Simple questionnaire may improve early detection of autism

To detect signs of autism in toddlers, pediatricians routinely rely on parent-completed questionnaires about the child’s behavior. But parents’ answers may be influenced as much by their own bias about their child’s possible diagnosis as by their child’s actions.

A set of six questions about child development can identify parents who tend to overreport or underreport their child’s symptoms.

The researchers then shortened their general development questionnaire to include these six questions and 14 others. They gave it along with the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), a standard screen for the disorder, to 145 parents with a child who had been referred for psychological evaluation at an autism center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

In the study, the M-CHAT alone accurately classified 107 of the 145 children, and missed 12 children with the disorder. The general development questions flagged six of those 12 children’s parents as underreporters. In addition, the M-CHAT wrongly classified 26 children as having autism, and the questions identified nine of their parents as overreporters.

Read more here.

Autism Tied to Increased Connectivity in Brain Networks

Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show atypically increased functional connectivity involving the mentalizing and mirror neuron brain networks, according to a study published online April 16 in JAMA Psychiatry.

The researchers found that participants with ASD showed a mixed pattern of both over- and underconnectivity in the theory of mind (ToM) network, which is associated with greater social impairment, compared to the controls. This increased connectivity was seen primarily between the regions of the mirror neuron system (MNS) and ToM. The connectivity increase was correlated with sociocommunicative measures, suggesting that excessive ToM-MNS cross talk might be associated with social impairment. A subset of the 15 participants with ASD with the most severe symptomology showed exclusive overconnectivity effects in both ToM and MNS networks, which were also associated with greater social dysfunction compared to a tightly matched subset of 15 typically developing controls.

Read more here.

2013 Count of Montana Public School Students with Autism. Gender and Race

Age Graphs on Montana Public School Students with Autism

A note on the following two graphs:

1. 1993 was the third year that autism was a distinct disability category in Montana education rules. Prior to 1991, students with autism had been labeled as having an intellectual disability.

2. 2000 was the first year that students with Asperger's were eligible to be identified as having autism. Previous eligibility criteria has specifically excluded students who had Aspergers.

3. 2001 was the first year that students aged 3-5 could be labeled as having autism. Previous to that year, all students aged 3-5 could only be labeled, "Child With a Disability."

Presentation on Aspergers for Parents and Others

The Missoula Adult Aspergers Group will present information on growing up and thriving with Aspergers.
May 18th
Missoula Public Library - Large Basement Meeting Room
1:15 - 4:00 p.m.

Home videos could be powerful tool for diagnosing autism, researcher says

Short home videos, such as those posted on YouTube, may become a powerful tool for diagnosing autism, according to a study whose senior author is a scientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

With only brief training, research assistants were able to accurately score autistic-type behaviors in home videos of children in natural settings, the study found. "Our new paper supports the hypothesis that we can detect autism quickly in very short home videos with high accuracy," said Dennis Wall, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics in systems medicine and the senior author of the paper, published April 16 in PLOS ONE. Vincent Fusaro, PhD, a research associate at Harvard, is the lead author. The finding has the potential to improve the speed and availability of .

Read more here.

Stop Combating Autism

New Screening Method Could Detect Autism In 9 Month Old Infants

The identification of two new biomarkers could help medical researchers identify autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children as young as nine months old – one year earlier than the average screening age.

According to lead author Carole A. Samango-Sprouse, an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at George Washington University, head circumference and head tilting reflex are reliable ways to determine whether or not children between the ages of 9 and 12 months could be autistic.


Speakmod iPad Communication App

What is PANDAS? How Is It Different from Autism?

PANDAS may be quite rare. But some evidence suggests it could account for as many as 1 in 10 new cases of OCD in children each year. We simply don’t know for certain, as the majority of cases may go undiagnosed.

Typically, children affected by PANDAS have a dramatic – even overnight – onset of symptoms. This can include one or more new movement or vocal tics, as well as obsessions or compulsions or both. Some affected children become noticeably moody and irritable, have more difficulty separating from loved ones, experience a change in eating patterns or begin having trouble sleeping or controlling the bladder.

Read more here.

