Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Assessment Tools for ASD: Sensitivity Matters



Evidence-based assessment requires using instruments with strong reliability and validity for the accurate identification of children’s problems and disorders, for ongoing monitoring of children’s response to interventions, and for evaluation of the outcomes of intervention. These procedures must also have demonstrated effectiveness in diagnosis, clinical formulation, intervention planning, and outcome assessment. 

Professionals should have an understanding of the basic psychometrics properties that underlie test use and development when assessing children and youth for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For example, diagnostic validity is an especially important psychometric characteristic to consider when evaluating the quality and usefulness of a screening instrument or more comprehensive measure. It refers to a test’s accuracy in predicting group membership (e.g., ASD versus non-ASD) and can be expressed through metrics such as sensitivity and specificity, and positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV). 

Sensitivity and specificity are measures of a test's ability to correctly identify someone as having a given disorder or not having the disorder. Sensitivity refers to the percentage of cases with a disorder that screens positive. A highly sensitive test means that there are few false negative results (individuals with a disorder who screen negative), and thus fewer cases of the disorder are missed. Specificity is the percentage of cases without a disorder that screens negative. A highly specific test means that there are few false positive results (e.g., individuals without a disorder who screen positive). False negatives decrease sensitivity, whereas false positives decrease specificity. An efficient screening tool should minimize false negatives, as these are individuals with a likely disorder who remain unidentified. Sensitivity and specificity levels of .80 or higher are generally recommended.  

Positive Predictive Value (PPV) and Negative Predictive Value (NPV) are also important validity statistics that describe how well a screening tool or test performs. The probability of having a given disorder, given the results of a test, is called the predictive value. PPV is interpreted as the percentage of all positive cases that truly have the disorder. PPV is a critical measure of the performance of a diagnostic or screening measure, as it reflects the probability that a positive test or screen identifies the disorder for which the individual is being evaluated or screened. NPV is the percentage of all cases screened negative that are truly without the disorder. The higher the PPV and NPV values, the more efficient the instrument at correctly identifying cases. It is important to recognize that PPV is influenced by the sensitivity and specificity of the test as well as the prevalence of the disorder in the sample under study. For example, an ASD-specific screening measure may be expected to have a higher PPV when utilized with a known group of high-risk children who exhibit signs or symptoms of developmental delay, social skills deficits, or language impairment. In fact, for any diagnostic test, when the prevalence of the disorder is low, the positive PPV will also be low, even using a test with high sensitivity and specificity.
© Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD
Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, NCSP is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, chartered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. He provides consultation services and best practice guidance to school systems, agencies, advocacy groups, and professionals on a wide variety of topics related to children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Wilkinson is author of the award-winning books,  A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools and Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBTHe is also editor of a best-selling text in the APA School Psychology Book Series,  Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools. His latest book is A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Edition).

Monday, November 21, 2016

Learners on the Autism Spectrum: A Best Practice Guide to Assessment & Intervention in Schools



A Best Practice Guide to Assessment & Intervention for Autism in Schools

Fully updated to reflect DSM-5 and current assessment tools, procedures and research, this second edition of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools provides a practical and scientifically-based approach to identifying, assessing, and treating children and adolescents with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in school settings. Integrating current research evidence with theory and best practice, this book will support school-based professionals in a number of key areas including:
  • Screening and assessing children and youth on the autism spectrum.
  • Identifying evidence-based interventions and practices.
  • Developing and implementing comprehensive educational programs and providing family support.
    Each chapter features a consolidated and integrative description of best practice assessment and intervention/treatment approaches for children and youth with ASD. It brings the topics of assessment and intervention together in a single authoritative resource guide consistent with recent advances in evidence-based practice.  Illustrative case examples, glossary of terms, and helpful checklists and forms make this the definitive resource for identifying and implementing interventions for school-age children and youth with ASD.
    This Guide is intended to meet the needs of school-based professionals such as school psychologists, counselors, speech/language pathologists, occupational therapists, counselors, social workers, administrators, and both general and special education teachers. Parents, advocates, and community-based professionals will also find this guide a valuable and informative resource.

    Editorial Reviews  
    “It is rare that one book can pack so many resources and easy to digest information into a single volume!  Families, school personnel, and professionals all need the extensive, and up-to-date tips, guides, and ‘must-knows’ provided here. It’s obvious the author is both a seasoned researcher and practitioner – a winning combination.”
     
