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Mental Health Problems in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Current Projects

In this page you can find information on the projects we are currently working on. Click on each project title to expand. 

 

IAMHealth - Funded by NIHR 

 

IAMHealth - Improving outcomes for people with autism spectrum disorders by reducing mental health problems

IAMHealthLogo NIHR-logo

The IAMHealth study is a programme grant funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), entitled “Improving outcomes for people with autism spectrum disorders by reducing mental health problems”. The programme started in May 2014 and will run for 5 years. The principal investigator on this project is Professor Emily Simonoff. The grant co-applicants are Professors Tony Charman, Declan Murphy, Stephen Scott, Gillian Baird, Bryony Beresford, Martin Knapp, Andrew Pickles, Dr Paramala Santosh, Dr Vicky Slonims and Ms Carol Povey.  The research administrator is Monika Kovacs.

This programme focuses on decreasing mental health problems as a strategy for improving outcomes for people with ASD and their families. These outcomes include: improved mental health, quality of lifeand community participation for people with ASD; reduced family stress;and decreased economic costs by ultimately lowering the need for high-cost(often residential) care and integration into the community.

We aim to improve identification of mental health problems by developing a tool for clinical use, which can also be used to monitor treatment response. We are undertaking qualitative work with parents, young people and adults with ASD to better understand which problems are most impairing, how families interpret maladaptive behaviours and their experiences of help-seeking. We are studying the early childhood risk/protective factors that differentiate the 20% of young people with ASD who develop SMB in adolescence, so that resources can be better focused to those at highest risk. Finally, we will develop and pilot an early intervention for parents aimed at reducing the risk behaviours, increasing parental understanding of mental health and ASD, and promoting resilience as a strategy to prevent the development of the most severe maladaptive behaviour.

This programme involves a partnership with people with ASD, their families and the National Autistic Society (NAS). Dissemination of our findings will be led by the NAS.

The programme is comprised of four work packages:

SMART DEVELOPMENT 

Develop and standardize an instrument to identify and assess causes of severe maladaptive behaviour  – the Severe Maladaptive Rating Tool (SMART)

Lead Investigator: Dr Paramala Santosh & Professor Emily Simonoff

Research Team: Joanne Tarver, Eleanor Bennett

BIOGRAPHIES

Understand and describe the emergence of mental health problems from the perspectives of adolescents, young adults and parents/carers; their experiences of seeking help; and the impact of these problems on their lives.

Lead Investigator: Professor Gillian Baird

PREDICTORS

Identify the personal, family and wider environmental risk/resilience factors for persistent/escalating SMB in adolescence so that future interventions can be personalised to target those at greatest risk.

Lead Investigators: Professor Emily Simonoff, Professor Tony Charman

Research Team: Erica Salomone, Pippa White, Vinny Carter Leno

TREATMENT

Develop and test a universal intervention focussed on parents of young children who have recently received a diagnosis of ASD. The treatment will aim to help parents identify emerging mental health problems and develop their skills in managing/reducing these problems

Lead Investigators: Professor Stephen Scott, Professor Tony Charman

SNAP – Funded by Autism Speaks

 

SNAP (Special Needs in Autism) - Why do People with Autism Spectrum Disorders Fare so Differently in Adult Life? 

 

SNAP-logo   AS-logo

There is widespread concern about the adult development and outcomes for people with ASD. We are studying the Special Needs and Autism Project (SNAP) cohort, a well-characterized, longitudinal and population-representative sample of young adults with ASD to answer the following questions: (1) What is the range of outcomes for young adults? (2) What are the factors, especially from childhood and adolescence, that predict good vs. poor outcome? (3) What are the drivers of the high economic costs of ASD in adulthood, and how far can they be predicted from childhood? and (4) Can we reliably use cognitive markers for associated psychiatric problems that may help in earlier diagnosis and treatment of these additional problems? Our ultimate aim is to find novel ways to improve outcome by treating additional impairing problems. SNAP was identified from the general population, rather than from clinics, and represents the entire spectrum with respect to autism severity, IQ and family characteristics. Therefore findings from this study should represent all young adults with ASD, not just those accessing services. The cohort was previously assessed at 11/12 and 15/16 years. We are now re-assessing them at age 22/23 years because this is at the end of educational provision and a crucial time to enter employment and develop increasing independence.

 

Lead Investigators: Professor Emily Simonoff, Professor Tony Charman

Research Team: Jackie Briskman, Dr Rachel Kent

 

Findings from the SNAP cohort have been influential in the field of autism internationally, including in the estimation of prevalence, the importance of co-occurring psychiatric problems, and the nature of the cognitive phenotype. To date, there are over 30 peer-reviewed publications from SNAP published/in press/in submission.

In Press

Loucas, T., Baird, G., Pickles, A., Simonoff, E., Chandler, S., Charman, T. Language abilities in children with autism spectrum disorders: evidence from SNAP, an epidemiological sample. Autism Research.

Published
Baird, G., Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., Meldrum, D., Charman, T. (2006) Prevalence of disorders of the autism spectrum in a population cohort of children in South East Thames: the Special Needs and Autism Project (SNAP) The Lancet 368 (9531): 210-215.

