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.
Everyone who has looked for support for autism spectrum disorder is familiar with waitlists. Waitlists for evaluation, diagnosis, intervention, consultations and referrals. These waitlists prevent important opportunities for services and many groups developing technologies, policies, and approaches to reduce the waitlists or work around them. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Dr. Sharief Taraman from Cognoa to hear about their recent study on the scope of the problem on waitlists, what causes them, and how digital therapeutics may help them.
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.
In recognition of September 26th, this week’s podcast episode explores one of the more dangerous issues in autism: wandering. But it’s really not wandering in the traditional sense. Wandering in autism mostly means running off, bolting, deliberately with intent and without permission. Obviously this leads to some very dangerous situations for people on the spectrum. How can it be mitigated or understood? Some behavioral therapies are helpful, but new technologies have allowed for more options to bring back loved ones that have run off unexpectedly. Finally, the community needs to be better aware of possible stressors or triggers that trigger a wandering episode and work together with families to prevent running off. This problem is not caused by one thing, and the community needs multiple solutions to keep kids and adults safe.
Background: Fidelity, or the degree to which an intervention is implemented as designed, is essential for effective implementation. There has been a growing emphasis on assessing fidelity of evidence-based practices for autistic children in schools. Fidelity measurement should be multidimensional and focus on core intervention components and assess their link with program outcomes. This study evaluated the relation between intervention fidelity ratings from multiple sources, tested the relation between fidelity ratings and child outcomes, and determined the relations between core intervention components and child outcomes in a study of an evidence-based psychosocial intervention designed to promote inclusion of autistic children at school, Remaking Recess.
Method: This study extends from a larger randomized controlled trial examining the effect of implementation support on Remaking Recess fidelity and child outcomes. Schools were randomized to receive the intervention or the intervention plus implementation support. Observers, intervention coaches, and school personnel completed fidelity measures to rate completion and quality of intervention delivery. A measure of peer engagement served as the child outcome. Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated to determine concordance between raters. Two sets of hierarchical linear models were conducted using fidelity indices as predictors of peer engagement.
Results: Coach- and self-rated completion and quality scores, observer- and self-rated quality scores, and observer- and coach-rated quality fidelity scores were significantly correlated. Higher observer-rated completion and quality fidelity scores were predictors of higher peer engagement scores. No single intervention component emerged as a significant predictor of peer engagement.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the importance of using a multidimensional approach for measuring fidelity, testing the link between fidelity and child outcomes, and examining how core intervention components may be associated with child outcomes. Future research should clarify how to improve multi-informant reports to provide “good enough” ratings of fidelity that provide meaningful information about outcomes in community settings.
Plain language summary: Fidelity is defined as how closely an intervention is administered in the way the creators intended. Fidelity is important because it allows researchers to determine what exactly is leading to changes. In recent years, there has been an interest in examining fidelity of interventions for autistic children who receive services in school. This study looked at the relationship between fidelity ratings from multiple individuals, the relationship between fidelity and child outcomes, and the relationship between individual intervention component and child changes in a study of Remaking Recess, an intervention for autistic children at school. Schools were randomly selected to receive the intervention only or the intervention plus implementation support from the research team. Observers, intervention coaches, and individuals delivering the intervention themselves completed fidelity measures. Child engagement with peers was measured before and after the intervention. Several measures of self-, coach-, and observer-report fidelity were associated with each other. Higher observer-reported fidelity was associated with higher child peer engagement scores. No single intervention step was linked to child peer engagement and both treatment groups had similar outcomes in terms of fidelity. This study shows the importance of having multiple raters assess different parts of intervention fidelity, looking at the link between fidelity and child outcomes, and seeing how individual intervention steps may be related to outcomes. Future research should aim to find out which types of fidelity ratings are “good enough” to lead to positive changes following treatment so that those aspects can be used and targeted in the future.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; fidelity; implementation; school-based; social engagement intervention.
What do anxiety, prevalence, ketamine, other neurodevelopmental disorders, siblings, genetics, brain imaging and the autistic researcher committee at INSAR all have in common? They were all topics at the last Day of Learning. You can hear a 20 minute summary of the talks on this week’s ASFpodcast.
It’s that time! The ASF Year of End Science Wrap-up was published in December, so it’s time to share it on the podcast. We cover everything from parent mediated interventions to genetics and racial and ethnic disparities. You can listen here or read it on the ASF website here: https://autismsciencefoundation.org/autism-research-in-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.
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.
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.
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.