Study examines movement in children with autism

UTEP study examines movement in children with autism

For more than a year, researchers at The University of Texas at El Paso’s Stanley E. Fulton Gait Research & Movement Analysis Lab in the College of Health Sciences have been using real-time 3-D animation to investigate motor impairments in children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Their aim is to understand how children with autism can learn motor skills, so that they can receive effective therapies.

The results of their study, titled “Children With Autism Exhibit More Individualized Responses to Live Animation Biofeedback Than Do Typically Developing Children,” were recently published in the journal of Perceptual and Motor Skills. The paper’s release coincides with National Autism Awareness Month in April.

“The greatest takeaway from this study is that when teaching or coaching new movements to an individual with autism, the teacher or coach needs to understand the individual with autism’s specific motor learning characteristics,” said Jeffrey Eggleston, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology and Gait lab director. He is the study’s lead author. “They need to look specifically at each child’s needs because each child is different.”

The study’s other authors include Alyssa N. Olivas, a student in the doctoral biomedical engineering program; Heather R. Vanderhoof and Emily A. Chavez, students in the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (IHS) doctoral program; Carla Alvarado, M.D., board certified psychiatrist; and Jason B. Boyle, Ph.D., associate professor and interim chair of Kinesiology at UTEP.

More than 80% of children with ASD have gross motor skills issues, such as problems with balance and coordination, which can interfere with their communication and social interactions.

The 18-month UTEP study incorporated live animation biofeedback to teach 15 children who have ASD and were between the ages of 8 and 17 how to do a squat, a strength exercise that works multiple muscle groups in the body’s lower extremities.

Researchers compared their movement patterns to children without the disorder. They found that children with ASD displayed highly individualized responses to the live animation biofeedback, much more so than children with typical development, Eggleston said.

In the lab, children had 1-inch cubes called inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensors strapped to their pelvis, thighs, lower legs and feet. They followed an animation model on a computer screen, which showed them how to squat. The children would then try to perform the squat without looking at the animation.

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Study examines Medicaid and adults on the autism spectrum

While much attention has been paid to the increasing prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among U.S. children and adolescents, less is known about the population of adults with ASD. Medicaid is an important health care coverage provider for individuals with autism, including adults. Using administrative data from the Medicaid Analytic eXtract (MAX), researchers from Drexel University’s A.J. Drexel Autism Institute found a substantial increase in the percent of adults receiving services for autism in the Medicaid population from 2008-2012.

“An increasing number of adults will be relying on Medicaid, often through home and community-based services waiver programs, for key services, such as support for community integration and for maintaining employment, into the future,” said Whitney Schott, Ph.D., an assistant researcher professor in the Autism Institute and lead author on the study.

There was higher prevalence of ASD among younger adults (ages 18-24) over the 2008-2012 time period than other adults. Prevalence was lowest among older adults (ages 41-64).

“These results underline the importance of identifying effective and efficient service delivery models within Medicaid to serve the growing number of adults with ASD,” said Schott.

Researchers examined Medicaid administrative claims data from 2008-2012, including the population of adults with autism as well as a random sample of adults without autism, in order to identify the administrative prevalence of autism by age category. They looked at individuals that were enrolled in Medicaid for at least nine out of 12 months per year, in order to get a better sense of true administrative prevalence.

“Little is known about the age composition of the adult population with autism,” said Schott. “Our research provides key information about the distribution of autism across adult ages over the period 2008-2012, showing that prevalence is higher and growing more quickly among younger adults (ages 18-24) compared to older adults.”

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Study Examines Effect of Cancer Treatment on COVID-19 Mortality

TUESDAY, Sept. 22, 2020 — Cancer patients treated one to three months prior to COVID-19 diagnosis and those treated with chemoimmunotherapy have the highest 30-day mortality, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology, held virtually from Sept. 19 to 21.

Trisha M. Wise-Draper, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center, and colleagues examined outcomes related to systemic cancer treatment within one year of laboratory-confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection. Data were analyzed for 3,920 patients as of July 31, 2020.

The researchers found that 42 percent of the patients received systemic anticancer treatment within 12 months and 159 distinct medications were administered. Patients treated within one to three months prior to COVID-19 had the highest rates of COVID-19-associated complications; all-cause mortality was 26 percent in this group. By most recent treatment type, 30-day mortality was 20, 18, 17, 29, 20, and 11 percent for chemotherapy, immunotherapy, chemoradiotherapy, chemoimmunotherapy, targeted therapy, and endocrine therapy, respectively. The standardized incidence ratio for mortality was lowest for endocrine treatments and highest for chemoimmunotherapy or chemotherapy less than two weeks before COVID-19 diagnosis. Targeted agents within three to 12 months also had a high standardized incidence ratio. Mortality was 14 percent for patients untreated in the year prior to COVID-19 diagnosis.

“Targeted therapies, especially those causing immune cell depletion, used one to three months before [the diagnosis of] COVID-19, are associated with very high mortality, up to 50 percent,” Wise-Draper said in a statement.

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