Early Therapy for Autistic Children Leads to Better Life
According to a new study, autistic children who receive therapy as early as the toddler years can improve their intellectual abilities and reduce autistic symptoms later in life. The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. It is the first study in more than two decades that takes a look at the long-term effects of early intervention on autism.
Researchers followed two groups of autistic children between 18 and 30 months of age. Over the course of the study, one group received some form of community intervention for two years. The intervention was a mix of whatever resources the community had available including developmental preschool and speech therapy. The other group received therapy known as the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM).
What is ESDM?
ESDM focuses on social and communication skills and learning. The children in the second group did significantly better than the first group in terms of IQ, communications, and other measures two years after receiving therapy.
ESDM Therapy is provided by a trained therapists and parents at home during natural play in daily activities. ESDM aims to increase rates of development for all children on the spectrum, while also aiming to decrease the symptoms. This type of intervention focuses on increasing a child’s social-emotional, cognitive, and language development. The approach is standardized yet is also individualized for each patient. It is designed for children with autism between one and four years of age.
“These findings indicate that children who had received the ESDM earlier in their lives continued to progress well with significantly less treatment than the comparison children received,” said Sally J. Rogers, co-creator of the Early Start Denver Model and a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Davis.
The same study was also published in Pediatrics. Children who received 20 hours of ESDM therapy every week – 15 hours with trained professionals and five hours with their parents – greater improvement in cognitive and language abilities, as well as adaptive behavior, over a span of two years showed. They also exhibited fewer autism symptoms than children did who were referred for other interventions available in their communities.
Speech therapy plays a critical role in helping to improve a child’s communication skills. As such, it is part of the ESDM approach. Since working one-on-one with a speech therapist in person can be difficult due to the shortage of speech therapists available in the United States, telespeech therapy can be a great alternative. This allows families to work directly with a trained speech therapist from the comfort of home where the child is much more likely to be comfortable and relaxed.