New insights from a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association may play a role in helping parents improve the behavior of autistic children. Jim Alger of Tech Times writes that parents who were part of a weeks-long training program structured to assist them in managing their children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders saw more reductions in disruptive episodes compared with parents who received only educational materials and no training.
When the training received is appropriate and includes support for parents, they are able to acquire the skills needed to care for their children when their behavior and communication skills suffer.
“Children with autism often display problem behavior that can be very challenging for families,” says Kara Reagon of Autism Speaks, who was not involved in the study. “All behavior serves a person. Sometimes children with autism have behavioral problems because they don’t have the communication skills to say what they want.”
This trial was the largest of any behavioral intervention methods studies ever attempted with children with autism with about 200 children from 3 to 7 and their parents taking part. The participants were divided into two groups. Half of the parents were involved in a 24-week training program which taught hands-on techniques like using visual aids, how to spot triggers, and discovering which autistic behaviors should be addressed and which should not.
The other half were only given educational information about autism with 12 on-site sessions and one home visit. When the study ended, the hands-on parents saw a 48% improvement in the behavior of their children, while a 32% improvement was reported by the group with only educational materials.
“We empowered parents by teaching them to interact with their child in a more efficient way,” says Luc Lecavalier, a psychologists at the Nisonger Center of Ohio State University, one of the centers taking part in the study.
One out of every 68 children is affected by autism spectrum disorders, according to the CDC.
Of the children who participated at OSU, 80% showed significant improvement six months later. These behavioral improvements worked as effectively as the best drugs currently being used to treat autism reports Sophia Turner, writing for Uncover California.
For the training in Rochester, lead researcher Tristam Smith, Ph.D. of the University of Rochester says the results showed a 47% reduction in tantrums, aggression, and self-injury in children ages 3 and 6. Dr. Smith added that the trial will prove that by intervening when the children are young, some of the later, more intensive interventions can be avoided.
The Rochester training included one-on-one sessions during which clinicians worked with primary caregivers and made home visits, according to Beth Adams of WXXI News.
The study was conducted in Rochester and five other universities nationwide. Smith says there are plans to make instructional videos and to publish information online for sharing with caregivers and parents.
Max Wiznitzer, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and neurology at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, who was not involved in the study, believed that parents with autistic children are much more receptive to any education about their child’s condition writes Molly Walker for MedPage Today.
Co-author Lawrence Scahill, Ph.D., of Emory University said the next step is to provide training for parents in a more “real world” setting as opposed to the office of a trained clinician. He continued by stating that a small study may take place in rural Georgia with training via a telehealth model and plans are in place to train educators in schools with these techniques.