Early Autism Treatment Key to Success
Early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to identifying—and reversing—the most troubling symptoms of autism and developmental delay. That’s according to the results of a pilot study conducted at the University of California, Davis.
Subjects in the Infant Start study were enrolled as as early as six months of age, after receiving a diagnosis of possible autism. Diagnoses were based on tell-tale symptoms such as decreased eye contact, low social interest or engagement, repetitive movement patterns, and a lack of intentional communication. Researchers trained parents to administer the treatment to their own children. Remarkably, six out of the seven children enrolled in the study experienced a near-complete reversal of symptoms by the age of 2 to 3.
"For the children who are achieving typical developmental rates, we are essentially ameliorating their developmental delays,"said UC Davis professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Sally J. Rogers, in a press release. “We have speeded up their developmental rates and profiles, not for every child in our sample, but for six of the seven.” She went on to note that many children are not even diagnosed until 2 or 3 years of age. By then, the majority of autistic children in the study had already experienced a reversal of their initial symptoms.
Researchers believe that their intervention program works because it targets children at risk for autism as a much earlier age, when most babies are undergoing developmentally important events, involving social interaction and communication. The treatment used in the study was based on a program called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), which relies on trained therapists working with parents and their children to bolster social interactions and communication efforts.
Although the test kids had higher autism scores at 9 months, by 18-36 months, virtually all symptoms had disappeared. The results of this pilot study suggest that diagnosing and treating autism earlier—rather than later—may result in better outcomes later on. “My goal is for children and adults with autism symptoms to be able to participate successfully in everyday life and in all aspects of the community in which they want to participate: to have satisfying work, recreation, and relationships, education that meets their needs and goals, a circle of people they love, and to be generally happy with their lives,” said Rogers. Autism is now believed to affect one in every 68 children.
University of California - Davis Health System. "Intervention in 6-month-olds with autism eliminates symptoms, developmental delay." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 September 2014. .