Neighborhood E-newsletter: Transdiagnostic approaches, contemplating antagonistic occasions, webinar with Laurent Mottron | Spectrum

Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Hello and welcome to this week’s community newsletter! I am your host, Chelsey B. Coombs, the engagement editor of Spectrum.

The first paper to grab Twitter’s attention praised a transdiagnostic approach to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Clinicians typically diagnose these disorders using the criteria in 5. But these “arbitrary thresholds” do not explain how different neurodevelopmental traits can be, the authors say, and they also do not capture the needs of people with neurodevelopmental disorders. The current criteria can also lead to missed diagnoses and support opportunities – especially for those who have racial, ethnic and socio-economic bias and who are also often excluded from research.

The transdiagnostic approach “deviates from adherence to the dominant diagnostic nosology or replaces it with a new framework that characterizes disorders in terms of dimensions rather than discrete categories”. The paper offers suggestions for improving study design and recruitment through a transdiagnostic approach.

Tony Charman, professor of clinical child psychology at King’s College London in the UK, wrote that the paper was a “nice overview” of a problem that many researchers encounter.

Nice overview from @DuncanAstle and CBU colleagues on #Autism and research on neurodevelopmental disorders that we all encounter (wanted to say: “Fight with … ????”) Annual Research Report: The Transdiagnostic Revolution in Neurodevelopmental Disorders https: / / t .co / inlB0sHGf7

– Tony Charman (@TonyASDorAFC) July 25, 2021

Naomi Fisher, a clinical psychologist in Paris, France, tweeted, “This certainly reflects my experience at an ND clinic.”

“Excessive reliance on ill-fitting diagnostic criteria hinders progress in identifying the barriers children encounter, understanding the underlying mechanisms, and finding the best way to support them.” This certainly reflects my experience in an ND clinic.

– Naomi Fisher (@naomicfisher) July 28, 2021

Next, a comment on autism sparked a lot of conversation on social media this week. It took on the harm that autistic people suffer when researchers studying non-drug interventions such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) fail to monitor or consider the possibility of adverse outcomes.

Michelle Dawson, Autism Researcher at the Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies in Montreal, Canada, and Sue Fletcher-Watson, Professor of Developmental Psychology and Director of the Salvesen Mindroom Research Center at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, wrote the comment in response to a study by Kristen Bottema-Beutel, associate professor at Boston College, Massachusetts, and colleagues.

Of 150 early intervention study designs that Bottema-Beutel and her colleagues reviewed, 93 percent did not mention or allude to the possibility of adverse events; the remaining 7 percent mentioned potential harm but didn’t say whether the researchers were monitoring it.

“Unacceptable prejudices … have led to autistic people being viewed as harmless so that anything can be done to them”

Once again an honor to @autismcrisis in this comment on excellent work by @KristenBott @MichealSandbank @ShanCLaPoint & Woynaroskihttps: //

– Sue Fletcher-Watson (@SueReviews) July 22, 2021

Although ABA is one of the most widely used therapies for autistic people, many autistic adults who had ABA as children have criticized it, saying that it harms them by forcing them to suppress traits like “voices” to make them more neurotypical to appear.

Dawson and Fletcher-Watson echo this sentiment, arguing in their comment that the resulting loss of autistic traits is viewed by many researchers as beneficial rather than harmful, as ABA-based interventions are often aimed at reducing or reducing any signs of autism to eliminate.

“We need to recognize, understand, take responsibility for and reduce the unacceptable prejudices that have led to autistic people being considered harmless, so that anything can be done to them,” they write.

Bottema-Beutel praised the comment as “concise” and “sharp”.

Succinct, astute comment on reporting lack of harm in autism research by @autismcrisis and @SueReviews “We remain influential literature that lacks fair tests of harm-benefit-benefit from autism interventions that have been prevalent for decades.”

– DR. Kristen Bottema-Beutel (@KristenBott) July 22, 2021

Noah Sasson, Associate Professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas, tweeted that it was a “must read.”

“Autism Researchers Should Be Deeply Concerned About This Widespread Failure to Apply Basic Standards” Must be read by @autismcrisis and @SueReviews

– Noah Sasson (@Noahsasson) July 22, 2021

Rua M. Williams, an assistant professor of computer graphics and technology at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana who studies the interactions between technology design, computer research practices, and disabled accessibility, wrote, “Clinical behavioral studies should be required to provide data and analysis of participants’ Attrition.”

Clinical behavioral studies should be required to provide data and analysis of participant churn. Many families withdraw their children from clinics, and the researchers who conduct studies there are not investigating why.https: //

– Rua M. Williams (@StarFeuri) July 22, 2021

Don’t forget to sign up for our August 31 webinar with Laurent Mottron, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Montreal, Canada, who wants to discuss “a radical change in our autism research strategy.”

That’s it for this week’s community newsletter from Spectrum! If you have any suggestions for interesting social contributions in the field of autism research, feel free to email me at We meet next week!


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