University of Florida

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) present in early childhood with a reliable diagnosis of ASD possible by 2-years-old (US Centers for Disease Control, 2016).  Yet, the average age at which children receive an ASD diagnosis in the United States is 4-years-old, representing a sizeable gap between when a child can be reliably diagnosed with ASD and when they are actually being diagnosed with ASD (US Centers for Disease Control, 2016). Researchers have established that both early diagnosis and intervention are critical in the long-term outcomes of children with ASD. However, to date, many ASD interventions that are commonly used are not applied in a timely manner and/or lack the necessary empirical support.  In this symposium, a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Florida will frame the current state of the science in ASD and describe the application of effective social and behavioral interventions. They will begin by presenting findings from an internet-based survey of healthcare providers who identified barriers to early diagnosis and treatment. Next will be a presentation addressing the assessment and intervention for core features of ASD with research findings from the University of Florida Behavior Analysis Research Clinic. The third presentation will describe results of a behavioral skills training approach that teaches parents to a) decrease the occurrence of dangerous behavior and increase functional communication as a replacement, b) improve the range of food preferences and food acceptance as an intervention for food selectivity, and c) decrease problem behavior and refusal during routine grooming activities. The fourth presentation will examine the effectiveness of a peer-mediated intervention aimed at increasing peer-related social competence skills of children with ASD within their school settings.  Each of these interventions now has empirical validation and shows great promise for enhancing clinical practice and facilitating future research.

Dr. Jennifer Harrison Elder is a Professor and PhD Program Director at the University of Florida’s College of Nursing. Prior to that, she served as Department Chair and Associate Dean for Research. Dr. Elder has spent 32 years studying autism and related child neuropsychiatric disorders, methods of educating families, and reducing caregiver stress of children with autism. Her team was among the first to focus on training fathers of children with ASD and funded by two NIH/NINR grants (1998-2003; 2005-2010). They found that when fathers were the primary contacts and trainees, stress, family dynamics, and child outcomes improved. This led to an invited presentation in at a NIH-sponsored autism conference in New Delhi and meeting with India’s former president. Dr. Elder and team have also taken a bio-behavioral approach and conducted one of the few double blind clinical trials of the gluten-free casein-free diet. Currently funded by a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Tier 2 award, Dr. Elder is collaborating with families of individuals with ASD and other stakeholders who live in rural, underserved areas to develop comparative effectiveness research initiatives. Dr. Elder’s work has been recognized by several honors including a UF Presidential Recognition of Outstanding Achievement and Contribution to the University of Florida, three Research Foundation Professorship awards, a Howard Hughes Institute Mentoring award, three UF Superior Accomplishment awards, and an appointment as a Southeastern Conference Academic Leadership Fellow. She is also a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and received a Phoebe Kandel Rohrer Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award from the Medical College of Georgia. 


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Seville - Spain - 16-18 November 2017

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