Early Intervention with Infants May Reduce Autism Symptoms

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A 2014 study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities found that parents of infants can help significantly reduce symptoms of autism by changing how they interact and play with their infant. This is important news for parents, professionals and childcare providers of children as young as six months. Currently, children do not undergo early intervention for autism until age two or three, but this study suggests that they key to eliminating the symptoms may be to treat children at a younger age.


The small study followed seven babies, ages 7 to 15 months, all who displayed early signs of autism. Signs of autism in infants include: unusual visual fixations, abnormal repetitive behavior, lack of age appropriate sound development, delayed intentional communication, and low interest in social interactions. The intervention, called the Early Start Denver Model, focuses on engaging a baby's attention in everyday activities with the parents, such as focusing on parent's faces and voices, practicing interactions that cause joy and smiling and using toys to encourage social activity. Early Start helps parents read their babies' subtle cues and provides parents with additional strategies and tools to engage their babies. Autistic children may take longer to pick up social cues or may not respond the way other babies do, such as smiling frequently and cooing. Early Start teaches parents that they may need to alter the way they interact with their baby and persist a little longer than feels normal to them.

 Parents in the study participated in one-hour weekly sessions for 12 weeks with an Early Start therapist. By 18 to 36 months, 6 out of 7 of the babies in the study had lower autism severity scores than those who did not undergo the treatment.

This study reinforces that early intervention can make an enormous difference for babies and young children.

Unfortunately, child care providers are often left out of the early intervention discussion. If a nanny, daycare provider, grandparent or any other sitter is spending significant time with your baby, it is important that you are on the same page in terms of development. If you, as the parent, are changing the way you interact with your child or learning new tools to engage your child, your child care providers should be involved in these changes. It is the best thing for your child and their development.

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