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Autism Spectrum Disorder: Promoting Communication & Socialization Skills
10 CEUs Substance Abuse: Growing Beyond 12 Step Program Dependency

Section 28
Autism Spectrum Disorder Guide to Evidence-based Interventions

CEU Question 28 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Autism
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The Flip Book below is from The Division of Developmental Disabilities, Missouri Department of Mental Healthealth.

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-Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative. Autism Spectrum Disorder Guide to Evidence-based Interventions, Thompson Foundation for Autism; the Division of Developmental Disabilities, Missouri Department of Mental Health; the Office of Special Education, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; and Mercy Children’s Hospital – St. Louisand Springfield, 2012, p 1-238..
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.

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The effect of school exposure and personal contact on attitudes towards bullying and autism in schools: A cohort study with a control group
Autism, Ahead of Print.
Research shows that the attitudes of children and adolescents towards bullying are influenced by the school environment and their peer groups. Given the increased vulnerability to bullying for autistic children, this study explored whether neurotypical children’s attitudes towards bullying and autism varied according to school exposure and personal contact with autistic people. Survey data were collected at the beginning and end of the school year from 775 children aged 11–12 years, from six schools: three with specialist centres for autism and three without. Participants read vignettes depicting bullying scenarios then completed measures of their attitudes in relation to the vignette and towards autism. Children from centre schools showed a greater increase in prosocial emotions towards bullying. For children from non-centre schools, an interaction showed a decrease in prosocial emotions except in response to social exclusion of an autistic child. Increases in personal contact showed a greater increase in positive attitudes towards autistic people. Explanations draw on theories of inter-group contact and social-moral reasoning. Results highlight the need for contact both at a personal level and through attending a school with an inclusive autism provision to increase understanding, improve attitudes towards autism and reduce tolerance for bullying.Lay abstractAutistic children are more likely than non-autistic children to be bullied at school. This study therefore explored whether the kind of school setting and the level of personal contact with autistic people can affect children’s attitudes towards bullying and autism. Surveys were completed at the beginning and end of the school year by 775 children aged 11–12 years, from six schools: three with specialist centres for autistic children and three without. Participants read stories describing bullying situations, then provided their views in relation to the story and in relation to autism. Children in schools with centres increased their feelings of anger, pity, sadness and shame in response to the bullying situations. In contrast, children in schools with no centre showed less sociable responses to bullying, except in response to a story describing an autistic child, being excluded by classmates. Furthermore, children who increased the time they spent with autistic individuals over the course of the year showed a greater rise in positive attitudes towards autistic people. This highlights the need for both personal contact and an inclusive school environment, to improve attitudes towards autism and reduce tolerance for bullying.
Continuing to look in the mirror: A review of neuroscientific evidence for the broken mirror hypothesis, EP-M model and STORM model of autism spectrum conditions
Autism, Ahead of Print.
The mirror neuron system has been argued to be a key brain system responsible for action understanding and imitation. Subsequently, mirror neuron system dysfunction has therefore been proposed to explain the social deficits manifested within autism spectrum condition, an approach referred to as the broken mirror hypothesis. Despite excitement surrounding this hypothesis, extensive research has produced insufficient evidence to support the broken mirror hypothesis in its pure form, and instead two alternative models have been formulated: EP-M model and the social top-down response modulation (STORM) model. All models suggest some dysfunction regarding the mirror neuron system in autism spectrum condition, be that within the mirror neuron system itself or systems that regulate the mirror neuron system. This literature review compares these three models in regard to recent neuroscientific investigations. This review concludes that there is insufficient support for the broken mirror hypothesis, but converging evidence supports an integrated EP-M and STORM model.Lay abstractThe mirror neuron system has been argued to be a key brain system responsible for understanding the actions of others and for imitation. It has therefore been proposed that problems within this system could explain the social difficulties experienced by people with autism spectrum condition. This idea is referred to as the broken mirror hypothesis. However, research has produced insufficient evidence to support the broken mirror hypothesis in its original form. Therefore, two other models have been suggested: EP-M model and the social top-down response modulation (STORM) model. All models suggest something is different regarding the mirror neuron system in autism spectrum condition: either within the mirror neuron system itself or within the systems that control the activity of the mirror neuron system. This literature review compares these three models in regard to recent neuroscientific investigations. This review concludes that there is insufficient support for both the broken mirror hypothesis, but converging evidence supports an integrated EP-M and STORM model.
Moral foundations theory in autism spectrum disorder: A qualitative investigation
Autism, Ahead of Print.
Morality is important for how humans treat each other and non-human animals. Differences in moral reasoning have been found between autistic and neurotypical individuals. Research in this area has relied on accounts of moral psychology that suggest increasingly mature moral principles that develop from taking the perspectives of others. Yet, even autistic individuals, who sometimes differ in their ability to take others’ perspectives, make moral judgements that are similar to neurotypical individuals. Moral foundations theory suggests that moral psychology is not hierarchical but differs depending on culture. Moral foundations theory has not yet been investigated among autistic individuals. This qualitative study used interviews and qualitative analysis as a first attempt at understanding how moral foundations theory fits with autistic moral thinking. We found that all five moral foundations of moral foundations theory were represented in the interviews, yet certain foundations appeared more prominent than others. The autistic adults interviewed in our study discussed issues of care and fairness more than of loyalty, authority or purity when prompted to discuss moral transgressions. Future research should use quantitative methods to compare groups of autistic and neurotypical individuals to clarify similarities and differences in moral thinking between the groups.Lay abstractMorality is important for how humans treat each other and non-human animals. Differences in moral thinking have been found between autistic and neurotypical individuals. This research has relied on ways of thinking about moral psychology that suggest that mature morals develop as individuals learn to take the perspectives of others. Yet, even autistic individuals, who sometimes differ in their ability to take others’ perspectives, make moral judgements that are similar to neurotypical individuals. Moral foundations theory suggests that moral psychology is not hierarchical but differs depending on culture. This theory could therefore help make sense of similarities and differences in autistic and neurotypical moral thinking. Moral foundations theory has not yet been investigated among autistic individuals. In this study, we interviewed autistic adults as a first attempt at understanding how moral foundations theory fits with autistic moral thinking. We found that all five moral foundations of moral foundations theory were represented in the interviews, yet certain foundations appeared more prominent than others. The autistic adults interviewed in our study discussed issues of care and fairness more than of loyalty, authority or purity when prompted to discuss moral transgressions. Future research should use quantitative methods to compare groups of autistic and neurotypical individuals to clarify similarities and differences in moral thinking between the groups.
