Autistic children learn better communication skills when therapy is tailored, says UCLA study

Autistic children learn better communication skills when therapy is tailored, says UCLA study

A3-year study into the different approaches surrounding minimally verbal children with autism found great improvement when therapy was tailored to their individual needs using a computer tablet and personalised interventions.

The study, which was led by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), examined 61 children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) between the ages of five to eight-years old for a period of six months.

UCLA Professor Connie Kasari worked with researchers at the Vanderbilt University and the Kennedy Krieger Institute to produce the study. “It was remarkable how well the tablet worked in providing access to communication for these children. Children who received the behavioural intervention along with the tablet to support their communication attempts made much faster progress in learning to communicate, and especially is using spoken language,” she said.

Each child taking part in the study received communication therapy which focused on communication gestures, such as pointing, as well as play skills and spoken language.

Half of the children were randomly selected to use of a speech-generating application given to them on a computer tablet for a portion of time during their sessions.

Researchers found that children who had access to the application and tablets during their therapy sessions were “more likely to use language spontaneously and socially than the children who received communication intervention alone”.

Researchers for the study also conducted follow-up visits with the children they had worked with, three months after the initial study, and found that improvement had been maintained.

UCLA are working with researchers to design an ASD-based programme which allows therapists to tailor their work to children with autism so that they may create a more personalised and beneficial communication therapy.