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Pelphrey said that affinity therapy would deploy some of the same techniques, with the therapist playacting a favorite character and inhabiting the scenes with the child.
“Instead of watching Thomas the Tank Engine as a reward, for instance, we would have the child enter the social setting, with Thomas and Percy and the other characters,” and learn through them about eye contact, joint play and friendship, he said. The scientists plan to submit their study proposal to the National Institute of Mental Health for funding.
“The whole thing has been exciting, and a little weird,” said Suskind, now a senior fellow at Harvard, “having these leading neuroscientists listen to me and say, ‘OK, what can we do to help?’ ”