Podcast: Culturally sensitive care with Mia Kotikovski

On this week’s podcast, Mia Kotivkoski, founder of her own 5013c and recent graduate of Stony Brook University, reviews why understanding cultural and contextual factors influence not just an autism diagnosis but general health and outcomes of a broad group of people. They include immigrants, racial and ethnic differences, and socio-economic factors. What can be done? Listen to this week’s podcast to learn more.







General psychiatrists are trained deal with a range of psychiatric issues in a variety of areas, but very few have experience helping families of children and adults with autism. This is training that is desperately needed, as, like other professions, there are not enough psychiatrists to help families and waitlists are staggering. In this week’s podcast episode, Dr. Arthur Westover at UT Southwestern discusses some potentially simple solutions, what he has tried and worked, and how families and advocacy groups can get more involved to ensure that doctors know about the unique and difficult psychiatric issues that autistic people face. His ideas will not happen spontaneously, it’s going to take work to make psychiatrists more tuned into the needs of the autism community. He even wrote a paper (link below).


Did you miss the ASF 2024 Day of Learning and can’t wait for the videos to be posted? This is a 17 minute brief summary of what was discussed, but unfortunately, with no visuals. Don’t just listen to the podcast, watch the videos when they are posted. Also included in this podcast is a shoutout to the Profound Autism Summit which brought together hundreds of advocates around those who need 24/7 care for their lives. The link to their advocacy page is here: https://www.votervoice.net/ProfoundAutism/campaigns/112917/respond

This podcast has not covered transition from adolescence to adulthood in the past, probably because there has not been a lot of research in this area. Luckily, recently there has been a surge of investigations and scientifically – supported interventions and recommendations for individuals who are transitioning to adulthood. This podcast episode reviews the latest in where the gaps are and identified some (of many) areas that need further research. Here are the references that will be helpful.





In the last version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the different subtypes of autism were folded into one label: autism spectrum disorder. A similar revision is being made around the International Classification of Diseases, the system the WHO uses across the world to describe autism and provide appropriate reimbursements for services and supports. In this version, the ICD-11, a combination of 300 different presentations of autism are described. A diagnosis can be made if 1 feature of social-communication and 1 feature of repetitive behaviors are documented, with an onset of any time in life. This is causing a lot of confusion in the community, because since the presentations are not specific to autism, it is difficult to provide an accurate diagnosis using the ICD-11. On this week’s podcast episode we talk to German psychiatrist Inge Kamp-Becker, MD, who outlines what the changes are, and how misdiagnosis can be made and what those consequences might be. Her summary is linked below.


Those who are minimally verbal or non speaking represent about 25% of those with an autism diagnosis, yet there is really a lack of effective interventions for this group of autistic individuals. It used to be that everyone who was non-speaking was thought to have minimal ability to understand language, since understanding and speaking are so linked in development. However, group at Boston University studied the largest group of non-speaking autistic individuals so far and discovered that about 25% of them understand more language than they can speak, although this ability is still far lower than those who are neurotypical. The other 75% understand about as much as they can communicate verbally. This indicates that in some cases, the ability to understand words and their meaning exceeds the ability to communicate those ideas verbally. Surprise surprise, just like everything autism – there are differences across the spectrum. Thanks to Yanru Chen at Boston University for explaining the study to us in this week’s podcast episode.


On the first podcast of 2024, we describe a new paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association or JAMA which uses physiological measurements like heart rate and skin conductance to predict severe and dangerous behaviors, specifically aggression. If aggression can be predicted, it might be able to be prevented. It turns out aggression can be predicted up to 3 minutes before an episode occurs, in the future these measures can be used to possibly redirect aggression. In a separate study, the issue of stigma is addressed. There is an intense debate over “person first” vs. “identity first” language in autism, promoting recommendations of using one over the other because fear that person first language promotes stigma against autism. A new study shows that there is no added prejudice or fear using either person first or identity first language, but the stigma associated with schizophrenia is worse than it is for autism. What contributes to stigma? There is a wide range of experiences and perceptions of autism that need to be addressed. It’s not as simple as the language used.




Emerging evidence suggests that the higher prevalence of autism in individuals who are assigned male than assigned female at birth results from both biological factors and identification biases. Autistic individuals who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) and those who are gender diverse experience health disparities and clinical inequity, including late or missed diagnosis and inadequate support. In this Viewpoint, an international panel of clinicians, scientists, and community members with lived experiences of autism reviewed the challenges in identifying autism in individuals who are AFAB and proposed clinical and research directions to promote the health, development, and wellbeing of autistic AFAB individuals. The recognition challenges stem from the interplay between cognitive differences and nuanced or different presentations of autism in some AFAB individuals; expectancy, gender-related, and autism-related biases held by clinicians; and social determinants. We recommend that professional development for clinicians be supported by health-care systems, professional societies, and governing bodies to improve equitable access to assessment and earlier identification of autism in AFAB individuals. Autistic AFAB individuals should receive tailored support in education, identity development, health care, and social and professional sense of belonging


Objective: The coronavirus pandemic drastically increased social isolation. Autistic youth already experience elevated social isolation and loneliness, making them highly vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic. We examined trajectories of social disruption and loneliness in autistic and non-autistic youth during a six-month period of the pandemic (June 2020 until November 2020).

