Early intervention can improve core symptoms of ASD in young children: Study

October 05, 2015

Researchers found that intervention led to improvements in both groups. However, the most significant finding was that the children who received more of the socially-directed intervention developed greater socially engaged imitation, which increased from 17 percent of imitated acts being paired with eye contact to 42 percent. This skill was generalized, or carried over into "real life" outside the classroom, and maintained through the six-month follow-up. Similar improvements were observed in the group for initiation of joint attention (pointing out things of interest, showing and giving for social purposes) and shared positive affect (smiling paired with eye contact). Specifically, how frequently toddlers initiated joint attention more than tripled from pre- to post- treatment, and the shared positive affect more than doubled. Overall, the children receiving the socially-directed intervention made 10 months of non-verbal cognitive gains in only six months time when compared to the other group.

The second most significant finding was that toddlers in both groups made improvements in expressive language (spoken language), with the greatest gains occurring during the time that the intervention was occurring. This indicates that the improvement was due to the intervention.

Researchers are hopeful that the group-based socially-directed early intervention model can achieve similar social skills gains in older children. Kennedy Krieger researchers have applied for funding to adapt the intervention for preschoolers.

SOURCE Kennedy Krieger Institute