A study published in The Lancet medical journal has found that early intervention can ease the symptoms of childhood autism.
Autism is a lifelong developmental condition which affects a person’s social interaction skills and capacity to tolerate changes to their routine or environment. Even in its mildest form, the syndrome can make it difficult to integrate productively and cope with pressures in education, the workplace, and social relationships. However, new findings suggest that therapy aimed at facilitating and optimising a certain style of interactions between parent and child can lead to a significant reduction in autistic children’s symptoms.
In the study, led by Professor Jonathan Green at the University of Manchester, 77 autistic children aged from two to four years were assigned to a 12-month intervention programme. The programme, consisting of a series of therapy sessions and an additional half-hour of planned activities every day, was tailored to encourage the mutual engagement of parent and child in eye-gaze, sharing, showing and giving. When compared to controls, autistic children who underwent the 12-month programme were, even six years later, observed to exhibit improved social interaction skills and a reduced tendency towards routine and repetitive behaviours.
The implication of this result, as hinted at by the study’s authors, is that improvements in child communication skills can be “self-sustaining” – that is, behaviours imposed by the intervention programme can become, through practice and the reinforcing effect of social success, habitual. While underlying deficits in the capacity to interpret and imagine others’ social responses may endure, children on the autism spectrum can, with sufficient practice, learn the compensatory skills necessary to facilitate successful and happy relationships at school and at home.
If you believe that your child may be showing signs of autism or any neurodevelopmental condition, please contact us on 01227 379099 or at enquiries.psicon.co.uk.