Voice Features as the Diagnostic Marker of Autism

The aim of the study is to determine the acoustic features of voice and speech of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) as a possible additional diagnostic criterion. The participants in the study were 95 children with ASD aged 5-16 years, 150 typically development (TD) children, and 103 adults – listening to children’s speech samples. Three types of experimental methods for speech analysis were performed: spectrographic, perceptual by listeners, and automatic recognition. In the speech of children with ASD, the pitch values, pitch range, values of frequency and intensity of the third formant (emotional) leading to the “atypical” spectrogram of vowels are higher than corresponding parameters in the speech of TD children. High values of vowel articulation index (VAI) are specific for ASD children’s speech signals. These acoustic features can be considered as diagnostic marker of autism. The ability of humans and automatic recognition of the psychoneurological state of children via their speech is determined.

Robot-assisted Relaxation Training for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been proven an effective tool to address anger and anxiety issues in children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Robot-enhanced therapy has been used in psychosocial and educational interventions for children with ASD with promising results. Whenever CBT-based techniques were incorporated in robot-based interventions, they were mainly performed in group sessions. Objectives: The study’s main objective was the implementation and evaluation of the effectiveness of a relaxation training intervention for children with ASD, delivered by the social robot NAO. Methods: 20 children (aged 7–12 years) were randomly assigned to 16 sessions of relaxation training implemented twice a week. Two groups were formed: the NAO group (children participated in individual sessions with the support of NAO) and the control group (children participated in individual sessions with the support of the therapist only). Participants received three different relaxation scenarios of increasing difficulty (a breathing scenario, a progressive muscle relaxation scenario and a body scan medication scenario), as well as related homework sheets for practicing. Pre- and post-intervention assessments were conducted using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire for parents (SDQ-P). Participants were also asked to complete an open-ended questionnaire to evaluate the effectiveness of the training. Parents’ satisfaction was evaluated via a questionnaire and children satisfaction was assessed by a thermometer scale. Results: The study supports the use of relaxation training with the NAO robot as instructor for children with ASD. Parents of enrolled children reported high levels of satisfaction and provided positive ratings of the training acceptability. Children in the NAO group presented greater motivation to complete homework and adopt the learned techniques at home. Conclusions: Relaxation training could be effectively integrated in robot-assisted protocols to help children with ASD regulate emotions and develop self-control.

The Effectiveness of Therapeutic Exercise on Motor Skills and Attention of Male Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) involve myriad aberrant perceptual, cognitive, linguistic, and social behaviors. The term spectrum emphasizes that the disabilities associated with ASD fall on a continuum from relatively mild to severe. People with ASD may display stereotyped behaviors such as twirling, spinning objects, flapping the hands, and rocking. The individuals with ASD exhibit communication problems due to repetitive/restricted behaviors. Children with ASD who lack the motivation to learn, who do not enjoy physical challenges, or whose sensory perception results in confusing or unpleasant feedback from movement may not become sufficiently motivated to practice motor activities. As a result, they may show both a delay in developing certain motor skills. Additionally, attention is an important component of learning. As far as children with ASD have problems in joint attention, many education-based programs are needed to consider some aspects of attention and motor activities development for students with ASD. These programs focus on the basic movement skills that are crucial for the future development of the more complex skills needed in games, dance, sports, gymnastics, active play, and recreational physical activities. The purpose of the present research was to determine the effectiveness of therapeutic exercise on motor skills and attention of male students with ASD. This was an experimental study with a control group. The population consisted of 8-10 year-old male students with ASD and 30 subjects were selected randomly from an available center suitable for the children with ASD. They were evaluated by the Basic Motor Ability Test (BMAT) and Persian version of computerized Stroop color-word test and randomly assigned to an experimental and control group (15 students in per group). The experimental group participated in 16 therapeutic exercise sessions and received therapeutic exercise program (twice a week; each lasting for 45 minutes) designed based on the Spark motor program while the control group did not. All subjects were evaluated by BMAT and Stroop color-word test after the last session again. The collected data were analyzed by using multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA). The results of MANCOVA showed that experimental and control groups had a significant difference in motor skills and at least one of the components of attention (correct responses, incorrect responses, no responses, the reaction time of congruent words and reaction time of incongruent words in the Stroop test). The findings showed that the therapeutic exercise had a significant effect on motor skills and all components of attention in students with ASD. We can conclude that the therapeutic exercise led to promote the motor skills and attention of students with ASD, so it is necessary to design or plan such programs for ASD students to prevent their communication or academic problems.

