Dr. white and colleagues publish findings of a program to improvE the transition to adulthood for students with ASD
Emerging adulthood is a period of heightened risk for young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Due in part to a lack of evidence-based services and supports during the transition to adulthood, many emerging adults fail to matriculate into postsecondary education or thrive in productive employment. The Stepped Transition in Education Program for Students with ASD (STEPS) was developed to address the psychosocial, transition-related needs of emerging adults with ASD. 59 adolescents and emerging adults with ASD were randomly assigned to either STEPS or transition as usual (TAU). Results indicate that STEPS is acceptable to young people with ASD and their parents and that it can be implemented with high fidelity. Among secondary school students, those who completed STEPS exhibited significantly greater gains in transition readiness from high school, and these gains were largely sustained after program completion. Among students enrolled in postsecondary education, STEPS resulted in increased levels of student adaptation to college relative to those in TAU. Programming to address ASD-related challenges can promote successful educational transitions.
Dr. white and colleagues publish study examining the role of emotion regulation on co-occuring psychopathology in adults with asd
Deficits in emotion regulation (ER) are commonly observed in individuals with ASD and may contribute to elevated rates
of psychiatric comorbidity. The objective of this study was to understand the relationship between ER (self-and caregiverreported)
and clinician-assigned mood and anxiety disorders in emerging adults with ASD (n = 27). Individuals with an anxiety
or mood disorder demonstrated significantly greater involuntary engagement (IE) for ER than those without an anxiety
or unipolar depression diagnosis. Furthermore, those without anxiety or depression reported significantly more voluntary
engagement (VE). However, consistent with prior findings outside of ASD, IE appears closely associated with internalizing
diagnoses, even when VE is also utilized. Research on clinical approaches to reduce reliance on involuntary approaches to
emotion management should be pursued.
Dr. Angie Barber of Communicative Disorders and Kimberly Tomeny, a doctoral candidate in Special Education and Multiple Abilities, have partnered with Alabama's Early Intervention System to conduct statewide workshops to help bridge the research-practice gap in ASD. The workshops focus on supporting early interventionists as the frontline providers serving families of our youngest children showing red flags for autism.
‘Come Inside and Meet All of My Friends’
By David Miller
SENSE Theatre recently completed its second cohort by performing a live, original script at Tuscaloosa Academy. Program participants include children with and without autism spectrum disorder.
Thirteen-year-old McKade Zimmerman enjoys creating art but typically shies away from performing in front of crowds. He is “content to do his own thing,” but as a teenager with autism spectrum disorder, social interaction is vital to transitioning to adulthood.
So, while some may be surprised to see Zimmerman on a theater stage, in costume, rapping and flawlessly delivering lines, his mother, Alex, anticipated it; she’d been eagerly watching McKade “come out of his shell” during the last few months of rehearsal.
McKade played a “Slade” in an original script, “The Makeover,” an hour-long play about a teenage girl’s social readjustment to a new school. It featured three songs and lines by participants and their peer mentors.
The performance wrapped the second cohort for SENSE Theatre, a novel ASD intervention that combines peer mediation and theater to address emotional issues in children with ASD.
Despite Alex’s initial skepticism, McKade and his 10-year-old brother, Jacob, enrolled in the program last spring, with McKade randomly assigned to SENSE, and Jacob to Tackling Teenage Training, a program that teaches youth with ASD about psychological, social and sexual development.
The changes in her boys’ habits, behaviors and interactions became more noticeable each day. For instance, McKade was enthusiastic about rehearsals and memorized the names of all cast members.
“Even today, when we got to rehearsal, McKade said to me, ‘come inside and meet all of my friends,’” Alex said. “He’s never done that. The socialization they get here is extremely helpful, and having the mentors has helped McKade come out of his shell.”
Jacob, often opinionated and ultra inquisitive, has become more aware of cultural norms, particularly as it relates to the changes he is experiencing in his body.
