According to the in Brain Imaging and Behavior findings, pivotal response treatment is one of the most effective forms of behavioral therapy for autism. It normalizes brain activity in children with either low or high activation in the social brain. This treatment improves social and communication skills through self-initiated, age-appropriate play. E.g. if a child wants to play a game, he needs to ask to play and make an eye contact with the adult who delivers the treatment. As usual it’s a parent or a therapist.
Pamela Ventola, PhD, assistant professor in the Child Study Center at Yale University said “All of the children in our study made clinically meaningful improvements. Their brain responses changed after treatment so that they were more similar to typically developing kids.”
The changes in the brain were recognized by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Tests were done before and after treatment in 10 preschool-aged children with autism who had intelligence quotients greater than 70.
However, it is still unclear if this treatment can help adults who have autism or other intellectual disabilities. But this study shows how flexible our brain is and that it can adapt to new experiences. Hopefully, increasing the number of participants in the study and a “follow-up study” will help the researchers to improve the treatment and make it even better.
“We’ve speculated for decades that we were more than fixing the symptoms of autism, and that we were actually repairing the brain,” says Robert Koegel, director of the Koegel Autism Center and professor of clinical psychology and special education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Koegel invented the therapy along with his wife, Lynn Kern Koegel. “We can now develop methods of focusing the treatment so that it impacts the critical areas of the brain,” he says.