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Dr. Chris’ Autism Journal » Research
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Archive for the 'Research' Category

Top Autism Treatments

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007
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In a recent About: Autism Spectrum Disorders posting, the top 10 treatment approaches for autism were listed along with helpful links for each of these approaches.  The top 10 were determined by popularity, research, and most effective overall.

The top 10 listed were:100_0152.JPG

1) Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

2) Speech Therapy

3) Occupational Therapy

4) Social Skills TherapyB and Trish.jpg

5) Physical Therapy

6) Play Therapy

7) Behavior Therapy/Positive Behavior Support

8) Developmental TherapiesEl 1.jpg

9) Visually-based Therapies

10) Biomedical Therapies

I would like to see a similar list, in order, of those that are the most research-based and have evidence of effectiveness with the largest number of children with autism.  Organizations such as the National Autism Center are dedicated to coming up with good ways to make these kinds of lists and to develop rankings for treatment approaches which will be based on research and effectiveness for ASD.  This project is called the National Standards Project and the expert panel and conceptual reviewers include a prestigious group of autism researchers including several of our TeachTown science advisory board members including Dr. Ilene Schwartz, Dr. William Frea, and Dr. Aubyn Stahmer.

J computer.jpgI would also like to see more studies on technology and which programs are effective and which ones are not.  It won’t be long before Computer-Assisted Instruction is added to the list above, I just hope that developers, and perhaps more importantly, university researchers continue to conduct the necessary research to keep improving these programs.

**Please see comments from the author of the ABOUT blog, she makes some excellent comments and I completely agree with her!**

TeachTown Receives Federal Funding for Autism Software Development

Saturday, April 28th, 2007
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teachtown cloud background.JPGWith the success of our first program, TeachTown: Basics, we were getting very antsy to start our next product to help school-age children with autism.  We are thrilled to announce that we have received a Department of Education Stepping Stones Technology grant to develop our next product and to do the initial research to help make this product effective, appropriate, and of the highest quality.  Stayed tuned for further updates about this upcoming product, we are anticipating using the new program with children starting in 2008!

To read more about our exciting news, check out the press release at: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=69034

Continue checking back to this site and the TeachTown website for announcements and opportunities to participate in our research and development process.

Remote Service Delivery

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006
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photo_services_consultation1.jpgIn a new study, researchers at the Celeste Foundation are looking at the efficacy of a remote service delivery for children with autism utilizing computers and video technology.  This innovative approach aims to provide increased access to treatment and decreased costs for home intervention programs.  If you live in Iowa, Florida, or New starting_home_program.jpgJersey, you may be able to participate in this program.  If not, the study is still very exciting and has tremendous potential for helping families of children with autism.

Mind Reading Computers

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006
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autism.jpgResearchers are now working on technology to read the emotions of others by analyzing facial expressions. Although some people might have concerns about a computer doing such a thing, it could have very interesting treatment implications. Of course, most of us would not even think about computers REPLACING people in therapy, but if a computer could help people with autism to be more AWARE of their facial expressions, this could be very useful. The program in development is based on the work of Simonpr-cartoon-r.gif Baron-Cohen, the director of the Autism Research Centre in England, who is an expert in theory of mind and autism, check out some of the research he is doing, he does some incredible studies, including using technology such as DVDs and computers to teach people with autism. The researchers on this new project for a wearable emotion detector include Peter Robinson at Cambridge University and Rana el Kaliouby at MIT Here is the article from today’s headlines: Mind-Reading Computers Could Help Those With Autism By Jennifer LeClaire
TechNewsWorld
“Would we want computers that can react to our emotions? Such systems do raise ethical issues,” said Professor Peter Robinson of the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. “Imagine a computer that could pick the right emotional moment to try to sell you something.” British and U.S. scientists are developing an “emotionally aware” computer that can gauge an individual’s thoughts by analyzing facial expressions. The technology could have practical applications for people with autism, researchers said.
“People express their mental states all the time through facial expressions, vocal nuances and gestures,” said Professor Peter Robinson of the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in London. “We have built this ability into computers to make them emotionally aware.”