“Being a mother of children with autism, I don’t know how to explain a lot of stuff to [Jacob],” Alex said. “So I enjoy him getting to learn things from a third party.”
A packed house
SENSE researchers are halfway through the trial, and early results are promising, said Dr. Susan White, director of UA’s Center for Youth Development and Intervention and site investigator.
White and co-researchers collected data on perceptions, social functioning and peer interactions, as well as Electroencephalogram, or EEG, data. She said participants show greater responsiveness to social cues and increased interaction with peers.
A surprising but important result, White said, is the community’s response. SENSE held its first public performance in October, and about 100 people attended. All seats were full last week, too.
The public’s interest indicates the study’s intended impact of generalization is coming to fruition, in part because SENSE “doesn’t look like research” to most.
“We’ve had a lot of people who have nothing to do with autism come away impressed by the performances of these young people,” White said. “It has a way of influencing, especially for kids, how they look at people with disabilities. Also, our peer mentors are coming back for a third time to do it because they’re getting so much out of it.”
Connecting with one another
Unearthing creativity and discovering one’s talents doesn’t happen easily, especially if one faces a social barrier. For Alikah Hartley, a rising junior at Brookwood High School who completed her second stint as a peer mentor, helping introduce others to their first experiences in theater was an easy sell, though she’d never worked with anyone with ASD.
Themes of “adolescent strife” and identity development are intentionally included in the original scripts for each play, and each rehearsal and performance reflects that, Hartley said.
“It comes back to being important for everybody to be able to stand and talk and be on stage and tell those stories,” Hartley said. “The students with ASD get involved and want to be involved just as much as everyone else there.”
Hartley is encouraged by the program’s inclusiveness and is interested in the potential of using performing arts in an educational capacity. It’s important, as she discovered early, to not carry the burden of teaching about autism, but about everyone “enjoying similar things.”
“They came in with their knowledge of who they were,” Hartley said. “It wasn’t about that for them, as much as it was experiencing theater.”
Original story posted at: https://www.ua.edu/news/2019/06/come-inside-and-meet-all-of-my-friends/
Dr. Watkins, Dr. Barnard-brak, and colleagues publish meta-analysis of Focused interventions for students with asd in inclusive school settings
Students with ASD are increasingly included alongside their typically developing peers in regular education environments. The purpose of this study was to analyze focused interventions for students with ASD in inclusive classroom settings and make recommendations for practitioners and researchers working in this field. Function-based interventions, visual supports, self-monitoring, and peer-mediated interventions produced strong results. Interventions mostly targeted social communication skills and were considered feasible to implement in inclusive settings. Future studies that train teachers to implement these interventions, target additional skills, and include students with ASD with diverse characteristics are needed.
Dr. White and colleagues publish findings of study to treat Anxiety and social deficits in children with asd in kenya
There are very few resources for the educational and mental health needs of children with autism who live in Kenya. This study involves the implementation of an evidence-based program for treating high anxiety and social deficits in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in two Kenyan schools. Results are promising, with significant improvement in anxiety symptoms and ASD severity.
Dr. akamoglu invites parents of young children with asd to participate in an intervention to support communication skills
Dr. Watkins and colleagues publish findings of study to improve social interaction between young children with and without ASD
Children with ASD often have difficulties with peer interaction, and research suggests that students with ASD in inclusive classrooms generally do not interact or socialize with their typically developing classmates during play activities. This study assessed whether an intervention package consisting of interest-based structured play activities involving adult instruction, modeling, and response to child questions would result in an increase in social interaction between children with and without ASD in an inclusive preschool classroom. Four children with ASD and four typically developing classmates participated in this study.
During free play activities, little to no interaction between the children was observed. When the intervention was in place during play time, children with ASD demonstrated increases in both initiations and responses to their peers. The amount of time the children spent in interactive play increased as well. The intervention was simple and efficient, fitting easily within the normal classroom routine, and the classroom teacher reported that students with ASD were more involved in other classroom activities after participating in the intervention.