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Early Therapy for Autism

By Robin Aronson |

Play time!

Babies as young as six month are part of an effort to identify and treat autism by adapting a daily therapy for toddlers to younger children.

According to The New York Times, researchers across the country are taking an approach that’s been shown to help toddlers — it’s called the Early Start Denver Model — and adapting it for babies who at six months don’t make eye contact, smile, babble, and show greater interest in objects, all risk factors for autism.

Researchers are careful to note that this kind of early intervention isn’t a “cure” for autism, but because babies’ brains are still developing, the therapy which redirects babies’ attention to faces, might help change the pathways of brain development.  How?

As the Times reports:

“If a baby starts focusing on objects instead of faces, the theory goes, a “developmental cascade” can begin: brain circuits meant for reading faces are used for something else, like processing light or objects, and babies lose their ability to learn the emotional cues normally taught by watching facial expressions. The longer a baby’s brain runs this developmental course, the harder it becomes to intervene.”

This approach is fascinating in how it uses daily interaction to rewire the brain. Even if it works (and what “works” means in this context is probably debatable), it’s hard to identify risk factors for autism in young babies.  Pediatricians and nurse practitioners, too, would have to learn both about the program and how to offer it to parents. So much about how to help young children who need more support in their development depends on how the adults in their lives communicate — what they can say and what they can hear.  Would you look into therapy like this for a young baby?

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About Robin Aronson

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Robin Aronson

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0 thoughts on “Early Therapy for Autism

  1. bob says:

    I’d be interested in it’s affect on boys in general. I wonder whether boys can become better at reading people and picking up social cues.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I love this! If Autism is a brain disorder, why not begin early interventions that involve changing the brain as soon as risk factors are assessed! I’ve been reading what Brain Balance – http://brainbalancecenters.com – has to say about changing the brain. They contend certain exercises, activities, and behavioral modifications tailored to the individual can help rewire missed connections in the brain, leading to a reduction of symptoms. It’s worth a read.

  3. Sierra says:

    Between my former career working with kids with autism and my current life as an autism mom, most of the kids I have known with autism developed normally until they regressed, often dramatically. At 6 months they looked at faces, babbled, and did all of those things. The autism was triggered later by an assault on the immune/neurological system- either vaccines, other prescription drugs, or toxic exposure. The biology of autism is extremely complex and is about much more than the brain. The genes most closely associated with autism involve liver and pancreatic function (detoxification and digestion) and the brain is “downstream” from both systems.

  4. Robin Aronson says:

    This is interesting. The original article focused on a child whose older brother was autistic and whose mother had agreed to participate in in-depth studies. It might be for these very young therapy candidates, having an older sibling with autism might be a factor when considering a therapy like this.

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