Podcast: Some important discoveries of 2022

Group social skills interventions (GSSIs) are among the most commonly used treatments for improving social competence in youth with ASD, however, results remain variable. The current study examined predictors of treatment response to an empirically-supported GSSI for youth with ASD delivered in the community (Ntotal=75). Participants completed a computer-based emotion recognition task and their parents completed measures of broad psychopathology, ASD symptomatology, and social skills. We utilized generalized estimating equations in an ANCOVA-of-change framework to account for nesting. Results indicate differential improvements in emotion recognition by sex as well as ADHD-specific improvements in adaptive functioning. Youth with both co-occurring anxiety and ADHD experienced iatrogenic effects, suggesting that SDARI may be most effective for youth with ASD without multiple co-occurring issues. Findings provide important directions for addressing variability in treatment outcomes for youth with ASD.

Keywords: ASD; Community; GSSI; Intervention; Social Skills; Treatment predictors.

More and more, psychiatrists are looking to psychedelic medication to help individuals who are resistant to other types of therapies. These include seizures, PTSD and depression. But can they help individuals with autism or ease autism-related problems or improve cognition? Two new studies on cannabis and one on ketamine are summarized in this week’s ASFpodcast. Promising, interesting, but not definitive. It’s a short podcast this week. You can listen to it here.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36085294/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35617670/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666247722000549?via%3Dihub

This week is a pharmacopeia of inflation. The #ASFpodcast talks debilitating gastrointestinal issues and new efforts to understand and treat them (including the CANDID meeting www.candidgi.com), a new method to understand adverse events in those that cannot report them on their own, and new news on Celexa, which is used to treat anxiety. Listen to the podcast here.

www.candidgi.com

https://www.theautismstudy.com

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35165451/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35501967/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34652075/

At this year’s International Society of Autism Research meeting in Austin, TX, there was a variety of themes explored. From early development and milestones, to intervention and supports, to different features like sensory issues, treatment, and how to solve the problem of heterogeneity. It comes down to this: Autism means different things to different people. This is just a small subset of everything that was presented at INSAR 2022 and I hope that if you want to see more, you advocate to have the presentations posted online or even have the program book made available publicly. In the meantime, enjoy the 30 minute summary here.

www.autism-insar.org

This year’s first podcast dedicated to COVID issues explores both caregiver and clinician satisfaction with telehealth. New studies explore this satisfaction with assessment as well as psychiatric interventions. Also, as a follow up to the INSAR presentations on resiliency in mental health, a new study from Canada explains what may be at the core of this resiliency. Finally – why are some autistic people still not getting vaccinated? Listen to the podcast here.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9126276/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35579789/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35575840/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9088649/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9023320/

This year’s Day of Learning was a huge success, with topics ranging from biological sex differences to mobile technologies all the way to the importance and documented value of leisure activities in people on the spectrum. the speakers included a discussion of the IACC, sex differences, the value of prevalence data, mobile technologies, leisure activities, and a recognition of two advocates who made or make a difference in families: Samantha Els and Suzanne Wright. Listen to this week’s podcast here for a quickie, but don’t let it prevent you from watching the longer videos, a link to which can be found below.

2022 Day of Learning presentations in full

http://www.babynavigator.com

http://www.autismnavigator.com

Purpose Reading involves the ability to decode and draw meaning from printed text. Reading skill profiles vary widely among learners with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One fairly common pattern is relative strength in decoding combined with weak comprehension skills-indicators of this profile emerge as early as the preschool years. In order for children with ASD to develop a facility with language that prepares them for reading success, practitioners must intentionally create and provide appropriate instruction practices. Method In this tutorial, we describe ways in which practitioners can support language development and comprehension skills for children with ASD within the context of shared reading activities. We begin by providing known information about the reading performance of children with ASD using the Simple View of Reading as our guiding conceptual framework. Next, we present a number of practical, evidence-based strategies that educators can implement within the context of shared book reading activities. Case studies are embedded throughout the tutorial to demonstrate how practitioners may apply these strategies in their instructional settings. Conclusions Shared book reading interventions are a well-studied, developmentally appropriate approach for bringing about change in language and literacy in early childhood. The success of shared reading depends upon rich communication and interaction between the adult reader and the child. Many children with ASD will require strategies to support social communication and emergent literacy skill development (e.g., vocabulary knowledge, language comprehension) that are specifically linked to future reading comprehension.

