Net Guide: Autism

MDNG PediatricsJune 2010
Volume 8
Issue 2

We searched the Internet for autism resources so you don't have to.

//The Educated Patient™

KidsHealth: Autism

Children who have a sibling, relative, or friend with autism are the target audience for this Nemours Foundation site, which is designed to educate young people about autism. It begins with a scenario in which a girl misinterprets the behavior of her friend’s younger brother, not knowing that he has autism, and leads into an article that covers what autism is, what causes it and how it is treated. To help its young readers understand how autism affects people, the site uses helpful descriptions, such as “Kids who have autism usually keep to themselves and many can’t communicate without special help,” and “Normal sounds may really bother someone with autism.”

Link Code: k8225

//Medical Websites

Autism Toolkit for Healthcare Professionals

Because “pediatricians and other providers of primary care experience autism as a complex, poorly understood and challenging spectrum of disability that has an enormous impact on these patients and their families,” the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System offers this toolkit to help educate physicians and prepare them for difficult situations, as well as questions from parents. Visitors can learn when and where to refer patients who exhibit signs of autism, find out how to answer questions from parents, and obtain specific recommendations for managing the special needs of autism patients in the context of inpatient or outpatient care.

Link Code: k8214

Autism Questions and Answers for Health Care Professionals

It’s not the flashiest site around, but this offering from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development provides answers to important questions for physicians treating children with autism, such as: “Is there a link between autism and vaccines?” “What is my role as a health care professional in caring for a child with autism?” “Are there any indications that require immediate evaluation for autism?” and “How can I determine whether a parental concern actually constitutes a social or behavioral development problem?” The site includes several links to other reputable sources of information on the topic.

Link Code: k8215

Caring for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed this must-have toolkit to support healthcare professionals in the identification and ongoing management of children with autism spectrum disorders. Among the many resources provided are AAP policy statements; clinical reports, including “Identification and Evaluation of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders” and “Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders”; screening algorithms, checklists, and questionnaires; growth charts; criteria to help recognize Asperger Syndrome; patient education brochures; referral forms and letters; and physician fact sheets covering issues from nutrition to alternative medicine.

Link Code: k8216

//Online CME

Autism Spectrum Disorders: What’s New, and What to DoCredits: 3.00

Fee: $25 per article ($125 total)

Expires: January 31, 2012

Multimedia: None

Read five articles previously published in Pediatric Annals to obtain a “thorough review of the current knowledge on autism spectrum disorders.” After completing this activity, you will be better prepared to detect and refer children with a suspected diagnosis. Titles of the articles include: “Autism Spectrum Disorders: Prevalence and Vaccines;” “Genetic Evaluation of the Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder;” “Asperger’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism;” “Universal Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Snapshot within the Big Picture;” and “Management of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Primary Care.”

Link Code: k8233


Patterns of Language and Discourse Comprehension Skills in School-aged Children with Autism Spectrum DisordersJournal: Scandinavian Journal of Psychology (May 19, 2010)

Author: Åsberg J

Purpose: To examine patterns of language and discourse comprehension skills in Swedish school-aged children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) compared with a younger group of typically developing children matched for non-verbal cognitive ability.

Results: Significantly lower abilities in narrative discourse comprehension were found in the ASD group, “but not in oral receptive vocabulary or reception of grammar.” The author concluded that “the study has clinical and educational implications, as the findings suggest that children with ASD would benefit from being offered specific support for discourse-level comprehension.”

Link code: k8257

The Role of High level Play as a Predictor of Social Functioning in AutismJournal: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Authors: Manning M, Wainwright L

Purpose: To compare level of play and social abilities of a group of children diagnosed with high functioning autism with a second group diagnosed with a variety of developmental language disorders (DLD).

Results: Researchers found that children with autism engaged in fewer acts of high level play, and “also had significantly lower social functioning than the DLD group early in the play session; however, these differences were no longer apparent” by the end of the session. A significant association was identified between play and social functioning regardless of diagnosis, suggesting that “play may act as a current indicator of social ability while providing an arena for social skills practice.”

Link code: k8258

//Clinical Trials

EEG Studies of Sensory Processing in Autistic ChildrenStudy Type: Observational

Age/Gender Requirement: 3 months-8 years (male/female)

Sponsor: Massachusetts General Hospital

Purpose: To study, using electroencephalography, “brain waves at rest and in response to specific auditory and visual sensory stimuli in autistic children,” with the hypothesis “that, compared to same age peers, autistics will show abnormalities in their electrophysiologic processing of sounds (tones and phonemes) and visual stimuli (flashes of light) and that these abnormalities will be able to separate autistics not only from typical children but also into clinical subgroups with specific biological/ electrophysiological characteristics.”

Link Code: k8267

A Prospective Multisystem Evaluation of Infants at Risk for AutismStudy Type: Observational

Age/Gender Requirement: 2 weeks-13 months (male/female)

Sponsor: Massachusetts General Hospital

Purpose: To monitor the development of infants at risk for autism spectrum disorders during seven follow-up visits, through the use of medical and neurological exams; cognitive, behavioral, and developmental assessments; examination of biological development and of brain, metabolic, and immune function; and samples of saliva, urine, hair, blood.

Link Code: k8268

Use of rTMS to Improve Theory of Mind among Adults with Autism and Asperger’s DisorderStudy Type: Interventional

Age/Gender Requirement: 18-65 years (male/female)

Purpose: To test the hypothesis that high-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), compared with sham rTMS, applied “to the medial prefrontal cortex will improve [theory of mind (ToM)] ability and reduce social dysfunction among adults with autism or Asperger’s disorder,” with the hope that support of this hypothesis “will indicate the suitability of rTMS as a neurobiological intervention designed to improve ToM and social function among individuals with autism and related disorders.”

Link Code: k8269


Strattera (Atomoxetine)

Clinical Trials

Effectiveness of Atomoxetine in Treating ADHD Symptoms in Children and Adolescents with AutismStudy Type: Interventional

Age/gender Requirement: 5-15 years (male/female)

Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Purpose: Atomoxetine, a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor used to treat ADHD, “works differently than stimulant drugs and may help to reduce ADHD symptoms in children with autism. This study will evaluate the effectiveness of atomoxetine in treating children with ADHD symptoms associated with autism.”

Link Code: k82610

Atomoxetine, Placebo and Parent Management Training in Autism (Strattera)Study Type: Interventional

Age/Gender Requirement: 5-13 years (male/female)

Sponsor: University of Rochester

Purpose: This double-blind placebo, parallel study “will evaluate the effectiveness of atomoxetine (Strattera) with and without Parent Management Training (PMT) in children with Autism, Asperger’s disorder, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS) who have symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).”

Link Code: k82611

From the Network

Communication Therapy Doesn’t Improve Autism Symptoms

While helping children with autism learn how to communicate has been shown to benefit parent-child interaction, it does not improve their symptoms, according to a study published in The Lancet.

Controversial Autism Doctor Stripped of License

After a lengthy investigation, England’s General Medicine Council removed autism researcher Andrew Wakefield from the medical register in May. Wakefield, whose 1998 study in The Lancet suggested a possible link between autism and the MMR vaccine, was found guilty of “serious professional misconduct.”

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