autism screening with smartphone?


app screens for autism
Autism screening with smart phone

Autism screening with smartphone? Yes! This is a bold, big idea that can work if done right.

There’s now  an app that researchers use  to screen for autism.   The app  uses Apple’s Research Kit technology.  Duke researchers are involved.

Researchers seek to  collect information from families around the world to test whether a smartphone app can reliably screen kids for autism.

The app includes a parent questionnaire and  includes  a series of short videos for the child to watch. The videos are  designed to elicit various emotions. Using the iPhone’s camera function, analytical software within the app will assess the children’s facial responses.


app screens for autism
app screens for autism

Researchers hope  to collect information from children ages 1 to 6 three times each over the course of six months. Parents will receive feedback, which could include tips for addressing behavior issues or a recommendation to seek further  evaluation.

“Our goal is to develop a screening, like hearing or eyesight at schools,” said Guillermo Sapiro, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke. “They don’t get glasses — they get a referral.”

There are major league problems of course.  Privacy of information for one.  All sorts of data gets stolen these days and such a huge collection of information about people is invaluable  and can be misused.

This particular research at Duke University plans to collect data only three times over six months from the same child.  Results would be much stronger if results were taken for the same child over a much longer period of time — from age one to age four for example.  Six months and three snapshots of the same child is just a snapshot for a very small period of time relative to general development of language and social abilities.  But this is a beginning and parents may find this app  useful whether to seek additional assessment.

If you are a parent in California wondering whether your young child has social development delays  or other delays contact your local Regional Center and ask for Early Start Services.  Early Start services assist children with developmental delays from birth to age three. California Regonal Centers provide Early Start services.

If you suspect that your child has substantial delays in several areas your child may be eligible for ongoing California  Regional Center services at age three.  Whereas in 2009 approximately 1 child in 155 had autism as of 2015  one (1) child in 66 has autism.

As substantially  more children at being diagnosed with autism it’s reasonable to expect that more children in California   (those with substantial  delays in several areas of functioning and a recent, valid  diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder)  will be eligible for  ongoing Regional Center services at age three.

If you suspect that your child may be substantially delayed in several areas, before the  age three request assessment for ongoing Regional Center services.  Check the website for your local Regional Center as to exactly what you need to do to request ongoing Regional Center  services at age three.

For children ages 0-3  living in Santa Cruz county, Monterey county, San Benito county and Santa Clara county contact:

As many children with autistic spectrum disorder symptoms have behavior problems which can substantially  affect overall safety of the home ongoing Regional Center services after age three can be quite helpful for parents.

If you live in Santa Cruz County and want additional information concerning your child’s  developmental delays,  you may contact licensed psychologist Cameron Jackson PSY14762 for a free initial screening.

Dr. Jackson’s office is in Santa Cruz, CA.   (831) 688-6002





why huge increase autism 1990 to 2000


Why huge increase autism 1990 to 2000?   Nine (9)  of 10,000 kids born in 1990 got autism.  Ten years later, in 2000  forty-four (44) in 10,000 had autism.

Enviornmental causes? Yes.  It’s time to focus on  metals, pesticides and  infectious agents says  researchers  at M.I.N.D.


A study by researchers at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute has found that the seven- to eight-fold increase in the number children born in California with autism since 1990 cannot be explained by either changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted — and  the trend shows no sign of abating.

Published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology, results from the study also suggest that research should shift from genetics to the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California’s children.

“It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” said UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of environmental and occupational health and epidemiology and an internationally respected autism researcher.

Many researchers, State of California organizations and advocacy organizations view rise with skepticism says Dr. Iva Hertz-Picciotto.

The M.I.N.D. research is based on data provided by the California Department of Developmental Services.  The DDS  research was published in April, 2003 and is available on the California Department of Developmental Services  website.


We know there is a huge increase in autism.  In 2009 there was 1 in 150. Now in 2015  one child in 65 that have autism. That’s a huge increase.

So are  children getting identified earlier and receiving California Regional Center services any earlier than in 2005?

Are parents in 2015  who get California Early Start services requesting assessment for on-going Regional Center services at age three?

If you suspect that your child is not developing normally in social communication abilities and your child is under age three you can request assessment by your local Regional Center psychologist  for ongoing services.

If your child has a valid  diagnosis of autism and is substantially handicapped in three (3) life areas your child may be eligible for on-going Regional Center services.

