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A Few Choice Words for the U. Miami Study That Points to Early Parenting And Autism

Posted Mar 01 2010 12:00am

Money down toilet From UPI Health News . Words fail us... Who funded this study? You did, if you pay taxes and walk for Autism Speaks and raise money for the Marino Foundation. The study is saying that "parents can reduce autism symptoms" via appropriate maternal sensitivity (for those of you who think we are misinterpreting the study, that fact is from a trusted source.) That's not a far stretch from the Refrigerator Mother theory no matter how you slice it. If Jenny McCarthy told us she had "talked her son out of autism by appropriate maternal sensitivity" imagine the media response.

Acknowledgments This study was funded by NIH grants
R01HD047417, T32 HD007473 (University of Miami), and T32HD07489 (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Autism Speaks, and the Marino Autism Research Institute. We wish to thank the students and staff of the UM Sib Study for their efforts with data collection andmanagement and Whitney Gealy, Silviana Guerra, Maria Kimijima,and Katelyn Vertucci for their superb rating of maternal sensitivity.We thank Rachel Fenning, Naomi Ekas, and Lisa Ibanez for theirinput on drafts of the manuscript and we are especially grateful to the families for their participation.

MIAMI, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- University of Miami researchers say maternal sensitivity may influence language development among children who go on to develop autism.

Daniel Messinger of the University of Miami, the principal investigator of a larger study of infants at risk for autism that includes this study, says the study examines how early parenting can promote resiliency in this population.

"Language problems are among the most important areas to address for children with autism, because they represent a significant impairment in daily living and communication," Messinger said in a statement.

Maternal sensitivity is defined in the study as a combination of warmth, responsiveness to the child's needs, respect for his or her emerging independence, positive regard for the child, and maternal structuring, or how a mother engages and teaches her child. For example, if a child is playing with colored rings, the mother might say, "This is the green ring," thus teaching her child about his environment, Messinger says.

The study, published online ahead of print in the upcoming Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, says maternal sensitivity was more predictive of language growth among toddlers developing autism than among children who did not go on to an autism diagnosis.

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