For Young Children With Autism, Directing Attention Boosts Language

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NIH-supported study confirms that pointing, gestures to focus attention improve later language

An intervention in which adults actively engaged the attention of preschool children with autism by pointing to toys and using other gestures to focus their attention results in a long term increase in language skills, according to researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health.

At age 8, children with autism who received therapy centered on sharing attention and play when they were 3 or 4 years old had stronger vocabularies and more advanced language skills than did children who received standard therapy. All of the children in the study attended preschool for 30 hours each week.

“Some studies have indicated that such pre-verbal interactions provide the foundation for building later language skills,” said Alice Kau, Ph.D., of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch of the Eunice Kennedy ShriverNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH institute that supported the study.“This study confirms that intensive therapy to engage the attention of young children with autism helps them acquire language faster and build lasting language skills.”

–National Institutes of Health (NIH)

http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2012/nichd-21.htm

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