Watson Psychologists Present Autism Research

At the Watson Institute, staff are encouraged to pursue research projects in their fields of expertise and publish or present those findings with their industry community. Dr. Amy Camodeca and Dr. Jennifer Croyle, two psychologists in the outpatient behavioral and mental health services department at Watson have spent over three years researching instruments that are commonly used to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder in children.

In the behavioral health field, many clinicians do not use gold-standard diagnostic measures to diagnose autism, instead relying on parent report in intake interviews/questionnaires. The objective of their research project was to examine how accurate these questionnaires were in autism diagnosis.

Drs. Camodeca and Croyle have examined data from hundreds of children evaluated for autism at the Watson Institute. Through this data analysis, they discovered that the current questionnaires utilized to diagnose Autism do not demonstrate the desired levels of ability to discriminate between children with/without Autism. Behavioral issues, ADHD, anxiety, and depression seem to increase scores on Autism questionnaires. If the questionnaires were utilized as the deciding factor regarding Autism diagnostic classification, children could be diagnosed with autism when they actually have another disorder that requires/would respond better to different treatment.

While many parents seek evaluation for Autism, few parents know to ask how their child is being evaluated. While parental insight and examples of real-world behavior is important information to obtain, gold-standard measures (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R)) are the most reliable and valid measures in diagnosing Autism in children. The Watson Institute always utilizes gold-standard measures in autism diagnostic assessment.

Over the past year, Dr. Croyle and Dr. Camodeca have presented their research findings at the Annual American Psychological Association Conference, the Virginia Association of School Psychologists, and at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) Conference.

Their findings have also been submitted for publication in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Child Psychiatry and Human Development, both peer-reviewed journals.

The Watson Institute is fortunate to have behavioral health experts such as Dr. Camodeca and Dr. Croyle serving children with special needs through our outpatient behavioral and mental health department. We are grateful for the positive impact they have on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and for the important research they are performing in the field of Autism diagnosis.

Dr. Camodeca earned a B.S. from Baldwin Wallace College, an M.A. from the University of Denver, and a Ph.D. from the University of Windsor. Her post-doctoral training was completed at the Watson Institute (Autism assessment) and Allegheny General Hospital (neuropsychology). She is a pediatric neuropsychologist at the Watson Institute and an Assistant Professor in Psychology at Penn State Beaver Campus.

Dr. Croyle earned a B.A. in psychology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, an M.S.Ed. in Child Psychology and a C.A.G.S. in School Psychology from Duquesne University, and a Psy.D. in Counseling Psychology from Carlow University. She is a Licensed Psychologist, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Dr. Croyle is a clinical psychologist at the Watson Institute. She is also an Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology for Penn State Greater Allegheny Campus.

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