In encouraging news for parents of autistic children, researchers say early behavior therapy can help normalize brain patterns responsible for the symptoms of the condition. Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders who participated in the Early Start Denver Model program, which involves intensive social and linguistic engagement with toddlers, showed changes in the way their brains process human faces and objects. Autistic youngsters generally show more brain activity when they view images of an inanimate object like a toy than when they see a picture of a woman’s face. But after two years of ESDM therapy, the autistic children showed the opposite response, and these patterns came close to mimicking those found among normally developing children. It’s a hopeful sign that it’s possible to halt some of the brain changes linked to autism and possibly even reverse them. But the key to the program’s success involves early and intensive intervention with properly trained counselors who actively engage the toddlers in several hours of therapy a week.
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