Autism Speaks Announces New Tools for Successful Vision Exams

Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (AS-ATN) is pleased to announce the release of its latest resource for families from the ATN/AIR-P: a video and accompanying social narrative to help prepare individuals with autism for visits to the eye doctor, which can often be very difficult and uncomfortable experiences.

The video Vision Exams for Individuals with Autism and accompanying social narrative lead families and caregivers through a visit to the optometrist’s office and a full, step-by-step vision exam. These tools can also provide insight into preparing ahead of time to make the visit as smooth, anxiety-free and productive as possible. This video is also appropriate for optometrists who are not familiar with autism.

Read more here.

Could dads' obesity raise autism risk for kids?

Children born to obese fathers, but not obese mothers, may have a slightly higher risk of autism than kids with thinner dads, a large new study suggests.

Researchers found that of nearly 93,000 Norwegian children they followed, those born to obese dads had double the risk of developing autism. But the odds were still small: just under 0.3 percent were diagnosed with autism, versus 0.14 percent of kids with normal-weight fathers.

Read more here.

Autism Awareness: Diagnostic Criteria

On March 27, 2014, the centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 1 in 68 children in the US has an autism spectrum disorder. Chances are you or someone you know has been touched by autism in a very personal way. April is Autism Awareness Month. As part of our continuing effort to promote global awareness for autism, we are making our Training Video "An Introduction to Autism" available for family members, friends, educators and anyone who is interested in learning more about autism and the things they can do to screen young children for autism. In the first of this 3 part installment, we look at the Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

See the video here.

Assistive Technology Webinars

April 17, 2014
3:30 PM Pacific, 6:30 PM Eastern

MITS presents a process for looking at data gathered over the course of the past school year and what steps need to be taken for AT to be in place for individual students in the fall. 30 min.

Tuesday, April 22 2014
11 AM Pacific, 2 PM Eastern

AbleNet presents what you need to provide in FAPE, LRE, according to IDEA.

Tuesday, April 22 2014
12 PM Pacific, 3 PM Eastern

Georgia's Tools for Life presents a range of apps.

Thursday, May 1, 2014
11 AM Pacific, 2 PM Eastern

AbleNet presents the basics of an Assistive Technology Implementation plan.

Thursday, May 8th, 2014
12 PM Pacific, 3 PM Eastern

Georgia's Tools for Life presents ways of adapting lessons to allow students access to the core standards.

Webinar - Autism Spectrum Disorder: From Numbers to Know-How

Tuesday, April 22, at 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. (Eastern Time?)

Please join us to discuss the challenges of understanding and diagnosing this complex disorder and the opportunities for early identification and screening. This session of Grand Rounds will also explore some of the evidence-based interventions that can help individuals with autism make gains in their development.

Watch the live broadcast at either of the following links:

Billings - Applied Behavior Analysis & Functional Behavior Assessment

April 30

This interactive training will focus on the following topics:

“Applied Behavior Analysis in the Classroom and Real Life”, and “Functional Behavior Assessment”.

Download file "2014%20Billings%20RiteCare%20Flyer.pdf"

1 in 68 Children Now Has a Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Why?

The staggering increase in cases of ASD should raise more suspicion in the medical community about its misdiagnosis and overdiagnosis than it does. Promoting early screening for autism is imperative. But, is it possible that the younger in age a child is when professionals screen for ASD—especially its milder cases—the greater the risk that a slow-to-mature child will be misperceived as autistic, thus driving the numbers up?

May 8th - Free Webinar: Beyond the Basics: Taking Visual Schedules to the Next Level

Join us on Thursday, May 8th - 3PM Eastern Time for "Beyond the Basics: Taking Visual Schedules to the Next Level" with Mandi Rickelman, MA (Supervisor, Monarch Center for Autism Preschool) and Anna Hutt Fredman, MS, CCC-SLP (Speech/Language Pathologist, Monarch Preschool).

To participate in the live session, log in at at the scheduled time.

Date: Thursday, May 8, 2014
Starts: 3:00 pm (GMT-5) Eastern Time (US)
Ends: 4:00 pm (GMT-5) Eastern Time (US)

Federal Autism Panel Raises Concerns Over DSM Changes

A federal advisory panel is urging clinicians to be careful when applying new diagnostic criteria for autism in order to ensure that no one is denied needed services.

