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A treatment for autism

Autism is a severe developmental disorder that affects 1 in 100 children. The core difficulties in social communication, which can mean children not even being able to communicate verbally, and the rigid and repetitive behaviours usually have a profound effect on development into adulthood and result in estimated £1-1.5 million lifetime societal costs per child.

Despite many claims and previous research, there has to date been no treatment for the condition that has succeeded in improving these core developmental symptoms over the long-term. Now, however, researchers are reporting the long-term results of an intervention with families early in development that may begin to change our expectations.

The latest data, the result of the largest long-term follow-up study of autism treatment yet undertaken, is from a randomised controlled trial by three UK research groups and published in The Lancet. Journalists came along to the Science Media Centre to hear what this means for autism research and to discuss issues such as:

  • Does this change what we know about treating autism and what does it mean for families of children with the condition?
  • What effects did the intervention have and how does this compare to other treatments?
  • What does this mean in real-terms for children with autism?
  • What are the next steps? Is there sufficient evidence to roll this out across the NHS?
  • How does this treatment work?



Prof. Jonathan Green, Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Division of Neuroscience & Experimental Psychology, University of Manchester and Honorary Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist at Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s Hospitals University NHS Trust and Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Prof. Tony Charman, Professor in Clinical Child Psychology, King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience and Honorary Consultant Clinical Psychologist South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Prof. Andrew Pickles, Prof of Biostatistics and Psychological Methods, King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience

Dr. Catherine Aldred, Consultant Speech and Language Therapist, Stockport NHS Trust and University of Manchester

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