Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Journal Tidbits - Autism

Here are some study findings from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders - one of my favorite journals - that struck me as worth sharing. By the way, you have until Dec. 31st (2012) to browse this journal for free on line.

 1. Is picky eating due to sensory issues or due to food rigidity?
This article suggests that some picky eating problems are due entirely to rigidity in the child's food selection patterns. Treatment in this case is motivational. A child is told they will try a certain food. They are offered a choice of reinforcers (rewards). If they eat the food, they receive the reinforcer. They are also rewarded with accolades.  If they do not eat the food, they do not get the reinforcer.

When trying a new food, the authors followed a hierarchical pattern similar to Kay Toomey’s SOS Approach method:
  1. Touches the food
  2. Puts food to the lips,
  3. Bites the food, bites
  4. Puts in mouth but does not swallow
  5. Chews but does not swallow
  6. Swallows reluctantly
  7. Accepts food without signs of displeasure.
After18 weeks, children were spontaneously requesting the new foods they had tried. The three children in the study, Ken, Robbie and Daniel accepted 5, 9 and 8 new foods respectively at the completion of the 22 week study.

2. What causes self-injurious behaviors in autism? The seven risk factors for self-injurious behaviors are 1) poor sensory processing, 2) low cognitive skills, 3) poor language / communication skills 4) poor social function, 5) age (18 mo. - 19 yrs.), 6) rigid behaviors and 7) gender. However, these factors account for just 29% of the self-injury cases seen, with sensory being the greatest factor of these (5-7%). The authors hypothesize that chronic pain and psychosocial factors may play a large factor in the remaining 71%. Clearly, there is more work to be done.

3. Is there a relationship between anxiety and repetitive behaviors? Yes, repetitive behaviors appear to be a cause of anxiety. "It is possible that, for some individuals, interventions focused on a reduction of behaviors, promoting flexibility and reducing repetitive play may consequently reduce anxiety." See the next article for more on this.

4. Are there interventions for quieting repetitive behaviors? Yes, if the child's behavior can consistently be triggered. For example, give a child with autism six cars, he will line them up. That behavior is triggerable and can be replaced with functional behavior. How about if the behavior is not triggerable? That's a harder problem. Not only do we not have interventions, we are not doing the research to look for them.

  1.  Boyd, B. A., McDonough, S. G., Rupp, B., Khan, F.,& Bodfish, J. W. (2011). Effects of a family-implemented treatment on therepetitive behaviors of children with autism. J Autism Dev Disorders,1330-1341.
  2.  Boyd, B. A., McDonough, S. G., F., & Bodfish, J.W. (2012). Evidence-based behavioral interventions for repetitive behaviors in autism.J Autism Dev Disorders, 1236-1248.
5. Do children with autism also qualify for anxiety disorder? Yes, the diagnoses overlap often in children and young people (40-45%). Specifically, in children with high functioning autism, anxiety should be treated (medicine or stress reduction techniques) as a way of supporting other methods of increasing social skills.

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