For Children With Autism, Reading Can Be Magic

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Ten weeks of intensive reading intervention was enough to help strengthen brain activity and reading comprehension for children with autism spectrum disorder, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently found.

This research proves that the brain is a plastic, flexible organ that can be strengthened and whose function can be improved regardless of age, reported the Medical Daily.

Individuals on the autism spectrum are affected by a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs one’s ability to communicate and interact with others. The disorder manifests itself on a wide spectrum, with symptoms ranging from mild to very severe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 50 schoolchildren in the U.S. will be diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

In addition to hindering one’s communication skills, autism spectrum disorder also impairs connectivity between parts in the brain’s reading area. However, the University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers found that this connectivity was strengthened among the children they studied after giving them face-to-face reading instruction for four hours a day, five days a week.

The study observed 13 children, whose average age was 10.9 years old. The families taking part in the study received this intensive intervention free of charge, reported. After taking part in the study, the children displayed boosted activity in the parts of the brain that handle language and visual/spatial processing.

The study’s authors call this the “magic of intervention,” in which people with autism spectrum disorder may be able to control or even overcome some of the negative aspects of their disorder. For children who are diagnosed with this disorder early enough, this “magic” could actually reverse some of the symptoms associated with their disorder.

“This study is the first to do reading intervention with ASD children using brain imaging techniques, and the findings reflect the plasticity of the brain,” Rajesh Kana, associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the study’s lead author, said. “Some parents think, if their child is 8 or 10 years old when diagnosed, the game is lost. What I stress constantly is the importance of intervention, and the magic of intervention, on the brain in general and brain connectivity in particular.”

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