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Dr. Chris’ Autism Journal
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The Importance of Generalization


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main1.jpgIn our teaching and learning endeavors with children, we often are driven by the ultimate outcome and functionality of a skill without even realizing it. Behind this motivation for teaching is the value and importance of generalization, we want our students to be able to learn something in an instructional setting and apply it in a functional setting. Think back to the days when you learned the alphabet. Now think of how easily you were able to learn that A is A, no matter what color it is, how tall it is, what kind of paper it is on, if it was on the fridge or in a book, or who might be asking you about it. And notice how you did not forget that A is A once you mastered the skill. This is generalization.

            Difficulties with generalization of skills are well-known in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and to those who work with them. These difficulties often will mean that generalization will not just occur, but rather will need to be explicitly programmed and planned for in educational and therapeutic settings.  Thus, it is important to think of generalization issues as being the responsibility of the teacher, rather than as a deficit in the child.   Individuals with ASD frequently cannot functionally use what they have learned in a structured teaching situation and be able to apply it to other similar settings or with different materials and people. Often times children with ASD will need specific planning for maintenance of a skill and programming that can naturally embed learned skills into functional activities so that the skill is constantly and systematically reinforced over time.  It is absolutely essential to program and plan for generalization, the “train and hope” approach (just teaching the skill and hoping it will generalize), is not sufficient.

            If you are interested in more information on generalization, start with this article: Stokes, T. F., & Baer, D. M. (1977)Gen Webinar Photo 15.JPG. An implicit technology of generalization. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 10, 349-367, available for purchase at http://seab.envmed.rochester.edu/jaba/. Please note that this website has lots of full text articles available as well as abstracts for their articles going as far back as 1968. They have a great search feature so that you can get right to the information you are looking for. For example if you search for autism, you will get a list of links to abstracts and full text articles having to do with studies conducted relating to autism all the way back to 1968.  Here are some strategies for programming for generalization from the Stokes & Baer article:
1) Use naturally reinforcing and occurring materials - Seek to change behaviors that receive reinforcement in the student’s natural environment. For example - learning colors because the child has a favorite color of Popsicle, M&Ms, and ice cream flavor is likely to be more maintained and generalized than learning colors by sorting colored blocks into color bowls.
2) Train Loosely - Adding variety to skills being taught. This will include using a variety of materials in a variety of ways and in a variety of situations. Ideas and approaches used in incidental teaching or naturalistic ABA tend to foster better generalization because these instructional environments more closely resemble the ultimate outcome. Studies have shown that the more naturalistic instructions and presentations of SDs tend to have better learning outcomes to intensive instruction.
Gen Webinar Photo 11.JPG3) Train Sufficient Exemplars - Providing many examples of the target response. An example of this is the computer-assisted instructional program, TeachTown: Basics , which has many examples incorporated into every lesson.  You will notice many examples of one particular vocabulary word. You will also notice that pictures used in the pretest and posttest are different from the pictures used in the training lessons. Additionally, in the off computer activities there are many ideas that include the use of materials found around the house or classroom.
4) General Case Programming – Use many examples of stimuli, use many teachers, try different settings, and lots of materials.
-Using a vending machine at local community center, using similar vending machine at school, using another similar one at the grocery store…
-When teaching car, you would consider pictures of cars, different cars, toy cars, riding in family’s cars, labeling cars on the street, etc.
-When teaching social skills like saying hi, saying hi to people where you know a name for them, saying hi to people when you don’t have a name for them, pretending to say hi to stuffed animals, pretending to say hi to pictures of friends, having dolls say hi to each other, etc.
 

            Generalization should not only be planned for in the teaching situation, but measurement of generalization is critical so plans should be made up front for how to assess it.  This can be 31212475_thb.jpgdone by taking a skill that was taught and try it with new materials, go on an outing into the community (the zoo, park, beach, grocery store, etc.), and most importantly try it with mom, dad, and/or siblings. It is critical that generalization is assessed everyday with each newly acquired skill. If the child isn’t showing functional use of the skill in naturally occurring activities and routines, stop adding new programs and goals and focus planning and programming for generalization for his/her recently acquired skills.  If the skill has not generalized, the skill cannot be considered truly mastered!

