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Early Intervention Improves Autism Symptoms

Children With Autism Improve After Taking Group-Based Program Focusing on Social Development, Researchers Say

Social Imitation Improved

“One of the earliest core symptoms of autism is a lack of social imitation [and] toddlers with autism who received this supplemental intervention improved in their ability to imitate others,” Geraldine Dawson, PhD, chief science officer of the advocacy group Autism Speaks and a research professor in the department of psychiatry at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, says in an email. “Even this brief intervention resulted in improvements in at least one aspect of social behavior, namely imitation. This is encouraging because it suggests that relatively small changes due to early preschool programs could be of some benefit to young children with autism."

Early intervention can make a difference, says Fred R. Volkmar, MD, the Irving B. Harris Professor and director of the Child Study Center at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. “This is a nice success story that shows that with more research and better intervention, kids with autism are doing better and better,” he says.

Children with autism tend to live in their own world, he says. “We think that this social isolation leads to a lot of autism-related symptoms and behaviors,” he says.

Intervening early with an emphasis on social development may change how these children relate to others and learn, which could improve other aspects of autism or prevent them from developing in the first place, he tells WebMD.

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