Objectives: Here, we report a series of treatment studies that our laboratory has conducted to test the efficacy of AMMT, including a proof-of-concept study, and a randomized controlled trial comparing AMMT to a control treatment (CT). In addition, we report our ongoing neuroimaging research on nonverbal children with ASD, which seeks to understand the neural correlates of nonverbal ASD, as well as to examine whether treatment can change the relevant brain structures.
Methods: All children who participated in our studies were between 4-10 years of age, and had no intelligible words prior to enrollment. They underwent intensive one-on-one AMMT sessions 5 times per week for 5 weeks, and were assessed on their consonant-vowel productions multiple times before, during, and after therapy. In our proof-of-concept study, 6 children participated. In our AMMT vs CT study, 16 children were randomly assigned to receive either AMMT or CT. In CT,the key components of AMMT (intonation and hand-motor actions) were omitted, but the intervention was also designed to promote speech production. In our brain imaging studies, 12 nonverbal children were scanned using DTI, sMRI, and fMRI without sedation. Their brains were compared with those of age-matched typically-developing children.
Results: Results from our treatment studies showed that AMMT resulted in significant improvements in speech production (i.e., increased repertoire of speech sounds and intelligible words) after only a few weeks. Furthermore, their speech improvements transferred to words that were not trained during the therapy sessions. AMMT also yielded superior outcomes compared to CT, suggesting that the critical components of AMMT (intonation and bimanual activities) were likely to be responsible for the therapeutic effects. Results from our ongoing imaging study showed that the language-related regions and inter-regional connectivity of the brains of the nonverbal children are abnormal.
Conclusions: AMMT appears to have significant clinical potential in facilitating the development of speech children with ASD who are completely nonverbal. Its effectiveness may lie in its ability to engage and facilitate connections between language-related areas that may be abnormal in these children.
See more of: Treatment Trials: Behavioral Interventions
See more of: Prevalence, Risk factors & Intervention