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While the overall prevalence of autism is 1.7% in the United States of America, research has demonstrated a two- to five-fold increase in CHD. The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative recommends screening for autism from infancy through adolescence. This study investigated the frequency of autism concerns at a single Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program and examined current clinical practice as a way to improve quality of care.
Materials and methods:
Patients (n = 134; mean age = 9.0 years) included children with high-risk CHD who completed a neurodevelopmental evaluation following a formalised referral to the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program between 2018 and 2019. Retrospective chart review included parent report on the Behaviour Assessment System for Children-3 and Adaptive Behaviour Assessment System-3. Descriptive and correlation analyses were completed.
In this sample, 11.2% presented with autism-related concerns at referral, 2 were diagnosed with autism, 9 were referred to an autism specialist (6 confirmed diagnosis; 3 not completed). Thus, at least 5.9% of the sample were diagnosed with autism following thorough clinical evaluation. Analyses showed atypicality, along with deficient adaptability, leisure, social, and communication skills. Frequency of early intervention, school supports, and relation with comorbidities are reported.
Prior to assessment recommendations by the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative, autism screening may not be completed systematically in clinical care for CHD. The current sample demonstrates a high frequency of autism in the typically referred clinical sample. Commonly used parent-report measures may reveal concerns but will not help diagnosis. Systematic use of an autism screener is essential.
Objectives: As the number of adolescents and young adults (AYAs) surviving congenital heart disease (CHD) grows, studies of long-term outcomes are needed. CHD research documents poor executive function (EF) and cerebellum (CB) abnormalities in children. We examined whether AYAs with CHD exhibit reduced EF and CB volumes. We hypothesized a double dissociation such that the posterior CB is related to EF while the anterior CB is related to motor function. We also investigated whether the CB contributes to EF above and beyond processing speed. Methods: Twenty-two AYAs with CHD and 22 matched healthy controls underwent magnetic resonance imaging and assessment of EF, processing speed, and motor function. Volumetric data were calculated using a cerebellar atlas (SUIT) developed for SPM. Group differences were compared with t tests, relationships were tested with Pearson’s correlations and Fisher’s r to z transformation, and hierarchical regression was used to test the CB’s unique contributions to EF. Results: CHD patients had reduced CB total, lobular, and white matter volume (d=.52–.99) and poorer EF (d=.79–1.01) compared to controls. Significant correlations between the posterior CB and EF (r=.29–.48) were identified but there were no relationships between the anterior CB and motor function nor EF. The posterior CB predicted EF above and beyond processing speed (ps<.001). Conclusions: This study identified a relationship between the posterior CB and EF, which appears to be particularly important for inhibitory processes and abstract reasoning. The unique CB contribution to EF above and beyond processing speed alone warrants further study. (JINS, 2018, 24, 939–948)
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