Can Video Therapy Help Autism?

Researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK have found that specialized therapy for babies may reduce their likelihood of later developing autism.

Autism spectrum disorder comprises a range of neurodevelopment disorders that include Asperger syndrome and autistic disorder.  ASD is characterized by difficulties in communication or socialization, as well as by restricted or repetitive behavior.  ASD affects more than 1 percent of children by the age of eight, occurring four times more frequently in males.  Rates of ASD have increased tenfold over the past 40 years.

Normally, children with autism do not begin receiving treatment until they are three to four years old.  In this study, infants with a higher risk of autism (i.e. they had an older sibling with ASD) were given specialized treatment during their first year of life.

Families used video-feedback therapy to learn their baby’s individual communication style, in order to improve attention, communication, language development and social engagement.  After five months, infants who participated in the therapy showed more behavioral improvement than those who did not.  Therapy conducted during infancy also had a greater impact than similar therapy conducted later in the child’s life.

The scientists caution that further research is needed due to the small study size.  Fifty-four families participated in the UK study.

Agilent microarrays were used in a landmark 2008 study that established a relationship between ASD and extra or missing genes on a section of chromosome 16p11.2.

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