Autism TreatmentAutism Information for Parents, Practitioners & Professionals…

Autism Information for Parents, Practitioners & Professionals…


A Randomized Trial Comparison of the Effects of Verbal and Pictorial Naturalistic Communication Strategies on Spoken Language for Young Children with Autism

Presently there is no consensus on the specific behavioral treatment of choice for targeting language in young nonverbal children with autism. This randomized clinical trial compared the effectiveness of a verbally-based intervention, Pivotal Response Training (PRT) to a pictorially-based behavioral intervention, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) on the acquisition of spoken language by young (2–4 years), nonverbal or minimally verbal (≤9 words) children with autism. Thirty-nine children were randomly assigned to either the PRT or PECS condition. Participants received on average 247 h of intervention across 23 weeks. Dependent measures included overall communication, expressive vocabulary, pictorial communication and parent satisfaction. Children in both intervention groups demonstrated increases in spoken language skills, with no significant difference between the two conditions. Seventy-eight percent of all children exited the program with more than 10 functional words. Parents were very satisfied with both programs but indicated PECS was more difficult to implement. Laura Schreibman, Aubyn C. Stahmer Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; On-Line First; November 2013

Brain and behavioral correlates of action semantic deficits in autism.

Action-perception circuits containing neurons in the motor system have been proposed as the building blocks of higher cognition; accordingly, motor dysfunction should entail cognitive deficits. Autism spectrum conditions (ASC) are marked by motor impairments but the implications of such motor dysfunction for higher cognition remain unclear. We here used word reading and semantic judgment tasks to investigate action-related motor cognition and its corresponding fMRI brain activation in high-functioning adults with ASC. These participants exhibited hypoactivity of motor cortex in language processing relative to typically developing controls. Crucially, we also found a deficit in semantic processing of action-related words, which, intriguingly, significantly correlated with this underactivation of motor cortex to these items. Furthermore, the word-induced hypoactivity in the motor system also predicted the severity of ASC as expressed by the number of autistic symptoms measured by the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (Baron-Cohen etal., 2001). These significant correlations between word-induced activation of the motor system and a newly discovered semantic deficit in a condition known to be characterized by motor impairments, along with the correlation of such activation with general autistic traits, confirm critical predictions of causal theories linking cognitive and semantic deficits in ASC, in part, to dysfunctional action-perception circuits and resultant reduction of motor system activation. Moseley RL (2013) Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Nov 8;7:725.

Antidepressant exposure in pregnancy and risk of autism spectrum disorders.

Both the use of antidepressant medication during pregnancy and the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder have increased during recent years. A causal link has recently been suggested, but the association may be confounded by the underlying indication for antidepressant use. We investigated the association between maternal use of antidepressant medication in pregnancy and autism, controlling for potential confounding factors.
We identified all children born alive in Denmark 1996-2006 (n=668,468) and their parents in the Danish Civil Registration System. We obtained information on the mother's prescriptions filled during pregnancy from the Danish National Prescription Registry, and on diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders in the children and diagnoses of psychiatric disorders in the parents from the Danish Psychiatric Central Register. In a cohort analysis, we estimated hazard ratios of autism spectrum disorders in children exposed to antidepressant medication during pregnancy compared with children who were not exposed, using Cox proportional hazards regression analysis. Furthermore, we estimated the risk for autism spectrum disorder in a sibling design.
Children exposed prenatally to antidepressants had an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.5 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2-1.9) for autism spectrum disorder compared with unexposed children. Restricting the analysis to children of women with a diagnosis of affective disorder, the adjusted hazard ratio was 1.2 (95% CI 0.7-2.1), and the risk was further reduced when exposed children were compared with their unexposed siblings (adjusted hazard ratio 1.1; 95% CI 0.5-2.3).
After controlling for important confounding factors, there was no significant association between prenatal exposure to antidepressant medication and autism spectrum disorders in the offspring. Sorensen, MJ (2013)
Clin Epidemiol. 15;5:449-459.