Autistic children improved reading, brain activity after 10-week reading intervention

Posted on June 25, 2015

Ten weeks of intensive reading intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder was enough to strengthen the activity of loosely connected areas of their brains that work together to comprehend reading, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have found. At the same time, the reading comprehension of those 13 children, whose average age was 10.9 years, also improved.

Families taking part in the study received the intensive intervention -- which was four hours a day, five days a week, for a total of 200 hours of face-to-face instruction -- free of charge, says Kana. It is well-known that children with ASD have decreased connectivity between certain areas of the brain's reading network, as compared with typically developing children. The children with ASD who received the 10-week reading intervention in Kana's study improved their reading comprehension by modulating their brain function.

They showed increased activation of the brain regions involved in language and visual/spatial processing in the left hemisphere of the brain -- where language abilities reside -- and also compensatory recruitment of some regions in the right hemisphere and regions of the brain beneath the outermost cortex. Moreover, the amount of increased brain activation and functional connectivity of two core language areas -- the left middle temporal gyrus and the left inferior frontal gyrus (which includes Broca's area that enables a person to speak words) -- correlated with the amount of improvement in reading comprehension for the intervention group of children with ASD.

Altogether, these results support the use of specialized intervention for children with ASD to boost their higher-order learning skills, and they add to the growing evidence of the plasticity (ability to alter function) of the young brains in children with ASD.

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Category(s):Autism spectrum disorders

Source material from University of Alabama at Birmingham