Babies born to mothers who took
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pregnancy are approximately three
times more likely to develop autism.

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Specialists Finding Success in Early Autism Intervention Via Play

May 16, 2013

The mantra in the field of autism has long centered on early diagnosis and intervention: the earlier children with an autism can get the help they need, the better their chances are for the long term. The opinions of specialists, however, differ when it comes to the right intervention for treating very young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

One intervention technique that is gaining traction is the program at Kennedy Krieger's Center for Autism and Related Disorders, which is aimed at helping children between the ages of one and two that are at a high risk for ASD. The program targets social and communication skills such as imitating the actions of others and sharing positive emotions.  Children in the program are trained in a classroom setting where they play games and sing songs in an easy-to-follow manner that emphasizes social cues. The classroom sessions are run by one clinician and two assistants, who speak together and use coordinated hand gestures to constantly command the children's attention. Children with ASD often don't follow social clues like pointing, so when the clinicians use coordinated gestures, it calls out to the children to pay attention.  

Early results of the program's evaluation seem promising. According to the Wall Street Journal, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology looked at 50 toddlers between 21 and 33 months that received training in the classroom and from parents. Half the children participated in activities designed to improve "interpersonal synchrony." The children that received the activities to improve social skills showed a reduction in their autism symptoms. Researchers are now looking into what specific activities of the program are the most effective.

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