Recent research has come even closer to finding a breakthrough for autism. In this edition of Healthy Living, Katie Gibas takes a closer look.
One out of 88 children have Autism Spectrum Disorder. For parents, the diagnosis can be particularly tough. However, there is good news.
"Are we close to a breakthrough? I would like to say yes because the research is so active and people are so passionate about it," said Dr. Roula Choueiri, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician.
Autism is a group of complex disorders of brain development. It is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. Currently, there is research tackling Autism from every angle.
"There is a lot of research on genetics, so what are the causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder? What's the rate of occurrence? What's the prognosis? What's the outcome. And there's a lot of research in the treatment of ASD," noted Dr. Choueiri.
While many scientists believe genetics account for 80 percent to 90 percent of the risk for developing autism, they haven't been able to pinpoint one inherited cause. That's why a lot of the focus is on improving symptoms.
Speech, occupational therapy, and physical therapy early on have been shown to lessen the severity of Autism. Some of that therapy includes unlikely partners.
Dr. Choueiri said, "We've also collaborated with the Engineering School at Tufts to try to look at robots, teaching older children social skills."
Behaviors are often taught through a system of rewards and consequences. Therapists can even teach children to read people's body language to gauge social interactions.
"The families we work with are really invested and are really working hard. So the research that's going on will hopefully validate their efforts, and will also help them understand and plan the future for their children," added Dr. Choueiri.
Researchers are trying unique approaches, including the Wayland-Cohocton Central School District. It was the first in New York State to try to change behaviors using a multi-sensory room.
Therapists say sound, visuals and textures in a controlled environment can create positive feelings and maximize a person's potential to focus.