Method: Participants were 76 youth, ages 8 through 17, (Mage = 12.82, Nautistic = 51) with an IQ ≥ 70. Youth completed a biweekly measure of loneliness (Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale) and their parent completed a measure of pandemic-related family social disruption (Epidemic Pandemic Impacts Inventory).

Results: There were no time trends in loneliness across all youth, however, social disruption displayed linear, quadratic, and cubic trends. Non-autistic youth reported relatively greater declines in social disruption compared to autistic youth. Additionally, autistic youth reported relatively greater declines in loneliness relative to non-autistic youth. Greater social disruption was associated with higher loneliness, however, autistic youth demonstrated a relatively stronger relationship between social disruption and loneliness compared to non-autistic youth.

Conclusions: The current study was one of the first to investigate social disruption and loneliness in autistic youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results indicated that autistic youth experienced relative decreases in loneliness during this time, perhaps due to reductions in social demands. Nonetheless, when autistic youth did experience social disruption, they reported relatively higher levels of loneliness. This work contributes to our understanding of risk factors for loneliness and highlights the need to understand the benefits, as well as the challenges, to remote schooling and social interactions.

Background: Differences in responding to sensory stimuli, including sensory hyperreactivity (HYPER), hyporeactivity (HYPO), and sensory seeking (SEEK) have been observed in autistic individuals across sensory modalities, but few studies have examined the structure of these “supra-modal” traits in the autistic population.

Methods: Leveraging a combined sample of 3868 autistic youth drawn from 12 distinct data sources (ages 3-18 years and representing the full range of cognitive ability), the current study used modern psychometric and meta-analytic techniques to interrogate the latent structure and correlates of caregiver-reported HYPER, HYPO, and SEEK within and across sensory modalities. Bifactor statistical indices were used to both evaluate the strength of a “general response pattern” factor for each supra-modal construct and determine the added value of “modality-specific response pattern” scores (e.g., Visual HYPER). Bayesian random-effects integrative data analysis models were used to examine the clinical and demographic correlates of all interpretable HYPER, HYPO, and SEEK (sub)constructs.

Results: All modality-specific HYPER subconstructs could be reliably and validly measured, whereas certain modality-specific HYPO and SEEK subconstructs were psychometrically inadequate when measured using existing items. Bifactor analyses supported the validity of a supra-modal HYPER construct (ωH = .800) but not a supra-modal HYPO construct (ωH = .653), and supra-modal SEEK models suggested a more limited version of the construct that excluded some sensory modalities (ωH = .800; 4/7 modalities). Modality-specific subscales demonstrated significant added value for all response patterns. Meta-analytic correlations varied by construct, although sensory features tended to correlate most with other domains of core autism features and co-occurring psychiatric symptoms (with general HYPER and speech HYPO demonstrating the largest numbers of practically significant correlations).

Limitations: Conclusions may not be generalizable beyond the specific pool of items used in the current study, which was limited to caregiver report of observable behaviors and excluded multisensory items that reflect many “real-world” sensory experiences.

Conclusion: Of the three sensory response patterns, only HYPER demonstrated sufficient evidence for valid interpretation at the supra-modal level, whereas supra-modal HYPO/SEEK constructs demonstrated substantial psychometric limitations. For clinicians and researchers seeking to characterize sensory reactivity in autism, modality-specific response pattern scores may represent viable alternatives that overcome many of these limitations.

Keywords: Autism; Hyperreactivity; Hyporeactivity; Integrative data analysis; Item response theory; Measurement; Meta-analysis; Responsiveness; Sensitivity; Sensory features; Sensory seeking.

A recent publication in the Lancet was dedicated to clinical recommendations to support autistic females at birth. Because more males than females are diagnosed with autism, their needs are often misunderstood, misinterpreted, or just ignored. Researchers, clinicians, scientists, parents and self-advocates from around the world joined together to identify those needs and propose solutions that can be implemented in everyday care. Listen to this week’s podcast episode to learn more, or read the article in its entirety at the link below.


Nobody ever talks about catatonia in autism. This podcast explores the symptoms of catatonia, how to measure it, what parents should know about tracking the symptoms, what the treatments are, and what the causes are. Dr. Martine Lamy from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital explains her work looking at genetic causes in those with catatonia and neurodevelopmental disorders. It’s important to do genetic testing on all individuals who present with catatonia because this information led to better treatments in some people. Identifying a genetic cause of not just catatonia but also neurodevelopmental disorders like ASD gives families a community but also allows them to identify more targeted interventions.