Breakthrough! Recent research from the LMA

November 11, 2011
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First Words for Autistic Kids

Singing-based therapy can help children with autism who do not speak to say their first words, a study by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) researchers suggests.

BIDMC’s Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory tested a treatment called Auditory-Motor Mapping Training on six autistic children in an eight-week program. The treatment uses a combination of singing and motor-skills training to strengthen a network of brain regions that is thought to be abnormal in children with autism.

The children, whose ages ranged from 6 to 9, had never spoken before the treatment, but were able to approximate words and phrases for up to two months afterward.

“For these nonverbal children to say their first words in especially gratifying for parents, and represents a critical step forward in their language development,” said BIDMC’s Dr. Catherine Wan, the study’s lead author.

The therapy still needs formal scientific studies to prove its effectiveness.

The study was published in September in the journal “PLoS One.” Other researchers included BIDMC’s Loes Bazen, Rebecca Baars, Amanda Libenson, Andrea Norton and Jennifer Zuk, and Lauryn Zipse of the MGH Institute of Health Professions.

From press materials.

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