Research Update: Disability and Autism

New Research Suggests Possible Direction for Treatment of Autism

This exciting study, completed by researchers at USC-Irvine, and published in Behavioral Neuroscience, looked at the impact of a treatment called sensory-motor or environmental enrichment on the behavior of boys with autism (ages 3-12). The treatment involved twice-daily, parent-led sensory enrichment sessions, where the boys were encouraged to explore and manipulate a variety of sensory stimuli. The materials were low in cost, and addressed the senses of touch, sight, sound, and smell. Benefits were measured in behavior, cognition, and parent report of symptoms. It was interesting because this is considered a new therapy for autism, while being similar in activities to many “sensory diets” that are used in occupational therapy!

Childhood Disability Rate Jumps 16% Over Past Decade

Researchers have compiled the most recent data on the rate of childhood disability in our country, and have found that the rate of disability in children has increased greatly. There were almost 6 million children reported to have a disability in the 2009-2010 school year. Researchers found that the number of children with physical disabilities decreased, but those with neurodevelopmental/mental health needs increased. It was notable that children from higher-income families had a greater increase, while this trend was not seen in children living at the poverty level. The study did not look at causation, or why the rate increased.

Enhanced Motion Perception in Autism May Point to an Underlying Cause of the Disorder

Another interesting study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that children with autism were able to perceive movement faster than their peers. Using videos that asked children to identify the direction of simple moving bars. The children with autism were able to perform so well, the lowest performing child was at the average level of the neuro-typical peers. These results further support the belief that perception of visual input is significantly different in children with this diagnosis, and provides food for thought for therapists and teacher who are adapting environments and interacting with children who are diagnosed with autism.

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