Autism Treatment Program Getting Positive Results

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A program designed to enhance social and communication skills for young children with autism spectrum disorder is providing added benefits to their families.

The interim results of an independent program evaluation conducted by IWK Health Centre Research Services and Dalhousie University indicates that after one year of Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI)treatment, virtually all 27 children in the first phase of the program had significantly improved communication skills. According to tests and parental feedback, they also had improved problem-solving skills and reduced behavioural problems.

"The implementation of the EIBI program has done wonders for our boys -- both academically and socially," said Tracey Avery, a mother of two children with autism who participated in the EIBI training in Halifax. "Parenting children with autism is extremely challenging. Receiving help to achieve many goals means so much to parents, but also makes a life-changing difference for these children."

"I'm very pleased to see this program is truly making a difference in the lives of children and families dealing with autism," said Health Minister Chris d'Entremont. "As the program becomes fully implemented, we expect to improve the future of even more young children."

A major aspect of the program involved teaching parents the skills to elicit language from the children. Mrs. Avery said this enabled the family to communicate with one another, making every day less stressful.

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Many of the children were about a year and a half behind in language-development skills when they began EIBI treatment. On average, children gained more than a year's worth of language skills in the first 12 months of treatment.

"Words cannot express how we felt when Kyle started talking after five years of silence," said Ms. Avery. "Brandon started to interact with others and was much more aware of his environment." More than 88 per cent of parents surveyed indicated they would highly recommend the program to other parents who have young children with autism.

Some parents surveyed also indicated that improved behaviour and reduced symptoms increased family participation in community activities with their children.

The EIBI program is delivered by a multi-disciplinary treatment team that provides individualized programming and intervention for each child.

The program is offered through district health authorities and the IWK Health Centre, in collaboration with Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres.

EIBI helps develop communication, play and other functional skills. It helps children learn how to relate to, and to function more effectively in, family and community life. EIBI can be provided in a variety of settings, including in the home, at day-care centres, preschools and within other community environments. It enhances other services already available for children with autism and their families across the province.

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