Major breakthrough in treating autism

Results of a new programme for treating young children with autism have shown that even the most disabled made outstanding progress. Ninety-four percent of those completing the programme so far are now able to attend a mainstream school.

The South West Autism Project (SWAP), directed by Professor Alec Webster of Bristol University and funded by Bristol City Council, was started in September 2000, following a marked rise in the number of children in Bristol being diagnosed with autism. Data from 26 families are now available and show remarkable results.

The children were initially assessed using a baseline test, expressed as an overall developmental quotient – DQ. Baseline assessments ranged from a DQ of 24 – a child with severe learning difficulties – to more able children with a DQ of 100. An Individual Education Plan was then written for each child. The overall objective was to enable the autistic child to make sense of what is to them a bewildering environment, and begin to make active, spontaneous, engagement with it.

Trained tutors worked alongside families in home settings and in playgroups/nurseries on rogrammes geared to develop children`s social interaction, play, communication skills and flexible thinking. Progress was reviewed weekly. On average, families received 10 hours per week intensive provision. All programmes were characterised by small learning steps with a high degree of structure and repetition.

For example, a child with no eye contact and poor social skills is taught turn-taking and how to make requests using a bubble-blowing game; a child who withdraws into a trance-like state, even on short car journeys, is given an `I-spy` card to keep him alert; children who are unable to accept change are taught by a `surprise` card so they can anticipate a change in routine; and children who are afraid of specific places or activities – for example going to the toilet – are helped by placing pictures associated with their favourite obsessions, such as Harry Potter, aliens, tractors, etc.

Key findings show that all children on the programme made significant progress and that it was effective for children across a wide range of ability. In the best case a child with a DQ of 24 gained more than 60 points in 18 months. One third of the group showed DQ gains of more than 45
points and half showed DQ gains of 20 points or more. Children who made the greatest progress received a combination of intervention strategies, including support in mainstream nurseries. To date, 16 out of 17 SWAP `graduates` have gone to mainstream school. Professor Alec Webster at Bristol University said that the results were `dramatic – children made huge gains in academic skills, but more significantly, acquired the social skills to take part in group activities and follow everyday school routines`.

Up to now many parents of children with autism have had to fight legal battles to fund early intervention programmes. As a result, local education authorities (LEAs) were made to fund expensive programmes they were not happy with and which they had no control over. This research points the way forward for LEAs working in partnership with families, and Bristol City Council is leading the way in securing the best approach for young children.

Media Contact

Cherry Lewis alfa

More Information:

http://www.bris.ac.uk

All latest news from the category: Health and Medicine

This subject area encompasses research and studies in the field of human medicine.

Among the wide-ranging list of topics covered here are anesthesiology, anatomy, surgery, human genetics, hygiene and environmental medicine, internal medicine, neurology, pharmacology, physiology, urology and dental medicine.

Back to home

Comments (0)

Write a comment

Newest articles

Prostate cancer organoids open path to precision oncology

A multi-institutional team of investigators led by bioengineer Ankur Singh has developed research tools that shed new light on a virtually untreatable form of prostate cancer, opening a pathway that may lead…

Experimental compound counters diabetic complications

An experimental compound reduced complications of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in mice – not by lowering blood sugar – but by countering its consequences: cell death, inflammation, and…

Taking new aim at COVID-19

The coronavirus’s tangled strands of RNA could offer new ways to treat people who get infected. To the untrained eye, the loops, kinks and folds in the single strand of…

Partners & Sponsors