IWGA's Review of Research | January 5, 2017
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OCALI is pleased to provide a monthly update on current research and study outcomes from an array of professional publications.

If you have any questions regarding this information, please contact:

Melissa H. Bacon, OCALI Program Director – Policy and Interagency Collaboration
470 E. Glenmont Ave. | Columbus, OH 43214 | (614) 578-6630 (mobile)

McGuire, K., Fung, L. K., Hagopain, L., Vasa, R. A., Mahajan, R., Bernal, P., Silberman, A. E., Wolfe, A., Coury, D. L., Hardan, A. Y., Veenstra-VanderWeele, J.,
& Whitaker, A. H. (2016). Irritability and problem behavior in autism spectrum disorder: A practice pathway for pediatric primary care. Pediatrics, 137(S2), doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-2851L

Pediatric primary care providers (PCPs) caring for patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often encounter irritability and problem behavior, including aggression toward other people, self, or property. The Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health and Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network charged a multidisciplinary workgroup with developing a practice pathway to address these issues. Figure 1 and Table 1 (in the linked article) provide a flowchart and survey.


United States Government Accountability Office [GAO]. (2016, October). Youth with autism: Roundtable views of services needed during the transition into adulthood. Washington, D. C.: Author.

To support a successful transition into adulthood, youth need to be able to access services that are individualized, timely, equitable, and community – and evidence-based, among other things. A new approach is needed that places the shared responsibility for inclusion on both society and youth with ASD.

Key services are needed to support transitioning youth with ASD: (a) behavioral interventions, (b) case management/coordination, (c) communication services, (d) day programming, (e) family education and supports, (f) life skills education and experience, (g) life skills education and experience, (h) medical care, (i) mental health care, (j) postsecondary education planning and supports, (k) residential supports, (l) social supports, (m) transition planning supports, (n) transportation supports, and (o) vocational supports.

Note: Two articles are included here. One is the complete document; the second is a summary from the GAO.


Vermeulen, P. (2014). The practice of promoting happiness in autism. Promoting happiness and wellbeing in autism. Birmingham: British Institute of Learning Difficulties.

Emotional wellbeing or happiness has received little attention in the field of autism. When the focus is on wellbeing, it is often from a negative perspective, namely the lack of wellbeing and quality of life in autism. Based on the principles of positive psychology, Vermeulen calls for a change in focus and suggests that instead of concentrating on the lack of emotional wellbeing in people with autism, strategies should be developed to facilitate their feeling of happiness. Since happiness is a subjective and abstract concept and the source of a person’s happiness is often not known (not even to the person with autism himself, because of difficulties with self-awareness), it is pivotal to develop strategies and tools to assess happiness and emotional wellbeing that are autism friendly.

Note: Peter Vermeulen will deliver the OCALICON 2017 keynote address on November 16.


Hutchins, N. S., Burke, M. D., Hatton, H., & Bowman-Perrott, L. (2016). Social skills interventions for students with challenging behavior: Evaluating the quality of the evidence base. Remedial and Special Education. doi: 10.1177/0741932516646080.

A review of all articles (n=24) published between 1998 and 2014 that address students with challenging behavior, including those with ASD. The three most common behaviors across all studies were noncompliance, negative verbal interactions, and class disruptions. The majority of studies were conducted in early elementary grades. The research highlights that few studies have been published regarding social interventions for intensive behaviors and these studies have many methodological flaws.


Han, Q., Kim, Y. H., Wang, X., Liu, D., Zhang, Z., Bey, A. L., Lay, M., Chang, W., Berta, T., Zhang, Y., Jiang, Y., & Ji. R (2016). SHANK3 deficiency impairs heat hyperalgesia and TRPV1 signaling in primary sensory neurons. Neuron,
doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.11.007.

Sensory problems are common to autism spectrum disorders. Some individuals with autism may injure themselves repetitively – for example, pulling their hair or banging their heads – because they're less sensitive to pain than other people. New research points to a potential mechanism underlying pain insensitivity in autism. This mouse model study shows deficits in pain molecules. If these results generalize to people with ASD, instruction in understanding their interoception system (i.e., sensory system that facilitates messages from organs) for individuals with ASD may be important.

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