Baird, G., Charman, T., Pickles, A., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., Meldrum, D., Carcani-Rathwell, I., Serkana, D., Simonoff, E.(2008) Regression, developmental trajectory and associated problems in disorders in the autism spectrum: the SNAP study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 38 (10): 1827-1836.

Charman, T., Pickles, A., Simonoff, E., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., Baird, G. (2011) IQ in children with autism spectrum disorders: Data from the SNAP project. Psychological Medicine 41 (3): 619-627.

Simonoff, E. et al. Psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: prevalence, comorbidity and associated factors. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 47, 921-929 (2008).

Simonoff, E. et al. The persistence and stability of psychiatric problems in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (On line).

Simonoff, E. et al. Severe mood problems in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 53, 1157-1166 (2012).

Baird, G. et al. Measles vaccination and antibody response in autism spectrum disorder. Archives of Disease in Childhood 93, 832-837 (2008).

Baird, G., Brown, D., Simonoff, E., Pickles, A. & Charman, T. No evidence for MMRASD link. The Practitioner 252, 6 (2008).

Baird, G. et al. Regression, developmental trajectory and associated problems in
disorders in the autism spectrum: the SNAP study. . Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 38, 1827-1836 (2008).

Chandler, S. et al. Validation of the Social Communication Questionnaire in a population
cohort of children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 46, 1324-1332 (2007).

Chandler, S. et al. Gastro-intestinal symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorders.

Charman, T. et al. Efficacy of three screening instruments in the identification of autism spectrum disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry 191, 554-559 (2007).

Charman, T. et al. Letter: cross-cultural validation of the Social Communication
Questionnaire (SCQ) as a screener for autism spectrum disorders: Practical considerations. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 47, 720-721 (2008).

Charman, T. et al. Commentary: Effects of diagnostic thresholds and research vs service and administrative diagnosis on autism prevalence. International Journal of Epidemiology 38, 1234-1238 (2009).

Charman, T. et al. Defining the cognitive phenotype of autism. Brain Research 1380, 10-21 (2011).

Green, D. et al. Impairment in movement skills of children with autistic spectrum disorders. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 51, 311-316 (2009).

Jones, C. et al. Auditory discrimination and auditory sensory behaviours in autism spectrum disorders. Neuropsychologia 47, 2850-2858 (2009).

Jones, C. R. G. et al. Reading and arithmetic in adolescents with autism spectrum
disorders: Peaks and dips in attainment. Neuropsychology 23, 718-728 (2009).

Jones, C. R. G. et al. 'Everyday memory' impairments in autistic spectrum disorders.
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 41, 455-464 (2011).

Jones, C. R. et al. A multimodal approach to emotion recognition ability in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry & Allied Disciplines 52, 275-285 (2011).

Jones, C. R. g. et al. No evidence for a fundamental visual motion processing deficit in autism spectrum disorders. Autism Research 4, 347-357 (2011).

Loucas, T. et al. Autistic symptomatology and language ability in autism spectrum disorder and specific language impairment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 49, 1184-1192 (2008).

Loucas, T. et al. Speech perception and phonological short-term memory capacity in language impairment: preliminary evidence from adolescents with specific language impairment (SLI) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders 45, 275-286 (2010).

Loucas, T. et al. Language abilities in children with autism spectrum disorders: evidence from SNAP, an epidemiological sample. Psychological Medicine (in press).

Loucas, T. et al. Spoken word recognition in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics (in press).

Pickles, A. et al. Loss of language in early development of autism and specific language impairment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 50, 843-852 (2009).

Riches, N., Loucas, T., Charman, T., Simonoff, E. & Baird, G. Sentence repetition in adolescents with specific language impairment and autism: an investigation of complex syntax. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders 45, 47-60 (2010).

Riches, N. G., Loucas, T., Charman, T., Simonoff, E. & Baird, G. Non-word repetition in adolescents with specific language impairment and autism plus language impairment: a qualitative analysis. Journal of Communication Disorders 44, 23-36 (2011).

Riches, N. G., Loucas, T., Charman, T., Simonoff, E. & Baird, G. Interpretation of compound nouns by adolescents with specific language impairment and autism spectrum disorders: an investigation of phenotypic overlap. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 14, 307-317 (2012).

Rowley, E. et al. The experience of friendship, victimisation and bullying in children with an autism spectrum disorder: Associations with child characteristics and school placement. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 6, 1126-1134 (2012).
Validation of cognitive and physiological biomarkers of childhood anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders - Partly funded by South London and Maudsley Charitable Foundation

This research studies the cognitive, physiological and neuroendocrine correlates of anxiety in adolescents with autism, compared to healthy controls. Anxiety disorders are difficult to recognize in people with autism because of their communication problems. The aim of this research is to determine whether reported anxiety symptoms in young people with autism show similar cognitive and biological correlates as reported in typically developing children.

Correlates and consequences of specific language impairment: development during the first 3 years of schooling - Funded by WellcomeTrust

This study determines the prevalence of specific speech and language impairments in children during their first year at school and identifies the associated neurodevelopmental and mental health problems that co-occur and develop over the early years of schooling. The study will provide a better understanding of the relation between specific impairments associated with speech and language disorders and their links to neurodevelopmental disorders

(PI Prof Courtenay Norbury, Royal Holloway)

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