            Although the term “generalization” is often heard in the ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) literature, there is no intervention in which generalization is not important, regardless of the philosophy.  In seeking interventions for a particular child, it is essential to ask the treatment providers how they will program for and measure generalization, or real outcome.  Regardless of the impressive statistics of a treatment program, if the children do not demonstrate generalization in the real world, the results of the treatment program may not be as impressive as they seem.  A good resource for learning more about generalization, the research, and strategies for various interventions is Real Life, Real Progress for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Strategies for Successful Generalization in Natural Environments (Whalen, 2009). 

Assessment in Special Education


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Bill Working at DeskIt is sometimes difficult to make sense of all of the data that is collected on a child in a special education program.  The first issue is consistency and standardization.  There is no excepted assessment protocol that is used in ALL schools for ALL children, it varies immensely from school district to school district.  Another issue is that the data is often not presented to the families in a meaningful way and the assessment is often not directly tied to IEP goals, so at times, it is not clear what is being assessed or why.  Similarly, it is not always clear which assessments to use to get meaningful outcome data.

If your child does get assessed, the terminology in these reports can be daunting.  Here is a brief overview of some of the terms you may see:

* A raw score is almost always the number of items that the child answerred puzzleed correctly on the assessment.  By itself, this has no meaning if you are not familiar with the specific assessment.

* A standard score is one that has been calculated from the raw score to fit into a normal distribution.  In most cases, the mean is 100, and the standard deviation is 15.  In special education, children are often at extreme ends of the distribution (either way above or way below the mean) in areas of exceptionality (for instance, a child with autism will likely score below the mean in social communication).

* The z score is the number of standard deviations above and below the mean.  If a z score is -1.9, that means the child scored 1.9 standard deviations below the mean.

* Percentile rank is the percentage of scores in a particular group of people.  Percentile ranks range from 99th (highest) to 1st (lowest).  If your child has a percentile rank of 82, they did better than 82% of the population (could be their class or district, could be the general population for that age group, etc, depends on the assessment).

* Clark WritingThe age equivalent is estimate of the age level that matches how your child did on the assessment.  This is almost always shown in years and months.  If your child is 10 years old and receives an age equivalent score on a language assessment of 6 years, 2 months.  That means that your child’s language (as measured by that assessment) is similar to a typically developing child at the age of 6 years, 2 months.  This is probably one of the more useful pieces of data, as this can help guide your decisions for what content is most appropriate for teaching your child and building her language skills.

* The grade equivalent is similar to age equivalent, but by grade level, rather than a specific age.

* A report card often has a completely different set of scoring than standardized measures.  These vary so much, that it is impossible to review them all here.  The most common (with older kids) is A (highest grade), B, C (pass), D, or F (fail).  Younger grades often use things like S (satisfactory), E (excellent), U (unsatisfactory) or other types of grading.  Report cards are done at a state, district, or sometimes even school level (especially in private schools).  The report card shows how your child is doing compared to other children at that grade level.

* The IEP (see Manya’s Posting) is not really a report of how well the child is doing, but what needs to be worked on to make the child successful, so the IEP is not the outcome measure, per se, but the plan for improving the child’s skills.

TYPES OF ASSESSMENT

Intellectual, Educational:  The purpose of these assessments is to deblue puzzletermine the child’s overall, verbal, or non-language intellectual ability.  Skills that are typically measured include language skills, processing speed, memory, abstract thinking, planning, motor skills, spatial abilities, organization, social understanding and judgment, and common sense.  IQ scores are often (but not always) associated with these assessments.  IQ scores show a child’s intellectual ability compared to other children their age.  IQ scores are more stable for older children than for younger children and change from childhood to adulthood.  Many factors may contribute to IQ, so it is important to take them for what they are and to not make more of them than what they are.  IQ and academic achievement are highly correlated, but success in life is not as highly correlated with high IQs, and many researchers believe that success may relate more to social-emotional intelligence than to IQ.  An IQ score can be very helpful though in determining a child’s ability to do well in a mainstream classroom.  Here is a breakdown of IQ scores, the classification, and the percent included (this is taken from a table in the book THE SPECIAL EDUCATOR’S BOOK OF LISTS: 2nd EDITION by Roger Pierangelo, PhD (Wiley Publishers) on page 219) (great book, btw, I highly recommend it!):