Theory of Mind

The ability to determine an individual’s mental state based on behavior and then use that information to guide one’s actions or predict those of others, is known as the “theory of the mind.” This is not a new field. It has been around since the 1970s, but it has recently gained attention in light of the needs of people with autism, who are thought to be “mind-blind.” That is, they find it difficult to interpret others’ emotions and feelings from facial expressions and other non-verbal cues. Robinson and his colleague, Rana el Kaliouby from the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, based their computer program on the latest research in the theory of mind by Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Center at Cambridge. Baron-Cohen’s research provided them with a taxonomy of facial expressions and the emotions they represent.

“Machine versus people testing of this system has shown the computer to be as accurate as the top 6 percent of people. But would we want computers that can react to our emotions? Such systems do raise ethical issues,” Robinson said. “Imagine a computer that could pick the right emotional moment to try to sell you something.”

AUTISM APPLICATIONS

There are, however, applications with clear benefits, including an emotional hearing aid to assist people with autism, usability testing for software, feedback for online teaching, and informing the animation of cartoon figures, Robinson noted.

The duo has been working since 2004 on a wearable system that helps people with Autism Spectrum Conditions and Asperger Syndrome with emotional-social understanding and mind reading functions. El Kaliouby is currently implementing the first prototype of the system at MIT’s Media Lab.

SIMULATING APPROPRIATE RESPONSES

Mary Bellis Waller, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and scientist at the Center for Addiction and Behavior Studies, is cheering on the researchers. Bellis has worked with autistic children and adults in her practice and is encouraged by progressive technologies designed to help autistics live a more normal life.

“Whatever helps autistics develop an awareness and sensitivity — and appropriate responses — to emotional cues, should be done,” Waller told TechNewsWorld. “And from all the research showing how plastic the brain is, the more anybody — including autistic people — practices appropriate responses, the better they get at it, the more natural it becomes to ‘act normal.’”

Review of ABA Conference in Atlanta

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006
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This was a very exciting conference foatlanta_image03_sm.gifr TeachTown, our booth was extremely well attended and we ran out of almost all of our handouts! Researchers, clinicians, and parents were all very eager to get a copy of TeachTown: Basics.

We had a 3-hour continuing education workshop with about 10 attendees - it was great - our attendees had some great suggestions for continuing to improve our products and several people approched me afterwards about doing research with TeachTown: Basics.

feature.jpgOur symposium with myself, Ilene Schwartz, and Beth Wyman was well attended and people were very interested in TeachTown and the research. For my talk, I educated people about TeachTown and gave a brief demonstration of TeachTown: Basics. Dr. Ilene Schwartz from University of Washington’s Experimental Education Unit, presented results from their study comparing TeachTown: Basics to Discrete Trial Training (DTT) for 3 children. Two of the children in their research did better with the teacher-taught DTT while 1 child responded well to TeachTown: Basics. Although the outcome of this research was not as good as we had hoped, we were able to identify a number of things in terms of next steps for improving the current TeachTown: Basics program. Basically, it seemed that the two children who did not do well with the program did not understand how to use the program. It is possible that it was because they were new learners in computer based instructional environments. We are now working on a “learning to learn” module which will help new users and children with little or no computer experience to prep for using TeachTown: Basics. Beth Wyman with ASTAR (Autism Spectrum Therapy and Research) presented data on one child who used TeachTown: Basics to supplement his existing home program. She used both the TeachTown data collection system and standardized measures such as the ABLLS to demonstrate treatment efficacy. Initially, there was some learning to learn on the computer instruction that was needed to foster later success. This child ended up doing very well with the TeachTown: Basics program and even showed some possible carry over effects into his 1:1 instructional environments. He is now showing longer attention spans in work sessions, more consistency in performance, and overal progress in programs. Beth is planning to supplement home programs with TeachTown: Basics with 1 or 2 more children in the near future. Dr. Schwartz gave a thoughtful and interesting discussion at the end of the symposium emphasizing the positive approach that TeachTown has for treatment. She emphasized the importance of applying best-practices in ABA research into the design of the TeachTown: Basics, contuing research on the efficacy and applicability of our products, and making the effort to make treatment more accessible to families, schools, and other institutional settings who need it. Although the research is still preliminary, attending researchers were impressed with the fact that our company focuses on researching the products and that we use this research to make TeachTown products better all the time. The symposium was very well attended and the buzz following it was exciting. I spent the rest of the conference being approached by people wanting to know more about TeachTown!