M.I.N.D. researchers say that California state agencies are skeptical about the rise of autism.

The facts are there.  Why are California state agencies skeptical?   Perhaps agencies are skeptical  because on-going services for autism are expensive?

On the website for the Department of Developmental Services on the right side under publications you can find all the DDS publications available for download as a PDF file.

Contact Cameron Jackson  for further information




Follow the money: $126 K for HR boss, low pay for Psychologist SARC

Follow the money
Follow the money

Follow the money.

Money matters. Pay your   staff  the going rate  and you’re   more likely to retain staff.

And if you want to  encourage turnover?  Then pay your  staff  less than the going rate.


Looks like Golden Gate Regional Center and San Andreas Regional Center   want to retain their Human Resource (HR)  Directors.

Both regional centers  (Golden Gate and San Andreas)  pay $126 K for their Human Resource  Directors.  The Human Resource top  job requires a Master’s degree.  The   job does not require a license.

The San Andreas Human Resource  Director has had the job for five years.  That HR Director is well paid.

$126 K for Human Resource Directors
$126 K for Human Resource Director  & only $72 K for Psychologist at San Andreas Regional Center


In contrast, it  looks like   San Andreas  Regional Center does not want to retain Psychologists.  And —  Golden Gate wants to retain their Psychologists.

Top pay for a Psychologist is only  $72 K at  San Andreas Regional Center.   In contrast,  top pay at Golden Gate is  $93K – a difference of  $21 K.  That’s nothing to sneeze at.

What is the going pay  rate for Psychologists?    It varies. The County of Santa Cruz pays $93 K for their Psychologists.  Kaiser Permanente in San Jose pays $133 K.


Currently, San  Andreas Regional Center has 2 jobs available for Psychologists.  One Psychologist  position  for San Andreas Regional Center has been advertised more than a year.  Perhaps there are no takers  because San Andreas pays low and does not want to retain Psychologists?

At San Andreas Regional Center, where can a Psychologist go up from Psychologist?  San Andreas Regional Center hires an  Autistic Spectrum Disorder Clinical Coordinator for   $110 K.  That position is filled  and the  person filling the job has been around many years.   $110K for the  highest paid Psychologist at San Andreas   is  within the range between  $93 K for a County  government job   and $133 K paid by the private sector (Kaiser).


Recently in 2015  the overall chain of command structure at San Andreas Regional Center  structure changed substantially.   The #3 top management job went to  someone closely associated with the current top executive Javier Zaldivar.    This person used to be  a district manager for a branch office.   This  person may  a Master’s degree.  After the top executive and the second in command (both men), currently  two women hold top management positions #3 and #4.  All those top management positions (#1, #2, #3 and #4) are highly paid  positions which do not require a license or a Ph.D.

San Andreas Regional Center  describes itself as a community oriented,  private non-profit corporation.  NOTE:  Non-profit does not mean that management is paid lowly wages. Far from it.   San  Andreas Regional Center top management are quite well paid.     And it looks like $126 K for a  Human Resource Director is the going rate.

Why does San Andreas Regional  Center  choose to pay so low for Psychologists?  Does the agency deliberately encourage turn over? Comparing the numbers of Golden Gate Regional Center with those for San Andreas Regional Center  — the answer is YES.

The current head of  the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS)  is Santi Rodgers.  For more than 15 years Santi Rodgers was the top executive for San Andreas Regional  Center.  Mr. Rodgers moved to Sacramento and was replaced by  Mr. Javier Zaldivar.

Mr. Javier Zaldivar  continues the policy of  very low pay for licensed Ph.D.  Psychologists.  The very low pay policy  was the policy of  predecessor  Santi Rodgers,  now  the top executive for  California Department of Developmental Services (DDS).

Follow the money.  There are reasons for very low pay for Psychologists hired by San Andreas  Regional Center. YES  — always follow the money.  written by Cameron Jackson


CA Regional Center fails sniff test

CA Regional Center fails the sniff test.

SARC fails sniff test
CA Regional Center fails sniff test

Consent  is a big deal. Written consent starts many important things such as:  Will you marry me?

 Will you have my child?  Will you co-sign on a loan?

 I  consent that my child  receive special education services.  Yes consent  is a big deal.   For many reasons.


However, when it comes to consent, San Andreas Regional Center fails the sniff test. And this is probably true for other  Regional Centers of which there are 21 in California.