Addressing Oral Sensory Issues and Possible Remediation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Illustrated with a Case Study

The purpose of this study are to define the nature of oral sensory issues in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), identify important components of the assessment and treatment of this issues specific to this population, and delineate specific therapeutic techniques designed to improve assessment and treatment within therapeutic settings. Literature review and case example is used to define the predominant nature of the oral sensory issues that are experienced by some children on the autism spectrum. Characteristics of this complex disorder that can have an impact on feeding skill and behavior are also identified. These factors are then integrated to create assessment and intervention techniques that can be used in conjunction with traditional feeding approaches to facilitate improvements in eating as well as reducing oral apraxic component in this unique population. The complex nature of ASD and its many influences on feeding skills and behavior create the need for modification to both assessment and treatment approaches. Additional research is needed to create therapeutic protocols that can be used by speech-language pathologists to effectively assess and treat feeding and oro motor apraxic difficulties that are commonly encountered in children with ASD.

Stereotypical Motor Movement Recognition Using Microsoft Kinect with Artificial Neural Network

Autism spectrum disorder is a complex developmental disability. It is defined by a certain set of behaviors. Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) frequently engage in stereotyped and repetitive motor movements. The objective of this article is to propose a method to automatically detect this unusual behavior. Our study provides a clinical tool which facilitates for doctors the diagnosis of ASD. We focus on automatic identification of five repetitive gestures among autistic children in real time: body rocking, hand flapping, fingers flapping, hand on the face and hands behind back. In this paper, we present a gesture recognition system for children with autism, which consists of three modules: model-based movement tracking, feature extraction, and gesture recognition using artificial neural network (ANN). The first one uses the Microsoft Kinect sensor, the second one chooses points of interest from the 3D skeleton to characterize the gestures, and the last one proposes a neural connectionist model to perform the supervised classification of data. The experimental results show that our system can achieve above 93.3% recognition rate.

Peer-Mediated Intervention for Social Communication Difficulties in Adolescents with Autism: Literature Review and Research Recommendations

Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often experience social-communication difficulties that negatively impact their social interactions with typical peers. However, unlike other age and disability groups, there is little intervention research to inform best practice for these students. One evidence-based strategy for younger students with ASD is peer-mediated intervention (PMI). PMI may be particularly promising for use with adolescents, as peers are readily available and are natural experts for encouraging authentic high school conversations. This paper provides a review of previous research that evaluated the use of PMI to improve the socialcommunication skills of students with ASD. Specific intervention features associated with positive student outcomes are identified and recommendations for future research are provided. Adolescents with ASD are targeted due the critical importance of social conversation at the high school level.

Checklist for Autism Spectrum Disorder as an In-class Observation Tool for Teachers

The majority of Special Educational Needs checklists are intended for preliminary screening in the special education disability process. The aim of the present paper is to present their potential usefulness as in-class observation tools for teachers working with students who have already been diagnosed with a disorder. A checklist may complement and organize information about a given child, which is indispensable to improve his or her condition. The case of a Polish boy with autism will serve as an example. Last but not least, alternative uses of checklists are suggested in the article.

Association of Sensory Processing and Cognitive Deficits in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders – Pioneer Study in Saudi Arabia

The association between sensory problems and cognitive abilities has been studied in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). In this study, we used a Neuropsychological Test to evaluate memory and attention in ASDs children with sensory problems compared to the ASDs children without sensory problems. Four visual memory tests of Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) including Big/little circle (BLC), Simple Reaction Time (SRT) Intra /Extra dimensional set shift (IED), Spatial recognition memory (SRM), were administered to 14 ASDs children with sensory problems compared to 13 ASDs without sensory problems aged 3 to 12 with IQ of above 70. ASDs individuals with sensory problems performed worse than the ASDs group without sensory problems on comprehension, learning, reversal and simple reaction time tasks, and no significant difference between the two groups was recorded in terms of the visual memory and visual comprehension tasks. The findings of this study suggest that ASDs children with sensory problems are facing deficits in learning, comprehension, reversal, and speed of response to a stimulus.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Main Problem Waiting for Solution in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are characterized by abnormalities in social interaction and communication, as well as repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. Although various studies have been conducted in ASDs etiology across the world, it seems that they are still unknown in Middle East. Some scientific researches have been conducted on ASDs in Middle East (ME) especially in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). A systematic literature review was performed to identify the ASDs studies in KSA. Accordingly, PubMed, ISI web of Science and Google were searched to find KSA and ME studies in ASDs. The main focus of this review work is to outline an improved understanding of the underpinnings of ASD in order to achieve therapeutic interventions and we will discuss the main problem we waiting for solution with reference with role of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to modulate cortical activity improve understanding ASD.