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Study: Behavioral therapy for children with autism can impact brain function
Date:2/14/2013

ng children with autism spectrum disorders, PRT forgoes the focus on specific skills, like block-building, to concentrate instead on so-called "pivotal areas," such as motivation, in hopes of inducing a cascading effect with similar impact across multiple areas.

"For instance, if you're orienting to people, socially it may appear more acceptable, but you're also getting rich information from those people, which will affect the way you're interacting with people more broadly," Voos explained. "Say a child wants to draw, and asks for a red crayon while she has her back to me. I say, 'I can't understand what you're asking if you're not looking at me.' Once she orients toward me, we provide a contingent response in this case, giving her the red crayon and ideally she begins to understand, 'Hey, me looking at you and asking for what I want gets me what I want.' Ultimately, the social interaction becomes the reward on its own, which is the ultimate goal."

The Yale study involved two children, who each received the same amount of therapy eight to ten hours each week, for four months bookended by fMRIs looking at predetermined regions of the brain. Small by design, according to Voos, the project was meant to show that PRT does impact processing, and is not simply inspiring learned behavioral changes. It was also intended as impetus for further, more comprehensive study.

"The logical next step is to assess a larger group of children that are the same age as these two, to see whether these improvements were unique to these kids," Voos said. "We also want to know if the changes we saw remain after treatment. Long-term, it would be amazing to do this with hundreds of kids, in different age groups, to see what differences there may be. I would postulate that the younger we start these kids in treatment, the more improvement we will see in the way that they process social stimuli."

And therein lies the larger message of this study, accordin
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Contact: Shelly Leachman
shelly.leachman@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-8726
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert

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