Podcast: Are Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions controversial?

While NDBIs are generally considered beneficial, they still face controversies – do they actually work and does that translate to an improved quality of life for the family? This week’s #ASF podcast interviews Molly Reilly and Jinwei Song of @UConn to dive into these issues, as well as the role of the caregiver in the intervention and how their influence affects the outcome. References below.




A legend in the autism community passed away on Friday. Today’s podcast focuses on the many talents of Dr. James (Jim) Simons, one of the founders of the Simons Foundation that has spent more than $500 million on autism research. We explain how he made his fortune, how he spent it, the importance of the Simons Foundation to the autism community, and advice from Dr. Simons about how to experience a life well lived.

As health care and outcomes for very premature infants has improved, scientists are able to track their longer term behavioral development, and that includes risk of developmental disorders like autism. On this week’s #ASFpodcast, Dr. Jessica Bradshaw discusses her recent research examining biological predictors like body temperature and heart rate and how they are linked to early autism features like social communication deficits in toddlerhood. All parents of pre-meet need to be vigilant and lean into resources like @BabyNavigator to help track their infant’s development.


In honor of the last week of Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month, we review in this podcast episode two new scientific findings that call for more awareness and action, and less acceptance of the status quo. First: sex differences in autism are not well understood, and as it turns out, the influences on a diagnosis are different. Males have a higher rate of heritability compared to females. Second, those with rare genetic disorders have very few options for treatment, but a new study promises hope for more personalized approaches. The researchers use Timothy Syndrome as an example of how cells can start to function properly through a targeted approach which focuses on a small part of a gene. This is potentially life saving for individuals with this disorder.



Thank you to Dennis Wall from Stanford University for explaining what Machine Learning is, how it’s related to Artificial Intelligence (today’s four buzz words) and how these new technologies are helping families get a diagnosis. In this week’s podcast episode, he talks about the overall goals of these techniques, highlighting Cognoa’s CanvasDx to provide remote diagnoses to potentially reduce the waiting lists for families.

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.





Last week in North Carolina, the Meeting on Language in Autism was held, with 3 days of amazing presentations and lots of productive discussions about how language and speech develops and how people with autism communicate. This podcast describes the origins of language development and how intervention during toddlerhood can promote lifelong language abilities. To learn more about the meeting go to www.mola.org and to see the Autism Navigator, go to www.autismnavigator.org.

This podcast episode provides updates on studies that help with prediction of an autism diagnosis – which is important for preparing for the future and for intervening early. First, a study that uses environmental factors to create an equation for the probability of a diagnosis following a combination of of non-genetic factors only which does a fairly good, but not perfect, job at predicting a diagnosis. Second, a study that looks at the accuracy of a machine that predicts autism from eye gaze as early as 9 months of age and with only a 2 minute test. This one wasn’t as accurate as the one that takes longer and tests older kids, but it’s a first step. No ONE thing does a perfect job at predicting a diagnosis – it’s going to be a combination of things, tested over time and multiple times that will be most helpful at predicting a diagnosis. Both studies are open access!



On this week’s podcast we interview Dr. Susan Daniels who is the National Autism Coordinator for the Department of Health and Human Services. This position is created by the Autism CARES Act (which is under reauthorization) and represents one of the only disorders that provides coordinating functioning across funding agencies. We talk about what her office does, what the IACC is responsible for, and what the strategic plan for autism from the IACC advises congress to do. She also discusses some upcoming events for Autism Awareness Month.

Links referenced in our conversation are below:





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.


Irritability and aggression are dangerous behaviors that can lead to harm and injury and are overlooked in research. Unfortunately there are only two FDA medications approved to treat them in autism. The drugs have many side effects, and there are efforts to improve these treatments and minimize side effects by lowering the dose with adjunct therapies that enhance the efficacy of the drug. So far, there are a few promising leads, but nothing that is ready for the clinic. How do scientists make the move from an interesting discovery in a lab to testing the safety and efficacy of a drug? Through animal models or model systems that examine different phenotypes in an animal and test medications on outcomes like aggression. Mice are not people, but they are necessary to ensure safe and effective treatments are translated into practice. Learn more in this week’s podcast episode.