IQ Range                Classification                           % Included

130 and over           Very superior                          2.2

120-129                  Superior                                 6.7

110-119                  High Average                          16.1

90-109                    Average                                 50.0

80-89                      Low Average                          16.1

70-79                      Borderline                               6.7

69 and below            Intellectually deficient               2.2

                               Mentally retarded

                               Developmentally delayed

Some of the most commonly used intelligence assessments include (list from the above referenced book - click on the link above to order the book from Amazon) (the book also gives a nice review of what is included in each of these assessments and the authors insights regarding benefits and weaknesses of each assessment):

1) The Wechsler Scales of Intelligence (WPPSI for Preschool; WISC for school age; WAIS for adults)

2) The Stanford Binet

3) Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC)

4) Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test (KBIT)

5) Columbia Mental Maturity Scale (CMMS)

6) McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities

7) Slosson Intelligence Test

8) Comprehension Test of Nonverbal Intelligence (CTONI)

9) Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Ability (WJ)

10) Brigance Diagnostic Inventory of Basic Skills

11) Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA)

12) Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT)

13) Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT)

14) Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT)

15) Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement

Bill WritingThere are a few other measures that I have come across when working in schools and clinics that were not listed in the book:

16) The Leiter Non-Verbal Intelligence Scale

17) Developmental Profile 3 (DP-3)

18) Developmental Assessment of Young Children (DAYC)

19) Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS)

20) Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT)

21) The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS)

 

Reading Assessments:  These assessments are excellent for determining a child’s grade level for reading and identifying strengths and limitations for program planning.

1) Gates-MacGinitie Silent Reading Test (GMRT)

2) Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT)

3) Durrell Analysis of Reading Difficulty (DARD)

4) Gates-McKillop-Horowitz Diagnostic Reading Tests

5) Gilmore Oral Reading Test

6) Slosson Oral Reading Test (SORT)

7) Spache Diagnostic Reading Scales

8) Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests (WRMT)

9) Test of Reading Comprehension (TORC)

10) Nelson-Denny Reading Test (NDRT)

 

Written Language: These assessments refer to the child’s ability to put torange puzzleheir thoughts down on paper and includes the motor act of handwriting and the cognitive ability to put thoughts into writing.

1) Picture Story Language Test (PSLT)

2) Test of Early Written Language (TEWL)

3) Test of Written Language (TOWL)

red pencilMath: These tests measure the child’s abilities to solve problems, interpret results, and apply math skills.

1) Key Math Diagnostic Arithmetic Test (KEY MATH)

2) Test of Early Mathematics Ability (TEMA)

3) Test of Mathematical Abilities (TOMA)

 

Problem Behaviors: These tests are used to assess the level of problem behaviors exhibited by a child and to measure progress from interventions targeted at reducing these behaviors.   

1) Behavioral Observations (this is the most commonly used measure - often done through a Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA) on a specific behavior problem)

2) Interview Methods are often used to supplement behavioral observations and help the behavior analyst or psychologist get a better understanding of the environment and possible behavioral triggers surround a particular behavior - can also be used to diagnosis

3) Psychological Tests are administered by the school psychologist and are used to properly place the child in an appropriate classroom and to identify issues to work on with the child in his IEP.  These can include projective drawing, apperception tests, sentence completion tests, and rating scales.

 

Adaptive Behaviors are the life skills needed for the child to functionpurple puzzle in school, home, and in the community.  These include things like communication, health, safety, self-care, leisure, work, social understanding, fine and gross motor, functional academics, and community knowledge. Here are some popular assessments (also from book referenced above):

1) AAMR Adaptive Behavior Scale - Residential and Community

2) AAMR Adaptive Behavior Scale - School

3) Adaptive Behavior Evaluation Scale (ABES)

4) Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS)

 

Visual and Auditory Perception: These are extremely important measures for children who may have difficulty responding to the teaching materials typically available in classrooms and to qualify children for assistive technology or other tools to help give them access to the teaching materials.  These are typically administered by an occupational or speech therapist.

1) Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration (VMI)

2) Test of Gross-Motor Development (TGMD)

3) Bender Visual-Motor Gestalt Test (BVMGT)

4) Developmental Test of Visual Perception (DTVP)

5) Motor-Free Visual Perceptual Test (MVPT)

6) Goldman-Fristoe-Woodcock Test of Auditory Discrimination

7) Test of Auditory Perceptual Skills (TAPS)

8) Wepman Test of Auditory Discrimination (ADT)

9) Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitudes (DTLA)

10) Slingerland Screening Tests for Identifying Children with Specific Language Disability

 

DSCN0540.JPGEarly Childhood Assessments are developed specifically for children under the age of 5 years (often used with a new diagnosis).

1) Bayley Scales of Infant Development

2) Preschool Language Scale (PLS)

3) Metropolitan Readiness Tests (MRT)

4) Boehm Test of Basic Concepts (BTBC)

5) Bracken Basic Concept Scale (BBCS)

6) Preschool Evaluation Scale (PES)

7) Kindergarten Readiness Tests (KRT)

8) Batelle Developmental Inventory (BDI)

9) Communication and Symbolic Behaviors Scale (CSBS)

10) Mullen Scales of Early Learning

 

eraser 1Motor skills are often assessed to identify the need for an occupational therapist and to develop specific programs to help children with motor skill difficulties.  Gross motor skills include those that require larger movements (e.g. running, dancing, balance, etc.) and fine motor skills include those require more finger movements (e.g. writing, cutting, musical instruments, etc.).  Here are some assessments that are often used (from the book):

1) Milani-Comparetti Motor Development Test

2) Miller Assessment for Preschoolers (MAP)

3) Quick Neurological Screening Test (QNST)

4) Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT)

5) Purdue Perceptual Motor Survey (PPM)

 

computer boy.jpgAutism/Asperger Severity measurements are used to make an initial diagnosis, but area also used to confirm the child’s diagnosis at various points in their development.  Here are some of the measurements that I have used personally in my research, clinical, and education work:

1) Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)

2) Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS)

3) Gilliam Asperger’s Disorder Scale (GADS)

4) Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale (ADOS)

5) Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI)

6) Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)

7) Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scales (ASDS)

8) Autism Screening Instrument for Educational Planning

9) Differential Assessment of Autism and Other Developmental Disorders

10) Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening Test

 

There are also a great deal of language assessments thaaqua puzzlet are administered to identify speech, language disorders, and to identify speech-language and behavioral services that might be needed to help the child advance in their language and communication.  These assessments are extremely common with children who have an ASD diagnosis.  I am not a speech therapist, and this list is by no means comprehensive, but here are some of the language measurements that I have used or seen used by speech therapists:

1) Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test

2) Peabody Expressive Vocabulary Test

3) Receptive One-Word Vocabulary Test

4) Expressive One-Word Vocabulary Test

5) Assessment of Sound Awareness and Production (ASAP)

6) Hodson Computerized Analysis of Phonological Patterns (HCAPP)

7) Language Proficiency Test (LPT)

8) Lindamood Auditory Comprehension Test

9) Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS)

10) Test for Auditory Comprehension of Language (TACL)

11) Test of Pragmatic Language (TOPL)

12) Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery

13) Boehm 3- Preschool

14) Boehm Test of Basic Concepts

15) Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF)

16) MacArthur Communication Development Inventories

17) Preschool Language Scale

18) Reynell Developmental Language Scales

19) Test of Early Language Development (TELD)

20) Test of Narrative Language (TNL)

21) Utah Test of Language Development

 

3 kids in wagonThere are not a great deal of assessments for testing social skills, but there are a few that I think are great to use with children with ASD:

1) Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ)

2) Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS)

3) Social Skills Rating System (SSRS)

4) Social-Communication, Emotional Regulation, Transactional Supports Assessments (SCERTS)

 

There you have it, a not so brief overview of assessment in special education.  If anyone knows of other assessments that they use in their professional work, or that have been used on their children, please share, particularly if you find that one has really helped you.  I am currently looking for good measBill Graduationurements for social skills, if you know of some, please let me know!

 

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Calling All IEP Participants… Some Tools for the Trade


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How do you know your IEP is a good one?  It’s simple, it’s on the child’s table, wrinkled, splattered with juice, it’s dog-fileseared with turned up corners and is coffee stained throughout it’s many pages.  These are the signs of hard work, daily lesson planning, ongoing documentation and evaluation, individualized instruction, effective and meaningful goals, dedicated teachers… And well, let’s face it, it’s what every parent wants for their child who’s participating in the special education programs in our public schools across the country.

