The latest study released by the Institute for Autism Research (IAR) shows more promise that a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder no longer guarantees a difficult life for children. According to the findings, summerMAX, the IAR’s treatment program for children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD), can successfully be applied in a community-based setting.
“The IAR wanted to determine whether a local community service agency could feasibly implement the summerMAX program and achieve the same successful outcomes that we saw in university-based trials,” explains IAR co-director Marcus L. Thomeer, PhD.
To do this, the IAR partnered with Autism Services Inc. The agency independently managed and administered all aspects of the summerMAX program and found it to be highly effective. Children demonstrated increased understanding of nonliteral language and use of social skills, and a substantial decrease in the severity of autism spectrum symptoms.
“This was an important finding because it suggests that community agency providers can achieve similar treatment gains in applied settings,” said James P. Donnelly, PhD, a co-investigator on the study.
The study was funded by the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation.
For parents of children in the summerMAX program, the most important outcome is watching their sons/daughters grow into engaging, understanding and social individuals.
Prior to attending summerMAX, Corinne Marciniak had trouble recognizing emotions in other people and engaging with peers. Today, at 14, she thrives as a member of the varsity swim team at Tonawanda High School and the Town of Tonawanda Aquettes.
“Corinne uses the skills she learned at summerMAX to help her be a productive, positive member of the team,” says Renee Marciniak, Corinne’s mother. “She also has friends on the team. Corinne facilitated those relationships on her own.”
Stacey Klein said that before attending summerMAX her son Owen would only talk about Pokemon (narrow interests are a characteristic of HFASD). That has changed.
“We’ve seen a big increase in the variety of topics Owen talks about,” says Klein, about her 13 year- old son. “He talks about football and video games too. And he asks about our day, something he never would do before.”
“We need to give these kids an opportunity to succeed in school, go to college, to find meaningful work as adults, to have a family and ultimately not be so isolated from society,” says Marcus Thomeer, PhD. “All our efforts are undertaken with this in mind — to improve the lives of children with autism spectrum disorder.”