How Early in Life Should Autism Be Treated?
When infants show signs of autism, parents can engage them in a simple communicative treatment to improve their grasp of speech and reduce misbehavior, according to a small research project featured in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in September.
Seven boys and girls identified as “high-risk” for the disorder were given the therapy, which researchers have named “infant start.” Five of them had not developed autism at age three.
The authors of the study said the parents were able to easily understand how the autism treatment was conducted. Furthermore, they were able to maintain it on a daily basis and felt generally positive about the method.
Lead author Dr. Sally Rogers of the University of California, Davis, believes that this relatively simple treatment strategy could be beneficial so that infants can improve their interactive capabilities.
Although these findings are exciting, questions of how to treat autism should not be oversimplified. When surveying possible therapies for autism, Baton Rouge residents can benefit from the perspectives of leading experts.
A few of the top researchers in the field spoke with the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative about the study, when treatment should start, and what it should entail.
Connie Kasari, psychiatry professor, UCLA
Kasari noted that another recent autism treatment study from the University of Manchester tested a similar parental therapy that additionally incorporated video.
“They too found positive effects in infants whose parents used a number of strategies aimed at improving parent responsiveness and infant attention and engagement,” explained Kasari.
Stephen Camarata, hearing and speech professor, Vanderbilt University
Camarata said that usually the primary component of intervention strategies is to help parents learn to better notice their child’s initial efforts at interaction. By encouraging interactive behavior, they are able to strengthen the infant’s ability to engage.
You can potentially intervene to prevent autism whenever you want, even with newborns, he said. The real challenge is that it is not always easy to diagnose autism in infants.
David Mandell, psychiatry and pediatrics professor, University of Pennsylvania
Mandell said that a fundamental aspect of this study was that it offers further evidence that early intervention is critical.
“If we intervene early enough, we can change the neurological trajectory,” he argued. “If we stick to the traditional medical model of ‘screen, diagnose, refer and treat,’ we will intervene too late.”
Are you concerned that your infant might be high-risk for this serious developmental disorder? For revolutionary treatment of autism, Baton Rouge patients can benefit from our nonsurgical functional neurology program, Neural FX.