Early Therapy Can Improve Brain Function In Autistic Kids - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Early Therapy Can Improve Brain Function In Autistic Kids

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KHQ.COM: Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the U.S., affecting 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys. The onset of autism is believed to start in the very early stages of brain development but symptoms are not usually noticed until the age of 2 or 3.

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex disorders of brain development. Autism affects every person differently in varying degrees and is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

CNN reported that over the years, as autism has become more common, experts have found that early diagnosis and early specialized therapy can significantly improve the outcome of kids with autism. Recent research has found that a particular type of behavioral therapy, Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), has proved to be more effective than other types of therapy. Not only has it proved to lessen the symptoms of autism but improvements have also been shown in social interaction and normalizing brain activity.

Geraldine Dawson and Sally Rogers are credited with developing the therapy which uses teaching methods from applied behavioral analysis, or one-on-one interaction between a therapist and child. Instead of sitting at a desk with the child, ESDM therapy has the therapist play on the ground with the child.

Dawson says this allows the therapy to take place just about anywhere, even parents can engage their children using the ESDM method and the informal, interpersonal atmosphere, allows the children to develop a social relationship.

Three years ago, Rogers and Dawson have found that children receiving ESDM therapy, increased their IQ and language skills up to three times more than children receiving more traditional types of autism therapy.

On Friday, Rogers and Dawson released their latest study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The study looked at which parts of a child's brain are active after two years of ESDM therapy and compared to brain activity in typically developing children. Brain activity was measured using an EEG (electroencephalogram) which can monitor levels of activity using electrodes attached to a child's head. Technicians monitoring the brain activity could not identify which kids had autism and which kids didn't.

The findings reinforce just how important early detection is for autistic kids and suggests that perhaps measuring brain activity in infants could possibly be a way to detect the onset of autism even earlier which would allow treatment to start at an even younger age.

ESDM treatment could start as early as 12 months if autism could be detected that early. Dawson says it's so important for doctors to screen for autism as early as possible. "The average age of diagnosis is still 4 or 5 and even older in minority groups."

For more information about autism, Autism Speaks is a great resource.

Do you have a child with autism?

How has it affected him/her and what therapies have you found to be most helpful?

This story was filed and written by KHQ's Nichole Mischke. Email her at Nichole.Mischke@khq.com.

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