An IEP is an Individual Education Plan, it is essentially a contract between the school and the parents of the child with special needs.  An IEP shapes the child’s education and guides delivery of support and services while also providing a system of checks and balances for all of the people involved in the child’s program.  Essentially the purpose of the IEP is to provide an individualized document that will structure and organize the programing for the child with autism or other special needs and will allow the entire team a way of determining if the student is making meaningful progress.

There is no doubt that the IEP is the most important document in Special Education.  To create an effective and meaningful IEP, the parents, teachers, other school staff, and often other outside service professionals must come together and look closely at the child’s unique and individual needs.  Each team member will contribute in some way their experience, knowledge, and committment to this particular child to design an educational plan that will allow the child, as much as possible, access to the general education curriculum while preparing the child for employment and independence to the greatest extent possible.  Without fail, the design and implementation of each student’s IEP requires ongoing teamwork and careful communication among all IEP team members.

The team needs to work together to make a plan that is easily understood by all of the child’s IEP team members and the people who are involved in working with the child on a regular basis, this would include the parents, the paras, and the even the substitute teachers.  Goals and objectives should be clearly outlined  and include data collection procedures so that the team can objectively measure the child’s progress.  The team needs to be careful to not write an IEP that is too complicated, long, overwhelming, limited, etc. for the people who are implementing it.  The IEP should be as clear and as concise as possible.  However, with it’s clarity and concise attributes, the IEP also needs to be as close to perfect as the team can possibly get it which does take a certain amount of time and detail.  All parties coming to the table to meet for the child’s IEP need to come with an open mind and be ready to negotiate and compromise.  Parents should know however, that if they are in disagreement about something that is suggested or written in the IEP, they need to speak up immediately and make sure their disagreement is noted.

IEP cycleServing the entire spectrum of autism is not easy to do in one classroom, but teachers everywhere are up to the challenge as long as they have the support and teamwork required to do so.  The individual needs of students on the spectrum are unique and can vary quite extensively from one child to another.  It’s not uncommon to see a child’s IEP state that he or she will have SLP services 2 times a week, OT services for 20 mintues each week, attend adapted PE one hour a week, participate in small group social skills twice a week for 20 minutes, play therapy sessions throughout the school year, home visits each month, and positive behavior support planning throughout the year and across all settings.  It’s also not uncommon to attend 10 IEP meetings in 2 years for the same child, while at the same time another child may only have 2 meetings across the entire preschool program.  What really makes a difference is how involved the parents can and want to be and how supported and resourceful the school is in providing effective and accountable programs for the children in the special education programs.

Students with autism take the term “individualized” to the greatest extent imaginable.  There is definitely no cookie cutter approach for designing an effective curriculum for a child with autism or any child with special needs.  Clearly, assessment and ongoing evaluation are critical in understanding what the child can and cannot do.  For the student with ASD, this likely means a great deal of time will be spent on the present levels of performance (PLOP) so that the team knows where the child currently is and what the next steps should look like for the child.

IEP Goal Recommendations for Teachers:

Lower functioning or younger children on the spectrumteacher

  • functional communication skills
  • play skills
  • social interaction skills
  • adaptive behavior, daily living, or self help skills
  • academic skills
  • behavior support plans

Higher functioning or older students with autism or Asperger Syndrome

  • social skills/friendship skills
  • pragmatic language and conversation skills
  • organizational skills
  • academic skills
  • indpendence skills
  • employability and vocational skills
  • self advocacy and determination skills
  • behavior support plans

Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP) - sometimes a box on the IEP is checked if the student’s behavior is “impeding learning for self or others”.  If this is checked off, then a separate document should be attached to the IEP and should lay out a very clear plan for dealing with challenging behavior.  Below are the essential components to a BIP.

