Dr. Johnson is a member of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies and an associate professor in the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, College of Public Health and Health Professions. Her clinical and research focuses on young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She has conducted research in the assessment and both behavioral and medical interventions for children with ASD and other developmental disorders.
Industry Expertise (2)
Areas of Expertise (1)
Early Childhood Education
Gender Differences in Treatment-Seeking Youth with Autism Spectrum DisorderJournal of Child and Family Studies
Cynthia Johnson, Luc Lecavalier, Tristram Smith et al.
2021 The estimated prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is consistently higher in males than females. Gender differences in ASD have long been debated and are influenced by the historical period and source of the sample. The current study reports gender differences in core symptoms, associated features, and treatment response in 682 youth (585 males, 97 females) with ASD. The sample included participants (mean = 7.4 years; range 3–17 years) from six federally-funded, multisite, randomized clinical trials. These trials collected the same measures of social disability, repetitive behavior, adaptive skills, disruptive behavior, and anxiety pretreatment and used the Improvement scale of the Clinical Global Impression at study endpoint. Exploratory analyses yielded no differences between males and females across numerous pre-treatment measures.
Anxiety in 3- to 7-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder seeking treatment for disruptive behaviorAutism
Cynthia Johnson, Tristram Smith, Naomi Swiezy et al.
2019 Anxiety is a common and impairing problem in children with autism spectrum disorder, but little is known about it in preschool children with autism spectrum disorder. This article reports on the characteristics of anxiety symptoms in young children with autism spectrum disorder using a parent-completed rating scale. One hundred and eighty children (age 3–7 years) participated in a clinical trial of parent training for disruptive behaviors. Anxiety was measured as part of pre-treatment subject characterization with 16 items from the Early Childhood Inventory, a parent-completed scale on child psychiatric symptoms. Parents also completed other measures of behavioral problems. Sixty-seven percent of children were rated by their parents as having two or more clinically significant symptoms of anxiety.
Clinical Correlates of Parenting Stress in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Serious Behavioral ProblemsJournal of Child and Family Studies
Cynthia Johnson, Naomi Swiezy, Michael G Aman et al.
2019 Objectives We examined associations between parent-reported stress on the Parenting Stress Index (PSI) and clinical characteristics in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and serious behavioral problems. Methods The 298 children (259 males, 39 females; mean age 5.8 ± 2.2 years) were participants in one of two multisite randomized trials. The pre-treatment evaluation included standardized assessments of cognitive and adaptive functioning (Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales) and parent ratings such as the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC). Results Parents of children above the median on disruptive behavior (ABC Irritability) and social disability (ABC Social Withdrawal) reported higher levels on PSI Parent–Child Interaction than children below the median (Irritability 33.0 ± 7.7 vs 28.4 ± 7.3; Social Withdrawal 33.4 ± 7.5 vs 27.9 ± 7.2, p < .05). Similar findings were observed for the PSI Difficult Child subscale.
An exploration of concomitant psychiatric disorders in children with autism Spectrum disorderComprehensive Psychiatry
Cynthia Johnson, Bryan H King, Benjamin Handen et al.
2018 Objective: We explored patterns of concomitant psychiatric disorders in a large sample of treatment-seeking children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Methods: Participants were 658 children with ASD (age 3-17 years; mean = 7.2 years) in one of six federally-funded multisite randomized clinical trials (RCT) between 1999 and 2014. All children were referred for hyperactivity or irritability. Study designs varied, but all used the Child and Adolescent Symptom Inventory or Early Childhood Inventory to assess Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional-Defiant Disorder (ODD), Conduct Disorder (CD), Anxiety Disorders, and Mood Disorders. In addition, several measures in common were used to assess demographic and clinical characteristics. Results: Of the 658 children, 73% were Caucasian and 59% had an IQ >70.
Parent training for feeding problems in children with autism spectrum disorder: A review of the literatureChildren's Health Care
Cynthia Johnson, Tristram Smith, Kylan Turner et al.
2018 A scoping review of the literature was conducted to identify published studies in which parents of children with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were trained to implement interventions designed to improve their child’s feeding and mealtime behaviors. Twenty-six studies were included in the review. Of these, 23 used single subject designs, and 3 used group designs. All reported improvements in target behaviors (usually acceptance of novel foods or reduction in disruptive mealtime behavior). However, only 3 described a procedure for incorporating parent input into the intervention plan; 7 directly measured parents’ fidelity in implementing intervention procedures; and 7 assessed social validity or parent satisfaction. Thus, there is a need for more systematic involvement of parents in treatment for feeding in children with ASD and more comprehensive outcome assessment.