Dr. Rowe articulates the benefits of research-based training for early intervention of autistic children and the impact on the students themselves – along with their family.
INTERVIEWER: We've all heard the one in 88 statistic and looking at the benefits of research-based training for early intervention of autistic children, can you describe the impact on the students themselves, along with their family and perhaps even society as a whole?
SUBJECT: Well, there are several levels to look at this. One part is early intervention, which is typically defined as birth to three years. Some will call it birth to five years but early intervention's really critical because the kids have such a developing brain and the brain is very moldable and malleable. So it's the time when you can make the most progress with these kids, at least theoretically.
So using evidence-based practices-- and in this case, we used applied behavior analysis-- evidence-based practices are research-based so we know that it works. We keep strong data collection and records to show that it works. In order to get services through school districts, it has to be evidence-based. So you're required now by law in school districts to use evidence-based practices and the gold standard for that is applied behavior analysis.
So that's what we use and we see that it works. With early intervention, there have been some recent studies that indicate if kids get intensive early intervention in that birth to three years old, birth to five years old-- somewhere around there-- about a third of the kids will go on to become fully mainstreamed in school.
And the term that's used is "indistinguishable" from their peers. So they may look go on to actually lose their diagnosis with early intervention. So we know that it works early on.
Now, there's also some indication or a lot of indication that it works for school-aged children and beyond. We used to just think it would work in early intervention. But for kids that are school-aged, they can really benefit from a lot of structured learning, as well, through applied behavior analysis. And again, school districts require that it's evidence-based practice.
And an interesting story-- the original "Rain Man," the one that the movie was based on-- the movie was I think in the early '90s with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman-- his father would take him-- after he became famous, his father would actually take the original "Rain Man" around to speaking engagements.
And even his father said that his son, who I believe was about 50 at the time, made a lot of progress then because he was exposed to so many people and having conversations and being engaged that he made a lot of progress. So it's interesting that even someone older can make significant progress, too, according to what their environment is like.