The Pandemic has required teachers to find ways to provide high-quality instruction in a virtual format. Video-based instruction (VBI) is a version of technology-aided instruction that has been effectively used in classrooms to improve mathematical outcomes for students with disabilities. This manuscript describes how a special education teacher can utilized VBI through free online platforms (i.e., SeeSaw, Loom) to implement a mathematical problem solving instructional strategy (modified schema-based instruction; MSBI) for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) while at home. MSBI utilizing VBI has successfully been used by teachers and researchers to improve additive and multiplicative problem solving skills for students with ASD. This manuscript describes how special education teachers can support students and their caregivers by providing high-quality problem solving instruction in a virtual environment.

Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by primary difficulties in social function. Individuals with ASD display slowed neural processing of faces, as indexed by the latency of the N170, a face-sensitive event-related potential. Currently, there are no objective biomarkers of ASD useful in clinical care or research. Efficacy of behavioral treatment is currently evaluated through subjective clinical impressions. To explore whether the N170 might have utility as an objective index of treatment response, we examined N170 before and after receipt of an empirically validated behavioral treatment in children with ASD. Method: Electroencephalography (EEG) data were obtained on a preliminary cohort of preschool-aged children with ASD before and after a 16-week course of PRT and in a subset of participants in waitlist control (16-weeks before the start of PRT) and follow-up (16-weeks after the end of PRT). EEG was recorded while participants viewed computer-generated faces with neutral and fearful affect. Results: Significant reductions in N170 latency to faces were observed following 16 weeks of PRT intervention. Change in N170 latency was not observed in the waitlist-control condition. Conclusions: This exploratory study offers suggestive evidence that N170 latency may index response to behavioral treatment. Future, more rigorous, studies in larger samples are indicated to evaluate whether the N170 may be useful as a biomarker of treatment response.

Keywords: N170; autism spectrum disoder; biomarker; electroencephalography; pivotal response treatment.

Despite reports have noted that children severely affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear to have been understudied. Rigorous analysis of this observation has been limited, and the representation of severity has not been well-described. We assessed three domains of severity (communication ability, cognitive functioning, and adaptive functioning) in 367 treatment studies of children with ASD published 1991-2013. We found that the proportion of studies that included the severely affected population decreased significantly over time, as well as wide variability in measurement and reporting. Inadequate representation of the full autism spectrum in the literature could lead to an unbalanced picture of ASD and leave behind those with arguably the greatest need.

OBJECTIVE: Many states with mandates requiring commercial insurers to cover autism spectrum disorder (ASD) health services specify upper age limits above which coverage is no longer mandated. It is unknown what effects these age caps have on health service use and spending among adolescents who have exceeded the age cap.

METHOD: Using administrative claims data from 3 national commercial insurers, a difference-in-differences approach was used to estimate effects of age caps on health service use and spending among adolescents with ASD. Statistical models compared changes in use and spending between those above versus below the age cap among individuals eligible versus ineligible for mandated coverage. The analytic sample included data from 2008 through 2012 on 7,845 individuals (151,976 person-months) ages 10 to 21 years in 11 states imposing mandate age caps going into effect during adolescence.

RESULTS: Age caps were associated with 4.2 percentage point (95% CI = -7.0, -1.5) lower probability of any ASD-specific service use in a month and $69 less (95% CI = -112, -$26) in average monthly spending on ASD-specific services than would have been expected given concomitant pre-post age cap differences among individuals in the same states who were never eligible for mandate-covered services. In addition, age caps were associated with $99 (95% CI = -$168, -$30) lower average monthly spending on all health care services.

CONCLUSION: Insurance mandates that include age caps going into effect during adolescence reduce health service use and spending among individuals with ASD during a critical phase of the life course.