Dramatic changes to the definition of autism took effect last year with publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Under the new definition, autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified were folded under an umbrella classification of “autism spectrum disorder” with clinicians specifying a level of severity.

Now the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee — a federal advisory panel comprised of government officials and members of the autism community — is highlighting a number of implications that may result from the shift.

In practical terms, the IACC is cautioning clinicians, noting that the new diagnostic criteria have not yet been rigorously tested in young kids, adults and individuals from various ethnic populations.

The group is also citing concerns about the reliability of severity ratings used to denote where an individual falls on the autism spectrum and the applicability of the new criteria for children under age 3 who may not yet fully display symptoms despite a need for early intervention.

“Services should be based on need rather than diagnosis; it would not be appropriate for a child to be denied ASD-specific services because he or she does not meet full DSM-5 criteria if a qualified clinician or educator determines that the child could benefit from those services,” the panel said in its report, adding that the updated DSM requires that all those who previously had an autism diagnosis under the old diagnostic criteria retain that label going forward.

The IACC said further research is needed to determine how reliable and valid the DSM-5 definition is and to weigh the impact of the changes on diagnosis, prevalence and access to services.

Read more here.

IACC Statement Regarding Scientific, Practice and Policy Implications of Changes in the Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder

The DSM-5 criteria were published in May 2013.1, 2 Although the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria are intended primarily for use by clinicians and researchers in their diagnostic assessments, the IACC is aware that it is important to also remember that these the criteria also have a direct impact on people who have the disorders and their families, and their ability to assess symptoms and obtain services that can help them optimize their health, well-being and quality of life. Any revision of the diagnostic criteria must be made with great care so as to not have the unintended consequence of reducing critical services aimed at improving the ability of persons with autism. In this statement, the IACC describes a range of research, practice, and policy implications that arise as a result of the changes in theDSM criteria which deserve consideration as the DSM-5 is implemented in research, clinical, and educational settings.

Changes in the DSM Criteria

Starting with the DSM-III in 1980, autism was categorized as a Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). In an effort to reflect what has been learned through research and practice since that time, the DSM-5 released in 2013 removed the PDD category and the accompanying subtypes (Autistic Disorder, Asperger Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified) with a single disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The DSM-5 criteria place greater emphasis on the two core symptom domains of ASD (social communication and restrictive, repetitive behaviors), and no longer consider verbal abilities as a diagnostic feature. Other changes included adding ratings of the severity of the two symptom domains and several clinical specifiers. These specifiers provide information about etiology, co-morbidities (e.g., intellectual disability, language delay, and medical conditions such as seizures), and pattern of onset.

Since ASD continues to be defined by a pattern of developmental and behavioral symptoms, changes to the diagnostic criteria come with potential trade-offs. One goal of the recent revisions was to improve specificity of the ASD diagnosis, reducing the number of false positive cases. However, concerns exist that this increased specificity may have gone too far in reducing the sensitivity of the ASD diagnosis, increasing the number of false negative cases. For example, removing a specific age cut-off for diagnosis was intended to improve the sensitivity of theDSM-IV criteria (which had required symptom onset by 3 years of age). By DSM-5's more inclusive criterion, "Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life" may reduce diagnostic specificity by expanding the list of differential diagnoses that must be considered. The inclusion of historical information also may have unintended consequences on sensitivity and specificity.

Another major change in DSM-5 was the addition of a new diagnosis category, Social Communication Disorder (SCD) which applies to individuals who exhibit persistent difficulty with the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication that cannot be explained by low cognitive ability. The symptoms of SCD have significant overlap with those of the ASD social communication domain, but the two disorders are considered to be unique and separate from each other. The distinction is clarified in the DSM-5 criteria, which note that ASD must be ruled out before a diagnosis of SCD can be considered. However, there is limited published information on SCD with a research basis primarily in the condition previously studied as Pragmatic Language Disorder (PLD). While SCD includes PLD, there is much to learn about the definition, measurement, scope, reliability, and validity of SCD as a diagnosed condition.

Read more here.