Geraldine Dawson, director of the Autism Center at the University of Washington, will deliver the keynote address today at the 4th International Meeting for Autism Research being held at the Marriott Boston Copley Place. The meeting will attract leading scientists from around the world, who will discuss research on genetic factors, brain research, new treatments and potential environmental factors involved in the development of autism.
Dawson, also a UW psychology professor, said her team has begun testing a new intervention program for toddlers with autism that not only has a dual focus on language and cognitive development but also promotes the emotional relationship between a child and other people.
"We are examining whether this very early intervention that focuses on social engagement alters the course of development," she said. "As part of our outcomes, we will be examining the child's brain responses to social stimuli. We hope to find that our intervention not only affects behavior but also alters the trajectory of early brain development toward a more normal one."
Most interventions for children with autism are designed for children of preschool age or older, and there are few such programs for toddlers. The UW program, however, treats children as young as the researchers can reliably diagnosis with autism, some just 18 months of age. The program was designed with the assistance of Sally Rogers, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
The intervention program is intensive, running 25 to 30 hours per week over a two-year period. It involves cognitive and motor skill
Contact: Joel Schwarz
University of Washington