Spectrum Newsletter - Issue 3

Issue 3 - January 2010

Spectrum informs ADDRP Newsletter subscribers about the latest ADDRP activities, reviews recent studies in the field of autism and developmental disabilities, and lists any available educational opportunities through Lucille Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford University.


Welcome. This our third issue of our newsletter "Spectrum" that is being provided on quarterly basis to update you information on the activities of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research Program under the direction of Dr. Antonio Hardan. We appreciated the feedback that we've received after our first issue and will look forward to hear your input about this and future issues. We are hoping that you will find this newsletter helpful and informative. Please feel free to forward it to families and friends.



Autism Spectrum Disorders: Educational Series for Parents

The Stanford Autism Center at LPCH is offering a 10 part program, focused on diagnosis, treatment, and services, for parents of children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Sessions are held at 401 Quarry Road on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:00pm for $5 per meeting. Sessions are on a drop-in basis and parents may join at any time for individual sessions.

Register at http://childpsychiatry.stanford.edu

Issue 3, january 2010


Blood Mercury Concentrations in CHARGE Study Children with and without Autism (Hertz-Picciotto et al., 2010; Department of Public Health Sciences).

Higher blood mercury (Hg) levels in persons with autism have been reported. This study compared blood Hg concentrations in children with autism or autism spectrum disorder (AU/ASD) and typically developing (TD) controls, and determined the role of fish consumption in differences observed. The Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study enrolled children 2-5 years of age. After diagnositc evaluation, three groups were analyzed: AU/ASD, non-AU/ASD with developmental delay (DD), and TD controls. Mothers were interviewed about household, medical, and dietary exposures. Fish consumption strongly predicted Hg concentration. AU/ASD children ate less fish. After adjustment for fish and other Hg sources, blood levels in AU/ASD children were similar to those of TD children. DD children had lower blood Hg concentrations in all analyses. Dental amalgams in children with gum-chewing or teeth grinding habits predicted higher levels. After accounting for dietary and other differences in Hg exposures, total Hg in blood was neither elevated nor reduced in CHARGE study preschoolers with AU/ASD compared with unaffected controls.

Randomized, controlled trial of an intervention for toddlers with autism: the Early Start Denver Model (Dawson et al., 2010; University of North Carolina).

This study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), a comprehensive developmental behavioral intervention for improving outcomes of toddlers diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Forty-eight children diagnosed with aSD between 18 and 30 months of age were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: (1) ESDM intervention, which is based on developmental and applied behavioral analytic principles and delivered by trained therapists and parents for 2 years; or (2) referral to community providers for intervention commonly available in the community. Compared with children who received community-intervention, children who received ESDM showed significant improvements in IQ, adaptive behavior, and autism diagnosis. Two years after entering intervention, the EDSM group on average improved 17.6 standard score points compared with 7.0 points in the comparison group relative to baseline scores. The ESDM group maintained its rate of growth in adaptive behavior compared with anormative sample of typically developing children. Children who received ESDM also were more likely to experience a change in diagnosis from autism to pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified, than the comparison group. This is the first randomized, controlled trial to demonstrate the efficacy of a comprehensive developmental behavioral intervention for toddlers with ASD for improving cognitive and adaptive behavior and reducing the severity of ASD diagnosis.

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Linking Autism, Preterm Birth and Hormonal Status

We are interested in the relationship between hormones and sex steroids in children with autism.

We are looking for children:
  • Between the ages of 3-12 years old.
  • Born preterm or full term.
  • Willing to provide a blood sample and complete IQ testing.

Participants receive up to $50 for completing the study. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

Study of Memantine in Pediatric Autism

This study is focused on whether the medication mematine can improve social responsiveness and communication skills in children with Autism.

We are looking for children:

  • Between ages of 6-12 years old.
  • With a diagnosis of autistic disorder.
  • Who are verbally fluent (can form at least three-word phrases).
There is no cost to participate in this study. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

Double-Blind Study of NAC in Pediatric Autism

We are studying the safety and effectiveness of an antioxidant medication in the treatment of behavioral difficulties and social deficits in children with Autism.

We are looking for children:

  • Between the ages of 3-12 years old.
  • With a diagnosis of autistic disorder.
  • Who meet behavioral questionnaire guidelines.

There is no cost to participate in this study. Please contact us at (650) 736-1235 if you are interested.

Same-Sex Twins with Autism

This study compares pairs of twins with Autism Spectrum Disorder to typically developing twin pairs.

We are looking for children:

  • In a same-sex twin pair.
  • Between ages 6-14 years old.
  • Willing to complete behavioral testing and a brain-imaging scan.
  • Each twin will receive $100 for completion.

Parents also have the option to enroll their child in the open-label version of this study, in which all participants receive the active medication.

Please contact us at (650) 723-7809 if you are interested.

Editorial Staff:
Alexandra Bond, BA
Mrigendra Steiner, MA
Antonio Hardan, MD

Let us know what you think!
Comments and suggestions are welcome. 

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Autism & Developmental Disabilities
Research Program
Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
401 Quarry Rd., Stanford, CA | 94305-5719
Research: 650-736-1235 | Clinical Services: 650-723-5511