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  • girl behind barsA recent study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry reveals that early intervention can actually help improve the characteristic symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among toddlers.

    The results particularly showed the improvement pertaining to the social interaction of toddlers with other kids, a core difficulty among autistic children. According to an article on www.healthcanal.com, “This is the first randomized clinical trial measuring how a group-based early intervention model impacts social development in toddlers with ASD.”

    Should this group-based intervention model, called the “Interpersonal Synchrony” or IS, be empirically sound, it can pave the way for less costly autism services for toddlers as these can be replicated more easily than one-on-one based intervention models.

    “This is critically important because it opens the door to ongoing learning opportunities for toddlers with ASD,” said Rebecca Landa, PhD, CCC-SLP, lead study author and director of Kennedy Krieger’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. “When toddlers are attuned to people, people are more motivated to stay engaged with them. Additionally, children learn through imitating others. The ability to connect with peers through imitation can open the door to acceptance and being chosen as a playmate in the classroom or on the playground, for example.”

    Two groups (one group using the IS model) of 24 toddlers were included in the study, with ages ranging from 21 to 33 months. The social improvements were measured through the following indicators:
    •    “Changes in socially engaged imitation: imitating others’ actions while indicating their social connectedness through eye contact”
    •    “Initiating joint attention: gaining others’ attention for the purely social purpose of sharing — showing something, giving something”
    •    “Affect sharing: sharing emotions with others through facial expressions paired with eye contact, expressed as simply as the child looking at you and smiling.”
    The toddlers in both groups displayed improvements when it came to their social, cognitive and language skills during the intervention period of six months. After the intervention period, it was found out that kids from the IS group retained but had slower improvements in social communication, whereas toddlers from the non-IS group showed reduced social communication skills.

    Photo from sxc.hu

    •    December 8, 2010. “Toddlers with Autism Show Improved Social Skills Following Targeted Intervention” disabled-world.com
    •    December 10, 2010. Denise Reynolds, RD. “Targeted Intervention Improves Social Skills in Toddlers with Autism.” Emaxhealth.com
    •    December 15, 2010. “Study is First to Show Group-Based Intervention is Effective for Toddlers as Young as Two Years of Age.” Healthcanal.com
    •    December 18, 2010. Summer. “Group Intervention Helps Autistic Toddlers” GrowingYourBaby.com

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