    — Dr. Debra Moore, psychologist and co-author with Dr. Temple Grandin, of The Loving Push: How Parents & Professionals Can Help Spectrum Kids Become Successful Adults
    “Dr Wilkinson has done it again. This updated and scholarly Second Edition reflects important recent changes regarding diagnosis and services for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. With its numerous best-practice suggestions, it is a must-read for school psychologists, school social workers, and those who teach in general and special education.”
    — Dr Steven Landau, Professor of School Psychology in the Department of Psychology, Illinois State University
    “This book is an essential resource for every educator that works with students with ASD! The easy-to-read format is complete with up to date research on evidence-based practices for this population, sample observation and assessment worksheets and case studies that allow the reader to apply the information presented.”
     — Gena P. Barnhill, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D, LBA, Director of Special Education Programs at Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA  

    Availability

    A Best practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Ed.) is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-MillionWalmart.comBook Depository, and other booksellers. The book is available in both print and eBook formats.

    Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, NCSP is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, registered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. He provides consultation services and best practice guidance to school systems, agencies, advocacy groups, and professionals on a wide variety of topics related to children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Wilkinson is author of the award-winning books,  A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools and Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBTHe is also editor of a best-selling text in the APA School Psychology Book Series,  Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools. His latest book is A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Edition).

    Saturday, November 19, 2016

    Award-Winning Finalist in the Psychology/Mental Health category of the 2016 Best Book Awards



    Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, AmazonBarnes & Noble, Book DepositoryBooks-A-Million and other online book retailers.

    Get the lowest price on Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-help Guide Using CBT from AllBookstores.com.

    Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, registered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. He provides consultation services and best practice guidance to school systems, agencies, advocacy groups, and professionals on a wide variety of topics related to children and youth with autism spectrum disorder. Dr. Wilkinson is author of the award-winning books,  A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools and Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBTHe is also editor of a best-selling text in the APA School Psychology Book Series, Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools. His latest book is A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Edition).



    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

    Best Practice Review: The Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ)

    Best Practice Review: The Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ)

    The Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ; Rutter, Bailey, & Lord, 2003), previously known as the Autism Screening Questionnaire (ASQ), was initially designed as a companion screening measure for the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R; Rutter, Le Couteur & Lord). The SCQ is a parent/caregiver dimensional measure of ASD symptomatology appropriate for children of any chronological age older than fours years. It can be completed by the informant in less than 10 minutes. The primary standardization data were obtained from a sample of 200 individuals who had participated in previous studies of ASD. 

    The SCQ is available in two forms, Lifetime and Current, each with 40 questions presented in a yes or no format. Scores on the questionnaire provide an index of symptom severity and indicate the likelihood that a child has an ASD. Questions include items in the reciprocal social interaction domain (e.g., “Does she/he have any particular friends or best friend?”), the communication domain (e.g., “Can you have a to and fro ‘conversation’ with him/her that involves taking turns or building on what you have said?”) and the restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior domain (e.g., Has she/he ever seemed to be more interested in parts of a toy or an object [e.g., spinning the wheels of a car], rather than using the object as intended?”).
    Compared to other screening measures, the SCQ has received significant scrutiny and has consistently demonstrated its effectiveness in predicting ASD versus non-ASD status in multiple studies. A meta-analysis examining the previous research on the utility of the SCQ as a screening instrument found it to be an acceptable screening tool for ASD (area under the curve = 0.885) (Chesnut et al., 2017). The scale has been found to have good discriminant validity and utility as an efficient screener for at-risk groups of school-age children. The lifetime version is recommended for screening purposes as it demonstrates the highest sensitivity value. A threshold raw score of >15 is recommended to minimize the risk of false negatives and indicate the need for a comprehensive evaluation. Comparing autism to other diagnoses, this threshold score resulted in a sensitivity value of .96 and a specificity value of .80 in a large population of children with autism and other developmental disorders. The positive predictive value was .93 with this cutoff. The authors recommend using different cut-off scores for different purposes and populations. Several studies (Allen et al., 2007; Eaves et al, 2006) have suggested that a cut-off of 11 may be more clinically useful (Norris & Lecavalier, 2010).
    The SCQ is one of the most researched of the ASD-specific evaluation tools and can be recommended for screening and as part of comprehensive developmental assessment for ASD (Chestnut et al., 2017; Norris & Lecavalier, 2010; Wilkinson, 2010, 2016). The SCQ (Lifetime form) is an efficient screening instrument for identifying children with possible ASD for a more in-depth assessment. For clinical purposes, practitioners might consider a multistage assessment beginning with the SCQ, followed by a comprehensive developmental evaluation (Wilkinson, 2011, 2016). However, cut-off scores may need to be adjusted depending on the population in which it is used. The evidence also indicates that although the SCQ is appropriate for a wide age range, it is less effective when used with younger populations (e.g., children two to three years). It was designed for individuals above the age of four years, and seems to perform best with individuals over seven years of age.

