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News In Research and Intervention

New Autism Prevalence Rates Released in March!

On March 28th, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the new surveillance report, “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder among Children Aged 8 Years – Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2010." Data were gathered from children living in 11 different communities who would have been 8 years old in 2010. The report suggests that the number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is now 1 in 68. This reflects a 30% increase from the last report of 1 in 88 from surveillance year 2008.

In addition to the increase in prevalence, other interesting findings were reported. Data continue to show that boys are almost five times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls. The estimate for boys is 1 in 42 while the estimate for girls is 1 in 189. Less than half of the children were evaluated for ASD before their third birthday indicating that many children did not have access to critical early intervention services. This latest CDC report also indicated that minorities may be under-identified, as the estimates are 1 in 81 for African American children and 1 in 93 for Hispanic children.

Updates in estimates such as this can be sobering. While we do not fully understand the reason for the increase in prevalence, it is important to remember that such updates can reflect increased awareness and education surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorder. This surveillance report identified more children with higher IQs than ever before and may reflect increased understanding of children with different abilities who are on the spectrum. Data surrounding estimates of children identified with ASD continue to evolve, as does other research into understanding more about all aspects of Autism Spectrum Disorder, including appropriate interventions. VCU-ACE remains committed to monitoring advances in research and providing the most up-to-date information surrounding evidence-based practices and resources for families, professionals, and the community.

To view the latest information from the CDC and description of the 2010 study and findings, click here.

To view the 10 Things to Know About the New Autism Data, click here.

More information:

New Autism Data Fact Sheet


Seeking Participants: Research Study on Sleep and Autism

VCU Department of Occupational Therapy Professor Tony Gentry is recruiting participants for a VCU-funded study exploring the sleep quality of adults with autism. Participants must be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger's syndrome and be age 18 or over. Participants wear a sleep-measuring wrist band for 6 weeks and receive sleep hygiene recommendations via iPhone. The devices needed to complete this study will be provided by the investigator. A payment of $50 will be made upon completion of the sleep study project. If you are interested in participating in this study please contact Tony Gentry at, or call 804-828-3397.

More information:

Download the flyer for the sleep study


Supporting Independence in Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum

One of the most vital aspects to a young individual with autism is their ability to develop skills to enhance independence. As most readers can attest the challenges of years spent in high school are daunting and can be overwhelming. Discovering ones independence is a challenge commonly associated with a teen’s life development. Factor in what that period of life is like for an individual youth on the autism spectrum, gaining independence like their classmates assert can be difficult.

As reported in ScienceDaily (March 12 2014), research indicates that students who demonstrate greater independence and/or behavioral autonomy during high school are more likely to be employed and live independently after entering adulthood than students who are more dependent on staff or caregivers. There are now strategies identified to assist professionals and caregivers in supporting independence in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.

Caregivers can assist in this task by using 12 Evidence Based Practices that have been identified to address organization, sequencing, and problem solving and planning. Of the 27 researched EBP’s the 12 noted that support independent functioning are: differential reinforcement, extinction, prompting, reinforcement, response interruption and redirection, self-management, task analysis, visual supports, work systems, antecedent-based interventions, functional behavior assessment (FBA), and social narratives. Using resources EBP’s and encouraging the child’s personal strengths will aid in their self-efficacy and help them to function as a productive and happy self-reliant member of society. For more information on this article, click here.


Autism Speaks Clarifies Recent Studies on DSM-5 and its Impact on Autism Prevalence

On January 27, 2014, Autism Speaks clarified two recent studies on the impact of DSM-5 on autism diagnosis and prevalence. The study conducted by Kim et. al (2014) found that 83 percent of children previously diagnosed with autism under the DSM-IV criteria still met the new criteria under DSM-5. This same study indicated that the remaining 14 percent would be diagnosed with the new diagnosis of social communication disorder (SCD). In a similar comparative study, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) concluded that autism prevalence estimates would decrease by 10 percent. The CDC did not indicate the impact of social communication disorder (SCD). However, other field tests suggest the 10 percent decrease is reflective of the new SCD diagnosis. Treatments are recommended to remain the same for those diagnosed with social communication disorder or autism spectrum disorder.

Please click here to view the entire article.


Treatment Guide Updated for Children with Autism

An article in the February 4, 2014 Disability Scoop announced that the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry updated the practice guidelines for diagnosing and treating children, up to age 17, with autism. The updated guidance document, published by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, provides a roadmap to best assessment and treatment practices. Recommendations include assisting families with long-term planning across treatment areas, using a multidisciplinary approach in treating the individual with autism, and advising families on the pros and cons of alternative therapies.

Please click here to view the entire article.


Disability Scoop Publishes Article on Evidence-Based Interventions

An article in the January 21, 2014 Disability Scoop announced that a recent review, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, indicated an increase in evidence-based interventions from the 24 previously reported in 2008 to 27 currently. The review is produced by the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders, a multi-university center housed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Please click here to view the entire article.


Recent Research Indicates Technology Improves Language for Students with ASD

In recent years, many types of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), or speech generating devices, have become a popular choice for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who experience speech and language difficulty. A newly released study funded by Autism Speaks suggests that the use of a speech generating device in conjunction with play-based therapy can be beneficial for the development of spoken language specifically in students with ASD. The study, led by educational psychologist Connie Kasari, Ph.D., examined 60 students with ASD ranging from age 5 to age 8 who used less than 20 words. All children were provided with two hours of play-based interventions per week; however, half of the children were also exposed to a speech generating device during their session. After 3 months, those who responded slowly to play-based therapy only were then also given access to a device during therapy and an extra hour of therapy each week. At the end of six months, all children demonstrated spoken language gains; however, the students who began therapy with a device made earlier and faster progress than those who did not. This study, along with other previous studies into AAC and language development, suggests that the use of AAC has the potential to facilitate spoken language, even in nonverbal children with ASD over the age of five years.

For more information about the study, click here.

For more information about technology, including AAC, and ASD, please click here.


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