Treatment at the earliest age when symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear – sometimes in infants as young as 6 months old – significantly reduces symptoms so that, by age 3, most who received the therapy had neither ASD nor developmental delay, a UC Davis MIND Institute research study has found.
The treatment, known as Infant Start, was administered over a six-month period to 6- to 15-month-old infants who exhibited marked autism symptoms, such as decreased eye contact, social interest or engagement, repetitive movement patterns and a lack of intentional communication.
It was delivered by the people who were most in tune with and spent the most time with the babies: their parents.
"Most of the children in the study, six out of seven, caught up in all of their learning skills and their language by the time they were 2 to 3," said UC Davis professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Sally J. Rogers, the study's lead author and the developer of the Infant Start therapy.
"Most children with ASD are barely even getting diagnosed by then."
Jennifer Rene Harmon Tegley was diagnosed with an aggressive form of throat cancer in October 2010. She was 17 years old.
“I can remember, it seems a little bit slow motion as the doctor described to us he was confident it was cancer. We were in the waiting room for a simple tonsillectomy,” said Jim Tegley, Jennifer’s father.
“She was amazingly courageous,” he continued. “She never once thought she wasn’t going to beat this. Not until the day she passed away.”
Jennifer died at the age of 18, less than one year after being diagnosed. Unfortunately, Jennifer is not the only member of the Tegley family who died too young. Jennifer’s cousin, Elizabeth Erica Harmon, passed away at the age of 30.
To honor the girls’ memory, the Harmon-Tegley family made a donation to name the lobby of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and to endow a faculty research position dedicated to clinical cancer research.