Read About Health and Safety Measures ×
post
BLOG AND NEWS

UAB Study on Children with Autism: Improved Reading and Brain Activity, Utilized Lindamood-Bell Instruction

Jun 25, 2015
 
 

University of Alabama at Birmingham press release

 

Autistic children improved reading and brain activity after 10-week reading intervention

Ten weeks of intensive reading intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder was enough to strengthen the activity of loosely connected areas of their brains that work together to comprehend reading, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have found. At the same time, the reading comprehension of those 13 children, whose average age was 10.9 years, also improved.

“This study is the first to do reading intervention with ASD children using brain imaging techniques, and the findings reflect the plasticity of the brain,” said Rajesh Kana, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences and the senior author on this paper. “Some parents think, if their child is 8 or 10 years old when diagnosed, the game is lost. What I stress constantly is the importance of intervention, and the magic of intervention, on the brain in general and brain connectivity in particular.”

rajesh kanaRajesh Kana

Families taking part in the study received the intensive intervention — which was four hours a day, five days a week, for a total of 200 hours of face-to-face instruction — free of charge, says Kana.

It is well-known that children with ASD have decreased connectivity between certain areas of the brain’s reading network, as compared with typically developing children. The children with ASD who received the 10-week reading intervention in Kana’s study improved their reading comprehension by modulating their brain function. They showed increased activation of the brain regions involved in language and visual/spatial processing in the left hemisphere of the brain — where language abilities reside — and also compensatory recruitment of some regions in the right hemisphere and regions of the brain beneath the outermost cortex.

Moreover, the amount of increased brain activation and functional connectivity of two core language areas — the left middle temporal gyrus and the left inferior frontal gyrus (which includes Broca’s area that enables a person to speak words) — correlated with the amount of improvement in reading comprehension for the intervention group of children with ASD.

“The ASD brain processing after intervention looks richer, with visual, semantic and motor coding that is reflected by more active visual activity and involvement of the motor areas,” Kana said.

kana brain smallClick to enlarge.

Change in functional connectivity for the experimental group of autism spectrum disorder participants as a result of the reading intervention. The functional connectivity of the Broca’s area with the rest of the brain and the change in connectivity from pre-to-post intervention during resting state show statistically significant changes in connectivity in the left hemisphere. The scale (right) represents significance in terms of T threshold.Altogether, these results support the use of specialized intervention for children with ASD to boost their higher-order learning skills, and they add to the growing evidence of the plasticity (ability to alter function) of the young brains in children with ASD. The translational neuroimaging in this study increases the understanding of established neural networks in children with ASD, and this knowledge will help develop future targeted behavioral interventions.

Control groups of matched typically developing children and children with ASD — both of whom did not receive reading intervention during the study period — showed no significant changes in connectivity in their brains or in reading comprehension at 10 weeks.

The Lindamood-Bell reading intervention used in the study teaches children to form concept images when they read and hear language. Such nonverbal sensory input can help develop the imagery-language connection in the brain, and it improves oral and reading comprehension, establishes vocabulary, and develops higher-order thinking skills. The intervention — called Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking — was administered at one of the 61 Lindamood-Bell Learning Centers nearest the families of the children with ASD. During the 10-week intervention, children with ASD get one-on-one instruction in a distraction-free setting, four hours a day, five days a week.

“People with autism are relatively better at visual/spatial processing,” Kana said. “The intervention facilitates the use of such strengths to ultimately improve language comprehension.”

The tool for collecting brain connectivity data is functional magnetic resonance imaging. The fMRI machine detected areas of the brain that were active by increased blood flow as the children performed a sentence comprehension task — answering whether a sentence was true or false. Since the intervention focused on using image concepts, the study used both high-imagery sentences, such as “An H on top of an H on top of another H looks like a ladder,” and low-imagery sentences, such as “Addition, subtraction and multiplication are all math skills.” Different parts of the brain in the intervention group showed increased activity or connectivity in response to the two types of questions.

murdaughDonna Murdaugh

Modern brain science recognizes that distinct areas of the brain have different, specialized functions — in computer terms, the brain functions through distributed processing. Two of the most famous of these distinct areas are Broca’s area, in the left frontal lobe, and Wernicke’s area, located where the left temporal lobe of the brain meets the parietal and occipital lobes. People with a stroke in Broca’s area can understand words, but they cannot speak; people with a stroke in Wernicke’s area can form words, but they cannot understand language.

In addition to the task-based fMRI, the UAB researchers used a different approach on the same groups of children — resting-state fMRI. This protocol looks at specific areas of the brain to see if those areas show activity during short time segments while the child simply rests inside the fMRI machine. That correlation in time is a measure of connectivity. The 16 children with ASD who received the 10-week reading intervention and completed the resting-state fMRI study had greater functional connectivity of Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, as compared with their brains before the intervention. They also had greater connectivity between either the Broca’s area or the Wernicke’s area to the other parts of the brain that are recruited to compensate for the ASD underconnectivity. Furthermore, the strength of those connections correlated with the amount of reading comprehension improvement in the children who received reading intervention.

“By examining the reading network either during rest or during an active task, we get the opportunity to examine the same network under different levels of cognitive/linguistic demand,” said Kana. “This provides not only the basic spontaneous fluctuations of the reading network, but also how the network behaves under task demand.”

All of the children in the studies had reading tests, verbal IQ tests and fMRI at week 0 and week 10. The experimental children with ASD were given the reading intervention between those two test dates. The 13 children with ASD who were controls received their free reading intervention after the tests and neuroimaging were completed at 10 weeks.

