Latest News » Autistic speech development boosted by earlier exposure, study finds

Autistic children face many communicative challenges.

Parents and caretakers of young children diagnosed with autism are undoubtedly aware that the syndrome can make communication incredibly challenging. Speech development, in particular, can prove far more difficult for children with this condition.

Recent studies indicate, however, that autistic children who are exposed to intensive behavioral therapy from an early age can make significant headway in this area, the Scientific American reports. One study in particular, which began in 2006, involved exposing autistic children to daily interaction with graduates students for a series of weeks. The 30-minute play sessions were focused on two elements of cognitive development – namely, symbolic play and joint attention.

The study was coordinated by Professor Connie Kasari from the University of California, and was centered on these aspects because they contribute to an overall "theory of mind" that enables one individual to understand and foresee the behavior of another.

University of California, Davis psychiatry professor Sally Rogers told the publication that the recent findings are influential because they focused on younger children, and indicated that speech therapy and other methods of intervention at a young age had a lasting impact on communicative progress.

"This has important public policy implications," the source notes, "because there is little funding for children younger than three."

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states that it is important to incorporate language within the first three years of a child's life, since this is when the brain is developing and is therefore more adaptive. In light of the findings of the 2006 study, it seems that this standard is as applicable to an autistic child as any other.

Certain nutrients have also been found to be beneficial for speech development in autistic children. A 2005 study conducted by Nordic Naturals found that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, when taken in conjunction with other forms of interactive therapy, could boost speech development in autistic children between 3 and 10 years old.

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