July 24, 2013

Research Reveals Ways to Help Patients with Autism Improve Social Skills

Experts to present latest treatment techniques for children, teens and adults


Advances in treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will be the focus of several presentations at the American Psychological Association’s 121st Annual Convention. About 1 in 50 school-age children in the United States has some form of autism, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Leading experts in the diagnoses and treatment of autism will present research findings that include new ways to identify ASD, new approaches for teaching social skills, and how mobile technology can help autistic children communicate. 


All presentations listed below will take place at the Hawai’i Convention Center, 1801 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, Hawai’i. 


Rhonda McEwen, PhD, of the University of Toronto, will present new research that shows how children with autism spectrum disorder can use mobile application technology to help them communicate in "Windows of Communication Through Mobile Applications for Children With Autism," (PDF, 227KB) session 3118, Friday, Aug. 2, 10-10:50 a.m. HST, room 312. Contact McEwen by email or by phone at (416) 301-3181. 

Jessica L. Bradshaw, MA, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, will present research on the benefits of treatment for infants who display signs of autism as young as 6 months. Bradshaw will discuss findings from one of the first studies to show that pivotal response treatment can work in infants. Pivotal response treatment is a play-based therapy driven by the child’s interests and has been shown to improve communication, language and social interactions among older children with autism "Assessing and Improving Early Social Engagement in Infants," (PDF, 614KB) session 1214, Wednesday, July 31, 12-12:50 p.m. HST, room 321B. Contact Bradshaw by email or by phone at (909) 702-7582. 

Micah Mazurek, PhD, University of Missouri, will present findings showing that aggression is relatively common among children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Based on parent reports from a large, geographically diverse sample, sleep problems, self-injury and sensory problems were highly associated with aggressive behavior in children with autism. The findings point to the importance of identification and treatment of these co-occurring problems. "Prevalence and Correlates of Aggression in Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorders," (PDF, 579KB) poster session 1127, Wednesday, July 31, 10-10:50 a.m. HST, Kamehameha Exhibit Hall, level 1. Contact Mazurek by email or by phone at (573) 884-8502.

Abbey Eisenhower, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, will present findings from new research involving 113 children ages 4 to 7.The study examined how early relationships with teachers and behavior problems can impact how a child adapts to school. "Early Student — Teacher Relationships of Children With ASD in Relation to School Adjustment," (PDF, 250KB) session 2085, Thursday, Aug. 1, 9-9:50 a.m. HST, room 303A, level 3. Contact Eisenhower by email or by phone at (617) 287-6334.

The following presentations will be part of "Latest Identification and Intervention Techniques for ASD — Preschool, Teens, Young Adults," symposium session 1166, Wednesday, July 31, 11-11:50 a.m. HST, room 317B: 

Elizabeth Laugeson, PsyD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, will discuss her innovative 14-week classroom social skills program for middle and high school autistic students in "Teaching Social Skills to Teens With Autism in the Classroom: The PEERS School-Based Curriculum." (PDF, 113KB) She will explain how her evidence-based program has helped hundreds of students learn how to make and keep friends, and better function in school. Contact Laugeson by email or by phone at (818) 321-8044.

Lars-Olov Lundqvist, PhD, of the Centre for Rehabilitation Research in Sweden, will talk about the relationship between hypersensitivity to touch and social skills in autistic adults in "Hypersensitivity to Touch Predicts Social Dysfunction in People with Autism." (PDF, 97KB) He will present findings of his research in a study with 915 Swedish adults. Contact Lundqvist by email or by phone at +46 703525819.

Catherine Rice, PhD, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will present recent findings from the CDC’s Study to Explore Early Development, the largest study in the United States to help identify factors that may put children at risk for autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities. To schedule an interview before and after the APA convention, contact the CDC press office by email or by phone at (404) 639-3286. During the convention, contact APA Public Affairs to arrange to interview Rice.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 134,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.