Parent perceptions of participation in a parent-mediated communication-focussed intervention with their young child with autism spectrum disorder
Autism, Ahead of Print.
Paediatric Autism Communication Therapy is a parent-mediated, video-aided, communication-focussed intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorder. It has been shown in a UK randomised controlled trial to lead to improvements in parent–child communication and family quality of life, together with a sustained reduction in child autism symptom severity. This qualitative study examined parental perceptions of their participation in Paediatric Autism Communication Therapy within the context of the randomised controlled trial. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 18 parents within 12 months of completion of the therapy. The thematic analysis provides insights into parents’ hopes, expectations, and learning processes when working with Paediatric Autism Communication Therapy therapists and carrying out daily practice in the home. Parents reported positive changes in their interaction and relationship with their child and improvements to their child’s communication and interaction. Some also highlighted poignant realisations and emotional challenges associated with taking part in this post-diagnostic therapy. Practical difficulties were also emphasised. Implications for the clinical practice of parent-mediated interventions with young children with autism spectrum disorder are discussed.Lay abstractPaediatric Autism Communication Therapy is an intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorder that focuses on parent–child communication. In Paediatric Autism Communication Therapy, the therapist and parent watch videos of the parent and child playing together. The therapist coaches the parent to carefully observe the child’s communication and to interact with their child in a more sensitive and responsive way. Parents are encouraged to use the strategies with their child at home. Paediatric Autism Communication Therapy has been shown to lead to long-term improvements in parent–child communication and family quality of life. This study aimed to explore parents’ perceptions of their participation in Paediatric Autism Communication Therapy. Interviews were carried out by an independent researcher with 18 parents. Parents discussed the learning processes they went through when working with Paediatric Autism Communication Therapy therapists and carrying out home practice. Some parents described initial doubts about the approach and hesitations about being videoed and analysing video material. In time, most parents came to really value the therapy and their relationship with the therapist. They reported positive changes in their interaction and relationship with their child and improvements to their child’s communication and interaction. Some also highlighted poignant realisations and emotional challenges associated with taking part in this post-diagnosis therapy. Practical difficulties were also emphasised, including the time commitment, accessibility of therapy venues and difficulties in occupying the child during therapist–parent discussion. Implications for the clinical practice of parent-mediated interventions are discussed.
Integrating the Early Start Denver Model into Israeli community autism spectrum disorder preschools: Effectiveness and treatment response predictors
Autism, Ahead of Print.
Early intensive intervention has been shown to significantly affect the development of children with autism spectrum disorder. However, the costly implementation of such interventions limits their wide dissemination in the community. This study examined an integration of the Early Start Denver Model into community preschool programs for children with autism spectrum disorder in Israel. Four community preschools implemented the preschool-based Early Start Denver Model and four implemented a multidisciplinary developmental intervention which is widely applied in Israeli community autism spectrum disorder preschools. Fifty-one children (aged 33–57 months) participated in the study. Twenty-six attended the preschool-based Early Start Denver Model preschools and twenty-five attended the multidisciplinary developmental intervention settings. Groups were comparable on age, developmental functioning, and socio-economic status. Compared to the multidisciplinary developmental intervention group, children in the preschool-based Early Start Denver Model treatment made greater gains on blinded measures of overall cognitive development, receptive and expressive language skills, as well as on parent- and teacher-reported adaptive communication and socialization abilities. In the preschool-based Early Start Denver Model group, children with lower symptom severity, higher adaptive functioning, and receptive language abilities at pre-treatment showed greater improvement. This study documents the successful integration of an Early Start Denver Model intervention into pre-existing community preschools, underlining the importance of disseminating evidence-based early intervention in community settings.Lay AbstractEarly intensive intervention has been shown to significantly affect the development of children with Autism. However, the costly implementation of such interventions limits their wide dissemination in the community. This study examined an integration of a research-supported early intensive intervention model called the Early Start Denver Model into community preschool programs for children with Autism in Israel. Four community preschools implemented the preschool-based Early Start Denver Model and four implemented the existing multidisciplinary developmental intervention which is widely applied in Israeli community preschools for children with autism. Fifty-one children (aged 33–57 months) participated in the study. Twenty-six attended the preschool-based Early Start Denver Model preschools and twenty-five attended the multidisciplinary developmental intervention preschools. Before the intervention began, groups were comparable on children’s age and developmental functioning and on families’ socio-economic status. Results showed that, compared to the multidisciplinary developmental intervention group, children in the preschool-based Early Start Denver Model treatment group made greater gains on measures of overall cognitive development, language skills, as well as on parent- and teacher-reported adaptive communication and socialization abilities. Children who had lower autism symptom severity, higher adaptive functioning and better language understanding abilities before taking part in the preschool-based Early Start Denver Model program showed greater improvements following it. This study documents the successful implementation of an intensive early intervention program in pre-existing community preschools, underlining the importance of the integration of research-supported intervention programs into community settings.

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