Friday, June 03, 2005

Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment

With a disorder like autism, finding a treatment that works is a priority, and the faster parents and therapists find it, the better off that child is. That’s according to Laura Schreibman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, who says given the importance of early intervention, “we need to get it right the first time.”
Schreibman recently conducted a study aimed at matching children with autism to an appropriate therapy. She says it is the first study to develop and test a “profile” of children who are likely to respond to a specific treatment. In this study, that treatment was pivotal response training.
PRT is a child-directed behavioral intervention for autism that was co-developed by Schreibman. It targets language and play skills as well as social behaviors with a focus on improving a child’s motivation and responsiveness.
Researchers examined data from 28 children who received PRT. They examined the characteristics of the poorest and best responders to the therapy to develop a predictive profile. Children who were good candidates to receive PRT included those who had a moderate to high interest in toys and were tolerant of another person being near them. When compared to those who did not respond well to PRT, responders also had fewer non-verbal stimulatory behaviors like flapping or rocking and more verbal self-stimulatory behaviors like squeaking.
Using this predictive profile, researchers then selected six new children with autism who were expected to respond well to the therapy along with three children who were not “profiled” to do well. Children received 90 minutes of PRT four to five times a week. Those who were predicted to respond to PRT made significant gains. Two children who had no functional communication skills at the beginning of the study were both talking during and outside of treatment sessions by the second month.
Schreibman says, “This is just a start in the right direction. It is one profile for one therapy. We in the autism community know there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”