Families were recruited across Alabama through support groups and clinics, and elsewhere in the United States through Lindamood-Bell Learning Centers. Out-of-state families came to Birmingham from the cities of Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago and Boston, and from elsewhere in Georgia, Minnesota, California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Florida for the tests and imaging. Each family had to stay at UAB for two days during the pre- and post-intervention studies.

The subjects in the study with ASD were high-functioning children who could read aloud well but had poor comprehension. To help the young children adjust before the neuroimaging, the researchers showed them the fMRI machine, let them lie in it and played the sounds the machine would make. On scanning day, the machine was decorated with colorful stickers to look like a toy, and the child was tucked in with a Mickey Mouse blanket.

The task-based study, “The Impact of Reading Intervention on Brain Responses Underlying Language in Children with Autism,” is published online in advance of print in the journal Autism Research. Co-authors are Donna Murdaugh, Ph.D., who did her graduate work at UAB and is now at Emory University School of Medicine, and Hrishikesh Deshpande, Department of Radiology, UAB School of Medicine.

The resting-state study, “Changes in Intrinsic Connectivity of the Brain’s Reading Network following Intervention in Children with Autism,” is published online in advance of print in the journal Human Brain Mapping. Co-authors are Murdaugh and Jose Maximo,UAB Department of Psychology.

Connect with us
Back-to-school is right around the corner! So it's the perfect time to get a Learning Boost at Lindamood-Bell—
Students make years of progress in a matter of weeks. 
Our evidence-based instruction improves Reading, Comprehension, and Math. 
Get info at the link in our bio, @lindamoodbellofficial.
Your child can make years of progress in a matter of weeks and go back to school with confidence. 
Our evidence-based approach addresses the unique learning needs of each student. 
There's still time to begin a one-to-one summer program!
✨Our approach is proven effective both In-Person and Live Online!✨ 
Get started at the link in our bio, @lindamoodbellofficial
NEW Podcast Episode at the link in bio, @lindamoodbellofficial.
A dad joins us to describe enrolling his son at Lindamood-Bell Academy.
Within weeks he witnessed a "monumental difference" in his son's reading ability and his attitude toward school! Listen now - link in bio!
Teachers and families!
Celebrate the Olympic Spirit 🌏🌎🌍🤝
with a FREE Download from Gander Publishing!
This NEW 4-6 grade level lesson packet features imagery questions to develop comprehension and thinking skills. 
Use with the Visualizing and Verbalizing program or any curriculum!
👉 Free download at the link in our bio, @lindamoodbellofficial.
Our unique learning environment helps students experience success! 
✅ Sensory-cognitive instruction 
✅ Individualized curriculum
✅ Highly engaged instructors 
✅ Enroll now and receive 50% off the first month of tuition!
Visit our blog for a new testimonial—
a mom describes how her child is growing and thriving at Lindamood-Bell Academy! 
Follow the link in our bio, @lindamoodbellofficial.
Imagine your child with new confidence, ready to tackle the school year. 
Our sensory-cognitive instruction results in extraordinary gains in a matter of weeks.
There's still time to begin a one-to-one summer program.
✨ Our approach is proven effective both In-Person AND Live Online.✨ 
Get started at the link in our bio, @lindamoodbellofficial
Lindamood-Bell intensive instruction helps students make years of growth 
in reading and comprehension in a matter of WEEKS!
With improved abilities, they can return to school with confidence, ready to tackle the new year. 
Learn more and get started 
at the link in our bio, @lindamoodbellofficial
Parents, if your child is currently struggling with reading, comprehension, or math, Lindamood-Bell Summer Learning can make a difference. Students can return to school with improved abilities—confident and ready to tackle the new year. Get info at the link in our bio, @lindamoodbellofficial.
Lindamood-Bell Academy students experience success right from the start!
✔A highly personalized approach 
✔Evidence-based instruction 
✔Standards-aligned K-12 curriculum
Learn more at our Virtual Open House. 
Watch now at the link in bio, @lindamoodbellofficial.
"In those short five weeks, he astonished us!"✨
.
Lindamood-Bell intensive instruction helps students make years of growth 
in reading, comprehension, and math 
in a matter of WEEKS!
.
This family's entire testimonial is at the link. Watch it now at the link
in our bio, @lindamoodbellofficial
Imagine your child starting the new school year with better skills and new confidence.
Lindamood-Bell helps students make years of growth in reading, comprehension, and math—in a matter of weeks.
Let's make the rest of this summer INCREDIBLE.
There's still time to get started! Follow link in bio, @lindamoodbellofficial.
Teachers and families!👋
Soar Through Summer with a FREE Packet from Gander Publishing!
11 weeks of daily activities that feature IMAGERY questions to develop comprehension and thinking skills. Use with the #VisualizingandVerbalizing program or any curriculum!
👉 Free download at the link in our bio, @lindamoodbellofficial.
Happy Fourth of July! 🇺🇸 
We hope your weekend is filled with friends, family, and loved ones—enjoy celebrating!🎆 🌭 🍔 🍉
Lindamood-Bell Academy offers a one-of-a-kind education! 
We address language and literacy needs with our evidence-based approach. Students acquire the skills they need to experience success in school! 
Enroll now!
➢ 50% off the first month
➢ $500 off summer learning in reading, comprehension, or math.
Details at the link in bio.
Request Information
Menu
Loading ...

Request Information

When you complete our form, we'll send you to our information packet and reach out to you shortly. You may also call us at

Choose at least one option. *
* required

Schedule a Learning
Ability Evaluation

Please fill out the form and we will be in touch to schedule an evaluation.

* required
Chat with a Live Representative