Monday, November 30, 2009

Early autism therapy shows promise

A small, controlled study published in Pediatrics assigned the Early Start Denver model or less comprehensive care to autistic kids 18 to 30 months old. The treatment group got four hours of treatment a day, five days a week, plus at least five hours a week from parents.
The therapy is similar to other types of autism behavior treatment. It focused on social interaction and communication — which are both difficult for many autistic children. For example, therapists or parents would repeatedly hold a toy near a child's face to encourage the child to have eye contact — a common problem in autism. Or they'd reward children when they used words to ask for toys. ...
After two years, IQ increased an average of almost 18 points in the specialized group, versus seven points in the others. Language skills also improved more in the specialized group. Almost 30 percent in the specialized group were re-diagnosed with a less severe form of autism after two years, versus 5 percent of the others. No children were considered "cured."
In general I'm skeptical of a lot of treatments, but the brain is a wonderfully plastic organ, and there is no intuitive reason why parts of it can't be rewired to increase social awareness.

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