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New technology to help children with Autism

Background

According to a recent study[1]the prevalence of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the young population has increased in USA from the 0.6-0.7% of the previous 2003 estimate in excess of 1% (i.e. from 1 in every 150 children to 1 in every 91 children).

A similar situation has been reported in Europe, where the prevalence of autism in children increased from the 0.5-0.7% reported in a Danish study[2] to 1.16 % as reported by Kuehn[3]and by several other studies.

This trend will have considerable social and economic impacts. The average lifetime costs for an autistic patient were evaluated[4]in 5.7 M Euro for patients with low functioning autism and 1.5 M Euro for people with high functioning autism.

It is well accepted in the scientific community the importance of an early diagnosis and that prognosis is greatly improved if a child is placed into an intensive and highly structured educational program by age of two or three years old. Early treatment is a crucial step to ameliorate the outcome of children with ASD through intervention in a critical period during which brain’s plasticity is maximal and environmental influences may interfere with neural connections (Dawson et al., 2008; Oberman et al., 2008; Altemeier et al., 2009).

Moreover researchers agree on the inadequacy of one single treatment approach for all the children with ASD due to the heterogeneity and the developmental nature of the disorder.

Earlier identification of children with ASD and the development of an individualizing protocol of intervention could increase the effectiveness of the treatment.

[1] Pediatrics - October 2009 Issue

[2] Atladottier HO et al. – “Time trends in reported diagnoses of childhood neuropsychiatric disorders: A Danish cohort study” – Archive of Pediatrics & Adolescence Medidice – 2007.

[3] Kuehn BM. – “Autism Spectrum Disorders Common” – Jama 7; 297(9):940 - 2007

[4] Knapp M, Romeo R, Beecham J, (2007). The economic consequences of autism in the UK. Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, London.

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