Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
Kindergarteners who exhibit disruptive behaviors in school and receive interventions to help correct the issues may face a lower risk of abusing substances like drugs and alcohol during adolescence, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. More from ScienceDaily.com:
Alcohol and drug use are highly prevalent and problematic among young people, and the link between childhood behaviour problems and adolescent substance misuse is well-recognised. In this study, Canadian researchers set out to examine whether a two-year prevention programme in childhood could stop substance misuse problems in later life.
172 boys with disruptive behaviour participated in the study. They all came from low socio-economic backgrounds, and were a subsample from the Montreal Longitudinal and Experimental Study of Low SES boys, a kindergarten cohort which was initiated in 1984.
46 boys and their parents took part in the two-year intervention programme, when they were aged between 7 and 9 years old. The programme included social skills training for the boys at school, to help promote self-control and reduce their impulsivity and antisocial behaviour, as well as parent training to help parents recognise problematic behaviours in their boys, set clear objectives and reinforce appropriate behaviours. A further 42 boys received no intervention and acted as the control group.
The remaining 84 boys were assigned to an intensive observation group, which differed from the controls in that their families were visited in their homes by researchers, attended a half-day laboratory testing session, and were observed at school. All the boys were followed up until the age of 17, to assess their use of drugs and alcohol.
The researchers found that levels of drug and alcohol use across adolescence were lower in those boys who received the intervention. The reduction in substance use continued through the boys’ early adolescence right up to the end of their time at high school.
Researcher Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, of the Department of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal and Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte Justine, Canada, said: “Our study shows that an two-year intervention aimed at key risk factors in disruptive kindergarten boys from low socioeconomic environments can effectively reduce substance use behaviours in adolescence — not only in early adolescence but up to the end of high school, eight years post-intervention. This finding is noteworthy because the effects are stronger and longer-lasting than for most substance use interventions that have been studied before.”
Image: Boy with adult, via Shutterstock
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Friday, July 19th, 2013
Preschool-aged children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) receive the same benefit from high-quality early intervention programs that are generalized or specialized, according to new research from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study, from the university’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) could potentially help educators control the costs of the numerous specialists who treat kids with ASD, without sacrificing the results and benefits that the interventions are known to have. More from ScienceDaily.com:
“We know that more children are being diagnosed with ASD each year, and that it can cost an estimated $3.2 million to treat each child over a lifetime. Understanding that a child can benefit from a high-quality program, rather than a specialized program, may help reduce those costs by decreasing the need for teachers and other school practitioners to be trained to deliver multiple specialized services,” Boyd said. He stressed it remains important to ensure educators are trained to provide high-quality programs that meet the special behavioral, communication and other needs of children with ASD.
Previous research has shown that when children with ASD have access to early intervention via treatment programs, they improve developmentally. Until now, however, debate has persisted over which approach to use, said Boyd. The study appeared in the June issue of Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Two frequently used comprehensive treatment models have a long history: LEAP (Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and their Parents) and TEACCH (now known only by its acronym).
FPG’s study examined the relative effects of the LEAP and TEACCH school-based comprehensive treatment models when compared to each other and to special-education programs that do not use a specific model. The multisite study took place only in high-quality classrooms and enrolled 74 teachers and 198 3- to 5-year-olds in public school districts.
The study found that children made gains over the school year regardless of the classroom’s use of LEAP, TEACCH or no specific comprehensive treatment model. “Each group of children showed significant positive change in autism severity, communication and fine- motor skills,” said Kara Hume, FPG scientist and co-author. “No statistically significant differences were found among models, which challenged our initial expectations — and likely the field’s.”
“This study may shift the field’s thinking about comprehensive treatment models designed for young children with ASD,” said co-author Samuel L. Odom, FPG’s director and the study’s principal investigator. “Perhaps it’s not the unique features of the models that most contribute to child gains but the common features of the models that most influence child growth.”