 Exactly how San Andreas Regional Center  fails the sniff test is described below. First, some comments  why consent is so important. Think about consent in general and why  written consent  is important:

Most people understand that consent matters and is a big deal. For example,  everybody goes to the doctor.  Everybody who goes to the doctor has to sign a consent for release of confidential information.  Everybody knows that without  written consent  records cannot be sent electronically.  Thus most people have  some understanding that signed consents matter and are a big deal.

Another example:   Many children get Early Start services.  Early Start services are provided by California regional centers such as San Andreas Regional Center.  Parents  must sign written consent before assessment will start.  No consent signed?  Then no assessment and no services.

Many children who receive  Early Start services improve considerably. Some children, however, make little or very slow progress in their social skills and how well they manage change.

 Some of these slow developing children show  substantial symptoms suggestive of autism.  Early Start is required by law to contact the local public school and set up what is called a “transition” meeting.

Some children with autistic symptoms  may be eligible for ongoing regional center services under the California   Lanterman Act

Given the above,  might think  that before any assessment occurs for Lanterman eligibility for  ongoing services  that someone legally responsible must  give written  consent.  That would logically follow.  But, no.

 Guess what!   No written consent is  obtained by SARC  when children transition  out of Early Start and may be eligible  for  ongoing services.

This is when  CA Regional Center  fails  the sniff test.

 San Andreas Regional Center SARC  does not get written consent  prior to assessing  Early Start children who might be eligible for ongoing services.

 This CA Regional Center  only gets written consent one time  — prior to assessment   Early Start services.

So what?   Does it matter that San Andreas Regional Center  does not get  written consent from  Early Start  children  who might transition to ongoing services at age three?

Yes! No written consent translates into no current medical or school information will be obtained and thus  not  available forreview by  the psychologist  who assesses that child.

And,  as a result a less than minimum report may  be produced  by CA Regional Centers  based on limited  or out of date records.  Does this pass your sniff test?  Nope.

This kind of behavior — where CA Regional Centers  may meet the minimum requirements of the law but fails to implement best practice guide lines for the assessment of autism  –should stop.

 It is time that  all CA regional centers  meet the guidelines recommended by the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) for the assessment of autism in young children.  San Andreas Regional Cener  knows what those guidelines are.   It’s time that  this CA Regional Center  met those guidelines willingly.

It all starts with consent.  Yes, consent is a big deal.  And consent leads to obtaining and sharing current information about young children   some of whom have substantial autistic symptoms.  And some of  these children  can and should be eligible under autism  for ongoing  regional center services  at the age of three.

Should the public   and parents require regional centers to get consent prior to assessing for autism?  Yes.   Consent if a big deal for many reasons.  And then act on that consent.   Get up to date, current medical and school records after getting consent.  Yes, consent is big deal and matters.

What you can do:  email your California representatives and say it’s high time that Regional Centers meet best practice guidelines for assessment of autism.  Contact your local public schools and ask them to pressure the Regional Centers to get parent consent and use up to date standardized tests when testing children for autism and other developmental disabilities. And contact the California Department of Developmental Services to put pressure on specific regional centers such as San Andreas so that they will more fully meet best practice guidelines.

Did you know that the former boss of San Andreas Regional Center is now the top boss of the agency (DDS) that writes the best practice guidelines?   He is Santi Rodgers and his email address is available on the DDS site.  Let Mr. Rodgers know that you want best practices used when children are assessed for autism.


CA Regional Center in the dark re autism

SARC in the dark
CA Regional Center in the dark re autism

CA Regional Center fails sniff test.

Yes, San Andreas Regional Center   seems in the dark regarding  autism. There are 20+ regional center services    that provide services to substantially disabled persons  in California diagnosed with autism and other developmental disorders.

But maybe  SARC  is  just  whistling in the dark – hoping that the criteria   and the number of children getting diagnosed with  autism will change soon.


Increase in autism
Huge increase in autism

  For sure, San Andreas Regional Center  keeps  some families in the dark about autism.

For example, look what San Andreas Regional Center  incorrectly  wrote to one family when the agency  denied services.  The statement below paraphrases  what  the family received and is not an exact quote.  The letter states:

Autistic Spectrum Disorder is diagnosed when the impairments in communication  and    social interactions  are pervasive and sustained and  not supported by …. 

