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HEALTH REPORT - Children's Doctors Group Calls for Early Medical and Educational Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorders

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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Last week we reported about new advice on autism from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It said doctors should look for signs of the brain disorder when they examine babies at eighteen months and twenty-four months.

At the same time, the medical group provided new guidelines for care and treatment of children once they are identified as autistic. We promised more information on that part of the new guidelines this week.

Autism is a general term for a group of brain disorders that limit the development of social and communication skills. Medical professionals call them autism spectrum disorders.

Experts say autism is permanent and cannot be cured. But there are ways to treat it that can reduce the severity. The academy says the earlier treatment begins, the better the results.

The new guidelines include educational interventions, medical care and family support tools.

An autistic 3-year-old studies flash cards held by an instructor
An autistic 3-year-old studies flash cards held by an instructor

The American Academy of Pediatrics says young autistic children should enter some kind of learning program. It says such children should be actively involved in the program at least twenty-five hours a week all year long. The group also says it is best if there is a small number of students for each teacher. The A.A.P. says autistic children do better with more direct attention from and interaction with their teachers.

The group also calls for interaction between autistic children and non-autistic children of the same age when possible. However, the A.A.P. guidelines note that children with more severe cases of autism spectrum disorder may have serious behavior problems. These could make interactions with other children difficult or even harmful.

The experts advise parents to receive training for dealing with autism. But the A.A.P. warns parents and doctors against several kinds of treatment programs. These include those that claim a high level of success or a cure for the disorder. The guidelines suggest using treatments that are based on results of controlled studies supported by established scientific organizations.

The A.A.P. says autistic children should have the same general health care as other children, including immunizations against disease. It says some autistic children have behavior, social or medical problems that may require treatment with drugs.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. Transcripts and MP3 files of our reports are at www.unsv.com. I'm Bob Doughty.

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