Sunday, April 22, 2012

Best Practice Autism Guide: "Gold Standard" Resource

A best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools continues to be a gold standard autism resource for parents and practitioners. Written by Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, a practicing school psychologist, this authoritative, yet accessible award-winning text provides step-by-step guidance for screening, assessing, and educating children at-risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Grounded in the latest research, special features include illustrative case examples, FAQs, quick reference boxes, glossary, and an index to 50 evidence-based best practice recommendations. It is an essential guide and valuable resource for practitioners in psychology, general and special education, counseling, social work, and for graduate and pre-service students. Parents, advocates, administrators, and attorneys will also find the content informative and helpful. This text is a welcome addition to the reference libraries of all who want to further their understanding of the identification and treatment of school-age children with ASD. Highly readable and comprehensive, this book sets the standard for those working with students with ASD. This book makes also an ideal text or guide for graduate-level training courses in psychology and special education, and has become a widely used resource.
A Best Practice Guide… consists of seven chapters. Chapter 1 begins with two case vignettes and a discussion of the challenges facing educators. The reader is then provided with an overview of Asperger syndrome and the autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Chapter 2 focuses on the screening and identification of children in need of further assessment. Instruments are reviewed and a multi-step screening process described. Chapter 3 addresses evidence-based assessment practices, including individual instruments and a developmentally-based procedure. In Chapter 4, the case examples are presented to illustrate best practice in the assessment of ASD. Chapter 5 focuses on intervention practices and describes current scientifically-based interventions and treatments for ASD. Chapter 6 provides information on the identification of special educational needs and specialized services. Chapter 7 concludes with a discussion of the current status of the field and future directions for research.

 Praise and Reviews
Autism Spectrum Quarterly calls the book “a landmark contribution destined to become a classic in the field of autism spectrum disorders” and comments, “Dr. Wilkinson has made an enormous contribution to the field by comprehensively and systematically illuminating not only what needs to be done, but also how to go about doing it. The book is exquisitely and meticulously organized, making it an easy-to-access reference guide as well as a comprehensive text book and training manual."
The Canadian Journal of School Psychology remarks, "Overall, this book presents readers with an excellent overview of autism and Asperger syndrome. The author has expertly formatted the book and each chapter so that the reader is provided with an excellent resource of recent and relevant information pertaining to screening, formal assessment, and interventions with individuals in this population. The use of two case studies helps to highlight some of the information presented throughout the book. …many school-based professionals will be able to make use of this excellent resource".
According to the Journal of Autism andDevelopmental Disorders "This book provides a complete source for parents, educators, researchers and clinicians seeking information related to assessment and interventions available for individuals (mostly children) diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The main reason the book stands out is the application of all the discussed concepts in the two case examples of Jeremy and Sally. Dr. Wilkinson presents a detail and person-centered approach to the stages and issues that needs to be addressed while conducting an assessment and planning interventions for individuals diagnosed with ASD. Educators and clinicians can make use of the detailed case examples as those may be applicable to their work environment."
Ally4autism comments, “Dr. Wilkinson has created an outstanding blend of academic research and practical application in a text that is so clearly written it is a pleasure to read for professionals and parents alike. His book concisely illustrates best practices in screening, assessment, treatment and special education services. Through case examples of two children, he demonstrates how these best practices can be put into action. This book fills an important need that has existed for years. Dr. Wilkinson has created an indispensable resource that should definitely be in each school’s professional library.”
A Best Practice Guide... was named the Winner in the Education/Academic category of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and honored as an Award-Winning Finalist in the Education/Academic category of the "Best Books 2010 Awards” sponsored by USA Book News.
A BestPractice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, ISBN: 978-1-84905-811-7 and can be ordered directly from the publisher at and all major booksellers, including The book is available in both print and eBook formats. Dr. Wilkinson is also the editor of a recent volume in the APA School Psychology Book Series, Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools and author of the new book, Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Autism Spectrum Disorders on the Rise: Inside the CDC Report

