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Behavioral Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on Motor and Language Planning in Minimally Verbal Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Feasibility, Limitations and Future Directions

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects millions of individuals in the United States, with 1 in 68 American children currently diagnosed. Individuals with ASD exhibit profound planning deficits, in both motor and language. This study considers how anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)—which passes a weak electrical current between two electrodes and facilitates neuronal activity—might be used as a novel rehabilitation technique for children with ASD. Anodal tDCS has been shown to improve motor planning in neurotypical individuals and has been implicated in improving grammar acquisition in children with ASD. Three minimally verbal children with diagnosed or suspected ASD received a low current intensity of tDCS (0.4 mA) for a long duration (90 minutes). Children completed reaction time, balance, and fine motor skill planning tasks before and after receiving tDCS. During stimulation, participants engaged in combined speech/occupational therapy activities. Data collection is limited because of the difficulties in testing this population. However, observations from work have indicated that tDCS is feasible in children with ASD, and tDCS is potentially capable of inducing long-lasting improvements in motor planning and grammar use in children with ASD.


KE Hupfeld and CJ Ketcham

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