The causes of social communication deficits in ASD

This week, former ASF fellow Katherine Stavropoulos from UC Riverside and Leslie Carver published data investigating what is the core cause of social communication deficits in autism.  Do people with autism show deficits in this area because they have a lack of motivation for social cues, or are social interactions just too overwhelming on their senses?  It turns out, both are true and this has direct implications for intervention methods.  Also, parents and siblings of people with autism show subtle symptoms of ASD without having a diagnosis.  This is called the broader autism phenotype, and a study by the Study to Explore Early Development led by Dr. Eric Rubenstein, demonstrated that parents of children with a particular group of symptoms are more likely to show this phenotype than other groupings.  You can read the full studies here:

 

https://molecularautism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13229-018-0189-5

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29376397

 

What is the can do vs. the will do of autism?

Often overlooked in intervention studies, it is becoming increasingly clearer that adaptive behavior, the “will do” vs. the “can do” of functioning, should receive more focus.  In people with autism and high IQ, cognitive ability, the “can do” is higher than adaptive behavior, the “will do”.  Why?  The key in new research from the National Institutes of Health may be social abilities.  Another study this week from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in adult  with high IQ demonstrates that social motivation may be the key to improving social skills and socialization in people with ASD.

A 4th of July quickie on new data for treatment of autism symptoms

Happy 4th of July weekend.  This week’s podcast is devoted to the studies in the past few months focusing on autism treatments that didn’t make it into the regular weekly roundup.  They include data that shows promising results (peer networks and iPads) as well as those that didn’t do as well as hoped (social skills).  There were also some that showed that some therapies just don’t have any good studies to show definitively if they are helpful or not.  Take 8 minutes before the fireworks and listen to the latest on interventions of ASD.

Putting the pieces together around group social skills interventions

Individual research studies are great.  But even better is when someone takes these studies and puts them together to see if one study shows the same thing another does, and if they do is the effect size consistent?  Sometimes you can only do this by going old school and pooling the data from the individual studies.   This is especially helpful in determining the effectiveness of different interventions.  This week, Dr. Matthew Lerner and his colleagues at Stony Brook University  published a meta analysis of group social skills interventions.  They put together well-designed studies and asked:  do they work?  Are they better than getting nothing at all?  To find out, listen to this week’s ASF podcast.