More children than ever before are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released the most comprehensive U.S. investigation of autism prevalence to date. The current CDC report, Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States, 2008, provides updated ASD prevalence estimates from the 2008 surveillance year, representing 14 Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) community sites in the United States - Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin. In addition to prevalence estimates, characteristics of the population of children with ASD are described, as well as detailed comparisons of the 2008 surveillance year findings with those for the 2002 and 2006 surveillance years. Briefly, a child is included as meeting the surveillance case definition for an ASD if he or she displays behaviors (as described on a comprehensive evaluation completed by a qualified professional) consistent with the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) diagnostic criteria for any of the following conditions: Autistic Disorder; Pervasive Developmental Disorder–Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS, including Atypical Autism); or Asperger Disorder.
The following are salient points culled from the full CDC report.
The current data confirm that the estimated prevalence of ASD identified in the ADDM network surveillance populations continues to increase. For 2008, the overall estimated prevalence of ASDs among the 14 ADDM sites was 11.3 per 1,000 (one in 88) children aged 8 years who were living in these communities during 2008. However, overall ASD prevalence estimates varied widely across all 14 sites (range: 4.8–21.2 per 1,000 children aged 8 years). Note: Because the ADDM Network sites do not make up a nationally representative sample, these combined prevalence estimates should NOT be generalized to the United States as a whole. The surveillance areas were not selected to be representative of the United States, nor were they selected to be representative of the states in which they are located.
Comparison of 2008 findings with those for earlier surveillance years indicated an increase in estimated ASD prevalence of 23% when the 2008 data were compared with the data for 2006 (from 9.0 per 1,000 children aged 8 years in 2006 to 11.0 in 2008 for the sites that provided data for both surveillance years). There was an estimated increase of 78% when the 2008 data were compared with the data for 2002 (from 6.4 per 1,000 children aged 8 years in 2002 to 11.4 in 2008 for the sites that provided data for both surveillance years).
Approximately one in 54 boys and one in 252 girls living in the ADDM Network communities were identified as having ASDs. ASD prevalence estimates were significantly (p<0.01) higher among boys than among girls in all 14 ADDM sites.
Changes in estimated ASD prevalence during 2006–2008 also varied by race within individual ADDM sites and when combining data from all sites. While ASD prevalence estimates in the overall population increased 23% for the 2-year period 2006–2008, and 78% during the 6-year period 2002–2008, the largest increases over time were noted among Hispanic children and non-Hispanic black children. The combined estimates indicated a 16% increase in ASD prevalence among non-Hispanic white children, a 42% increase among non-Hispanic black children, and a 29% increase among Hispanic children. It should be noted that better identification in these specific groups appears to explain only part of the overall increase.
Data on intellectual ability are reported for the seven sites having information available for at least 70% of children who met the ASD case definition. When data from these sites were combined, 38% of children with ASD were classified in the range of intellectual disability (e.g., IQ ≤70 or an examiner's statement of intellectual disability), 24% in the borderline range (IQ 71–85), and 38% had IQ scores >85 or an examiner's statement of average or above-average intellectual ability. Comparing IQ test data available in both the 2006 and 2008 surveillance years, the estimated prevalence of ASD with intellectual disability increased 12% on average, while the prevalence of ASD with borderline intellectual ability increased 22%, and the prevalence of ASD with average or above-average intellectual ability increased 13%.

The estimated ASD prevalence continues to rise in most ADDM Network sites, reflecting an important public health concern in the United States and underscoring the need for continued resources to identify potential risk factors and to provide essential supports for persons with ASD and their families. Unfortunately, many children with ASD do not receive a diagnosis until they reach preschool or kindergarten age, missing opportunities for earlier therapies that potentially could improve communication and socialization while these skills are developing. CDC is partnering with other federal and private partners in a coordinated response to identify risk factors for ASDs and to meet the needs of persons with ASDs and their families. Additional information is available at

The CDC cautions that data provided in this report are subject to some limitations. For example, while increases in awareness and access to services have improved the ability of the ADDM Network to identify children with ASD over time and likely contributes to the increase in estimated prevalence, the proportion of the increase attributable to changes in case ascertainment or attributable to a true increase in prevalence of ASD symptoms cannot be determined. Ongoing monitoring is an important tool to learn why more children are being identified with ASD and can provide important clues in the search for risk factors. 

The CDC report concludes that although multiple factors influence the identification of children with ASD and differences in prevalence estimates across sites, the data provided in this report indicate the need for further exploration of possible associations between overall ASD prevalence and improved identification among children without intellectual disability, children in all racial/ethnic populations, and both males and females, including potential interactions between these factors. 

The complete report is available at

Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, CCBT, NCSP is author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

 © Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD

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