    References

    Allen CW, Silove N, Williams K, et al. (2007). Validity of the Social Communication Questionnaire in Assessing Risk of Autism in Preschool Children with Developmental Problems. J Autism Dev Disord37, 1272–8.

    Chandler, S., Charman, T., Baird, G., Simonoff, E., Loucas, T., Meldrum, D., & Pickles, A. (2007). Validation of the Social Communication Questionnaire in a population cohort of children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 1324–1332.

    Chesnut, S. R., Wei,T., Barnard-Brak, L., & Richman, D. M. (2017). A meta-analysis of the social communication questionnaire: Screening for autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 21, 920-928. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361316660065
    Eaves L, Wingert H, Ho H, et al. (2006). Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorders with the Social Communication Questionnaire. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 27, 95–103.
    Mash, E. J., & Hunsley, J. (2005). Evidence-based assessment of child and adolescent disorders: Issues and challenges. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34, 362-379.
    Norris, M., & Lecavalier, L. (2010). Screening accuracy of level 2 autism spectrum disorder rating scales: A review of selected instruments. Autism, 14, 263–284.
    Rutter, M., Bailey, A., & Lord, C. (2003). Social Communication Questionnaire. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.
    Wilkinson, L. A. (2010).  A best practice guide to assessment and intervention for autism and Asperger syndrome in schools. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
    Wilkinson, L. A. (2011). Identifying students with autism spectrum disorders: A review of selected screening tools. Communiqué, 40, pp. 1, 31-33.

    Wilkinson, L. A. (2017).  A best practice guide to assessment and intervention for autism spectrum disorder in schools (2nd Edition). London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

    Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, NCSP is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, registered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. He 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. He is also editor of a best-selling text 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 book, Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT. Dr. Wilkinson's latest book is A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Edition).

    © Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD

    Tuesday, November 15, 2016

    Anxiety and Decision-Making in Autistic Adults

    Anxiety and Decision-Making in Autistic Adults

    Although there has been a dramatic increase in the research and clinical studies related to children and adolescents, there is a paucity of information regarding more capable adults on the autism spectrum. It is only recently that psychologists have begun to appreciate the complex challenges faced by a “lost generation” of adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Even though the core symptoms of ASD (impairments in communication and social interaction and restricted/repetitive behaviors and interests) may improve overtime with intervention for many individuals, some degree of impairment typically remains throughout the lifespan.  Consequently, the focus of intervention/treatment must shift from remediating core deficits in childhood to promoting adaptive behaviors that can facilitate and enhance ultimate functional independence and quality of life in adulthood. This includes new developmental challenges such as independent living, vocational engagement, post-secondary education, and family support. 
    Decision-making is an important part of almost every aspect of life. However, several autobiographical accounts (e.g., Temple Grandin) suggest that making decisions can be stressful and anxiety-provoking for many autistic adults. Likewise, a small number of studies have suggested differences between the decision-making experiences of adults on the spectrum and their neurotypical peers. Despite autobiographical accounts and limited studies, the extent to which, in everyday life, individuals with ASD experience difficulties with decision-making is largely unknown.  

