Scientists at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have been working together to determine the neurological aspects of autism. Through this, they have now found differences in how autistic children learn.
In a new study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists have examined how autistic children move as they learn about a new tool. What researchers have found is that autistic children seem to rely more on their own internal sense of body position rather than visual information as other children do. The scientists have also found that the more a child does this, the greater is the child’s impairment in certain social and motor skills.
Motor skills have been found to be difficult for autistic children, as the disorder seems to be associated with brain abnormalities related to the learning of motor actions. By determining how uniquely autistic children learn, new methods can be found for treating these children. “ Dr. Stewart H. Mostofsky, study author and a pediatric neurologist in the Department of Developmental Cognitive Neurology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute maintains, “If done early enough, this could help to improve development of motor, social and communicative skills in children with autism. Further, it could also improve their ability to understand social cues because the brain systems critical to forming internal models of behavior that guide our actions are also critical to developing an understanding of the meaning of those actions.”
Autistic children have difficulty with imitating behavior and many have problems with language. They are, however, sometimes able to learn special skills like playing the piano or drawing. Although motor skills may be difficult for autistic children, certain talents and abilities may override this; and the child’s performance will be considerably above functioning levels in other areas.
These new research studies have been promising in helping parents and professionals learn new ways of working with autistic children. The Autism Society of America stresses the importance of research and of parents involvement with their children. The organization points out that although there is “no single known cause or cure, autism is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention can lead to significantly improved outcomes. With the right services and supports, people with autism can live full, healthy and meaningful lives.”
Hopefully this new research on how autistic individuals learn new behaviors will help in providing appropriate educational services in order to help them learn skills to aid their development and adjustment.