For parents of autistic children, getting the diagnosis can often be half the battle. According to new research published recently, however, therapies given to kids before they receive a diagnosis can help improve language skills.
At the moment, children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) only receive therapies after the condition is confirmed by a doctor. It's very rare this happens before two years of age.
According to The Conversation, providing therapy around 12-months of age could help children that are exhibiting signs of the disorder immensely. The study found that infants who received this therapy for six months at an early age were able to understand an average of 87 more words, going on to speak 15 more words more than those who didn't go into therapy.
The study looked at 103 infants from Perth and Melbourne, aged between 9 and 14 months. These tots were already showing signs of autism early on, such as communication issues. One common symptom is not responding to their name, inability to maintain eye contact, and struggling to smile in social situations that would usually have that effect.
Half of the children involved were placed within therapy for six months, while the other half went without treatment. So, what did the therapy involve?
It sounds more rigorous than it actually was. Dubbed "low intensity", the therapy consisted of one hour per fortnight. "High intensity" autism therapy usually consists of ten hours a week. The other 50% of children received standard community care.
After the six months were up, researchers reviewed the results. Initially, it seemed as though there was little in the way of change between the two groups. Only after some time had passed did parents start to relay that kids were picking up more words.
Authors hope that this research will enable health care providers to consider whether early therapy is the best course of action. It looks like it could be incredibly useful in terms of reducing long-term problems in the future and maximizing a child's ability to interact in social situations.
As ASD is something that affects so many children, studies are always being conducted to give families the best outcome possible.