Dr. Catherine Lord, UCLA

Dr. Catherine Lord is the George Tarjan Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She is a practicing clinical psychologist whose primary focus is autism and related disorders. Dr. Lord developed several evidence-based autism diagnostic instruments including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – ADOS, the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised – ADI-R, and the Social Communication Questionnaire-SCQ. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Autism Research. She has over 300 referred journal publications and has been funded by NIH, Autism Speaks, and the Simons Foundation for numerous research grants

PRESENTATION: Autism from 2 to 26

Our research group has been privileged to follow a sample that began with 192 children referred for possible autism under age 3 and another 21 children with developmental disorders, not suspected of autism, for the last 26 years.  We are currently in touch with 143 families and adults who are still active participating.  This is a purely observational study in which children and adults with autism and their families report to us in person or through paper and online questionnaires how they are doing and about the factors that may have affected their life trajectories.  Findings have included the validity of diagnoses of autism made at age 2 and the relative stability of severity of autism symptoms from early childhood through adolescence, a strong effect of parent participation in early intervention (between ages 2 and 3) even at minimal levels (20 hours over 12 months), the importance of early changes in language trajectories, particularly between age 2 and 4, with much more linear progress following early gains; the existence of a significant minority of adults who seem to no longer have any observable symptoms of autism and are doing well in work and relationships, as well as a smaller group of adults with clear autism who also show good outcomes and a greater proportion of adults, even those with IQs in the average range, who continue to face significant challenges. The goal of the talk will be to present these and other findings in a way that we can use them to predict changes when we need to anticipate changes, better select treatment goals, and recognize the heterogeneous and diverse pathways that the lives of people follow across different areas of skill and achievement.

Three learning objectives:

  • The participant will recognize different trajectories in language development, social skills and adaptive skills in autism.
  • The participant will be able to name environmental factors associated with better outcomes.
  • The participant will be able to describe milestones associated with progress in various areas that can be used as markers and goals for children with autism.