Scientists say they have established the first successful treatment for autism, after training parents in how best to respond to the needs of children with the condition.
The study, published in The Lancet, found “striking” and “remarkable” long-term changes after toddlers were enrolled in intensive communication programmes, which aimed to coax them out of their shell.
Researchers called for the national rollout of the schemes, which were found to reduce overall severity of symptoms by 17 per cent.
The study – the largest ever randomised controlled trial for treatment of autism – tracked 152 families for six years, starting when children were aged between two and four years old.
Half of the families were enrolled in communication training, which records interaction between children and parents, replaying it in slow motion, while giving insights about how best to respond to each cue.
Among those given the coaching, the percentage of children with severe symptoms fell from 55 per cent to 46 per cent over six years.
– Laura Donnelly