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Research Autism
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Reviewed and updated our website entry on speech and language therapy (speech pathology) and autism

We believe that the evidence base for the different interventions, techniques and tools used by speech and language therapists varies enormously. For example, there is some high quality evidence to suggest that the Picture Exchange Communication System may help some children on the autism spectrum who have limited verbal skills. However there is currently insufficient evidence to determine if sign language helps the same children to communicate more effectively. Because of this, we do not believe it is possible to provide a ranking for speech and language therapy as a whole.

However we believe that speech and language therapy may help some individuals on the autism spectrum, especially when it is provided as one element of a combined, multi-component programme delivered by a multi-disciplinary team, and when that multi-component programme is personalised to the needs of the individual.

Recruiting participants for study into Thinking About Thinking: Investigating How We Understand Our Own and Others' Thoughts and Feelings

This study explores ‘metacognition’ (“thinking about thinking”) in ASD. Metacognition involves knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies during learning, as well as the ability to judge accurately one’s own knowledge. We know that metacognitive ability contributes to learning and that training metacognitive strategies has proven useful in helping people with metacognitive difficulties to learn more efficiently. However, we know almost nothing about metacognition in ASD. Studying this will help us to learn more about this issue, but also inform teaching strategies/intervention efforts for people with ASD.

Research will be carried out at the University of Kent (Canterbury). Participants are paid £7.50 per hour for their time and have opportunity to win extra money in several tasks (up to an extra £40, in total). Travel costs are reimbursed, and refreshments are provided.

For further information please contact Dr Toby Nicholson; 01227 827266/07427 401257 or visit

For more information about other studies seeking participants please visit

Social Stories with the Creative Arts

I am investigating professionals’ perspectives and practices concerning using Social Stories with the creative arts for individuals on the autistic spectrum. I would very much appreciate it if you will take part in a brief online questionnaire. Anyone who is working with individuals on the autistic spectrum can complete the online questionnaire- I am interested in your opinions

You can also agree to take part in any of the following up sessions: focus group and individual interviews, diary and diary-based individual interview. More information about the research is included in an information sheet attached to the online questionnaire. If you have any further questions, you can reach me at:

:If you would like to take part in the study please complete the online questionnaire

Please share the questionnaire if you know anyone who might be interested in taking part

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Reviewed and updated our website entry on chelation and autism at

There is no high quality research evidence to show that heavy metals (such as lead or mercury) cause autism or any of problems faced by people on the autism spectrum.

There is no high quality research evidence to suggest that chelators (such as DMSA, DMPS or EDTA) prevent or reduce the core features of autism in people on the autism spectrum.

There is no high quality research evidence to suggest that chelators (such as DMSA, DMPS or EDTA) prevent or reduce any of the problems faced by people on the autism spectrum.

There is mixed research evidence on the benefits of N-Acetyl-L-cysteine which is sometimes used as a chelator. However there is no evidence to suggest that any benefits which may or may not have arisen from the use of N-Acetyl-L-cysteine were due to the effects of removing heavy metals.

There is some high quality research evidence which suggests that some chelators are potentially extremely hazardous.

For these reasons, we strongly recommend that chelation is not used as an intervention for people on the autism spectrum.

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Reviewed and updated our evaluation of pivotal response treatment (formerly training) at

We believe that there is strong research evidence to suggest that pivotal response treatment provides a positive approach to targeting key developmental skills, such as language in some children on the autism spectrum.

Reports have suggested that parents and non-autistic peers can be trained to implement this approach, and that the focus on naturalistic reinforcement may make it more accessible than more traditionally structured behavioural interventions such as discrete trial training.

However, there is a need for more large-scale randomised control trials of pivotal response treatment in real world settings and which compare pivotal response training to other, similar interventions.

There is a need for studies which examine whether pivotal response treatment is being implemented correctly and which look at effectiveness at least one year after the intervention.

There is also a need for research which involves people on the autism spectrum to review the efficacy and ethical basis of pivotal response treatment including individuals who may be non-verbal.

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Reviewed and updated our evaluation of the Son-Rise program at

Our view is that there is almost no research (two very poor quality studies) to suggest that the Son-Rise Program is an effective intervention for children and young people on the autism spectrum. However, we believe that some elements of the approach (such as the emphasis on following the child’s own interests and reciprocal interaction with the parents) may be beneficial to some children and young people on the autism spectrum. Because of this, we feel that further research into the programme is justified.

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The role of augmentative and alternative communication for children with autism: current status and future trends

A new review on AAC for children on the autism spectrum concludes

There is growing evidence for the potential benefits of AAC for children with autism, but there is a need for more well-designed studies and broader, targeted outcomes. Furthermore, a lack of evidence for the role of AAC within comprehensive intervention programs may account for a tendency by autism researchers and practitioners to neglect this intervention. Attempts to compare evidence for AAC with other interventions for children with autism, including those in which the use of AAC is delayed or excluded in pursuit of speech-only communication, must take into account the needs of children with the most significant learning needs. These children pose the greatest challenges to achieving large and consistent intervention effects, yet stand to gain the most from AAC interventions.

More information at or

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Reviewed and updated our evaluation of holding therapy and autism.

We believe that the theory behind holding therapy is weak and unproven.

There is no high quality research evidence to suggest that holding therapy is effective as a treatment for people on the autism spectrum.

There have been numerous accounts of the damage caused by holding therapy to people on the autism spectrum or with other conditions.

We cannot recommend holding therapy as an intervention for people on the autism spectrum.

More information at 

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An Online Study on Cue Use in a Judgement Task.

You are invited to take part in an online study investigating how adults with autism (18+) use information from a cue to help them complete a task. This study is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield and the University of Essex.

During the study you will be asked to watch a number of short animations of a small red dot moving around four patterns, after which you will be asked to make a judgement about which pattern was selected. In the next part of the study you will then be asked to complete a questionnaire about personality traits and preferences. The study will take no longer than 30 minutes and as a ‘thank you’ for taking part we would like to send you a £5 Amazon gift voucher.

If you would be interested to take part please complete the online study at

If you have any questions please contact Dr Megan Freeth at

More information on becoming a participant in other research studies at

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London man 'training to cure autism' filmed abusing client

"Horrifying" practices have been exposed that purport to cure people with autism, during which clients are subjected to shouting and intimidation.

An undercover researcher posing as a man with autism was verbally abused and mimicked by a trainer for hours.

The BBC investigated after hearing of a Hungarian firm selling training to "cure" and treat autism in London.

Richard Mills, research director at the Research Autism charity, analysed the BBC's footage.

He said: "It has no place under the heading of therapy of any kind."

Mr Mills said people with autism were likely to find such interaction extremely stressful.

"To be confronted by someone who is so threatening is horrifying, it's terrifying.

"And to someone prone to stress and anxiety, the effects are likely to be catastrophic," he said.

The danger of unregulated treatment was the lack of safeguards, Mr Mills added.

More information at
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