Early Intervention May Help Autistic Toddlers
Study Finds Comprehensive Home-Based Program Improves IQ, Language, Social Ability
WebMD News Archive
Intervention in Young Children continued...
The intervention combines an established approach known as applied
behavioral analysis (teaching children new behaviors and changing harmful ones
by repetition and practice) with relationship-based techniques presented in a
playful manner that interests the child. "When you are working with very young
children, it makes sense you would use a more play-based approach," Dawson
For instance, a session might include playing with balls, with the therapist
tossing them into a bucket, repeating the word ball, and inviting the child to
The researchers evaluated 48 children diagnosed with ASD at 18-30 months
old, randomly assigning them to the intervention group or referring them to
community-based programs. The children had either autistic disorder or
pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD NOS), a milder
condition in which some features of autism are identified. At the end, two
years later, just three had dropped out of the study.
The goal was to tap into the so-called ''plasticity'' of the young brain and capitalize
on the learning potential of the children, thus limiting the damaging effects
Those in the early-start model averaged about 15.2 hours a week with the
therapist, although 20 were made available. Parents logged, on
average, another 16.3 hours a week and the kids got about 5.2 hours in
other therapies, such as speech therapy.
Children in the comparison group got an average of 9.1 hours of individual
therapy and 9.3 hours weekly of group interventions.