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Using the Preschool Language Scale, Fourth Edition to Characterize Language in Preschoolers With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Conclusions: The PLS–4 can be used to obtain a general index of early syntax and semantic skill in young children with ASD. Longitudinal data will be necessary to determine how the developmental relationship between receptive and expressive language skills unfolds in children with ASD.

from American Journal of Speech Language Pathology

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Brain structure anomalies in autism spectrum disorder—a meta-analysis of VBM studies using anatomic likelihood estimation

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are pervasive developmental disorders with characteristic core symptoms such as impairments in social interaction, deviance in communication, repetitive and stereotyped behavior, and impaired motor skills. Anomalies of brain structure have repeatedly been hypothesized to play a major role in the etiopathogenesis of the disorder. Our objective was to perform unbiased meta-analysis on brain structure changes as reported in the current ASD literature. We thus conducted a comprehensive search for morphometric studies by Pubmed query and literature review. We used a revised version of the activation likelihood estimation (ALE) approach for coordinate-based meta-analysis of neuroimaging results. Probabilistic cytoarchitectonic maps were applied to compare the localization of the obtained significant effects to histological areas. Each of the significant ALE clusters was analyzed separately for age effects on gray and white matter density changes. We found six significant clusters of convergence indicating disturbances in the brain structure of ASD patients, including the lateral occipital lobe, the pericentral region, the medial temporal lobe, the basal ganglia, and proximate to the right parietal operculum. Our study provides the first quantitative summary of brain structure changes reported in literature on autism spectrum disorders. In contrast to the rather small sample sizes of the original studies, our meta-analysis encompasses data of 277 ASD patients and 303 healthy controls. This unbiased summary provided evidence for consistent structural abnormalities in spite of heterogeneous diagnostic criteria and voxel-based morphometry (VBM) methodology, but also hinted at a dependency of VBM findings on the age of the patients. Hum Brain Mapp, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

from Human Brain Mapping

Asperger syndrome, violent thoughts and clinically isolated syndrome

A young man, 23 years old, with a clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), presented violent thoughts during a neurological consultation. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome based on a psychiatric and (neuropsychological examination. Possible risk factors for acting-out and the implications for treatment, if CIS would evolve to MS, are discussed based on a review of the literature.

from Acta Neurologica Belgica

Phenotypic Overlap Between Core Diagnostic Features and Emotional/Behavioral Problems in Preschool Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This study examined the phenotypic overlap between core diagnostic features and emotional/behavioral problems in a sample of 335 preschool children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Results from principal component analysis (2 components; 49.70% variance explained) suggested substantial phenotypic overlap between core diagnostic features and emotional/behavioral problems. Component I, Emotional Behavioral Repetitive Problems, was independent of the children’s intellectual, adaptive functioning, and structural language abilities. Component II, Social Communication Deficits, was negatively related to the children’s intellectual, adaptive functioning, and structural language abilities. Both components were positively related to parental stress. This exploratory study contributes to our understanding of the ASD phenotype and provides further support for including emotional/behavioral problems as part of the clinical characterization of children with ASD.

from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Sound before Meaning: Word Learning in Autistic Disorders

Successful word learning depends on the integration of phonological and semantic information with social cues provided by interlocutors. How then, do children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) learn new words when social impairments pervade? We recorded the eye-movements of verbally-able children with ASD and their typical peers while completing a word learning task in a social context. We assessed learning of semantic and phonological features immediately after learning and again four weeks later. Eye-movement data revealed that both groups could follow social cues, but that typically developing children were more sensitive to the social informativeness of gaze cues. In contrast, children with ASD were more successful than peers at mapping phonological forms to novel referents; however, this advantage was not maintained over time. Typical children showed clear consolidation of learning both semantic and phonological information, children with ASD did not. These results provide unique evidence of qualitative differences in word learning and consolidation and elucidate the different mechanisms underlying the unusual nature of autistic language.

from Neuropsychologia

The Impact of Object and Gesture Imitation Training on Language Use in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Conclusion: These findings suggest that adding gesture imitation training to object imitation training can lead to greater gains in rate of language use than object imitation alone. Implications for both language development and early intervention are discussed.

from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

Pharmacotherapy and Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Tutorial for Speech-Language Pathologists

SLPs play an important role in the education, assessment, and treatment of children with ASD. Although there is no definitive cure for ASD, up to 70% of children with ASD are prescribed psychoactive medications to ameliorate disruptive behaviors associated with ASD such as hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity, aggression, irritability, self-injury, obsessive compulsiveness, anxiety, and mood disorders. The entire health care team, including SLPs, should be involved in monitoring children with ASD for efficacy, tolerability, and potential side effects when medications are prescribed.

from Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools

A Comparison of the Development of Audiovisual Integration in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Typically Developing Children

This study aimed to investigate the development of audiovisual integration in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Audiovisual integration was measured using the McGurk effect in children with ASD aged 7–16 years and typically developing children (control group) matched approximately for age, sex, nonverbal ability and verbal ability. Results showed that the children with ASD were delayed in visual accuracy and audiovisual integration compared to the control group. However, in the audiovisual integration measure, children with ASD appeared to ‘catch-up’ with their typically developing peers at the older age ranges. The suggestion that children with ASD show a deficit in audiovisual integration which diminishes with age has clinical implications for those assessing and treating these children.

from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Developmental profiles in preschool children with autism spectrum disorders referred for intervention