  • description of the problem behavior
  • position statement regarding the function of the behavior
  • triggers, setting events, antecedents
  • prevention strategies
  • replacement behaviors
  • proactive instructional strategies
  • reactive consequence strategies
  • safety plans
  • long term prevention strategies
  • re-evaluation and on-going monitoring plans and schedules

IEP Meeting Recommendations for Parents:

Be preparedparents

  • have a copy of your child’s current IEP and current goals
  • provide a list of your child’s strengths and weaknesses
  • share goals you feel need to be addressed
  • communicate clearly your ideas of what you want for your child
  • ask for any test/assessment results before the meeting
  • bring hard copies of any new information or outside evaluations

Know your rights

  • read up on the current laws pertaining to what you are requesting of the school
  • investigate law cases and bring copies to the meeting, if possible provide before the meeting
  • read up on current research and recommendations published in peer reviewed journals and manuals, provide this information to your school team, they may not know!

Be an advocate for your child

  • understand and articulate what you feel is important for your child
  • if the IEP team says no to what you feel is a reasonable request, continue to work on it and take it one step further, continue until the team can reach an agreement
  • nobody knows your child the way you do, work hard with your school team to create an equal partnership - you are the expert on your child, they are the expert on teaching, an equal partnership between parents and teachers is beneficial to the child in so many ways.
  • as a last resort, when the IEP team just can’t find a way to come to an agreement on something you feel is very important, at least know ahead of time the process and further steps you can consider taking to ensure that your priorities for your child are not lost in the shuffle… starting with pre-mediation with an advocate, mediation, due process, etc.

parent teacher confCreating an equal partnership between parents and teachers is a critical component to developing a “good” IEP.  As much time and energy that goes into writing the IEP should also go into building positive and receptive relationships between the home and the school.  It is not a lot to ask that the teachers and the school administrators see the parents as an equal partner in this process and as an expert on autism and this particular student.  There is nothing more discouraging for a parent than to come to their child’s IEP meeting and the IEP is already written, very little input from the parent was considered, and being told at the onset of the meeting that “we only have 50 minutes.”  Likewise the parents should come to the meetings believing that the teachers have every best intention in providng effective instruction for their child and that the progress of that child is just as important to the teachers as it is to the parents.  Every teacher runs into a situation where no matter what they do, it will never be enough.  Excellent school to home communication prompted by the teachers is critical for facilitating active involvement of parents while at the same time it’s the parent’s job and responsibility in this partnership to become a knowledgeable advocate for their child.

Good IEPs, the ones that are dog-eared and coffee stained, are the ones that come from a delicate balance of parent and teacher involvement.  Open lines of communication are critical in creating and managing this delicate balance.  Parent and teacher partnerships are the key to a successful school year.

Autism Diagnosis at Birth?


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bc_unpers_05_18.jpgResearchers from Yale University recently discovered biological markers which might indicate autism in babies - see the article from today’s headlines below.  This is a preliminary study and is not yet conclusive, but this research is very important in moving toward a medical diagnosis of autism and identifying and treating autism very early. 

rs_rogers.jpgIf you are interested in research that is going on right now for little ones (under 3 years), the MIND Institute has several exciting studies focusing on babies including looking at regression of symptoms, joint attention intervention, and looking at the importance of imitation in early development.  If you would like to enroll your child in any of these studies, click on the links for more information.

Here is the story:

RESEARCHERS DISCOVER EARLY MARKER FOR AUTISM

Yale University Doctor Says It’s A Definite Warning Signal

(CBS)
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have discovered what could be the earliest marker yet for autism — and in it’s in the placenta of children with the disease.

Their report, in the on-line issue of “Biological Psychiatry,” finds that certain changes in a placenta — changes caused by genetics — are likely to signal autism-like developmental problems in children.

Yale research scientist Dr. Harvey Kliman says, ”We found that children with autism were three to four times more likely to have this abnormal folding pattern than normal children.”

Kliman, who’s been studying placental problems for 20 years, says it’s not a one-to-one linkage. But it’s a definite warning signal.

According to Kliman, “It’s like the check engine light in your car … It’s basically saying something’s going on … Maybe you should have this checked a little more thoroughly.”

Kliman calls his research a preliminary finding from a small study. But it raises the possibility that autism could be diagnosed at birth, rather than at age 2, or older.

Kliman says, “It’s a marker that says hey, maybe you should stop, take a look at this child a little closer and try to figure out what’s going on.”

Kliman and his colleagues plan to do a larger, multi-center study of this possible placenta-autism link.

For more information, contact Dr. Kliman at harvey.kliman@yale.edu or visit Kliman’s Web site.

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

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