Art therapy best practices for children with autism

Researchers were able to develop a set of guidelines for delivering art therapy to children who have ASD

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Theresa Van Lith, assistant professor of art therapy in FSU’s Department of Art Education, led a study that surveyed art therapists working with children with ASD to develop a clearer understanding of their techniques and approaches. The study was published this month in the journal Arts in Psychotherapy.

“I had noticed that is there is a high number of art therapists working with people who have autism, but I wanted to understand what their practice wisdoms were in terms of how they go about facilitating art therapy sessions,” Van Lith said. “We want to make it a transparent process for the client or the parents of a client, so they know what to expect.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 68 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder by age 8 each year. As that population grows, more parents and educators are seeking out art therapists to address social development and sensory issues that generally accompany ASD.

The research team compiled and analyzed the art therapists’ expert opinions on topics such as what worked with ASD clients, their objectives during a session, their most preferred theoretical approach and the considerations they had to make when working with children with ASD.

Using a humanoid robot to improve the social skills of children with autism spectrum disorder – Protocol

Interventions using robot-assisted therapy may be beneficial for the social skills development of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are lacking | BMJ Open

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Introduction: The present research aims to assess the feasibility of conducting an RCT evaluating the effectiveness of a social skills intervention using Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robotics (Kaspar) with children with ASD.

Methods and analysis: Forty children will be recruited. Inclusion criteria are the following: aged 5–10 years, confirmed ASD diagnosis, IQ over 70, English-language comprehension, a carer who can complete questionnaires in English and no current participation in a private social communication intervention. Children will be randomised to receive an intervention with a therapist and Kaspar, or with the therapist only. They will receive two familiarisation sessions and six treatment sessions for 8 weeks. They will be assessed at baseline, and at 10 and 22 weeks after baseline. The primary outcome of this study is to evaluate whether the predetermined feasibility criteria for a full-scale trial are met. The potential primary outcome measures for a full-scale trial are the Social Communication Questionnaire and the Social Skills Improvement System. We will conduct a preliminary economic analysis. After the study has ended, a sample of 20 participants and their families will be invited to participate in semistructured interviews to explore the feasibility and acceptability of the study’s methods and intervention.

Full reference: Mengoni, S.E. et al. (2017) Feasibility study of a randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of using a humanoid robot to improve the social skills of children with autism spectrum disorder (Kaspar RCT): a study protocol. BMJ Open. 7:e017376.

Mindfulness-Based Intervention for Parents of Children with Autism

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently report poor psychological well-being.

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The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of brief mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) on perceived stress, anxiety, and depression among parents of children with ASD in Jordan.

After the intervention program, the one-way analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) indicated that parents in the intervention group had better outcomes on the measures of psychological well-being and mindfulness than those in the comparison group (P < 0.01). Furthermore, results of paired samples t test indicated that parents in the intervention group demonstrated significant improvements in measures of stress, anxiety, depression, and mindfulness scores with medium to large effect size (Cohen d between 0.42 and 0.85, P < 0.01).

Although the comparison group demonstrated small improvement in measures of the dependent variables, these improvements were much less than improvements in the intervention group. The MBIs are culturally adaptable, feasible, and effective interventions to improve psychological well-being in parents of children with ASD.

Full reference: Rayan, A. & Ahmad, M. (2017) Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Perceived Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Among Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Mindfulness. 8(677)

 

GPs’ confidence in caring for their patients on the autism spectrum

Unigwe, S. et al. British Journal of General Practice | Published online: 8 May 2017

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Background: In the UK, GPs play a key role in the identification and management of children, young people, and adults on the autism spectrum, but there is a paucity of research on GPs’ perceptions of working with these patients.

Aim: To understand GPs’ perceived self-efficacy in identifying and managing their patients on the autism spectrum, and the factors affecting this.

Conclusion: There is an urgent need for improved local specialist service provision alongside clearer referral pathways for diagnosis to improve both GPs’ confidence in caring for their autistic patients and the healthcare experiences of autistic patients and their families. Local clinical commissioning groups are best served to assist GPs in ensuring that they can reliably detect the condition and make appropriate provisions for support.

Read the full article here

Antidepressant use in early pregnancy does not increase autism & ADHD risk in kids

Large-scale analysis suggests fewer risks than previously thought from exposure to antidepressant medications in early pregnancy | ScienceDaily

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A study led by Indiana University suggests that mothers’ use of antidepressants during early pregnancy does not increase the risk of their children developing autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conditions previously associated with these medications.

The research, reported today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found significant evidence for only a slight increase in risk for premature birth in the infants of mothers who used antidepressants during the first trimester of pregnancy.

After controlling for multiple other risk factors, the researchers did not find any increased risk of autism, ADHD or reduced fetal growth among exposed offspring. The risk for premature birth was about 1.3 times higher for exposed offspring compared to unexposed offspring.

Read the full commentary here

The original research abstract is available here

Money a barrier to independence for young adults with autism

Researchers suggest parents, caregivers and financial institutions can play a role in helping young adults with autism improve financial literacy | ScienceDaily

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More than 3 million people in the United States are estimated to have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and annual diagnosis rates continue to rise. Researchers from the University of Missouri have found when teenagers and young adults with autism enter adulthood and age out of many of the services designed to help them, they often are anxious about how to handle new adult responsibilities such as paying bills and filing taxes. These findings highlight the importance of incorporating financial management into early education to empower young adults with autism.

Read the full commentary here

The original research abstract is available here

Mindfulness and Support and Information Group Interventions for Parents of Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Lunsky, Y. et al. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders | Published online: 3 April 2017

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This study evaluated two community based interventions for parents of adults with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.

Parents in the mindfulness group reported significant reductions in psychological distress, while parents in the support and information group did not. Reduced levels of distress in the mindfulness group were maintained at 20 weeks follow-up. Mindfulness scores and mindful parenting scores and related constructs (e.g., self-compassion) did not differ between the two groups.

Results suggest the psychological components of the mindfulness based group intervention were effective over and above the non-specific effects of group processes and informal support.

Read the abstract here