Early Intervention Helps Kids With Autism

Survey finds those treated sooner progress better

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FRIDAY, June 18, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Early intervention reduces the impact of autism, says a University of Michigan expert on the disorder.

Children encouraged to speak at an early age can make real progress against the condition, said Catherine Lord, director of the university's Autism and Communication and Disorders Center, which has been conducting a longitudinal study of children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD).

"One-third make incredible progress, with almost all children making real gains, even if they continue to have significant difficulties. About 5 percent of the children we have followed do not have symptoms of autism at age 9," Lord said in a prepared statement.

The study began when the children were 2 years old, continuing on as they grew. Most of the study participants are now in their teens.

Lord said that children in the study who had developed some simple speech skills prior to the first time they were evaluated at age 2 were far more likely to overcome their autism disorder.

The study has also revealed that, contrary to the popular belief that half of autistic children will never speak, just 14 percent of autistic children are unable to talk by age 9, and nearly 40 percent are able to speak fluently.

Lord said that another 10 percent of the children in the study are doing well, but still have some mild social difficulties and or repetitive behaviors or interests. Another 10 percent clearly have behaviors associated with autism but are able to compensate enough to spend much of their time in mainstream activities and classes.

The remaining children do improve but continue to have ASD-associated behaviors and difficulties, Lord said.

More information

Learn more about the disorder from the Autism Society of America.

SOURCE: University of Michigan news release, June 14, 2004

- Robert Preidt

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