Does Environmental Enrichment Treat Autism?

Enriched sensorimotor environments enable rodents to compensate for a wide range of neurological challenges, including those induced in animal models of autism. Given the sensorimotor deficits in most children with autism, a study published recently in Behavioral Neuroscience attempted to translate that approach to their treatment. In a randomized controlled trial, 3–12 year-old children with autism were assigned to either a sensorimotor enrichment group, which received daily olfactory/tactile stimulation along with exercises that stimulated other paired sensory modalities, or to a control group. Researchers administered tests of cognitive performance and autism severity to both groups at the initiation of the study and after 6 months. Severity of autism, as assessed with the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, improved significantly in the enriched group compared to controls. Indeed, 42% of the enriched group and only 7% of the control group had what was considered to be a clinically significant improvement of 5 points on that scale. Sensorimotor enrichment also produced a clear improvement in cognition, as determined by their Leiter-R Visualization and Reasoning scores. At 6 months, the change in average scores for the enriched group was 11.3 points higher than that for the control group. Finally, 69% of parents in the enriched group and 31% of parents in the control group reported improvement in their child over the 6-month study. Environmental enrichment therefore appears to be effective in ameliorating some of the symptoms of autism in children.

For the abstract


Related Stories

  • A Crying Shame
  • Canadian Veterans Not 'Appy With Government Decision
  • The Babies of Broadmoor


The information provided on the is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

PsyWeb Poll

Are you currently taking or have you ever been prescribed anti-depressants?
Total votes: 3979