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May 1, 2015

Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders Make Big Progress with Intensive Intervention

Source: Autism Research Review International, volume 23 no. 4

“Results of this study underscore the importance of early detection of and intervention in Autism.”

The importance of early intervention for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders was shown when Geraldine Dawson and collegues evaluated the effectiveness of the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). Children in the ESDM program receive home therapy from both their parents and therapists. The therapy is a combination of applied behavioral analysis and developmental and  relationship based approaches.

The researchers split 48 kids ages 18 – 30 months into one of two groups. One group received 20 hours per week of ESDM Intervention from a therapist and five hours a week from a parent.

The other group was routinely assessed and monitored while participating in community programs for developmentally disabled children.

After one year, the ESDM group demonstrated an average IQ increase of 15.4 points compared with a 4.4 increase displayed by the other group.

By the end of the second year, the ESDM groups had risen by an average of 17.6 points from the baseline, compared with 7.0 for the controls. The ESDM group showed an 18.9 point gain in receptive language skills, and a 12.1 point gain in expressive language skills, compared to a 10.2 and 4.0 point gain in the control group.

“The ESDM group maintained its growth in adaptive behaviors compared with a normative sample of typically developing children. “ The researchers add, “In contrast, over the two-year span, the comparison group showed greater delays in adaptive behavior.”

In addition, children of the ESDM group were more likely to have their diagnoses changed from Autism to Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a milder condition.

Health Psychology Sacramento has similar results.  When we get the chance to treat a child in our Intensive Outpatient Program, it is not uncommon for the child to receive a less diagnosis or no longer qualify for a Autism diagnosis at all. We know no so much more about Autism then we did several years ago, but most importantly the emerging consensus of researchers and practitioners is that Autism is primarily an environmental disease, not a genetic disease.  This consensus gives hope for treatment to change the trajectory of the disease toward healing!

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