Clinicians have increasingly come to believe that the worst effects of autism can be blunted if the condition is identified and treated early enough. Now, the journal Pediatrics has published a study that seems to validate the theory.
The study is the first randomized, controlled trial for comprehensive autism treatment for children as young as 18 months old. While certainly not a cure for the condition, the study did find that intense early treatment yields major improvements in IQ scores, language processing, and in the ability to manage everyday tasks essential for early childhood development and education.
The University of Washington study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. It involved 48 children ages 18 to 30 months, half of whom were randomly assigned to receive the Early Start Denver Model, an intensive autism therapy protocol. The other half were assigned to a control group and received less intensive therapy.
After two years, those who participated in the Denver Model group had average IQ scores 17.6 points higher than the control group, putting them within the range of normal intelligence, while those in the other group gained just seven points, remaining in the zone of intellectual disability.