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Wednesday, November 17, 2010














Integrated therapies help some autistic kids, but academics question the science

For most of his life, 16-year-old Paul Bauer has spoken only gibberish and an occasional repetitive phrase.

Connie Bauer sensed that her son wanted to say more, but she didn't know how to help him find the words locked inside his mind. Since being diagnosed with autism as a toddler, he rarely spoke and made his needs known mostly by pointing at things.

Then, during a trip to the mall, something unexpected happened. Paul Bauer walked up to an attendant at a carousel and asked how much it would cost to ride.

"He had never done anything like that before," said Connie Bauer, of Grand Prairie. "Usually he would have just climbed on the ride."

Bauer credits a 10-hour accelerated sensory integration program, which involves watching spots of light while listening to music, for the change in her son. He is now talking in sentences for the first time.

Sensori-motor auditory visual education, or SAVE, combines three therapies to achieve faster and better results than if they were used separately, said Dr. Mary Ann Block, who developed the program and has been testing it for years on patients in her Hurst office.

Training the visual, auditory and motor senses together helps develop, retain and expand the ability to take in, understand and use information more effectively, according to Block, an author and physician who specializes in a natural approach to health.

"The brain is really elastic and flexible," she said. "Given the chance, it can do amazing things."

To understand how sensory integration works, think about learning to ride a bicycle.

"You don't learn to do it just with your eyes," Block said. "You need all of your senses."

It's the same with SAVE, which Block has used to help people with autism, Asperger's syndrome and other conditions. College students and adults, with or without autism, have also benefited from memory improvements, reading concentration and organizational skills, she said.

Block said she hopes to explore its effectiveness for adults with Alzheimer's disease.

During a session, the client lies on a slowly rotating padded chair while following colored lights on a computer monitor overhead and listening to music on headphones.

"The person just lies there, looks at the lights and listens to the music and it happens to them," she said.

Bright lights affect people with autism in different ways. Some like the lights and show increased interest in high contrast; others find them less interesting or even aversive, said Dr. Susan Hyman, associate professor of pediatrics at Golisano Children's Hospital University of Rochester Medical Center in upstate New York. Young children prefer high-contrast items, so lights may be novel in therapy, she said.

Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/11/15/2634096/integrated-therapies-helps-some.html#ixzz15ZmzFscA

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