Thursday, October 28, 2010

Clinic Notes: Autism and Robots

Children with autism have problems understanding where to look. They often do not make eye contact and often do not look where others are looking. ABA programs for establishing eye contact are usually the first thing we do in the clinic and these programs work well. But getting a child to look where others are looking can be more difficult. A recent study by psychologist Andrew Meltzoff and his associates at the University of Washington let 18 month-old infants play with toys. Then a screen hiding a robot was removed. Half of the children observed an adult talking to the robot and play a game with it while half sat the adult not pay attention to the robot. Then the adult left the room, the robot beeped, and turned its head toward a toy. The children in the group that had seen the adult interact with the robot were four times more likely to look at the toy the robot was looking at. The children in this study were normally developing, but perhaps in the studies that are developing "robot therapies" for children with autism observing a little human-robot interaction could be important.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Clinic Notes: Autism and Lying

It is widely accepted that children with autism do not have insight into the thoughts and feelings of other people. But in a recent study it was found that children with autism are just as likely as control children to tell a white lie in order to not hurt other people's feelings. In the study children were told they were going to get a wonderful gift. They were then given a bar of soap. When the researcher asked if they like the gift they said yes and did not say they were disappointed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Clinic Notes: Illegal Immigrants and Autism

I have noticed an increase in the number of Hispanic children in my clinic lately. I don't know if their parents are documented or illegal immigrants or not. And I don't care. They do work at jobs that provide no health insurance so they all pay cash. Usually, just one parent is present. After the evaluation, regardless of he outcome, they want a letter addressed to "whom it may concern" describing the diagnosis and the need for the absent to join them. As I understand it autism and other childhood developmental disorders is classified a as a "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" and could be a factor in avoiding deportation. On the other hand, I also hear of Hispanic parents who are afraid to seek treatment for their children who they suspect have autism because they fear deportation. I really don't know how to advise these parents.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Clinic Notes: Seriously now, Girls with Autism and ADHD

Often when women complain about symptoms, which could indicate heart diseases, the physician does not take them as seriously as they would a male. Fewer test are run and fewer medications are prescribed. Now a recent study finds the same is true when girls in Sweden seek help with symptoms indicating ADHD or autism. The parents of were concerned about the behavior of the girls early in life, but had not been given a diagnosis. When they were older and re-examined because their symptoms persisted nearly half were diagnosed with autism or ADHD. Socioeconomic status was ruled out as a factor.