Recent Advances in Autism Spectrum Disorders
How to Search ClinicalTrials.gov
ClinicalTrials.gov is a wonderful resource for participating in and evaluating studies. Many studies are divided into specific topics and sub-groups. Studies include but are not limited to:
- abdominal pain
- behavioral symptoms
- brain diseases
- language development
- pervasive developmental disorders
- chromosome disorders
- sleep disorders
I encourage all parents of children on the spectrum to browse through the various studies available. New interventions are actively being evaluated and pursued.
Current recruitments for up and coming autism studies can be found here: clinicaltrials.gov
What is autism?
Autism: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
First and foremost, autism can vary in characteristics and severity. Autism is a disorder in the brain. The disorder usually affects communication skills, social interactions and may alter sensory reactions. Common characteristics include repetitive behaviors and low tolerance to change. Sensory issues can provoke severe meltdowns and tantrums. Most autistics have fixations, prefer structure, relish in patterns and exhibit various behaviors of self stimulation. This may include humming, rocking, spinning, jumping, spontaneous laughing or yelping. Stimming varies and not always visible. Also, it is not uncommon to see someone in the spectrum looking off into the distance and smiling, as if recollecting a pleasant memory.
Autism can be subtle or severe and profound. Recent interventions have provided the ability of aiding some autistics to communicate through technology. Some suddenly exhibit the ability to type and explain what they are thinking or feeling, astonishing their family and educators due to their non verbal characteristics.
Although autism characteristics are similar, not all are similar. A one size fits all approach to therapy should be approached with caution.
Better Detection or an Actual Increase?
In March 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The disorder is now affecting 1 in 88 children. In addition, the announcement identifies that 1 in 54 boys are affected by autism. This is an increase of 78% from the numbers released in 2002 and up 23% from 2006. As a mom of a fourteen year old son in the spectrum this is an alarming increase in the prevalence of autism. I have some reservations about the rise and have come across some interesting interpretations and inquiries.
Thomas Insel from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMI) raises a very valid question,
“Are more children affected or more detected? Does the increase reflect a growing problem, or do these new numbers reflect improvement in our ability to diagnose and serve those affected?”
Truthfully, Insel’s question would be difficult to assess and measure. Is it better detection of those affected or are more children in fact affected? The data collected is not meant to answer why those identified has changed or increased overtime. Although, I would suspect there are epidemiologists collecting data on outreach and how it relates to the diagnosis of autism. It will be interesting to see how this information is disseminated in future announcements, studies and journals.
It is important to note, the surveillance the CDC uses to collect data on providing the 1 in 88 statistic is not based on how they were diagnosed. In fact, the data is based on health records of 8 year olds born in 2000. Data was then compared across 14 states. Incidentally, Insel states the CDC reported a four-fold variation across collection sites. Therefore, we don't even know what the various symptoms were identified by the parents that caused them to seek a diagnosis or evaluation in the first place. Isn't this information helpful in determining prevalent symptoms and characteristics? And would this data not lead to improved detection? Either way, all of the data needs to be analyzed separately and statistics need to be formulated accordingly.
Continued collection of data with the improvement of methods will help support forthcoming studies and statistics. Regardless, the fact is there is definitely an increase in those identified with autism. Whether it is due to improvements in detection or an increased population still remains a provocative mystery and valid question. I look forward to the continued dissemination of autism research and the various elements affecting prevalence data.
ESDM: The Early Start Denver Model
Benefits of ESDM: The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics validates the importance of early detection and intervention in autism. Clinical studies show children receiving ESDM therapy for over 2 years and for 10 hours a week display significant improvements in language, behavior and cognitive skills. in addition, autism symptoms were reduced.
What is ESDM? A comprehensive form of early intervention for children with autism between the ages of 12 to 48 months. The ESDM integrates the teaching strategies used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and was developed by Dr. Sally Rogers and Dr. Geraldine Dawson. The program was specifically designed for caregivers, teachers and therapists of infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
Example of the Early Start Denver Model of autism treatment.
ESDM and the Ingham Institute
Phone Applications for Kids with Autism Apps can help you and your child gain the focus and communication that will enhance their growth in a variety of social and academic areas.
Potty Training the Autistic Child: How to Toilet Train with Autism Potty training any child can be quite a challenge. Every child handles this event differently.
The Best Toys and Gifts for Autistic Children Gifts and toys should be unique and match a child's interests.
© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares