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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Early Intervention and the Brain

As Alison Singer has said, " in the absence of published data we can’t get needed public policy changes."  In policy discussions, advocates of early intervention programs may benefit from hard evidence of their efficacy.  A release from the University of Washington points to such evidence:
An autism intervention program that emphasizes social interactions and is designed for children as young as 12 months has been found to improve cognitive skills and brain responses to faces, considered a building block for social skills. The researchers say that the study, which was completed at the University of Washington, is the first to demonstrate that an intensive behavioral intervention can change brain function in toddlers with autism spectrum disorders.
“So much of a toddler’s learning involves social interaction, and early intervention that promotes attention to people and social cues may pay dividends in promoting the normal development of the brain and behavior,” said Geraldine Dawson, lead author and chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks.
A child wearing EEG electrodes looks at a photo of a face, which was used to trigger brain responses to social stimuli.
“For the first time, parents and practitioners have evidence that early intervention can result in an improved course of both brain and behavioral development in young children,” she said.
Dawson began the study while she was the director of the UW Autism Center. The study was published online Oct. 26 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.