Autism and Related Disorders

Yale University

The Yale Seminar on Autism and Related Disorders is the United States' first undergraduate course of its kind. The class consists of a weekly seminar on diagnosis and assessment, etiology and treatment of children, adolescents and adults with autism and related disorders of socialization.

Course Lectures
  • Prof. Fred Volkmar introduces the Yale College Autism Seminar and provides a general overview of autism and related disorders and what the course will cover.

  • In this class session, Dr. Ami Klin gives the second part of the lecture, Overview of Autism.

  • Prof. Fred Volkmar covers an overview of model programs for the treatment of autism. The Professor reviews the history of intervention programs, possible outcomes that come with intervention, and covers challenges, new issues, strategies and resources that are presented when undertaking an intervention program.

  • The central theme of this presentation is diagnosis and assessment of autism spectrum disorders. Diagnosis is a clinical endeavor, made by experienced clinicians with knowledge of the features of ASDs. The latter are defined in behavioral terms and fall into three major categories: social, communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviors. Whereas diagnosis is a means of classification, and captures a childs presentation in a more global way, an important goal of assessment is to document the childs functioning in a more refined, detailed, and descriptive way for that individual. Assessment is aimed at not only identifying areas of vulnerability but also those areas that are strengths in the childs profile. Both are relevant to treatment planning.

  • In this section, Dr. Kasia Chawarska covers the social disorders in infants and young children. The lecture covers the patterns of onset of autism in young children and the diagnosis, the syndrome expression and atypical face processing in toddlers with ASD.

  • Autism is first and foremost a neurodevelopmental disorder impacting on foundational social adaptive skills. This lecture focuses on the emergence of highly conserved and early emerging mechanisms of socialization and their disruption in infants and toddlers with autism spectrum disorders. The vast genetic and behavioral variability in autism necessitates better quantification of social behavior as a bridge between new genetic findings and the behavioral manifestations of this condition.

  • In this lecture, Dr. James McPartland reviews face perception in social development and its relevance to understanding social perception in autism. Based on research findings from the field of brain electrophysiology, differences in salience and proficiency in processing social versus non-social information are discussed.

  • In this lecture, Dr. Kevin Pelphrey discusses recent research, using functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the brain mechanisms involved in the typical and atypical development of social perception (the ability to understand the intentions and psychological dispositions of other people on the basis of biological motion cues) in typically developing children and children with autism.

  • Individuals with autism spectrum disorders exhibit a range of behavioral excesses and deficits that can interfere significantly with adaptive functioning at home, in the community, and at school. At times these challenging behaviors can cause harm to others or to the person with autism, and often contribute both to isolation and misunderstanding of the needs of the individual. This lecture introduces the foundations of behavioral assessment and treatment of significant challenging behavior in persons with autism.

  • This presentation is from the point of view of the parent of a child with autism. Alison Singer, President of the Autism Science Foundation, starts by reviewing the early warning signs of autism, highlighting the red flags and discussing the importance of early intervention. She looks at the effect of an autism diagnosis on the entire family, focusing on the challenges families face finding and paying for treatments, gaining access to appropriate schools, and worrying about their childs future. The lecture also addresses the importance of focusing on evidence-based treatments for autism. Finally, it explains how and why many families fall victim to charlatans offering the latest cure du jour for autism.

  • Communication is a core deficit in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In this one-hour lecture, terms related to communication are defined and typical communication development is reviewed. At each stage of typical acquisition differences seen in the communication of children with ASD are described and illustrated with video examples. A description of the aspects of communication that are unique to individuals with autism is also presented.

  • Psychotropic medications can be an important part of the treatment of children and adolescents with autism-spectrum disorders. Dr. Andrés Martin reviews target symptoms that can be successfully treated with medications in this final lecture in the Autism Seminar series.

  • How does the law become involved in what happens (or should happen) in school, at home, and eventually in adult life after a child is diagnosed with autism or a related disorder? Are there legal rights to therapy, education, or medical and social services? How can parents, guardians and others look to local, state and federal agencies for assistance and advice? This lecture offers a brief history of the evolution of laws for children with disabilities, with particular emphasis on special education law. Starting with early civil rights cases and moving to most recent legislation, the discussion will more closely examine current disability laws, particularly as they affect children on the autism spectrum.

  • Dr. Fred Volkmar, director of the Yale Child Study Center, discusses what we have learned about autism, and how we are turning our research into practice for adolescents and young adults on the spectrum.