-half of the sample and used to build a classifier, with high diagnostic accuracy in the remaining half of the sample.”
Researchers discover gross motor, communication and language score differences between minority and non-minority toddlers with ASD. The authors suggest that due to cultural differences, minority parents may not seek intervention services until more significant delays are present. Methods to improve early identification in these groups are discussed.
Dr. Eric Courchesne recently published his work he previewed at this year’s IMFAR in the “Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.”The mRNA expression abnormalities reliably observed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, which are safely and easily assayed in infants, offer the first potential peripheral bloodbased, early biomarker panel of risk for autism in infants and toddlers. Future work should verify these biomarkers and evaluate whether they may also serve as indirect indices of deviant molecular neural mechanisms in autism.
Early Behavioral Intervention is Associated with Normalized Brain Activity in Young Children with AutismPublished August 31, 2012 in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
This randomized trial associated ESDM with normalized brain activity and behavioral improvements in young children with ASD.
“The First Year Inventory is a parent-report measure designed to identify 12-month-old infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder. First Year Inventory taps behaviors that indicate risk in the developmental domains of sensory-regulatory and social-communication functioning. This longitudinal study is a follow-up of 699 children at 3 years of age from a community sample whose parents completed the First Year Inventory when their children were 12 months old. Parents of all 699 children completed the Social Responsiveness Scale-Preschool version and the Developmental Concerns Questionnaire to determine age 3 developmental outcomes. In addition, children deemed at risk for autism spectrum disorder based on liberal cut points on the First Year Inventory, Social Responsiveness Scale-Preschool, and/or Developmental Concerns Questionnaire were invited for in-person diagnostic evaluations. We found 9 children who had a confirmed diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder from the sample of 699. Receiver operating characteristic analyses determined that a two-domain cutoff score yielded optimal classification of children: 31% of those meeting algorithm cutoffs had autism spectrum disorder and 85% had a developmental disability or concern by age 3. These results suggest that the First Year Inventory is a promising tool for identifying 12-month-old infants who are at risk for an eventual diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.”
According to researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, a new parent evaluation tool may help identify children with ASDs as early as 12 months.
Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston Identify Brain Activity Patterns Specific to Children with AutismPublished June 26, 2012 in Time
Study from Children’s Hospital Boston uses EEG to identify specific brain activity patterns in children with autism.
Study from Vanderbilt University uses eye-tracking and visual event-related potentials to measure attention to changing facial features in infants at high-risk for developing autism.
Newly Published Genetics/Brain Tissue Study Will Help Refine the Search for Specific Early Genetic Markers of Risk of Autism in Babies and ToddlersPublished March 22, 2012 in PLoS Genetics
A new study of autism published today in PLoS Genetics has discovered abnormal gene activity and gene deletions in the same brain region that also has a 67% overabundance of brain cells. This region the prefrontal cortexis involved in social, emotional, communication and language skills. The finding brings new understanding of what early genetic abnormalities lead to excess brain cells and to the abnormal brain wiring that cause core symptoms in autism. Importantly, the study also shows that gene activity abnormalities in autism change across the lifespan.
Early diagnosis is considered key for autism, but minority children tend to be diagnosed later than white children. Some new work is beginning to try to uncover why and to raise awareness of the warning signs so more parents know they can seek help even for a toddler.
The first prospective study of ethnic differences in the symptoms of autism in toddlers shows that children from a minority background have more delayed language, communication and gross motor skills than Caucasian children with the disorder. Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute concluded that subtle developmental delays may be going unaddressed in minority toddlers until more severe symptoms develop.
Toward Brief Red Flags for Autism Screening: The Short Autism Spectrum Quotient and the Short Quantitative Checklist for Autism in Toddlers in 1,000 Cases and 3,000 ControlsPublished February 1, 2012 in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Ten items were taken from the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) and the Quantitative Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (Q-CHAT) to develop brief screening tools for ASD. Researchers hope these new measures will help doctors decide whether to refer families for full diagnostic assessments.
