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Environmental Enrichment Reduces Autism Symptoms

Last Updated: May 24, 2013.

Environmental enrichment, including daily olfactory and tactile stimulation, appears to improve autism symptoms in children, according to a study published online May 20 in Behavioral Neuroscience.

FRIDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- Environmental enrichment, including daily olfactory and tactile stimulation, appears to improve autism symptoms in children, according to a study published online May 20 in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Cynthia C. Woo, Ph.D., and Michael Leon, Ph.D., from the University of California Irvine, randomized children with autism (3 to 12 years of age) to either a sensorimotor enrichment group, which received daily olfactory/tactile stimulation along with exercises that stimulated other paired sensory modalities, or to a control group. Tests of cognitive performance and autism severity were administered to all participants at baseline and after six months. The Childhood Autism Rating Scale was used to assess autism severity.

The researchers observed a significant clinical improvement in autism severity (movement of five points on the scale) in the enriched group compared to controls (42 percent of the enriched group versus 7 percent of the control group). There were also improvements in cognition (measured with Leiter-R Visualization and Reasoning scores) from sensorimotor enrichment. Parents reported improvement in their child over the study period in 69 percent of the enriched group and 31 percent of the control group.

"Environmental enrichment therefore appears to be effective in ameliorating some of the symptoms of autism in children," the authors write.

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