PAR Author Ira L. Cohen Presents New Research at IMFAR

Ira L. Cohen and colleagues from the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities presented their research on video tracking as a valuable way to study autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at last month’s International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).

Using EthoVision XT, a video tracking software that analyzes behavior, movement, and activity, the team examined correlations between data from various ASD rating scales (including the PDD Behavior Inventory™ [PDDBI™]), and information gathered through video tracking. Researchers studied 31 children between the ages of 2 and 14 in a large room with toys on the floor and on a table. Twenty-two of the children in the study were diagnosed with an ASD. The child’s parent was seated in the corner of the room during the free play time. Data was collected on mean distance from the parent, mean time spent in different zones in the room, path complexity, and other factors.

Researchers were able to draw correlations between the tracking data and the results on the rating scales, finding that the tracking data could be used as a predictor of the scores on the rating scales. Results from this study may be a basis for creating new objective methods of assessing children with ASD as well as measuring the results of intervention.

Autism Diagnoses on the Rise, Says New CDC Report

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A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on March 30 announced that 1 in 88 children is now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, by age 8, reflecting a dramatic increase in diagnoses in the past decade.

The CDC Web site includes not only the full report but also a summary page that provides an overview of the findings on prevalence, risk factors and characteristics, diagnosis, and economic costs.  Some highlights:

  • About 1 in 88 children has been identified with an ASD, according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.
  • ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
  • ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252).
  • Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with an ASD with an average prevalence of about 1%. A recent study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%.
  • About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. has a developmental disability, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech impairments to serious developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism. 

With this news, more parents, educators, and medical professionals may be wondering whether a growing environmental threat could be the source of the problem. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times by reporter Alan Zarembo, however, gives voice to another perspective. “Autism researchers around the country said the CDC data—including striking geographic and racial variations in the rates and how they have changed—suggest that rising awareness of the disorder, better detection, and improved access to services can explain much of the surge, and perhaps all of it,” according to Zarembo.

One thing is clear: autism spectrum disorders are affecting a growing number of families. Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, sums up the reaction of many in the autism community:  “With the new [CDC] numbers now showing that 1 in 88 children in the United States are being diagnosed with autism—nearly a doubling of the prevalence since the CDC began tracking these numbers—autism can now officially be declared an epidemic in the United States.”

ASDs have touched the lives of many of us at PAR, as well, and we are committed to supporting research and services in our community to help families dealing with autism.  On April 21, PAR staff members will be participating in the 2012 “Walk Now for Autism Speaks: Tampa Bay.” This annual event brings together “Team PAR” with thousands of other local autism supporters to raise funds for autism research.  Last year, PAR was one of the top fundraisers for the Tampa Bay area—a record we hope to top this year!

Can Animals Help When Psychologists Can’t?

Some of the world’s best ideas happen by accident – as did the creation of animal-assisted therapy (AAT). In the 1950s, psychologist Boris Levinson discovered that his dog, Jingles, was able to engage a child with autism in a way that humans had not been able to. Since that time, the theory and practice of using animals in therapeutic ways has grown and a substantial body of research has documented the health benefits unique to the human-animal bond.

The Delta Society is an organization dedicated to improving people’s lives through positive interactions with animals. The society trains dogs, the most frequently used therapy animals, but also trains cats, birds, reptiles, and more. According to their research, when people hold or stroke an animal, their blood pressure lowers, their ability to be more extroverted and verbal increases, and the individual reports a decreased sense of loneliness and an increase in self-esteem. Another organization, the Equine Assisted Growth & Learning Association (EAGALA), focuses specifically on how horses and humans work together to improve mental health.

The benefits of animal-assisted therapy have been documented through studies with many different groups, from children with pervasive developmental disorders to senior citizens in assisted living situations. Studies have even gone so far as to say that statistics show that individuals exposed to AAT in psychiatric rehabilitation settings exhibit better outcomes than those in a control group that did not have the benefit of AAT, with the AAT group scoring higher on interaction, sociability, and responsiveness to surroundings. EAGALA has found that equine-assisted therapy has been helpful with at-risk youth, military, veteran, and trauma populations.

Do you use animals in your practice? How have they helped your clients?

 

Ira L. Cohen Presenting in Norway

PAR author Ira L. Cohen, PhD, will be presenting at the 15th European Conference on Developmental Psychology in Bergen, Norway. The conference is being held from August 23-27, 2011.

Dr. Cohen’s will be presenting a poster titled, “Arousal-Modulated Fixation on Flashing Light Patterns in At-Risk Four-Month-Old Infants is Associated with Autism Severity Scores in Childhood.”

Dr. Cohen is the author of the PDD Behavior Inventory™ (PDDBI™) and the PDD Behavior Inventory™−Screening Version (PDDBI™-SV).

For more information about the 15th European Conference on Developmental Psychology, click here.

Ira L. Cohen Presenting at APS Annual Convention

PAR author Ira L. Cohen, PhD, will be presenting during the Association for Psychological Science (APS) Annual Convention in Washington, DC taking place from May 26 through May 29, 2011.

Dr. Cohen’s poster presentation, “Arousal-Modulated Fixation on Flashing Light Patterns in At-Risk Four-Month-Old Infants is Associated with Autism Severity Scores in Childhood,” is scheduled to take place on Thursday, May 26, 2011, from 8 to 9 p.m. in Columbia Hall at the Washington Hilton.

Dr. Cohen is the author of the PDD Behavior Inventory™ (PDDBI™) and the PDD Behavior Inventory™−Screening Version (PDDBI™-SV).

For more information about the APS Annual Convention, click here.

PAR Author Ira L. Cohen to Present at IMFAR

Ira L. Cohen, PhD, author of the PDD Behavior Inventory™ (PDDBI™) and the PDD Behavior Inventory™: Screening Version (PDDBI™-SV), which will be released next month, will be giving a poster presentation at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) hosted by the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR).

Dr. Cohen’s presentation, “Reliability and Validity of the PDD Behavior Inventory-Screening Version (PDDBI-SV) Scoring System,” will discuss the software portfolio that accompanies his new product.

IMFAR 2011 will be held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, California from May 12-14, 2011. For more information about IMFAR 2011, visit www.autism-insar.org.