ICare4Autism is pleased to highlight another expert speaker for this year’s International Autism Conference in August. At the conference, Robert Didden will discuss the assessment and treatment of individuals with intellectual disabilities. He will focus on low-intensity Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in young children, touching upon subjects including effectiveness and cost benefits of this treatment. In addition, he will discuss sleep problems in children with autism spectrum disorders, with a focus on the use of melatonin in clinical practice.
In Dr. Didden’s presentation titled, “Effectiveness of low intensity behavioral treatment (ABA) in young children with ASD and Intellectual Disability,” he will share research on early intervention in ABA over the course of the last ten years, and analyze its effectiveness. ABA is proven to be effective in improving developmental functioning in children with ASD in crucial ways. He will also highlight a specific study that he has led in the Netherlands, which resulted in children in a low intensity behavioral intervention outperforming a control group of children receiving treatment as usual. His findings have contributed a lot to early intervention research, and imply cost effectiveness in certain treatments that may be beneficial to those with limited funding.
In his second presentation, Dr. Didden will provide a summary of the research on the risk factors of children with ASD developing sleep disorders. Forty-four to eighty-three percent of children with ASD have experienced sleep disorders. In a study conducted by Dr. Preeti Devnani at Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai, India, the research found that the higher the child was on the autism spectrum, the higher the level of sleep disturbances, such as insomnia and bed-wetting. The children had less REM sleep, the sleep that forms memory. But according to another study, a majority of children with ASD that received melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that regulates sleep, experienced an improved sleep after treatment. There also appeared to be no major side-effects for the children. But the process for the study does not rule out other possible factors for the improved sleep for the patients, so additional studies are still required.
Dr. Didden is a professor of intellectual disabilities, learning, and behavior, at the Behavioural Science Institute of Radbout Universiteit Nijmegen in the Netherlands. He works with individuals with mild to severe intellectual disabilities, and focuses on implementing adaptive skills in those with autism. He has written over 15 books, and has published over 200 chapters and articles on intellectual disabilities.