Saturday, April 25, 2009

Clinic Notes: Autism as an Insanity Defense

According to a recent Schafer Report, a number of violent criminal cases around the country have employed an insanity defense claiming autism affected the person's ability to distinguish right from wrong. Most insanity defenses rely on schizophrenia or some mental impairment. Individuals with autism or Asperger's Syndrome do have problems with socialization and are often awkward and don't understand social norms. They can be aggressive at times, but rarely violent. Fortunately, "expert doctors" called to testify for the defense or prosecution can be sure to disagree, and juries are usually unwilling to accept the insanity defense anyway. I doubt that anyone will successfully be able to prove that "autism made me do it." At least I hope not. I don't want autism to get a bad name because it is used too often as an insanity defense.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Clinic Notes: Robots, Autism, and ABA

The Today Show recently had a piece on robots, which were designed to "interact" with children with autism. Previous observations have found that children with autism interact with mechanical devices such as touch screen computers or computer generated speech devices better than they do with humans. Hopefully, these specially designed robots could become "playmates" for children and teach them how to make eye contact and develop social skills. In my clinic, and other clinics, we do much the same thing with ABA and at a much cheaper price. Anyone in private practice will tell you that overhead is a curse and no one in private practice would be able to buy or rent one of these robots. Another curse in private practice is dealing with insurance companies. I would worry that even if the price of the robots came down and were affordable, would the insurance companies reimburse the provider for the robots' services?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Clinic Notes: Using Cartoons To Detect Autism at An Early Age

Everyone agrees that the earlier that you start treatment for children with autism the better. In fact some studies indicate that early ABA can even prevent autism. Yale University researchers may have come up with a novel way to detect autism using stick figures playing pat-a- cake in various orientations. They found that whichever way they oriented the figures--upside down--right side up did not mater. The young children with autism paid no attention to them. However, when the figure started clapping and singing in time with the nursery rhyme the child with autism paid attention. Auditory-visual synchronicity was what caught the child's attention. Normal children paid more attention to the figure's movements and ignored the auditory-visual synchronicity.