    Research 
    A study published in the journal Autism sought to extend this important area of research by comparing the “real-life” decision-making experiences of adults with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The researchers hypothesized that compared with a neurotypical group, participants with ASD would report: (a) more frequent experiences of problems during decision-making (e.g. feeling exhausted), (b) greater difficulty with particular features of decisions (e.g. decisions that need to be made quickly), and (c) greater reliance on rational, avoidant, and dependent styles of decision-making. In addition, it was expected that participants with ASD would report interference from their condition when making decisions.
    The participants were 38 adults with ASD and 40 neurotypical comparison adults (with no family history of ASD), aged 16 to 65 years. The groups were matched for age, gender and verbal IQ. All participants completed a novel questionnaire to evaluate their decision-making experiences. The questionnaire asked participants to rate: (a) the frequency with which particular problems in decision-making were experienced; (b) the extent to which they perceived difficulties in relation to particular features of decisions; and finally, (c) the extent to which participants with ASD believed that their condition enhanced or interfered with their own decision-making. Ratings of the frequency of 12 potential problems in decision-making were indicated on a four-point Likert-type scale (from ‘never’ to ‘often’). Participants also completed the General Decision Making Style Inventory (GDMS), a 25-item questionnaire probing reliance on five, non- mutually exclusive, styles of decision-making (rational, intuitive, dependent, avoidant, and spontaneous). Levels of anxiety and depression were assessed using the well- established Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).

    Results
    Compared with their neurotypical peers, the participants with ASD more frequently reported difficulties in decision making. Decisions that needed to be made quickly, or involved a change of routine, or talking to others, were experienced as particularly difficult, and the process of decision-making was reported to be exhausting, overwhelming, and anxiety-provoking. The participants with ASD reported significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression and were more likely to believe that their condition interfered with rather than enhanced the decision-making process. Not surprisingly, the participants with ASD were also more likely to report that they avoided decision-making.

    Conclusion and Implications
    The overall findings of the study suggest that, compared with neurotypical individuals, individuals with ASD experience greater difficulty with decision-making. Decision-making in ASD was associated with anxiety, exhaustion, problems engaging in the process, and a tendency to avoid decision-making. These findings are consistent with previous autobiographical accounts, known features of the condition, and previous studies of decision-making in ASD. In addition, the difficulties reported by the participants with ASD may be exacerbated by higher levels of anxiety and depression. The researchers found that ratings of perceived frequency of interference from ASD increased proportionally with levels of anxiety and depression. Despite limitations of the study (e.g., self-reports), the results are consistent with suggestions from the literature relating to decision-making for individuals with ASD. 

    There are also some practical implications for improving the decision-making process for adults with ASD. For example, it may be helpful to: (a) provide additional time to reach a choice, (b) minimize irrelevant information, (c) present closed questions, (d) offer encouragement and reassurance, and (e) address general issues around anxiety. Unfortunately, expecting to make the perfect decision, postponing and second-guessing a choice, all leads to more anxiety. Strategies derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) might be helpful in coping with indecisiveness and perfectionism by focusing on accepting life’s unpredictability and changing behavior to more effectively work toward a goal. This includes examining several sides of an issue, and creatively generating options for action, all in the effort to engage in more thoughtful, realistic, and productive decision-making. Understanding how adults with ASD experience decision-making is essential for both family members and professionals in helping the individual achieve greater self-understanding, self-advocacy and improved decision-making in lifespan activities such as employment and personal relationships.
    References

    Luke, L., Clare, I. C. H., Ring, H., Redley, M., Watson, P. (2012). Decision-making difficulties experienced by adults with autism spectrum conditions. Autism, 16(6), 612–621.
    Wilkinson, L. A. (2015). Overcoming anxiety and depression on the autism spectrum: A self-help guide using CBT. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
     
    Wilkinson, L. A. (2008). Adults with Asperger syndrome: A childhood disorder grows up. The Psychologist, 21, 764-770.
    Wilkinson, L. A. (2007, May). Adults with Asperger syndrome: A lost generation? Autism Spectrum Quarterly.
    Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, NCSP is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, registered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. He is author of the award-winning books, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools and Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBTDr. Wilkinson is also editor of a best-selling text in the APA School Psychology Book Series, Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in SchoolsHis latest book is A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Edition).

