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Early Intervention Relieves Developmental Delays in Some Babies

Date Published: 
September 9, 2014

A small, preliminary study of a parent-based intervention has found that six out of seven infants at risk for autism made so much progress that by age 3, they did not have autism or developmental delays.1

The parents of the seven children were trained in the Infant Start treatment, which is based on the Early Start Denver Model autism therapy developed by psychologists Sally Rogers and Geraldine Dawson. The babies were 6 to 15 months old when the study began, and had problems with eye contact, social interest, repetitive movements and communication. Problems in those areas are found in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The parents performed the treatment over a six-month period as part of their daily routines and caregiving.

"Most of the children in the study, six out of seven, caught up in all of their learning skills and their language by the time they were 2 to 3," said the study's lead author, Dr. Rogers, UC Davis professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "Most children with ASD are barely even getting diagnosed by then," she said in a prepared statement.1

"For the children who are achieving typical developmental rates, we are essentially ameliorating their developmental delays," Dr. Rogers said. "We have speeded up their developmental rates and profiles, not for every child in our sample, but for six of the seven."

The study's authors say larger studies are needed to test the treatment for general use.

Their article, “Autism treatment in the first year of life: A pilot study of Infant Start, a parent-implemented intervention for symptomatic infants,” was published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders yesterday.