Friday, November 2nd, 2012
As autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses among children increase in number and get made earlier in the child’s life, therapies that begin at a young age are under study to see whether they can improve the long-term development of the child, and even change their brain chemistry. New research, according to CNN.com, suggests such therapies may do just that:
Now researchers have been able to show that a particular type of behavioral therapy called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) not only improves autism symptoms, but actually normalizes brain activity and improves social behavior.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that starts to become very apparent around age 3. The main signs and symptoms of autism involve communication, social interactions and repetitive behaviors. According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 88 children currently is diagnosed with autism, including one in 54 boys.
“Early intervention alters the trajectory of the brain and social development in children with autism,” says Geraldine Dawson, the lead study author who developed the ESDM therapy along with study co-author Sally Rogers.
Dawson was a researcher at the University of Washington when she helped devise ESDM; she’s now the chief science officer for the advocacy and research group Autism Speaks and a professor at the University of North Carolina. Rogers is a professor and researcher at the University of California Davis MIND Institute.
ESDM therapy uses teaching methods from ABA ,or applied behavioral analysis, the traditional one-on-one interaction between a child and the therapist.
But rather than sitting at a desk next to the child — where a teacher or therapist breaks down complex tasks into small components and gives tangible reinforcements — children receiving ESDM are sitting on the floor, playing with their therapist or parents.It can be done just about anywhere, and Dawson says the play-based method of engaging a child helps him or her develop a social relationship.
Image: Child and adult playing, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Therapy techniques intended to “convert” gay teenagers to heterosexuality could soon become illegal in California, if a new bill passes the state’s Senate. MSNBC.com reports:
Sen. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Torrance, says so-called “reparative” or “ex-gay” therapy wrongfully treats homosexuality as a disease and can be dangerous to minors. If his bill becomes law, California would become the first state to ban therapy aimed at turning gay and lesbian teens straight.
“Some therapists are taking advantage of vulnerable people by pushing dangerous sexual orientation-change efforts,” Lieu said before the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve the bill on Tuesday. “These non-scientific efforts have led in some cases to patients later committing suicide, as well as severe mental and physical anguish.”
Image: Teen in therapist’s office, via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Children who are abused, neglected, or witnesses to violence or trauma are almost 60 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles, a new report by the victim assistance group Safe Horizon and the Childhood Violent Trauma Center at Yale University has found. But going through even a short period of therapy can help both children and their parents or caregivers tremendously, the report also found–65 percent less likely to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The New York Times reports:
[Yale psychiatry professor Steven R.] Marans reported that children who participated experienced a 54 percent reduction in trauma symptoms, and their caregivers benefited almost as much.
“When children are alone with and don’t have words to describe their traumatic reactions, symptoms and symptomatic behaviors are their only means of expression,” he said. “And caregivers are often unable to understand the connection between the traumatic event and their children’s symptoms and behaviors. To heal, children need recognition and understanding from their caregivers.”
He added: “This intervention inspires hope and confidence. It can make an immediate and palpable difference in the daily lives of children who have suffered even the worst forms of abuse.”
Well over 90 percent of caregivers who participated in the intervention said they had learned new skills and would recommend the program, which could be a boon to child treatment centers throughout the country.
Image: Mother and daughter in therapy, via Shutterstock.
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