The aim was to characterize the panorama of developmental disorders in 208 preschool children with a clinical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), referred to a specialized centre, the Autism Centre for Young Children (ACYC), for intervention. At the centre, a research team examined all children according to structured protocols and interviews. All available test data from their assessments prior to referral were scrutinized. The boy:girl ratio was 5.5:1. In 22% of the total group a period of regression, including speech and language, had occurred. Epilepsy had been diagnosed in 6% of the children. In 38% of the children there was a definite or highly suspected learning disability/mental retardation according to cognitive test results. About the same proportion had a developmental delay that at the time of assessment could not be definitely classified and in 23% there were clear indications of a normal intellectual function. About 40% of the group exhibited hyperactivity. Differences in expressive vocabulary and adaptive functioning were strongly related to cognitive level. About 20% of the group had AD as the dominating developmental disorder, i.e., they represented a clinical picture of “classic” autism. The majority in this group also had learning disability. Another 20%, had ASD combined with a normal intellectual level, some of these conformed to the clinical picture of Asperger syndrome. In a relatively large group (more than half) learning disability or a general developmental delay was as evident as the ASD. In a smaller group (8%) ASD criteria were questionably met. In this group attention deficits in connection with speech and language problems were prominent. The highly individual developmental profiles seen in children with ASDs have to be taken into account when planning intervention and follow-up. The children’s medical characteristics also vary considerably and will be detailed in a further report.

from Research in Developmental Disabilities

Word learning in children with autism spectrum disorders.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been gaining attention, partly as an example of unusual developmental trajectories related to early neurobiological differences. The present investigation addressed the process of learning new words to explore mechanisms of language delay and impairment. The sample included 21 typically developing toddlers matched on expressive vocabulary with 21 young children with ASD. Two tasks were administered to teach children a new word and were supplemented by cognitive and diagnostic measures. In most analyses, there were no group differences in performance. Children with ASD did not consistently make mapping errors, even in word learning situations that required the use of social information. These findings indicate that some children with ASD, in developmentally appropriate tasks, are able to use information from social interactions to guide word–object mappings. This result has important implications for understanding of how children with ASD learn language. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved)

from Developmental Psychology

One-year follow-up of the outcome of a randomized controlled trial of a home-based intervention programme for children with autism and developmental delay and their families

Results Fifty-four children completed the assessments 12 months after conclusion of the intervention. Compared with the control group, improvement in aspects of cognitive development in the children who received the extra intervention was sustained 1 year later (P= 0.007) while significant behavioural differences post intervention were not. Analyses of the data by the Reliable Change Index indicated improvement of clinical significance occurred in non-verbal areas. In contrast to the control group who deteriorated, language skills in the intervention group remained stable. Improvements were significantly associated with higher stress in the families.

Conclusion Improvements following the provision of a home-based programme to preschool children with developmental disabilities were sustained 1 year later. Children from highly stressed families appeared to benefit most, reinforcing the importance of involving families in early childhood intervention programmes.

from Child: Care, Health and Development

“All Children Can and Should Have the Opportunity to Learn”: General Education Teachers’ Perspectives on Including Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder who Require AAC

A qualitative online focus group methodology was used to investigate the experiences of five elementary school teachers (grades K-5) who had included in their general education classrooms children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who required augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Information was obtained from the participants in the following areas: (a) the benefits of educational inclusion, (b) the negative impacts of educational inclusion, (c) the challenges of educational inclusion, (d) the supports for educational inclusion, and (e) recommendations for other teachers and individuals involved in the inclusion process. Participants primarily chose to focus on inclusion as a beneficial practice for all involved, but did describe a few barriers and challenges of inclusion. The results are discussed as they relate to these themes and with reference to published literature. Recommendations for future directions are also presented.

from AAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication

“All Children Can and Should Have the Opportunity to Learn”: General Education Teachers’ Perspectives on Including Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder who Require AAC

A qualitative online focus group methodology was used to investigate the experiences of five elementary school teachers (grades K-5) who had included in their general education classrooms children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who required augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Information was obtained from the participants in the following areas: (a) the benefits of educational inclusion, (b) the negative impacts of educational inclusion, (c) the challenges of educational inclusion, (d) the supports for educational inclusion, and (e) recommendations for other teachers and individuals involved in the inclusion process. Participants primarily chose to focus on inclusion as a beneficial practice for all involved, but did describe a few barriers and challenges of inclusion. The results are discussed as they relate to these themes and with reference to published literature. Recommendations for future directions are also presented.

from AAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication

A longitudinal study of autism spectrum disorders in individuals diagnosed with a developmental language disorder as children

Conclusion Our results provide additional support to the notion that DLD is a marker of increased vulnerability to the development of ASD.

from Child: Care, Health and Development

Brief Report: Attenuated Emotional Suppression of the Attentional Blink in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Another Non-Social Abnormality?

Abstract Twenty-five individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and 25 typically developed individuals participated in an Attentional Blink paradigm to determine whether emotional words would capture attention similarly in the two groups. Whilst the emotionality of words facilitated attention in typical comparison participants, this effect was attenuated in the ASD group. The magnitude of the emotional modulation of attention in ASD also correlated significantly with participants’ VIQ, which was not observed for the comparison group. Together these observations replicate and extend the findings of Corden et al. (J Autism Develop Disord 38:1072–1080, 2008) and implicate abnormalities in emotional processes outside the broader context of social cognition in ASD. We discuss our findings in relation to possible abnormalities in amygdala function that may underlie the disorder.

from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders