The study by Ohio State University researchers is one of few that have rigorously examined the success of the Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) program, which some believe is the best way to treat autistic children.
"We were taught at one time that it couldn't happen people who were mentally retarded couldn't become average," Mulick said. "But we found it can happen among at least some with autism."
The preliminary results show the value of EIBI, said James Mulick, co-author of the study and professor of pediatrics and psychology at Ohio State University. He and his colleagues presented results of the research August 7 in Toronto at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.
The eight children enrolled in the study all had been diagnosed with mental retardation which is often associated with autism -- before participating in EIBI. Six of the eight children showed at least average IQ scores after treatment and two had improved to mild mental retardation. Most also showed improvements in other areas of functioning, such as behavior and a reduction in autistic symptoms.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically is diagnosed within the first few years of life. Autistic children often have trouble with verbal and non-verbal communications, with social interactions, and may not be affectionate with others. Because autism involves problems with language, it is often associated with mental retardation.
Mulick, who is also associated with Children's Hospital in Columbus, cautioned that EIBI isn't a miracle cure, and isn't strongly effective for many maybe most autistic children. But he said it is remarkable that some children could go from being quite correctly labeled mentall
Contact: James Mulick
Ohio State University