Washington, Dec 09 (ANI): In a new study, researchers found that targeting the core social deficits of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in early intervention programs yielded sustained improvements in social and communication skills even in very young children who have ASD.
Although some research suggests that ASD may be reliably diagnosed earlier than the current average age of 3 years, few interventions have been tested in children younger than 3.
During the course of typical development, children learn to interact with others in socially meaningful ways.
Deficits in such measures are hallmark symptoms of ASD and can severely limit a child's ability to engage in and learn from interactions with others or from the world around them.
"This new report is encouraging, as the effects on social behavior appear to provide a scaffold for the development of skills beyond the research setting. We need better early nterventions for the core deficits of autism," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel
Rebecca Landa of Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, and colleagues randomly assigned 50 toddlers, ages 21-33 months old, who were diagnosed with ASD to one of two six-month interventions: Interpersonal Synchrony (IS) or Non-Interpersonal Synchrony (non-IS).
Both interventions incorporated classroom-based activities led by a trained intervention provider, and a home-based component involving parents who received specialized education and in-home training.
Children in both groups made improvements in social, cognitive and language skills during the six-month intervention period. Children who received IS made greater and more rapid gains than those in the non-IS group.
The researchers also noted that children in the IS group used their newly acquired abilities with different people, locations, and type of activity.
At the six-month follow-up, children in the IS group showed slower improvements in social communication whereas children in the non-IS group showed reduced social communication skills at follow-up compared to their performance during the intervention period.
"This is the first randomized controlled trial to examine an intervention focused on core social deficits of ASD in toddlers, and the first to show gains in these deficits resulting from intervention," said Landa.
"Though preliminary, our findings provide promising evidence that such a supplementary curriculum can help improve social and communication skills in children younger than 3 who have ASD," she added.
The study is published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. (ANI)