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Play-Focused Program Might Help Kids With Autism
Date:10/31/2012

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Laughing, giggling and making silly faces. Building a tower of blocks together and then crashing it down. Engaging young children with autism in a program that involves such fun, interactive play can affect their brain activity, making it resemble that of children without the disorder, a new study shows.

The research is the first trial to demonstrate that early behavioral intervention may be associated with normal patterns of brain activity and improved social behavior in young children with autism.

Researchers used a tested behavioral program that has been shown to raise intelligence, language and adaptive behavior in children with autism to evaluate whether such therapy might be associated with measurable improvements in their brain activity.

The investigators found that interventions designed to enhance the ability of children with autism to attend to social cues -- like human faces -- and engage with others may help their brains develop more normally.

"After the treatment, the EEGs [brain activity tests] of the children with autism looked like those of children who were developing normally," said Sally Rogers, a study author and professor of psychiatric and behavioral sciences at the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis, in Sacramento, Calif.

"This study should make parents optimistic and hopeful, and motivate decision makers to provide more intensive interventions for young children," Rogers added. "Results of this study underscore the importance of early detection of and intervention in autism."

The research was published online Oct. 26 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

The behavioral program, called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), was first shown in 2010 to have a measurable positive impact on children with autism spectrum disor
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