Social Engagement Targets May Help in Autism InterventionLast Updated: December 29, 2010. In toddlers with autism spectrum disorders, the addition of social engagement targets to interventions may improve social and communication skills, according to a study in the January issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- In toddlers with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the addition of social engagement targets to interventions may improve social and communication skills, according to a study in the January issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Rebecca J. Landa, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues randomized 50 toddlers with ASD, aged 21 to 33 months, to one of two six-month interventions: Interpersonal Synchrony or Non-Interpersonal Synchrony. The interventions provided identical intensity, student-to-teacher ratio, schedule, home-based parent training, parent education, and instructional strategies, except the Interpersonal Synchrony intervention included a supplementary curriculum that targeted socially engaged imitation, affect sharing, and joint attention.
The investigators found a significant treatment effect for socially engaged imitation, with imitated acts paired with eye contact more than doubling (17 to 42 percent) in the Interpersonal Synchrony group post-intervention. There were similar increases for initiation of joint attention and shared positive affect, but between-group differences did not reach statistical significance. A significant time effect was found for all outcomes, with the greatest change occurring during the intervention period, especially in the Interpersonal Synchrony group.
"This is the first ASD randomized trial involving toddlers to identify an active ingredient for enhancing socially engaged imitation. Adding social engagement targets to intervention improves short-term outcome at no additional cost to the intervention. The social, language, and cognitive gains in our participants provide evidence for plasticity of these developmental systems in toddlers with ASD," the authors write.
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