More than occasional skepticism has been voiced about my lead essay, “Reversing Autism“. However, because of recent research, the major media sites, at least, seem to have picked up on this paradigm.

CBS news asked, “Could early intervention reverse autism?” NBC news announced, “Treating Infants for Autism May Eliminate Symptoms.” U.S. News and World Report: “Spotting, Treating Autism Symptoms in Infancy May Prevent Delays,” and USA Today was the most optimistic, by reporting “Study: Autism signs in babies can be erased.”

What was the study?
Researchers from the University of California, Davis MIND Institute provided intervention to seven ‘symptomatic’ infants (5 male, 7-15 months) and results were compared with 3 control groups:
1. High-risk infants who were younger siblings of an ASD child, but never developed it.
2. Low-risk infants who were younger sibs of a neuro-typical child.
3. High-risk infants who were younger sibs and diagnosed with ASD by 3 years.

What was the intervention?
Twelve ~1-hour sessions were provided. In the first one, 5-6 measurable objectives were developed. Afterwards, parents were instructed on skills to address those concerns. “… Therapists also provided parents with specific interventions for other delays, which were individualized for each child to address weaknesses identified during the curriculum assessment…”

What was the result?
U.C Davis’ Dr. Sally Rogers, et.al. reported that, “Most of the children in the study, six out of seven, caught up in all of their learning skills and their language by the time they were 2 to 3… Most children with ASD are barely even getting diagnosed by then.

Conclusions:
I was a bit disappointed that no medical problems were noted in any of the children. Perhaps it will be addressed in future research. Furthermore, the child who did not improve might have had an undiagnosed physical ailment, which would have made the intervention more effective.

In many cases, autism is something that can be reversed. That is simply the way that I perceive the condition. ASD seems to present as some sort of injury; before, or up to three years after birth, from which a child may recover. As in any physical insult, there can be complete, partial, functional, little or no improvement. Also, it may take months or years to achieve significant gains. The earlier the condition is treated, the higher the chance of recovery.

Pediatricians, neurologists, geneticists, psychiatrists, psychologists, gastroenterologists, dermatologists, immunologists, family practitioners – are you listening?

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