While there is currently no cure for autism or any autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the use of intensive therapy can help improve social and communication skills, which are commonly problematic in those with ASD. And according to a University of Missouri study, the younger children are when they begin intensive therapy, the more of a benefit they will receive from it.

Researchers collected data from more than 1,000 children with ASD and measured 15 social-communication skills, such as facial expressions, gestures, language comprehension, sharing enjoyment and appropriate social responses. The study found that 95.4 percent of the children showed improvement in these areas over time, but those who had the best outcomes were those who received behavioral, speech, occupational and other forms of intensive therapy. ASD children with higher nonverbal IQs were most responsive to therapy in the study:

“For those children who were nonverbal at age 5, the researchers found that IQ and intensity of speech therapy most significantly predicted the acquisition of speech. The findings indicate that targeted, intensive treatments may be most successful in improving specific skills.”

Researcher Micah Mazurek said it is important that children with ASD receive therapy as soon as possible.

“The more intense or comprehensive the therapy, the better it is in terms of helping children improve social and communication skills,” she said. “With regard to social-communicative symptom severity, our study reveals that it is not IQ alone that contributes to improvements over time. Instead, having a higher IQ may allow children to make greater gains in various types of treatments. Although IQ scores of children with ASD may be strongly influenced by their capacity for attention and ability to comply with tasks, results indicate the need to design and examine alternative treatment approaches for those with intellectual impairments.”

Source: University of Missouri

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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