    Monday, November 7, 2016

    Healthcare Providers Unprepared to Treat Adults with Autism


    Healthcare Providers Unprepared to Treat Autistic Adults

    It is estimated that nearly a half million youth with autism will enter adulthood over the next decade. As children with autism become adults their primary medical care will move from pediatrics to adult medicine. A survey by the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente Northern California found that many healthcare providers are ill prepared to treat adults on the autism spectrum. The findings were reported at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Salt Lake CityUtah.
    Researchers polled providers of adult primary care, mental health, and obstetrics and gynecology services through the insurer’s network. Practitioners were asked about their ability to recognize autism, their knowledge of the disorder, their comfort level in treating those with the condition and their need for training and resources.
    Of 922 providers surveyed, 77 percent rated their ability to treat patients on the spectrum as poor or fair. While more that 90 percent of the providers said they would investigate the possibility of autism in patients with limited eye contact, most under-reported the number of people on the autism spectrum who were actually under their care. In addition, only 13 percent of providers indicated that they had adequate tools or referral resources to appropriately accommodate those with autism.
    To better understand the providers’ responses, follow-up interviews were conducted with nine primary care physicians. The researchers found that the majority had received limited or no autism training in medical school or during their residencies. All of the providers indicated a need for more education and improvements in the transition from pediatric care providers to adult medicine for those on the autism spectrum.
    The preparation of healthcare providers is a pressing issue as an increasing number of individuals with autism are expected to enter adulthood in the coming years. Further research is urgently needed to study the transition from pediatric to adult healthcare and identify strategies that will lead to better medical care for adults on the autism spectrum.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2016

    Risk Factors Associated with Self-Injury in Autism

    Risk Factors Associated Self-Injurious behavior in Autism

    Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently engage in maladaptive behaviors such as aggression and rituals. The most distressing to caregivers and challenging for health care providers are self-injurious behaviors (SIB). These behaviors are classified as any type of action directed towards the self, resulting in physical injury. The most common types of SIB in children and adults with autism spectrum disorder include hand biting, head banging and scratching. This might be head banging on floors, walls or other surfaces, hand or arm biting, hair pulling, eye gouging, face or head slapping, skin picking, scratching or pinching, forceful head shaking. SIB varies from case to case can be understood as existing on a continuum in relation to frequency and intensity, ranging from mild and infrequent to severe and chronic. An increased understanding of the incidence and risk factors associated with SIB in autism is needed to develop treatment options.

    A study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders assessed 7 factors that may influence self injury in a large group of 250 children and adolescents with ASD: (a) atypical sensory processing; (b) impaired cognitive ability; (c) impaired functional communication; (d) deficits in social interaction; (e) age; (f) the need for sameness; and (g) ) compulsive or ritualistic behavior. Other factors that may influence SIB incidence such as gender and ASD severity were also assessed. A series of diagnostic tests were administered either directly to the children and adolescents or to their parents to assess: (a) autism severity; (b) cognitive and adaptive ability; (c) and receptive and expressive language; (d) repetitive behaviors; and (e) self-injury.
    The results indicated that half of the children and adolescents demonstrated SIB. Atypical sensory processing was the strongest single predictor of self-injury followed by sameness, impaired cognitive ability and social functioning. Age, impaired functional communication, and ritualized behavior did not contribute significantly to self-injury. No significant effects of gender or severity of autistic symptoms were found in the study.
    Implications

    Self-injury is highly prevalent in children, teens, and adults with ASD. Atypical sensory processing and the need for sameness were contributors to SIB in this study, indicating that clinicians may want to focus on these two risk factors to develop function-based treatment options for self-injury. Research has also found significant associations between SIB and behavioral (aggression, hyperactivity, anxiety) developmental (adaptive behaviors, IQ), and somatic (sleep problems) factors. It is critical that interventions that target the risk factors associated SIB be identified and implemented in clinical practice. Providing empirically supported behavioral interventions to autistic individuals with SIB will not only impact directly on the problem behavior, but will enhance their social, educational, and adaptive functioning as well. Further research is clearly needed to better understand additional contributing factors that may influence these complex behaviors in children with ASD. For example, temperament, ability to self-regulate emotions, and medication usage might contribute to increased self injury.
    Key References 

    Christensen T, Ringdahl J, Bosch J, et al. (2009). Constipation associated with self-injurious and aggressive behavior exhibited by a child diagnosed with autism. Education & Treatment of Children, 32, 89–103

    Devine D. Self-injurious behaviors in autistic children: a neuro-developmental theory of social and environment isolation. Psychopharmacology. 2014; 231:979–997. [PubMed: 24057764]

    Duerden, E. G., Oatley, H. K., Mak-Fan, K. M., McGrath, P. A., Taylor, M. J., Szatmari, P., & Roberts, S. W. (2012). Risk factors associated with self-injurious behaviors in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42:2460–2470. DOI 10.1007/s10803-012-1497-9

    Mahatmya, D., Zobel, A., & Valdovinos, M. G. (2008). Treatment approaches for self-injurious behavior in individuals with autism: Behavioral and pharmacological methods. Journal of Early and Intensive Behavior Intervention, 5, 106-118.

