Autism: New Research and Online Resources Although children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may have age-appropriate structural language skills, assessing their pragmatic language skills can be more difficult. A study in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology compares the effectiveness of the Children’s Communication Checklist (CCC-2), a parent report, with that of the clinician-administered Test ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   April 01, 2010
Autism: New Research and Online Resources
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Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / Language Disorders / Social Communication & Pragmatics Disorders / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   April 01, 2010
Autism: New Research and Online Resources
The ASHA Leader, April 2010, Vol. 15, 29. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB.15052010.29
The ASHA Leader, April 2010, Vol. 15, 29. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB.15052010.29
Pragmatic Language in ASD
Although children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may have age-appropriate structural language skills, assessing their pragmatic language skills can be more difficult. A study in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology compares the effectiveness of the Children’s Communication Checklist (CCC-2), a parent report, with that of the clinician-administered Test of Pragmatic Language (TOPL) in detecting pragmatic language impairments.
Researchers matched 16 children diagnosed with ASD to 16 typically developing children with similar ages, nonverbal IQs, and structural language skills. The CCC-2 identified 13 of the 16 children with ASD as pragmatically impaired; the TOPL identified only nine. Neither test identified any of the children in the control group as having pragmatic language impairment. For more information, visit the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology online (search “TOPL”).
Metanalysis of PECS
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), a common intervention for nonverbal children with ASD, is a manualized program for teaching children to use an exchange-based communication system. A recent metanalysis of eight single-subject and three group studies indicates that effects are more robust for improving communication than for improving speech production. Increases in the frequency of PECS exchanges, requests, and initiations following PECS training were demonstrated across both single-subject and group studies. Effect size analyses indicate that PECS is a “fairly effective” treatment for improving communication. Reported generalization probes showed more frequent communication attempts after PECS training than at pre-treatment. The metanalysis also indicates that four characteristics may be identifiers of a child with autism who is likely to respond to PECS intervention: joint attention, object exploration, motor imitation, and verbal imitation. Search “PECS” at the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology Papers in Press.
ASD’s Impact on Siblings
According to a new study, typical older siblings of a preschooler diagnosed with ASD tend to have more behavioral challenges than similar children with typically developing siblings. Researchers from the University of Oregon examined 43 families, 20 with a preschooler with ASD and 23 with typically developing children. The researchers found all siblings to be well-adjusted, but teachers reported a significant number of children living with siblings with ASD to have increased fidgeting and lowered attention in the classroom.
“Children with siblings with [ASD] may be experiencing some subclinical symptoms of hyperactivity or attention problems,” said Laura Lee McIntyre, director of the University of Oregon’s school psychology program. “Parents didn’t report seeing such things at home. Teachers see these children in a more structured environment.” For more, see the full study online.
Genetic Test for Autism?
Limited knowledge about genetic causes of ASD have made an accurate genetic test for the disorder almost impossible. But a new study by researchers at the Children’s Hospital Boston and Autism Consortium shows that a new genetic test—the chromosomal microarray analysis, which samples the entire genome—has about three times the detection rate for genetic changes related to ASD than older standard tests. In the study, researchers tested 933 patients with ASD. The CMA test identified genetic abnormalities in 7.3% of the participants, compared to 2.23% and 0.46% for older genetic tests. For more, visit the Children’s Hospital blog.
Resources at asha.org

ASHA has a number of research and policy documents (guidelines, position statements, knowledge and skills, and technical reports) on:

Continuing Education

Topics include social communication skills in children and adolescents with Asperger’s syndrome, practical strategies for school-based clinicians, speech-language intervention in ASD, promoting literacy in students with ASD, social communication intervention for young children with ASD, social skills development in school-age children with high-functioning ASD, and supporting the communication of children with ASD.

Related Resources
  • National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons With Severe Disabilities (NJC)

  • Ic

  • “Screening and Diagnosis of Autism: Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society”

  • Consumer information on autism

  • Bilingual Autism Resource Guide (from “ASD from A to Z”)

  • Interactive Autism Network

Networking Opportunities
  • ASHA discussion forums

  • ASHA special interest divisions

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April 2010
Volume 15, Issue 5