ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Hip Replacement Boosts Mobility at Any Age
Heart Failure Raises Risk of Fractures
Gene Plays Key Role in Clubfoot
CANCER
Green Tea May Help Prevent Oral Cancer
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Well Water Might Raise Bladder Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Are Hospital Mobile Phones Dialing Up Superbugs?
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
Timing May Matter in Organ Donation Decisions
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
COSMETIC
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
DENTAL, ORAL
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
DIABETES
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Omega-3 May Reduce Endometriosis Risk
Adults Need To Get Thier Food Facts Straight
Decline of Underweight Children in U.S. Continue to Fall
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
Hairspray Exposure Ups Risk for Birth Defect in Sons
Warmer-Than-Average Temperatures Raise Migraine Risk
EYE CARE, VISION
Unconscious Learning: In the Eye of the Beholder?
Kids Think Glasses Make Others Look Smart, Honest
Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Protect Against Eye Disease
FITNESS
Occupational Therapy Plus Exercise Benefits Osteoarthritis
Higher Fitness Levels Tied to Lower Heart, Death Risks
As Temperature Plummets, It's Still Safe to Exercise
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
GENERAL HEALTH
Stressed and Exhausted: An Introduction to Adrenal Fatigue
Health Gains From Lowered Smoking Rates in Jeopardy
Maximize Your Run
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Heart Disease
Chinese Red Yeast Rice May Prevent Heart Attack
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Help Your Kids Stay Active
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
MENTAL HEALTH
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
Heal Your LifeŽ Tips for Living Well
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
SENIORS
Money May Matter, Health-Wise, in Old Age
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
How Much Fish to Eat While Pregnant?
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Working Intensely Early on May Help Autistic Kids

(HealthDay News) -- A special, intensive early intervention program for toddlers with autism succeeded in boosting IQ along with children's language and social skills, a new study shows.

"When done in this fashion, many children are able to learn and make remarkable progress," said Geraldine Dawson, lead author of the study, published online Nov. 30 in Pediatrics, and chief science officer of Autism Speaks. "Some of the kids at the end of the study were going into regular preschool and had developed language and friendships with their peers."

All children in the study were 1˝ to 2˝ years old, but the intervention -- called the Early Start Denver Model -- was designed for children 1 to 5 years of age, Dawson said.

"This is the first time that there's been a randomized controlled study of an intensive early intervention for toddlers," added Dawson, who was a psychology professor and director of the Autism Center at the University of Washington, Seattle, when the study was conducted. "There have been a few studies of short-term strategies that would improve specific skills such as language and social behavior."

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that children be screened as young as 18 months for autism spectrum disorders, a cluster of neurodevelopmental disorders, sometimes called pervasive developmental disorders, involving social and verbal impairments.

However, the age at diagnosis is generally closer to 3 or 4 years, Dawson said, simply because new screening tools are not in widespread use.

"The systems that underlie early social behaviors such as eye contact and babbling come on in the first few months of life so one of the reasons we're trying to move to early diagnosis and early intervention is to be able to intervene at a point when the brain is still developing so we can change the trajectory not only of early development but also of brain development," she explained.

For the study, 48 children, 1˝ to 2˝ years old, with autism spectrum disorder were assigned either to the new Early Start Denver Model program or were placed in programs typically available in their communities.

The Denver Model "targets all areas of development so it's language, social behavior, motor skills, play, self-help skills, and the intervention is provided by trained paraprofessionals who work with the child one-on-one in the home for two two-hour sessions five days a week," Dawson explained. "Parents are also trained to carry out intervention strategies and to use those strategies in the context of bath time or at the dinner table or even at the playground."

"The strategies in this model are delivered in a very naturalistic, play-based and relationship-focused context rather than sitting the child down at a table and doing drills," she added. "It's just a slow process, sort of a labor of love, teaching kids step by step all these different skills."

Two years later, children in the Denver Model group had improved an average of 17.6 points on a standard scale of early-life learning, compared with a 7-point increase for the comparison group. The Denver Model children also had an average IQ increase of 15.4 points, compared with a 4.4-point increase for the others.

Children participating in the Denver Model program were also more likely to have their diagnosis changed from autism to pervasive developmental disorder, the study found.

A step-by-step manual describing the approach is being published within the next month, Dawson said. The authors are also working on Web-based training materials and other ways to make the model more widely available, she said.

Keith A. Young, vice chairman for research in the psychiatry and behavioral science department at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, and chairman of the Tissue Advisory Board at Autism Speaks, described the study as a "critically important paper."

"It sets a benchmark for additional therapies that may come along," Young said. "This treatment was done in a very scientifically rigorous way and I think ... this is going to become the standard for what needs to be done to get these kids to function better." "The magnitude of the learning that took place in the domains that are deficient in people with autism and, in particular, in expressive language and communication were really substantial and brought them up to a level where this is really going to improve their quality of life," he added.

Donna Murray, co-director of the Kelly O'Leary Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said that the study "continues to support the idea that we need to be able to provide more intensive early intervention" for autism spectrum disorders.

"We do know there are studies suggesting that applied behavioral analysis [used in the Denver model] has positive outcomes in children with autism," Murray said. "This is a very nice study to support what we had sort of suspected."

A second study published at the same time in Pediatrics found that the anti-psychotic drug aripiprazole (Abilify) helped quell tantrums, aggression and other forms of irritability in 98 children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. The study was funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., which develop and market Abilify.

The drug is an antipsychotic more commonly used to treat schizophrenia and the mania associated with bipolar disorder.

SOURCES: Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., chief science officer, Autism Speaks; Donna Murray, Ph.D., co-director, Kelly O'Leary Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati; Keith A. Young, Ph.D., vice chairman, research, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, Temple, Tex.; Nov. 30, 2009, Pediatrics, online Published on: November 30, 2009