A latest therapy program involves exercises, the basic sensory ones, at home with the use of everyday items like sponges, spoons and scents and has shown that it produces significant improvements for children who have autism, as told by a neurobiologists’ team of University of California.

This environmental enrichment therapy has led to some important gains in boys, between age of 3 to 12, who got treated with this technique for 6-month period, as told by researchers.

Cynthia Woo, an assistant scientist in behavior and neurobiology for this project, said that since parents could provide their child with sensory enrichment by using items that are typically available at home, the therapy does give an economical option to enhance progress of their child.

In order to test this therapy, co-researcher Michael Leon and Woo divided 28 boys, who were autistic, in 2 groups. For about 6 months, all received the standard therapy for autism though half of group was also given daily exercises for sensory enrichment.

Parents of children got a kit that contained the household products for increasing environmental stimulation that included essential-oil fragrances like vanilla, lemon, apple and lavender. The boys had to smell all four scents every day as well as listen to some classical music every evening. Parents had to conduct twice-daily sessions also of 4 to 7 exercises with boys that involved different sensory stimuli combinations —movement, sight, touch and temperature.

After therapy of 6 months, 42% of children in enrichment group were able to show important improvements that related to people and having the typical responses of emotion and listening. It compared to only 7% in standard-care group. The ones in enrichment group scored higher when it came to cognitive function. Around 69% of the parents in enrichment group told that they saw significant improvements in children as compared to 31% parents in standard-care group.

Leon, a behaviour and neurobiology professor said that they believed that the sensory enrichment could be effective therapy as autism’s treatment, particularly in children who are past toddler stage. He further said that they also have to know if they could optimize this treatment, if there happen to be subgroups of the children on whom it is much effective and if this therapy also works for younger or older children.

Now Woo and Leon are conducting a 2nd clinical trial which includes girls.

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