TORONTO – Australian researchers say a new form of therapy for infants showing early signs of autism could reduce the chances of diagnosis by up to two-thirds.
The therapy, known as iBASIS-Video Interaction to Promote Positive Parenting (iBASIS-VIPP), involves videotaping of everyday conversations between a parent and their child, between nine and 14 months of age. is in between.
The family then participates in 10 sessions over a five-month period with a trained therapist, who provides feedback to parents based on the content of the video and helps parents build social engagement and communication with their child. does.
Lead researcher Andrew Whitehouse said in an interview, “This therapy helps parents understand all the unique ways their children communicate with their body language, with their facial expressions, with vocal expressions. which are not necessary.” Granthshala News.
Whitehouse, who is a professor of autism research at the University of Western Australia, says the therapy is “significantly different” from existing interventions, which typically aim to make children exhibit more specific behaviors.
“It’s quite different. This therapy looks to understand and nurture and support children’s unique differences,” Whitehouse said.
While autism is usually diagnosed by age three, symptoms of autism can begin as early as six months of age. These signs include poor eye contact, lack of imitation and smiling less.
“When you look at a whole collection of these behaviors together, we start to say, ‘Maybe this baby is developing a little differently,'” Whitehouse said.
Whitehouse and his colleagues published their findings Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The study included 171 infants and their families aged nine to 14 months. Researchers identified 103 children who were starting to show early signs of autism.
In a randomized trial, half of the children showing early autism symptoms were assigned to receive the new iBASIS-VIPP therapy, while the other half received only usual care. The researchers followed up with the children until they were three years old.
Autism was diagnosed in only seven percent of infants who received IBASIS-VIPP therapy, compared to 21 percent of children who received standard care. Autism symptoms were also found in infants who received iBASIS-VIPP.
Whitehouse called it an “exciting discovery.”
“It was one of those moments where you push your chair away from the computer and start moving,” he said. “We have long thought that if we can support early development from the earliest moments of life, we can change lifelong trajectories.”
Australian mother Aliana Salisano and her 11-month-old daughter Angelina were among the families involved in the study. Salisano had noticed that her daughter was avoiding eye contact, an early sign of possible autism. Angelina also has a brother on the autism spectrum, another risk factor for autism.
“It really enriched our entire bond. The whole experience was phenomenal, one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” Salisano told Granthshala News.
“It really helped me get very, very closely in tune with him and be able to recognize even the smallest of cues, which were very, very powerful,” she said.
Professor of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University, Dr. Isabelle M. Smith, who was not involved in the research, calls the findings “impressive.” While other studies have looked at similar interventions for children with autism, Smith says this is the first to include children this young.
“It’s really fantastic that we now have ways to intervene so early and set these kids on the right track,” Smith, who is also the Joan and Jack Craig Chair in Autism Research, told Granthshala News. “Giving parents the skills to do this is huge, and it makes a difference for the kids.”
Whitehouse says he and his team will follow the children participating in the study until the age of seven, at which point they will be reevaluated. They also plan to develop training programs to ensure that anyone around the world can access IBASIS-VIPP.
“This is the first time anywhere in the world that we can actually reduce difficulties and promote development to such an extent that we are reducing the likelihood of children receiving a diagnosis. This is really in autism research.” This is an important milestone and we really hope that it creates significant benefits around the world,” he said.