By Marlena Smith

Marlena N. Smith earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been with CARD since fall 2009 and works as an Analytics Coordinator. In addition to writing for the blog, Marlena has contributed to multiple CARD Research and Development publications. In her free time, Marlena enjoys hiking, cooking, singing karaoke, and spending time with family.

Greater Risk of Autism and Schizophrenia in the Offspring of Older Fathers

A recent study conducted by Dr. Flatscher-Bader and colleagues may shed light on why children with older fathers face an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A significant body of research has revealed that offspring of older fathers are at a greater risk of developing disorders such ASD and schizophrenia; however, the underlying cause of this occurrence is not well understood. For this reason, Dr. Flatscher-Bader and colleagues used a rodent model to investigate the effects of paternal age on offspring’s genes.

Teaching Stranger Danger Skills to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Normally, when deciding which skills to include in a child’s ABA program, they are prioritized based on which skills the child is likely to use most. While the likelihood of ever using stranger danger skills is slim to none (hopefully none), teaching these skills is nevertheless important to better ensure the safety of children with ASD. Thus in this study, CARD researchers set out to evaluate a stranger danger training procedure that can realistically be incorporated into a child’s ABA program.

Autism-Friendly Broadway Showing of The Lion King

To support an autism-friendly environment, some changes have been made to the production. These include the elimination of startling sounds and strobe lights. In addition, quiet areas equipped with beanbag chairs, coloring books, and trained staff will be stationed in the theatre lobby for those who need a break from the performance. The TDF also provides a downloadable social story that illustrates what members of the audience can expect during their trip to the theatre.

Training Behavioral Therapists to Administer Brief Preference Assessments

In a recent study, CARD Researchers Dr. Michele Bishop and Dr. Amy Kenzer found group classroom training to be effective in teaching behavioral therapists to administer brief preference assessments to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A major component of applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment is the delivery of preferred stimuli as reinforcement. Therefore, preference assessments are conducted to identify highly preferred stimuli. Such assessments ought to be conducted frequently since a child’s preferences may change. For this reason, Dr. Michele Bishop and Dr. Amy Kenzer set out to evaluate the effectiveness of classroom training in teaching behavioral therapists to administer brief preference assessments to children with ASD during therapy sessions.

Behavioral Intervention to Increase Compliance with Liquid Medications

In a recent study, CARD researchers Averil Schiff, Dr. Jonathan Tarbox, Taira Lanagan, and Peter Farag found behavioral intervention to increase compliance with liquid medications in a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children with ASD often have trouble taking medications in both pill and liquid form. For this reason, CARD researchers set out to evaluate the effectiveness of behavioral intervention in improving compliance with liquid medications in a child with ASD.

Prenatal Exposure to Antidepressants and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Participants were identified via the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Northern California. A total of 298 children with ASD and 1,507 children with typical development were included in the study. Pharmacy records were used to determine maternal antidepressant usage during the year prior to delivery (i.e., the 3 months prior to conception and throughout the gestational period). Antidepressants were classified into three groups: SSRIs, dual-action antidepressants, and tri-cyclic antidepressants.

Genetics versus Environment in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Potential participants were identified through the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS). Both identical and fraternal twin pairs were eligible to participate if they were born between 1987 and 2004, and at least one twin was reported to have an ASD diagnosis. A total of 1,156 twin pairs were identified through the DDS, however, due to limited participation from families, only 202 twin pairs were included in the study. All participants received comprehensive diagnostic evaluations to confirm diagnoses of autistic disorder or broader ASD.

Family Structure and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Although this statistic has been used time and again, its origin and supportive research are unknown. While there have been many speculations about elevated parental divorce rates for children with ASD, very little research has actually been conducted to estimate the frequency of divorce in this population. For this reason, Dr. Freedman and colleagues conducted the first population-based study to explore family structures of children with ASD.

Routine Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Dr. Al-Qabandi and colleagues set out to review existing research in order to determine whether routine ASD screening would be appropriate for the entire population. Findings of various research studies were used to evaluate how routine ASD screening measured against a number of criteria.