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.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38719439

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epub/10.1177/13623613241227516

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-023-06198-x

Studies using wearable devices suggest that severe behaviors like aggression and self-injury are often preceded by physiological signs that may reflect emotional dysregulation and stress, such as increased heart rate and sudden movements. In order to best manage these situations and support children with profound autism in school settings, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania developed the KeepCalm app. This app works with a wearable device and allows educators to monitor their students in real-time. The app’s interactive learning feature helps train teachers to identify early signs of distress and use appropriate de-escalation strategies before injurious behavior occurs. This information can also be shared with parents, so that they can use the same strategies at home. This project will assess the KeepCalm system in educational teams and modify the application and training to specifically accommodate students with profound autism.

Large gaps exist in healthcare for Black autistic children, yet the lived experiences of these families are rarely investigated or considered when designing research studies. This student will collect data from families, including information about their diagnostic experience and the factors that matter most to them. The results will help researchers and healthcare providers develop culturally competent interventions for Black families across the world.

Many autism referrals in low-resource settings originate from community mental health care clinics. Unfortunately, many mental health care providers are not trained in autism interventions and do not have the appropriate resources to provide support to parents or provide parent training for early developmental interventions. This fellow will work directly with ABA agencies that contract with Medicaid to determine how clinicians can better support parents participating in parent- mediated interventions.

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.

https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1i5LV8Mut2Mzvb

On this week’s ASF podcast: there are dozens of good reasons why scientists need to study the brains of people with autism. One is to understand what happens in the brain as people with autism get older and see how the brain changes over time. Another is to identify mechanisms of autism to help all neuroscientists figure out how the brain works. A third is improve medicine by determining what helps what people at what age. Scientists @UCDavis, @Penn and @UCLA examined the individual brain cells of people with autism to address these three questions, revealing that the autistic brain shows some similarities to brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition, inflammation seen in the brain may be caused by too much activity of cells talking to each other. Studying the brains of people with autism is essential to better understanding and is made possible by families who are committed to research. 

www.autismbrainnet.org.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36862688/

The title gets you, right? Well, on this week’s podcast we report on a new study that examines epigenetic profiles of sperm and how they related to child outcomes. Do some of the marks on bio-dad’s sperm match to those found in kids with ASD? what about genes related to autism? Also, can parents be good proxies of their child’s intellectual ability? For the most part yes, but sometimes they tend to overestimate this ability. This means they are good, but not perfect reporters. How could they be if the child has a severe intellectual disability?

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37097835/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37100868/

Many of the existing tools to identify autism cost money or are not specific for ASD, and they are hidden behind paywalls and are hard to obtain. A group of scientists led by Tom Frazer at John Caroll University put together a 39 questionnaire called the Autism Symptoms Dimensions Questionnaire to be filled out by parents of children. It’s free and open source! But that’s just the first step. The media got the intent wrong, yet again.

It should not replace a full diagnosis. Autism is complex, and even those with genetic forms of autism show heterogeneity in symptoms. They each need comprehensive evaluations. But this is a good start. Listen to the podcast and check out the ASDQ here! It’s open source!

References below:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36670671/

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/dmcn.15497

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36639821/

Parent-focused interventions have been designed to provide training and support to caregivers who are essential in achieving positive outcomes for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). In 2020, significant crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and continued racial tensions, profoundly impacted the livelihood of children with IDD and their families. Many ongoing efforts to address disparities among this population were halted temporarily and required further adaptations. Researchers adapted interventions and support to address the disparities impacting children with IDD and their families with limited guidance. We provide a descriptive case analysis of four parent-focused interventions that responded to the global crises to continue serving children with IDD and their families. The four distinct programs were based on applied behavior analysis and naturalistic, developmental-behavioral paradigms that were culturally adapted for families of young children with IDD from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. We present the qualitative reports on the challenges and benefits that arose with adapting the four parent-focused interventions for telehealth implementation. We focused specifically on adaptations made in recruitment and retention, instrumentation and measurement, research staff training, and intervention delivery. We synthesize our experience with challenges and solutions in adapting parent-focused interventions for racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse children with IDD and their families. We conclude with recommendations for researchers and practitioners on methods for adapting parent-focused interventions to address the significant health disparities that impact racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse children with IDD and their families.

Keywords: COVID-19; autism; intellectual disability; parent-focused interventions; practice; racial/ethnic diversity.

In this study we investigated the impact of parental language input on language development and associated neuroscillatory patterns in toddlers at risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Forty-six mother-toddler dyads at either high (n = 22) or low (n = 24) familial risk of ASD completed a longitudinal, prospective study including free-play, resting electroencephalography, and standardized language assessments. Input quantity/quality at 18 months positively predicted expressive language at 24 months, and relationships were stronger for high-risk toddlers. Moderated mediations revealed that input-language relationships were explained by 24-month frontal and temporal gamma power (30-50 Hz) for high-risk toddlers who would later develop ASD. Results suggest that high-risk toddlers may be cognitively and neurally more sensitive to their language environments, which has implications for early intervention.

Keywords: Autism; EEG; Early experience; Language development; Language input.