    Moseley, R. L., Gregory, N. J., Smith, P., Allison, C., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2019). A 'choice', an 'addiction', a way 'out of the lost': exploring self-injury in autistic people without intellectual disability. Molecular autism10, 18. doi:10.1186/s13229-019-0267-3

    Soke, G. N., Rosenberg, S. A., Hamman, R. F., Fingerlin, T., Rosenberg, C. R., Carpenter, L., … DiGuiseppi, C. (2017). Factors associated with self-injurious behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder: Findings from two large national samples. Journal of autism and developmental disorders47(2), 285–296. doi:10.1007/s10803-016-2951-x

    Summers, J., Shahrami, A., Cali, S., D'Mello, C., Kako, M., Palikucin-Reljin, A., … Lunsky, Y. (2017). Self-injury in autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability: Exploring the role of reactivity to pain and sensory input. Brain sciences7(11), 140. doi:10.3390/brainsci7110140

    Waters, P., & Healy, O. (2012). Investigating the relationship between self-injurious behavior, social deficits, and co-occurring behaviors in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Autism research and treatment2012, 156481. doi:10.1155/2012/156481

    Wilkinson, L. A. (2017). Best practice in special education. In L. A. Wilkinson, A best practice guide to assessment and intervention for autism spectrum disorder in schools (pp. 157-200). London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

    Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, NCSP is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, chartered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. He provides consultation services and best practice guidance to school systems, agencies, advocacy groups, and professionals on a wide variety of topics related to children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Wilkinson is author of the award-winning books, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools and Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBTHe is also editor of a best-selling text in the APA School Psychology Book Series, Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools. His latest book is A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Editio

    Tuesday, October 11, 2016

    Self-Injurious Behavior (SIB) in Autistic Children

    Predictors of Self-Injurious behavior in Autism

    Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently engage in maladaptive behaviors such as aggression and rituals. The most distressing to caregivers and challenging for health care providers are self-injurious behaviors (SIB). These behaviors are classified as any type of action directed towards the self, resulting in physical injury. The most common types of SIB in children and adults with ASD include hand biting, head banging and scratching. This might be head banging on floors, walls or other surfaces, hand or arm biting, hair pulling, eye gouging, face or head slapping, skin picking, scratching or pinching, forceful head shaking. SIB varies from case to case can be understood as existing on a continuum in relation to frequency and intensity, ranging from mild and infrequent to severe and chronic. An increased understanding of the incidence and risk factors associated with SIB in autism is needed to develop treatment options.

    A study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders assessed 7 factors that may influence self injury in a large group of 250 children and adolescents with ASD: (a) atypical sensory processing; (b) impaired cognitive ability; (c) impaired functional communication; (d) deficits in social interaction; (e) age; (f) the need for sameness; and (g) ) compulsive or ritualistic behavior. Other factors that may influence SIB incidence such as gender and ASD severity were also assessed. A series of diagnostic tests were administered either directly to the children and adolescents or to their parents to assess: (a) autism severity; (b) cognitive and adaptive ability; (c) and receptive and expressive language; (d) repetitive behaviors; and (e) self-injury.
    The results indicated that half of the children and adolescents demonstrated SIB. Atypical sensory processing was the strongest single predictor of self-injury followed by sameness, impaired cognitive ability and social functioning. Age, impaired functional communication, and ritualized behavior did not contribute significantly to self-injury. No significant effects of gender or severity of autistic symptoms were found in the study.
    Implications

