Nearly one in every 70 children in the world is diagnosed with autism.
The neurodevelopmental disorder, where certain parts of the brain are underdeveloped, leaves children facing difficulties with communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviours.
Autism isn’t usually diagnosed until age three, but most of the time the causes behind the disorder happen long before birth.
Now, a ground-breaking study has shown, with early intervention in the form of therapy, the chances of the child being diagnosed with the disorder could be drastically reduced.
Researchers say the pre-emptive intervention could significantly impact the long-term disabilities and social development of children who display early signs of autism. According to Andrew Whitehouse, lead author of the study and a professor of autism research at Telethon Kids Institute, the babies who received intervention therapy displayed reduced behaviours that are used to diagnose autism.
The study was conducted over four years, in a randomized trial and included 104 infants from Australia, ranging in ages from between nine to fourteen months. They were split into groups of two, with one half receiving standard care, while the other received early intervention therapy. The infants were part of the study until they reached age three.
The study found that, while one-fifth of the children who received standard care were diagnosed with autism, only 6.7% of the children who received the early intervention were diagnosed with the disorder.
Researchers also found that children scored better on social interactions, as well as other symptoms, but still retained significant developmental disorders when they reached age three.
Although the therapy is not a cure for the disorder, it had a significant impact in reducing several autistic disorders. Researchers think a tailored approach to therapy might improve the chances of children developing social and communication skills before they reach school age.
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