Canisius College, home of the Institute for Autism Research has developed a unique treatment program for children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger’s Syndrome.   The research team led by Christopher Lopata, PsyD and Marcus L. Thomeer, Phd, has conducted studies and clinical trials based on a multi-component five-week summer social development program.  The findings of their most recent clinical trial were published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (March 16, 2010).

The program has shown measurable improvement in social performance of children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.   After the 5-week program for youth age 7-12, the children in the treatment group scored much higher on tests of non-literal language skills and knowledge of appropriate social behaviors, and showed fewer autism or withdrawn behaviors than children in the control group.  Parents, children, and staff also reported high levels of satisfaction with the program.

An excerpt from the press release posted on NewsWise

“These findings are very promising, as they suggest that the children in the treatment group not only learned the skills but also used the skills to an extent that parents and staff clearly noticed a significant and meaningful change in the children’s social performances,” said Lopata. The significant reduction in autism-related features was also considered a major finding, as these features constitute long-term barriers to meaningful social relationships for these children.

“What is truly special about this program for children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders is that children in the program do not view it as a ‘treatment program’ but rather an enjoyable summer camp,” added Thomeer. “For many children in the program, this is their first successful social experience. Parents reported that their children really enjoyed participating though the program worked on the children’s deficits and pushed them to develop social competencies.”

The hope is that the studies will result in programs and results that are feasible in less controlled community settings.