NESCA Clinical Staff Will Receive ADOS Training -- The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule

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Dr. Ann Helmus today announced that in mid-May, the entire clinical staff of NESCA, her pediatric neuropsychology practice in Newton, MA, will undergo two full days of professional training in the administration of the ADOS, or Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. The ADOS, widely used in research, academic and clinical settings, is the "gold standard" of tools for assessing autism and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), across all age, developmental and linguistic levels. NESCA is committed to expanding its role as a significant resource for the autism community.

Dr. Ann Helmus said today that NESCA (Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents) would invest in the training of its clinical staff to administer the ADOS, or Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, a widely-used instrument generally considered the leading tool for the assessment of autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger's Syndrome.

"This initiative is part of our ongoing effort to embrace best practices in all of the programs we offer, and specifically, to expand the range and accessibility of the services we provide to the increasing number of children referred to NESCA suspected of having autism spectrum disorders, or who have already been diagnosed with them," Dr. Helmus said. "We have long been concerned about the scope of this problem, its growth, and the difficulty families struggling with these challenges face in obtaining the high-quality care they need."

She added, "Through the use of the ADOS and other instruments, and the development of innovative social skills programs like 'Social Thinking from the Inside Out' (http://www.nesca-newton.com/20090321Social_thinking.php), we hope to become a much more significant resource for the autism community."

Two full days of training, on May 14-15, will be provided by Clinical Psychologist Rachel Hundley, Ph.D. of Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, where she is co-director of the Autism Care Program within the Division of Developmental Medicine. Specialized in the assessment of children with developmental difficulties as well as ongoing care for children with autism spectrum disorders, Dr. Hundley is a certified trainer for the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and has taught this measure nationally and internationally.

NESCA considers staff training and continuing education to be essential elements of its mission to establish new, higher standards of care for children and their families coping with learning disabilities or other academic challenges, or developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorders. The practice sponsors a series of weekly staff seminars (http://nesca-newton.com/staff.php) and had previously arranged for its clinicians to be trained in Collaborative Problem Solving (http://nesca-newton.com/collaborative_problem_solving.php), a powerful technique for realizing durable solutions to recurring behavioral problems.

In June, NESCA will sponsor a day-long workshop on strategies for helping students with executive function (EF) issues by Trish Newhall, M.A., M.S., associate outreach director at Landmark School, author and authority on the subject. Landmark School is an internationally-recognized leader in the education of students with language-based learning disabilities.

Clinicians participating in NESCA's ADOS training program will include doctors Ann Helmus, Ph.D., Jason McCormick, Psy.D., Stephanie Monaghan-Blout, Psy.D., Nancy Roosa, Psy.D., Elizabeth Gatti, Psy.D., Alissa Talamo, Ph.D. and Nina Olsen, Ph.D., post-doctoral fellows Molly Plummer, Psy.D. and Jennifer Greif Green, Ph.D., and pre-doctoral interns Lauren Ziady, M.A., Kelly Lowery, M.A., Surina Basho, M.A., John Goodson, M.A. and Aparna Rao, M.A.        

About the ADOS:
The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) is the "gold standard" for assessing and diagnosing autism and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) across ages and developmental levels, irrespective of language skills.

The ADOS is a semi-structured assessment of communication, social interaction and play with, or imaginative use of materials for individuals suspected of having autism or other pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). It consists of four modules, each of which is appropriate for children and adults of differing developmental and language levels, ranging from no expressive or receptive language to verbally fluent adults. Each takes 30-45 minutes to administer.

The ADOS consists of standard activities that allow the examiner to observe the occurrence or non-occurrence of behaviors that have been identified as important to the diagnosis of autism and other pervasive developmental disorders across developmental levels and chronological ages. The examiner selects the module that is most appropriate for a particular child or adult on the basis of his/her expressive language level and chronological age. Structured activities and materials, and less structured interactions, provide standard contexts in which social, communicative and other behaviors relevant to pervasive developmental disorders are observed.

Within each module, the participant's response to each activity is recorded. Overall ratings are made at the end of the schedule. These ratings can then be used to formulate a diagnosis through the use of a diagnostic algorithm for each module. In effect, the ADOS provides a 30- to 45-minute observation period during which the examiner presents the individual being assessed with numerous opportunities to exhibit behaviors of interest in the diagnosis of autism/PDD.

Inter-rater and test-retest reliability, as well as internal validity, have been demonstrated for the ADOS. It is in widespread use in research and in academic centers, and has quickly become the leading assessment tool used by clinicians when an autism spectrum disorder is suspected.

About Dr. Rachel Hundley:
Rachel Hundley, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the assessment of children with developmental difficulties as well as ongoing care for children with autism spectrum disorders. She is a trainer for the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and has taught this measure nationally and internationally. Her research has focused on social development, children's friendships and autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Hundley is a co-investigator on a study of Phenotypic and Genotypic Factors in Autism Spectrum Disorders and co-director of the Autism Care Program within the Division of Developmental Medicine, with joint appointments at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School.

About NESCA:
NESCA evaluates and treats children -- pre-school through adolescence -- who are confronted by developmental, learning or emotional challenges. NESCA offers a full range of neuropsychological testing, diagnostic and treatment services, specializing in the evaluation and remediation of nonverbal and other learning disabilities, assessment of executive functioning and ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, special education issues, school placements and tutoring, as well as projective testing, counseling, social skills development and yoga-based, mind-body integration therapy.

For additional information, visit NESCA's website, http://www.nesca-newton.com, or email Administrative Manager Sandra Oliveira at soliveira (at) nesca-newton.com.

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