The letter referred to  was  signed by the San Andreas Regional Center  specialist for autism.  This person  knows and  sets policies. 

Note the use of the word “communication” in the denial for services letter.   What!!  That is so misleading!

When making a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder the clinician must state whether the child with autism has or does not have communication difficulties.   Yes –  using the DSM5 criteria for autism — children can be diagnosed with autism and not have communication difficulties.

First of  all, this  denial letter is not accurate concerning the child’s possible  “communication” deficits.   The issue is social communication difficulties not whether this child can verbally communicate.

Secondly, this  SARC  denial letter leaves out  any discussion whether the child has restricted, repetitive  patterns of behavior or activities.

 To summarize,  SARC leaves out one main area [restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior or activities]  and the other area [social communication and social interactions]  is discussed incorrectly.  This above quote is from the letter  one family got from  SARC as an explanation why their child has been denied  California regional center services.

What SARC aka San Andreas Regional Center  should have written:

Autism is diagnosed when there are  “Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts…” and those social deficits are  coupled with  “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history….

The diagnosis of autism changed dramatically when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fourth Edition (DSM-4) was replaced by DSM5.

You decide.  Is SARC in the dark, whistling in the dark or  keeping  some families in the dark  about autism?


Diagnosti Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder


  1. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive):
    1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
    2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and non-verbal communication.
    3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.
  2. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive):
    1. Stereotyped, or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g. simple motor stereotypes, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
    2. Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior (e.g. extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat same food every day).
    3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g. strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests).
    4. Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g. apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).
  3. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capabilities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).
  4. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
  5. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.

Look before you leap: jobs with San Andreas Regional Center

Look before you leap
Look before you leap: jobs with San Andreas Regional Center

Look before you  leap is good advice for all job seekers —  including  licensed Ph.D.  clinical   psychologists considering a job  with    San Andreas Regional Center located in northern California.

There are openings with San Andreas Regional Center: Two psychologist jobs  are open as of  Labor Day, 2015.  One in Salinas and one in Watsonville, CA.

Back to basics:   Are you a licensed California  Ph.D. psychologist?   Are you looking for a job?

Before you “leap” and  take  job as psychologist with San Andres Regional Center,  consider the following:

 Get in writing from your employer  Executive Director  Javier Zaldivar  that   staff (not you) will obtain current, up to date medical and educational records concerning prospective clients.

To do your work, which  largely consists of  writing psychological assessments of prospective clients applying  under autism or intellectual disability,   you need current up to date medical and school records.  Having current records  available for review assists you when testing clients and  doing your psychological assessments.

 Why does this matter?

DAY TO DAY RESPONSIBILITIES:    If you don’t  ahead of time get it in writing that San Andreas Regional Center  staff and not you will get up to date medical and educational records    —   you may be asked to write assessment  reports based  strictly on  the records available  in the file. And those records can be quite old.  And that can be a drag.

What does that mean?

If you went to any MD you’d expect them to make a diagnosis based on the most current, up to date information, correct? You want the most accurate diagnosis, right?   Well, you as a licensed Ph.D.  psychologist  need current,  up to date  medical and school records on which to base your diagnosis and your  recommendation whether the applicant is eligible for regional center services.

As licensed Ph.D.  psychologists are mandated to meet American Psychological Association ethical standards (code 9.0),  it’s important that regional center staff  obtain current,   up to date school and medical  records  which will allow you to meet your legal and ethical duties.

WILL  THIS JOB CHALLENGE YOU TO GROW?   See separate  posts  on whether a job as psychologist  with San Andreas Regional Center will allow you to build your skills.  During the interview, be sure to ask about career paths and how psychologists assist the agency  in general  ways.

For example, how to psychologists contribute to the goals and objectives of the agency as set by  the  Executive Team for San Andreas Regional Center?  The Director in charge of  the Executive Team is Javier Zaldivar.  He  has offices at Campbell 408 341 3476 and  Gilroy 408 8462028.

San Andreas Regional Center describes itself as a community based, private non-profit corporation funded by the state of Calfornia.  It is  one of 24 organizations in California which provide services to persons with disabilities  including those with  autism, intellectual disability and those  who  require treatment/ services similar to persons with intellectual disability.

For general information including  about  employment visit

Questions?   Look before you leap  when seeking a job and your landing will be more rewarding.  contact