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Therapy Improves Speech in Autistic Children with Language Delay

A behavioral therapy called pivotal response treatment (PRT) boosts the communication skills of autistic children with language delay better than do standard speech and autism therapies, a small study suggests1.

PRT therapists use various strategies to motivate autistic children to talk during play. For instance, they may name a toy that a child shows interest in, but hand it over only if the child then requests it by name. They also teach parents to use similar strategies in their daily routines.

The treatment has been shown to improve communication skills and ease autism traits when therapists implement it2. It is also effective when trained parents deliver it3. The new work explores its effectiveness when both parents and therapists are involved, as the therapy’s creators intended.

“We don’t yet have very much information about the effects of combining clinician-delivered and parent-training for PRT in a controlled trial,” says co-lead investigator Grace Gengoux, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University in California.

Gengoux and her colleagues found that 23 autistic children who received PRT for six months spoke more words and interacted with their parents more than did 20 controls. The findings appeared 6 August in Pediatrics.

At the beginning and end of the study, the researchers took 10-minute videos of the parents playing with the children and coaxing them to communicate. They tallied how many times each child spoke during these sessions. They rated the severity of the children’s autism traits using a standard scale and assessed their social-communication skills. (The researchers did not know which children received PRT.) The parents also rated their child’s language and social skills.

To look for improvements over time, Gengoux and her colleagues plan to reassess all of the children from the PRT group after six months. Also, they are scanning the brains of a group of children who receive PRT to try to identify structures or activity patterns that predict response to the treatment or that change in response to it.

Excerpted from “Therapy improves speech in autistic children with language delay” in Spectrum. Read the full article.

References:
  1. Gengoux G.W. et al. Pediatrics 144, e20190178 (2019) PubMed
  2. Mohammadzaheri F. et al. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 44, 2769-2777 (2014) PubMed
  3. Hardan A.Y. et al. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry 56, 884-892 (2015) PubMed
Source: Spectrum | Therapy improves speech in autistic children with language delay, https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/therapy-improves-speech-in-autistic-children-with-language-delay | © 2019 Simons Foundation

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