Jim Bodfish, PhD; Professor, Vanderbilt University
Dr. Jim Bodfish is a Professor at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He has devoted his career exclusively to research, teaching, and clinical activities in the field of autism and developmental disabilities. His research has focused on the pathogenesis and treatment of autism and related conditions and has been published in a variety of journals including The New England Journal of Medicine, Science, PLoS One, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Autism Research, the American Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, the Journal of Pediatrics, Brain Behavior Research, and Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience. His research has been continuously funded by NIH since 1992. His service activities have included: standing member of the NIH Childhood Psychopathology and Developmental Disabilities Study Section; Associate Editor of the American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Editor of Autism: The International Journal; of Research and Practice, Co-Chair of the NC Institute of Medicine Developmental Disabilities Task Force, Governor-appointed member of the Council on Developmental Disabilities; Senate Appointee of the Legislative Study Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders; expert consultant for the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and faculty member of the International Congress on Movement Disorders.
Understanding repetitive behaviors and interests in autism.
Repetitive patterns of behavior are a hallmark of autism. However, both the research literature and common practices related to this aspect of autism are mixed on a key issue: Should repetitive behavior be understood as an adaptive response and encouraged, or a challenging behavior to be treated? Many people with autism report that their repetitive behaviors are useful for them and also are an important source of their identity. But, for a minority, more severe forms of repetitive behavior may limit opportunities for development and may cause stress for persons with autism, their families, and their care providers due to the behavior and mood challenges that are associated with inflexibility. How should people with autism, caregivers, and clinicians sort this out? What types of assessments are useful for this aspect of autism? How should we think about supports and interventions for this domain of autism? Can repetitive interests be used to broaden and build other skill areas? What intervention approaches are practical and effective if repetitive interests have become inflexible routines and a source of stress? When a child with autism has difficulty with communication or socialization we intuitively know what to teach to help address this, and a considerable amount of research and practice provide us with guides on how to do this effectively. Unfortunately less is known about repetitive behaviors and as a result practices can vary widely in acceptability, effectiveness, and outcomes. In this talk I’ll review clinical translational research designed to increase our understanding of how repetitive behaviors develop in autism and what functions they seem to serve. I’ll propose a way to help integrate findings from mechanistic research (neuroscience, behavioral science) with valuable information from persons with autism and their families. In addition, I’ll describe how we are beginning to “translate” this research into clinical applications in clinic, home, and school settings.