    Self-injurious behavior is an important public health problem in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). SIB is a debilitating behavior that occurs in a significant proportion of children, teens, and adults with ASD. Atypical sensory processing and the need for sameness were contributors to SIB in this study. Research has also found significant associations between SIB and behavioral (aggression, hyperactivity, anxiety) developmental (adaptive behaviors, nonverbal IQ), and somatic (sleep and GI problems ) factors. Current and previous research findings support the need for a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach for assessing and managing SIB in ASD. It is critical that interventions that target the risk factors associated SIB be identified and implemented in clinical practice. Providing empirically supported behavioral interventions to autistic individuals with self-aggressive behavior will not only impact directly on the problem behavior, but will their enhance social, educational, and adaptive functioning as well. Further research is clearly needed to better understand additional contributing factors that may influence these complex behaviors in children with ASD. For example, temperament, ability to self-regulate emotions, and medication usage might contribute to increased self injury.
    Key References 

    Christensen T, Ringdahl J, Bosch J, et al. (2009). Constipation associated with self-injurious and aggressive behavior exhibited by a child diagnosed with autism. Education & Treatment of Children, 32, 89–103.

    Devine D. (2014). Self-injurious behaviors in autistic children: a neuro-developmental theory of social and environment isolation. Psychopharmacology, 231, 979–997. 

    Duerden, E. G., Oatley, H. K., Mak-Fan, K. M., McGrath, P. A., Taylor, M. J., Szatmari, P., & Roberts, S. W. (2012). Risk factors associated with self-injurious behaviors in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42:2460–2470. DOI 10.1007/s10803-012-1497-9

    Mahatmya, D., Zobel, A., & Valdovinos, M. G. (2008). Treatment approaches for self-injurious behavior in individuals with autism: Behavioral and pharmacological methods. Journal of Early and Intensive Behavior Intervention, 5, 106-118.

    Moseley, R. L., Gregory, N. J., Smith, P., Allison, C., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2019). A 'choice', an 'addiction', a way 'out of the lost': exploring self-injury in autistic people without intellectual disability. Molecular autism10, 18. doi:10.1186/s13229-019-0267-3

    Soke, G. N., Rosenberg, S. A., Hamman, R. F., Fingerlin, T., Rosenberg, C. R., Carpenter, L., … DiGuiseppi, C. (2017). Factors associated with self-injurious behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder: Findings from two large national samples. Journal of autism and developmental disorders47(2), 285–296. doi:10.1007/s10803-016-2951-x

    Summers, J., Shahrami, A., Cali, S., D'Mello, C., Kako, M., Palikucin-Reljin, A., … Lunsky, Y. (2017). Self-Injury in autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability: Exploring the role of reactivity to pain and sensory input. Brain sciences7(11), 140. doi:10.3390/brainsci7110140

    Waters, P., & Healy, O. (2012). Investigating the relationship between self-injurious behavior, social Deficits, and co-occurring behaviors in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Autism research and treatment2012, 156481. doi:10.1155/2012/156481

    Wilkinson, L. A. (2017). Best practice in special education. In L. A. Wilkinson, A best practice guide to assessment and intervention for autism spectrum disorder in schools (pp. 157-200). London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

    Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, NCSP is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, chartered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. He provides consultation services and best practice guidance to school systems, agencies, advocacy groups, and professionals on a wide variety of topics related to children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Wilkinson is author of the award-winning books, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools and Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBTHe is also editor of a best-selling text in the APA School Psychology Book Series, Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools. His latest book is A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Edition)

    Thursday, October 6, 2016

    Independent Living on the Autism Spectrum


    Independent Living on the Autism Spectrum

    There has been a dramatic worldwide increase in reported cases of autism over the past decade. The prevalence rates in the US have risen steadily, from one in 150, to one in 110, and now to one in every 59 American children. This increase in the prevalence of ASD indicates that a correspondingly large number of youth will be transitioning into adulthood in the coming years. For example, it is estimated that approximately 50,000 adolescents with autism will turn 18 years old this year in the U.S. Unfortunately, outcomes are almost universally lower for young adults on the autism spectrum compared to their peers.
                                                                                 Research

    As these numbers continue to rise, there is a pressing need to understand the transition experience of young adults with ASD in today’s world. According to a study published in the journal Autism, young adults with ASD are more likely to live with their parents and least likely to live independently after leaving high school as compared to those with other types of challenges. For the study, researchers examined the prevalence and correlates of three living arrangements (with a parent or guardian, independently or with a roommate, or in a supervised setting) among a nationally representative sample of 620 postsecondary young adults with ASD since leaving high school. They were compared with 450 individuals with intellectual disability (InD), 410 with learning disabilities (LD) and 380 with emotional disturbance (ED) who were all part of the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, a long-term federally-funded survey of students in special education and their parents.
    Compared with other young adults with special needs, young adults with an ASD were significantly more likely to have ever lived with a parent or guardian (87.1%) and less likely to have ever lived independently (16.6%) since leaving high school. In follow-up analyses, the researchers found no independent living among young adults with ASD who had been out of high school for 2 years or less at the time of the survey. 

