A study published today and funded by Autistica has used video-based therapy for families with babies at risk of autism and shown improvements in infants’ engagement, attention and social behaviour.
Previous research has found that the earliest indicators of autism such as a lack of attention to a parent, reduced social interest or engagement, and decreased eye contact, may be present as early as a child’s first year of life, but until now no treatment trials have assessed the possibility of providing support for these early differences with the aim of improving the longer term development of the child.
Method & aims
In this study, a specially adapted Video Interaction for Promoting Positive Parenting Programme (iBASIS-VIPP) was delivered over 5 months to infants aged 7 to 10 months, who had a higher chance of developing autism because they had an older sibling diagnosed with the condition. The aim of the programme was to reduce the full onset of symptoms prior to diagnosis, by optimising the babies’ social and communication skills during the first year of their life.
After 5 months of the intervention, families who received video therapy showed improvements in infant engagement, attention and social behaviour. For example, in the group that received the intervention there was a reduction in behaviours associated with an autism diagnosis, which was not seen in the group who received no intervention. There were also changes in parents’ behaviour, such as being less directive in their interactions whilst increasing their infants’ attentiveness. The results were not universally clear, however, and there was a possibility of nil or negative effects on language and communications skills, which obviously needs further research.
Simon Wallace, Research Director at Autistica says, “This project is an important step towards gaining a better understanding of how interventions for the very early signs of autism in “at-risk” groups can be used to support the development of social and communication skills. Autistica is responding to people with autism and parents who believe that early intervention is key. It is important that research continues on a larger scale to test approaches like iBASIS-VIPP in partnership with families, before they are delivered in clinics and homes.”
For a summary of the findings, read Autistica’s press release here: iBASIS video based therapy for autism
The full article published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal can be seen here: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(14)00091-1/abstract