The good news is that it looks like very early intervention programs for children with autism really do help. The bad news is that services can be hard to find, and expensive.
Toddlers who participated in a study testing the Early Start Denver model for early intervention showed improved language skills and IQ, compared with children who didn’t get the specialized training, which emphasizes social skills and communication. The intensive therapy, which included 20 hours a week at home with a trained therapist and additional time working with parents, increased the IQ of the children by 18 points, compared with 7 IQ points in children who got more standard therapy.
Researchers and pediatricians have increasingly thought “the earlier, the better” when it comes to autism treatment, but this is the first hard evidence that working intensively with children who are younger than 2½ helps reduce the social and language deficits typical of autism. The study, which involved 48 children ages 18 months to 30 months, was published online Monday in Pediatrics.