    Overall, the study’s findings show that young adults with an ASD have a different residential transition experience than their peers with LD, ED, or InD. Young adults with an ASD resided with a parent or guardian at higher rates and for longer periods of time after leaving high school than young adults with other disabilities. Moreover, young adults with an ASD had the highest rate of supervised living arrangements and the lowest rate of independent living since leaving high school. These results suggest that young adults with an ASD are particularly vulnerable during the initial years in the transition to adulthood where they experience a shift in service provision after leaving high school. Consequently, many young adults with an ASD are not experiencing opportunities to explore various residential options as young adults.
    Implications

    The evidence presented in this study suggests that the vast majority of young adults with ASD will be residing in the parental or guardian home during the period of emerging adulthood. The lack of services available to help young adults with ASD transition to greater independence has been noted by researchers for a number of years and has become an increasingly important issue as children identified with ASD reach adolescence and adulthood. Comprehensive transition planning and support for students leaving high school and exiting special educational programming, each with unique strengths, interests, and challenges, is an urgent task confronting our communities and schools. Greater emphasis must be placed on transition planning as a key process for helping youth build skills and access services as they leave school and enter adulthood. 

    More research is needed to identify ways to effectively implement residential transition plans that best meet the needs and pref­erences of young adults with ASD and their families. Research suggests that prolonged caregiving of an adult child with autism can adverse effects on maternal well-being. Thus, investigating a variety of in-home interventions that might improve the quality of life for families and adults with ASD may be helpful in that the vast majority of young adults are residing in the parental home. Lastly, the focus of intervention/treatment must shift from remediating the core deficits in childhood to promoting adaptive behaviors in secondary education that can facilitate and enhance ultimate functional independence and quality of life in adulthood. This includes addressing new developmental challenges such as independent living, vocational engagement, postsecondary education, and family support.
    Key References and Further Reading
    Anderson, K. A., Shattuck, P. T., Cooper, B. P., Roux, A. M., & Wagner, M. (2014). Prevalence and correlates of postsecondary residential status among young adults with an autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 18, 562-570.  doi: 10.1177/1362361313481860
    Lake, J. K., Perry, A., & Lunsky, Y. (2014). Mental health services for individuals with high functioning autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research and Treatment, Volume 2014, Article ID 502420. doi:10.1155/2014/502420
    Orsmond, G. I., Shattuck, P. T., Cooper, B. P., Sterzing, P. R., & Anderson, K. A. (2013). Social participation among young adults with an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 270-2719. doi 10.1007/s10803-013-1833-8
    Roux, A. M., Shattuck, P. T., Rast, J. E., Rava, J. A., & Anderson, K. A. (2015). National Autism Indicators Report: Transition into Young Adulthood. Philadelphia, PA: Life Course Outcomes Research Program, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Drexel University. Available from http://drexe.lu/autismindicators
    Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI). Transition to Adulthood Guidelines.
    http://www.ocali.org/project/transition_to_adulthood_guidelines
    Virginia Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Student Services (October, 2010). Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Transition to Adulthood.
    Wagner, S. (2014). Continuum of services and individualized education plan process. In L. A. Wilkinson (Ed.). Autism spectrum disorder in children and adolescents:  Evidence-based assessment and intervention in schools (pp. 173-193). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
    Wilkinson, L. A. (2017). A best practice guide to assessment and intervention for autism spectrum disorder in schools. Philadelphia & London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
    Wrightslaw. Transition Planning. http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/trans.index.htm
    Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, NCSP is a licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, chartered psychologist, and certified cognitive-behavioral therapist. He provides consultation services and best practice guidance to school systems, agencies, advocacy groups, and professionals on a wide variety of topics related to children and youth with autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Wilkinson is author of the award-winning books,  A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools and Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBTHe is also editor of a best-selling text in the APA School Psychology Book Series, Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Evidence-Based Assessment and Intervention in Schools. His latest book is A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Schools (2nd Edition)

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