Children with autism benefit from early, intensive therapy

A study carried out by the University of Missouri, Columbia, US has found that the social and communication skills of children with autism significantly benefit from an early, more intense treatment. Social-communication problems are a primary characteristic of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), and those with ASD have difficulty interacting with, understanding and relating to other people.

Data from more than 1,000 children and adolescents with ASD was collected, and researchers evaluated fifteen social-communication skills including facial expressions, gestures, language comprehension, sharing enjoyment and appropriate social responses. They found that overall, when comparing change over time in these skills, the majority showed improvement. But those who had behavioural, speech and occupational therapy had the highest improvements, and those with higher non-verbal IQs had a better response to therapy. After controlling for age and symptom severity, those children that received more intensive treatment at a younger age had greatest advancements in social-communication symptoms.

In conclusion, assistant professor Micah Mazurek, in the Department of Health Psychology, said that it is not IQ alone that indicates a potential for greater improvement, and that there is a need to design and examine alternative treatment approaches – targeted intensive treatments maybe most successful in improving specific skills. For those children who were non-verbal at five years old, their IQ and intensity of speech therapy most significantly predicted their acquisition of speech.

Source: University of Missouri

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First Published in November 2011

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