University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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News and Events

Latest News

Food Selectivity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

, in General News

Dr. Sharon Cermak and a team of experts explore food selectivity in children with autism spectrum disorders in recently published articles from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and The Journal of Pediatrics.

“Food Selectivity and Sensory Sensitivity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders”
Sharon A. Cermak, EdD; Carol Curtin, MSW; Linda G. Bandini, PhD, RD
Journal of the American Dietetic Association (2010),110, pp.238-246

Abstract: Autism spectrum disorders comprise a complex set of related developmental disorders that are characterized by impairments in communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors. Impairments in sensory processing are also extremely common. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders is increasing and is currently estimated to affect 1 in 150 children. Autism spectrum disorders are considered to be a major health and educational problem, affecting many areas of daily living, including eating. Children with autism spectrum disorders are often described as picky or selective eaters. This article provides a comprehensive narrative review of the empirical literature over the last 25 years on food selectivity and nutritional adequacy in children with autism spectrum disorders. The possible contributions of sensory factors, such as sensory sensitivity, to food selectivity are discussed. The need for an interdisciplinary approach to managing atypical eating patterns in children with autism spectrum disorders is highlighted.

“Food Selectivity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Typically Developing Children”
Linda G. Bandini, PhD, RD; Sarah E. Anderson, PhD; Carol Curtin, MSW; Sharon Cermak, EdD, OTR/L; E. Whitney Evans, MS, RD; Renee Scampini, MS, RD; Melissa Maslin, MEd; Aviva Must, PhD
The Journal of Pediatrics (2010), In Press.

Objectives: To define food selectivity and compare indices of food selectivity among children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and typically developing children, and to assess the impact of food selectivity on nutrient adequacy.

Study design: Food selectivity was operationalized to include food refusal, limited food repertoire, and high-frequency single food intake using a modified food frequency questionnaire and a 3-day food record. Food selectivity was compared between 53 children with ASDs and 58 typically developing children age 3-11 years. Nutrient adequacy was assessed relative to the dietary reference intakes.

Results: The children with ASDs exhibited more food refusal than typically developing children (41.7% of foods offered vs. 18.9% of foods offered; P <.0001). They also had a more limited food repertoire (19.0 foods vs. 22.5 foods; P <.001). Only 4 children with ASDs and 1 typically developing child demonstrated high-frequency single food intake. Children with a more limited food repertoire had inadequate intake of a greater number of nutrients.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that food selectivity is more common in children with ASDs than in typically developing children, and that a limited food repertoire may be associated with nutrient inadequacies.

Does Music in Speech Equal Empathy in Heart?

, in General News

Professor Lisa Aziz-Zadeh is interviewed by USC News about her study on prosody and empathy.

“A new study in the journal Public Library of Science ONE finds that people use the same brain regions to produce and understand intonation in speech. Many studies suggest that people learn by imitating through so-called mirror neurons. This study shows for the first time that prosody - the music of speech - also works on a mirror-like system.”

The full article is found on the USC News Website.

Dr. Gelya Frank’s newly published book

, in General News

Defying the Odds: The Tule River Tribe’s Struggle for Sovereignty in Three Centuries.  “An anthropologist and a legal scholar combine expertise in this innovative book, deploying the history of one California tribe—the Tule River Tribe—in a definitive study of indigenous sovereignty from earliest contact through the current Indian gaming era.”

More information on the Yale University Press Website

Occupational Therapy featured on NPR

, in General News

“Wanted: Men for Occupational Therapy Jobs”

Unemployed males looking for a new career path could turn to occupational therapy. It’s one of the many health-related jobs growing during the economic down turn. It’s also a field traditionally dominated by women. Females make up 90 percent of workers and men 10 percent, and recruiting males into the field has been a challenge.

Link to NPR story

Congratulations to our fellow division:  PT gets first endowed chair!

, in General News

Dr. Jim Gordon, Associate Dean and Chair, announced that a $1 million gift from Tracy Sykes (DPT class of 1998) and her husband Gene Sykes has established the first endowed faculty chair for the Division of Biokinesiology & Physical Therapy. Dr. Linda Fetters has been named the inaugural holder of the Sykes Family Chair in Pediatric Physical Therapy, Health, and Development.

An endowed chair at USC establishes a permanently funded faculty position that will be held by a senior professor who has achieved distinction in the field. The establishment of the Sykes Family Chair ensures that pediatric physical therapy and child health and development will be a focal point for the achievement of excellence within Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy at USC for many years to come.

The Division will seek additional funding sources for a $1.5 million total endowment. Tracy and Gene Sykes have generously pledged an additional $250,000 in matching funds to help us achieve that goal.

Tracy and Gene Sykes have been quietly supporting programs within the Division for years, and Tracy is a long-standing member of the Division’s Board of Councilors. Although Tracy almost always wishes to avoid being put in the spotlight, we are compelled to recognize her extraordinary dedication and commitment to our mission. We are inspired by her generosity and awed by her vision. In particular, this gift challenges us to match her generosity with energy and vision on our side to achieve national and international leadership in teaching, research, and clinical practice in pediatric physical therapy.

The official dedication of this gift, along with the installation of Dr. Fetters as the first holder of the chair will take place in a ceremony at University Park Campus on November 18, 2009.

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