Autism is normally diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 3, but new research is finding symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in babies as young as 12 months.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital have used a novel method for analyzing brain-scan data to distinguish children with autism from typically developing children. Their discovery reveals that the gray matter in a network of brain regions known to affect social communication and self-related thoughts has a distinct organization in people with autism.
Toddlers who played with a limited number of toys showed more improvement in their communication skills following parent-guided treatment than those receiving other community-based treatments.
New Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised Algorithms for Toddlers and Young Preschoolers from 12 to 47 Months of AgePublished March 1, 2011 in J Autism Developmental Disorders, Kim et al.
The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised is a tool clinician’s use for the diagnosis of a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The diagnostic algorithms of the evaluative tool were altered to improve sensitivity and specificity compared to the previous algorithm.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego found 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. One hundred ten toddlers were presented with a one-minute movie depicting moving geometric patterns on one side of a video […]
Targeting the core social deficits of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in early intervention programs yielded sustained improvements in social and communication skills even in very young children who have ASD, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health.
Eye-tracking study reveals that a toddler’s infatuation with geometric patterns instead of social interactions such as dancing, jumping and smiling could be an early sign of autism.
Analysis determined whether children who received recommended vaccines on time during the first year of life had different neuropsychological outcomes at 7 to 10 years of age as compared with children with delayed receipt or nonreceipt of these vaccines. Their data showed timely vaccination was associated with better performance on 12 outcomes in univariate testing […]
The researchers tracked eye movements and blinks in 41 2-year-olds with autism and 52 healthy controls while the children watched a short movie of two toddlers on a playground. Both groups on average blinked about five times per minute. But they differed significantly in how their blinking lined up with the content of the movie.Healthy toddlers refrained from blinking as they watched scenes with high emotional content, such as when the toddler-actors fought about a toy. Toddlers with autism, in contrast, were just as likely to blink during emotional scenes as during dull ones.
Longitude Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study of Cortical Development Through Early Childhood in AutismPublished March 1, 2010 in Journal of Neuroscience, Courchesne et al
The first longitudinal study of brain growth in toddlers at the time symptoms of autism are becoming clinically apparent using structural MRI scans at multiple time points beginning at 1.5 years up to 5 years of age. They collected 193 scans on 41 toddlers who received a confirmed diagnosis of autistic disorder at approximately 48 […]
Randomized, Controlled, Trial of an Intervention for Toddlers with Autism: The Early Start Denver ModelPublished January 1, 2010 in Pediatrics, Dawson, Rogers, Munson, Smith, Winter, Greeson, Donaldson, and Varley
The first randomized, controlled trial to demonstrate the efficacy of a comprehensive developmental behavioral intervention for toddlers with ASD for improving cognitive and adaptive behavior and reducing severity of ASD diagnosis. Results of this study underscore the importance of early detection of and intervention in autism.
A novel early intervention program for very young children with autism — some as young as 18 months — is effective for improving IQ, language ability and social interaction, a comprehensive new study has found.
Typically developing human infants preferentially attend to biological motion within the first days of life. This ability is highly conserved across species and is believed to be critical for filial attachment and for detection of predators. The neural underpinnings of biological motion perception are overlapping with brain regions involved in perception of basic social signals […]
Two strategies have been proposed for early identification of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD): (1) using a general screening tool followed by an ASD-specific screening tool for those who screen positive on the former or (2) using an ASD-specific tool for all children. The relative yield of these two strategies has not been examined. […]
Absence of Preferential Looking to the Eyes of Approaching Adults Predicts Level of Social Disability in 2-year old toddlers with Autism Spectrum DisorderPublished August 31, 2008 in Archives of General Psychiatry, Jones, Carr, et al
Looking at the eyes of others is important in early social development and in social adaptation throughout one’s life span. Our results indicate that in 2-year-old children with autism, this behavior is already derailed, suggesting critical consequences for development but also offering a potential biomarker for quantifying syndrome manifestation at this early age.
Infant and toddler oral-motor and manual-motor skills inter-correlated significantly, distinguished autistic children from typically developing children, and distinguished autistic children whose current-day speech was minimally fluent, moderately fluent, and highly fluent. These results were corroborated by analysis of historical home video and verified with current-day assessment.