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A mother's sensitivity may help language growth in children with autism spectrum disorder
Date:2/25/2010

to develop easily in children with typical neurological development, like social communication, don't come as naturally for kids with autism, so these skills need to be taught," says Jason K. Baker, a postdoctoral fellow at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, who conducted the study with Messinger while at UM.

For the study, 33 children were assessed in the lab at 18, 24, 30 and 36 months of age. Some of the children had an older sibling diagnosed with autism and were considered high risk for autism.

At the 18-month assessment, the researchers videotaped a five minute period of mother and child free play in which the mothers were asked to play as they would at home. Aspects of maternal sensitivity were scored on seven-point scales ranging from absence of sensitive behavior to extremely sensitive behavior. Children's language was assessed at 2 and 3 years. At the 3 year visit, when the children were old enough to be evaluated, 12 of children from the high risk group received an autism-spectrum diagnosis.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Its findings parallel previous treatment research indicating that when children with autism increase their connection to the environment they do much better, Baker says. Understanding the benefits of sensitive structuring in the development of language among young children with emergent autism provides scientific support for early intervention programs that focus on parent-child interactions. "We know that parenting doesn't cause autism. The message here is that parents can make a difference in helping their children fight against autism," Baker says.


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Contact: Marie Guma-Diaz
m.gumadiaz@umiami.edu
305-284-1601
University of Miami
Source:Eurekalert

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