With one in 50 children in America now being diagnosed with some sort of autism spectrum disorder, the quest for more research into both causes and treatments has become increasingly important. While there is still no definitive cause of autism, scientists have pointed to several different environmental and genetic factors that may result in a diagnosis. Many believe that there could be a higher risk of young children being diagnosed if they have an older sibling with the disorder.
In the meantime, early intervention is the best way to help combat the early signs of autism. Professor Jonathan Green of Manchester University, agrees. “Targeting the earliest risk markers of autism, such as lack of attention or reduced social interest or engagement, during the first year of life may lessen the development of these symptoms later.” In other words, if you catch autism early, it’s devastating effects on communication and interaction may be prevented.
A new form of video therapy may be effective in babies that are considered at-risk for developing autism. Professor Green and his team conducted a study of 54 families with a high risk baby, in this case the children have an older sibling with autism. Half of the families were given Video Interaction for Promoting Positive Parenting Programme, an interactive video therapy for babies that helps parents understand their child’s communication methods. These families showed significant improvements in their baby’s attention, social interactions, and engagement.
The researchers believe that early therapy interactions may help to regress early onset of autism-related symptoms. If this study correlates with other studies on early intervention it may help to fight autism before it starts. This could bring a great relief to the millions of people with autism and their families. But while the research is exciting, there is still a long way to go.
Melissa Allen, a psychology lecturer and autism specialist at the University of Lancaster commented, “It will be important to document whether any such changes observed in the children’s behavior persist in the absence of continued intervention.” In other words, scientists need to prove that the therapy works before getting further approval. Still, any news is good news in the continued effort to understand autism spectrum disorders. As more and more children in the United States are diagnosed every year, the importance of research is at a peak.
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