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A new study, published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, has revealed that a new intervention system, which utilizes a combination of therapy approaches, called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) may be helpful in normalizing brain activity in toddlers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
For the study, the researchers looked at 48 different males and females who were between 18 and 30 months old and were diagnosed with ASD, with a male-to-female ratio of 3:1. The infants were randomly divided into two groups: One group underwent the ESDM therapy for 20 hours a week for two years, while the second group did not.
At the end of the study, each participant was observed using electroencephalograms (EEGs), in which their brain activity was monitored while they looked at social stimuli like faces, and non-social stimuli, like toys. The group that received the ESDM treatment had more brain activity when shown social stimuli than when they were shown non-social stimuli. The group that did not receive the ESDM treatment on the other hand, had greater brain activity when shown the non-social stimuli.
Earlier research has shown that children with autism tend to have greater brain activity when shown non-social stimuli. Because the test group was more responsive to the social stimuli, this may indicate that the ESDM therapy is able to normalize the brain activity in a patient with ASD.
"This is the first case-controlled study of an intensive early intervention that demonstrates both improvement of social skills and normalized brain activity resulting from intensive early intervention therapy," said research author Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. "Given that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all 18- and 24-month-old children be screened for autism, it is vital that we have effective therapies available for young children as soon as they are diagnosed."
Autism statistics and diagnosis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 in every 88 children has been diagnosed with autism. While autism is apparent in people of all genders, it more common to occur in boys. There are more cases of autism in children who have certain genetic or chromosomal disorders, such as Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis.
Autism Speaks notes that for a child to be diagnosed with autism, it usually takes a group of different health professionals, such as a pediatrician, psychologist, speech and language pathologist and even an occupational therapist. The child will usually have a hearing test, a lead exposure test and undergo an autism-specific screening tool called an M-CHAT. The source also notes that health care professionals may recommend a genetic lab test and a screening for other health issues like sleep deprivation.
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