CHDD_shipcanal_130x130.jpgIn addition to the exciting events for TeachTown, we were able to see some great talks. Dr. Ilene Schwartz was an invited speaker. The purpose of her presentation was to describe the role of behavior analysts in preparing and partnering with educators to work with children with and without disabilities. Although much of the work of applied behavior analysts deals with the school age population, as a field we are often absent from debates about school reform and teacher education. During the presentation, Dr. Schwartz made the case for why it is important to increase our presence in these forums and suggested strategies to talk about behavior principles in a manner that is acceptable to our colleagues in public schools and colleges of education.

114105lr.jpgDr. Laura Schreibman from UC San Diego and 2 of her students from the UCSD Autism Lab presented very exciting and innovative research on the identification of child characteristics that might predict success in different treatment programs such as Pivotal Response Training (PRT). This research is very important to the field of autism in that it acknowledges that “one size does not fit all” for this population and that even for an individual child, their ideal treatment might change over time as their skills and developmental level change. Dr. Marjorie Charlop-Christy from Claremont McKenna College provided an insightful discussion about UCSD’s research - she complemented them on their vigorous scientific procedures (their data was excellent) and not only on identifying child characteristics but maybe even teaching non-responders to a specific kind of treatment (in this case, PRT) how to be responders. I am always very excited to see the research from UCSD as I am an alumni from that lab =).

I also attended a panel discussion from the folks at Eden II where they reviewed allspot_photo_04.jpg of their procedures for quality assurance at their facilities. I was very impressed with the thorough commitment to providing high quality treatment to people with autism and the parents. Their company also focuses on ensuring that staff are high quality and that they are happy working there. I took a lot of notes at this one, I think they have some excellent strategies for making sure that quality treatment is provided.

Manya (TeachTown’s Program Director/Director of Education), attended an exciting all day workshop on teaching reading to students with disabilities. Reading has long been her area of interest and graduate work. The workshop was presented by the staff at Morningside Academy, a laboratory school with both elementary and middle school programs in Seattle that was founded by Dr. Kent Johnson, who is also co-founder for Headsprout.com. Morningside Academy utilizes the effective approches of direct instruction and fluency based instruction to teach children who aren’t quite making in in public school settings. This particular workshop focused on providing a thorough introduction to the area of reading. They looked at the most important components of effective reading instruction, including prerequisites to reading (language, phonemic awareness, phonological coding, and rapid automatic naming skills); phonics and decoding skills; vocabulary and background knowledge, comprehension skills and strategies, application of comprehension skills and strategies during reading; and learning skills such as rapid interaction with a teacher and peer, reasoning and problem solving repertoires, and participating in classroom discussions. The Morningside staff presented the basic principles for teaching each component, showed and modeled each component, and had the audience break out into small groups to practice teaching each component with immediate feedback and coaching from Morningside teachers. Manya said it was a great workshop and people who are interested in incorporating reading performance in their teaching and intervention planning should consider attending if the opportunity is there.

Overall, this was a very exciting conference, next year (May, 2007), you can attend ABA in San Diego - we will be there for sure and are really looking forward to it!

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