Earlier Autism Identification, New Approaches to Concussion Care, and Voice Modification Services for Transgender Individuals Among Presentations at ASHA Convention

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Annie Glenn To Be Honored, Spouse of Legendary Astronaut an Inspiration to Millions With Communication Disorders

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“Changing Minds, Changing Lives. Leading the Way,” the 2015 Convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, will be held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, November 12–14, 2015.

The event will feature thousands of sessions on topics related to communication disorders, which are affecting an increasing number of Americans.

Against a backdrop of rising incidence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attendees will have the opportunity to hear from experts whose research into early risk markers in infants as young as 6 months may lead to speedier diagnoses in the future—an important focus, given the proven impact of early intervention on developmental outcomes. Another presenter will contend that concussion care is riddled with myths and needs to change—a serious assertion, considering half a million children are being treated in the emergency room for traumatic brain injury (TBI), including concussion, every year. Meanwhile, leading experts will present new guidelines for an emerging practice area—voice modification services for transgender individuals.

Also, Annie Glenn, wife of astronaut and former Sen. John Glenn, will be honored. She has spent much of her life overcoming a stutter and advocating tirelessly on behalf of millions of Americans with various types of communication disorders who face some of the same challenges that she did.

Session highlights for the ASHA 2015 Convention include the following:

At-Risk ASD Infants: How Early Can We Identify Them & How May Caregivers React? Early intervention services for young children with ASD can significantly improve developmental outcomes. One study showed that more than 50% of caregivers of children with ASD reported having concerns by 18 months, and recent research documented that some symptoms are present at 12 months in at least a substantial proportion of infants. However, many professionals do not feel comfortable making diagnoses this early—potentially impeding optimal outcomes. In this session, three leading experts who are active in early intervention will discuss early risk markers as well as caregiver reactions to professionals’ early concerns. Panel members will present their research on early risk markers via sibling studies, a screening measure developed for one-year old children from the broader population, and a screening measure developed for 6- to 24-month-olds in the general population.

Predictors of Parent Responsiveness to One-Year Olds at Risk for Autism—Past research has shown that so-called parent responsiveness—a quick and meaningful response to a child, based on the child’s focus of attention—is critical to a child’s development in areas including cognition, communication, and social skills. Based on its importance, many early autism interventions teach parents to be highly responsive. This study, which looked at 97 parent–infant pairs, is the first to examine how the sensory characteristics of infants at-risk for autism could influence parent responsiveness. Children were flagged as being at risk at 12 months, and were assessed at 13½ months of age. The researchers found that when infants had poor communication and under-reactivity to sensory stimuli, parents talked less (e.g., fewer comments about play) and used more play actions (e.g., helping the child with a toy). The findings could influence future strategies used in early autism intervention.

Concussion Reconsidered in Children, Adolescents & Young Adults: New Science, New Roles for SLPs—Have health care providers been treating concussion in children all wrong? With almost half a million children being treated in the emergency room for TBI, including concussion, each year, this is a serious public health issue. Many of the key “truths” that have guided concussion treatment for years—including the ideas of brain rest and secondary impact syndrome—are now considered myths. But many providers, parents, and the public at large aren’t aware of this new thinking. The speakers in this session will explore how treatment is changing; why prolonged rest and other treatment approaches were actually making individuals worse; why certain populations, including girls and individuals with histories of previous TBI, learning disabilities, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are at greater risk for concussion; and more.

Supporting the Modification of Voice & Resonance With Speakers Who Are Transgender—With voice a key part of an individual’s gender identity, voice modification services for transgender individuals are gaining increased recognition. Although it has been around for more than 35 years, the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) first provided standards on voice and communication in 2011. This month, it will publish updated and more far-reaching guidelines in the International Journal of Transgenderism. Two leading experts in the field will present the new guidelines and provide details on evidence-based practice in voice modification for people in the transgender community. Their session will focus specifically on voice and resonance—two aspects of this treatment that require complex understanding of human physiology.

Hearing Loss & Healthy Aging – A Public Health Perspective—Increasingly, research is demonstrating the impact of hearing loss on overall physical and mental health. Recent epidemiologic research by Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University has shown that hearing loss is independently associated with accelerated cognitive decline and incident dementia. In this session, Lin will present his research and will discuss planned studies to investigate the impact of hearing rehabilitative interventions on reducing cognitive decline and future trends in addressing hearing loss as a public health problem.

The Secret Language of Twins: Implications for Language Development—The idea that twins engage in their own special form of communication is backed by anecdotal and scientific evidence. Previous studies have looked at a potential relationship between this “twin talk” and delayed language development. However, no study has compared language development of fraternal and identical twins. This study advances knowledge in this area in numerous ways, finding that more twins engage in twin talk than previously reported, that same-gender twins use twin talk more frequently, and that identical twins use twin talk for a longer period than fraternal twins. It also points to a particular vulnerability in the area of speech sound development. The findings identify the need for parents of twins to be especially attentive to communication milestones and early identification opportunities, especially as multiple births are increasingly common.

Note to media: If you are interested in attending the ASHA Convention or arranging an interview, please contact Francine Pierson at fpierson(at)asha(dot)org.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 182,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders. http://www.asha.org/.

View all ASHA press releases at http://www.asha.org/about/news.

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