IWGA's Review of Research | October 31, 2017
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Review of Research is 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)

Flor, J., Bellando, J., Lopez, M., & Shui, A. (2017). Developmental functioning and medical co‐morbidity profile of children with complex and essential autism. Autism Research.

This study examined the profile differences between individuals with autism who also had Microcephaly (i.e. smaller head at birth) or Dysmorphology (i.e. birth defects) and individuals with autism without these co-occurring medical conditions. The results from this comparative study demonstrated that individuals with ASD and Dysmorphology or Microcephaly had lower scores in the following domains: (a) cognition, (b) self-care skills, and (c) quality of life measures. In addition, significant increases in GI symptoms and use of medications were found in individuals with ASD who had these co-occurring medical conditions. In contrast, there were not any significant differences in ASD symptoms, behavioral ratings, and parent-reported sleep problems between these two ASD groups. These results highlight the importance of looking for these two medical conditions when evaluating individuals with ASD to identify co-occurring medical conditions that need additional treatment. 

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Hickey, E. J., Dubois, L., & Hartley, S. L. (2017). Positive and negative social exchanges experienced by fathers and mothers of children with autism. Autism, 1362361316687117.

Parents of children with ASD often face day-to-day challenges and the types of social exchanges experienced by mothers and fathers can affect their psychological well-being. The results from this study revealed that informational exchanges (i.e., positive informational = offering helpful advice or solutions to problems and negative informational = unwanted intrusive advice, meddling and doubting decisions) was the most frequent type of exchange and either the mother or father was the primary source of both positive and negative social exchanges. Mothers reported more positive and negative social exchanges with family and others in their given social circle (i.e., friends, health professionals). Furthermore, the severity of depressive symptoms was associated with the frequency of positive and negative social exchanges with one’s spouse. Given the risk of poor relationship quality by parents of children with ASD, future research is warranted for interventions that target social exchanges between mothers and fathers to support psychological well-being and marriage quality that can equate to better parenting for individuals with ASD.

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Kim, S., Koegel, R. L., & Koegel, L. K. (2017). Training Paraprofessionals to Target Socialization in Students With ASD: Fidelity of Implementation and Social Validity. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions19(2), 102-114.

Given the amount of time paraprofessionals spend with students receiving special education services, it’s imperative that adequate training is provided to paraprofessionals to support their ability to implement evidenced-based strategies mandated by IDEA. In this study, paraprofessionals were trained to implement strategies that increased socializations in students with ASD and their peers. During training, the paraprofessionals participated in one 90-minute lecture that targeted how to incorporate specialized interests of the individuals with ASD into activities and ways to arrange activities that may increase the likelihood of social interactions to occur between the individuals with ASD and their peers. In addition, performance feedback was given to the paraprofessionals based on how well they implemented the strategies with fidelity. Overall, the paraprofessionals implemented the strategies with over 80% fidelity that resulted in significant increases in socializations between students with ASD and their peers. The paraprofessionals all reported high satisfaction scores with their participation in the strategies used in this study. The findings from this study demonstrated that paraprofessionals are able to implement evidenced-based strategies with high fidelity with minimal training time required.

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Alexeeff, S. E., Yau, V., Qian, Y., Davignon, M., Lynch, F., Crawford, P., ... & Croen, L. A. (2017). Medical Conditions in the First Years of Life Associated with Future Diagnosis of ASD in Children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1-13.

Early detection of ASD and intervention has been proven to increase the quality of life for individuals with ASD. Given the complexity of ASD, diagnosis is often not attained during the first year of life. Therefore, research to identify biomarkers for ASD in the first year of life is needed to capitalize on the benefits of early ASD detection and intervention. The results from this study concluded 38 medical conditions that were associated with an increased risk of ASD diagnosis. Of the 38 medical conditions associated with later ASD diagnosis, language/motor delays, mental health, and neurological conditions had the highest association to an ASD diagnosis. In addition, nutrition, genetic, ear, nose, throat, and sleep conditions had moderate levels of association to an ASD diagnosis. Although additional research is warranted to support the validity of these results, the aforementioned medical conditions that were associated with an increased risk of ASD is one step forward towards the identification of biomarkers for ASD in the first years of life.

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Coogle, C. G., Ahmed, S., Aljaffal, M. A., Alsheef, M. Y., & Hamdi, H. A. (2017). Social Narrative Strategies to Support Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Early Childhood Education Journal, 1-6.

Deficits in social skills and language impairments are two common symptoms of ASD. Thus, the use of evidence-based strategies to increase social skills for children with autism should be a priority for any treatment plan. One evidenced-based strategy that has been proven to increase social skills for individuals with ASD is the use of social narratives. The following types of social narrative strategies have been identified as evidenced-based practices for the treatment of social and language impairments:

Strategy Description Rationale
Comics/Cartooning Comic or cartoon drawings of the challenging social situation and strategies to use during the situation. Capitalizes on using visuals to depict abstract situations and conducive for individuals that are non-readers.
Power cards Social narrative from the perspective of a special interest character (i.e. Spiderman) who gives instruction on how to navigate a difficult social situation. Individuals with ASD often have strong perseverative interests and the incorporation of these interests into the narrative can be very powerful to individuals with ASD.
Social Scripts Small visual that provides the words to use in a social situation. Small enough to keep in a pocket and can be used throughout the day to access the words to use during social situations.
Social Story Narrative from the perspective of the child that explains a current social situation that is challenging and then provides instructions on how to be successful in the given situation. Personalized to the child and gives step by step instructions on how to navigate the situation. The story is about the child thereby adding additional value to the story for the child.

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