Image: Preschooler and teacher, via Shutterstock
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Monday, April 15th, 2013
A new smartphone app that could help doctors diagnose autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by uploading videos of children’s behaviors to a website is in development. The app is intended to help streamline the diagnostic process, in line with research that shows that earlier diagnosis–and intervention–leads to more successful outcomes in autistic kids. A shortage of specialists can delay proper diagnosis by as long as six months, the app’s developers say. More from USA Today:
To help with the problem, the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, a Phoenix-based autism research nonprofit, is developing a smartphone application that specialists would use to diagnose autism based on videos of children’s behavior uploaded onto a website.
The app, the Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment, could shorten the diagnostic process so children can get treatment earlier, especially in rural communities where skilled specialists are difficult to find….
Parents still would have to arrange follow-up treatment and care with specialists, and there would be an unknown cost for the app-based diagnosis.
The autism center, which is funding the app development with a $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, is collaborating with Behavior Imaging Solutions, a Boise, Idaho, medical-technology company, and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Christopher Smith, the autism center’s vice president and director of research, said that testing will begin this summer with a few families and that the app will potentially be available as early as 2014.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the community to find new ways to at least help lower and help reduce the disparity of health care in this country,” said Andy Shih, senior vice president of scientific affairs at Autism Speaks, one of the world’s largest autism-advocacy organizations.
Image: Doctor using smartphone, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
Early intervention is the best way to enable children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) achieve the maximum success in developing skills and abilities that are challenging to them, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a message for World Autism Awareness Day. The goal of the message was to close the “awareness gap” in nations where knowledge about autism interventions and treatments may be lacking. From a release posted on the UN’s website:
“Now is the time to work for a more inclusive society, highlight the talents of affected people and ensure opportunities for them to realize their potential,” Mr. Ban said in his message on World Autism Awareness Day, which is marked annually on 2 April.
“International attention is essential to address stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate support structures,” he added.
Autism is characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social interactions and in restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour.
In her video message for the Day, Ban Soon-taek, the Secretary-General’s wife, noted the UN’s commitment to raising awareness about autism.
“Let us continue to work hand-in-hand with affected individuals which strengthens their lives and helps society as a whole,” Mrs. Ban said.
In New York, two panel discussions take place today to celebrate the abilities of people with autism. In addition to scholars and civil society representatives, the panels feature Neal Katz, a teenager with autism featured in the film ‘Autism The Musical’ Fazli Azeem, a Fulbright Scholar from Pakistan who is on the autism spectrum; and Idil Azeem from Somalia, who has a child with autism.
UN Headquarters in New York is also hosting a musical performance by Talina and The Miracle Project, which includes performers with autism, as well as a film screening.
Image: Autism awareness ribbon, via Shutterstock
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Friday, November 2nd, 2012
As autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses among children increase in number and get made earlier in the child’s life, therapies that begin at a young age are under study to see whether they can improve the long-term development of the child, and even change their brain chemistry. New research, according to CNN.com, suggests such therapies may do just that:
Now researchers have been able to show that a particular type of behavioral therapy called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) not only improves autism symptoms, but actually normalizes brain activity and improves social behavior.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that starts to become very apparent around age 3. The main signs and symptoms of autism involve communication, social interactions and repetitive behaviors. According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 88 children currently is diagnosed with autism, including one in 54 boys.
“Early intervention alters the trajectory of the brain and social development in children with autism,” says Geraldine Dawson, the lead study author who developed the ESDM therapy along with study co-author Sally Rogers.
Dawson was a researcher at the University of Washington when she helped devise ESDM; she’s now the chief science officer for the advocacy and research group Autism Speaks and a professor at the University of North Carolina. Rogers is a professor and researcher at the University of California Davis MIND Institute.
ESDM therapy uses teaching methods from ABA ,or applied behavioral analysis, the traditional one-on-one interaction between a child and the therapist.
But rather than sitting at a desk next to the child — where a teacher or therapist breaks down complex tasks into small components and gives tangible reinforcements — children receiving ESDM are sitting on the floor, playing with their therapist or parents.It can be done just about anywhere, and Dawson says the play-based method of engaging a child helps him or her develop a social relationship.
Image: Child and adult playing, via Shutterstock
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