All over the globe, millions of families have to face challenges due to autism. A lot of parents are unable to communicate with their own children and find it difficult to understand how their child perceives the environment they live in. However, a new study published in Lancet suggests that such parents can work with their children, at a young age, in order to reduce the symptom’s severity and also improve communication.
The mental condition, due to autism, can negatively affect the ability of a child to socially interact or even be emotionally expressive. It also leads to the desire of demonstrating repetitive behavior. The findings offered by the new research are because of a Pre-school Autism Communication Trial. The said trail was designed to work with the parents of autistic children to improve communication while at home. The trail was co-led by Jonathan Green. He is a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Manchester.
According to the researchers’ statistics, one in 68 U.S. children is affected by autism. Furthermore, the number is one in 100 kids living in the U.K. Almost half of the autistic children have been estimated to have intellectual disabilities, while approximately 10% are unable to learn how to speak. The new trial focused on parent-medicated intervention. With parents playing a role, it gives rise to a therapeutic space for autistic children 24/7, even when they’re at home.
The trail was conducted by dividing children experiencing core autistic symptoms into two groups. One of the groups included parents and children that received standard treatment while the second group had parents who worked closely with the therapists to understand effectively communicating with their children.
The trial’s immediate outcome was reported back in 2010. The results showed that parents who interacted with their kids led to improvement with regards to their children communicating with them and also helping to reduce the severity of the symptoms when compared to parents who didn’t receive such training.
The current study analyzed the long-term impact on both the parents and children, after six years. The results showed that while the synchrony of the trained parents had reduced to the level of the parents present in the control group, improvement was seen in how children communicated with their parents. There was also a significant reduction in the severity of the symptoms in children of the trained parents.
Andrew Pickles, who also co-led the current research, said that the results of the follow-up show that the difference seen in trained and untrained parents persisted. Communicating with autistic children as early as possible led to better results.
Six years later, a total of 46% of the participating children with trained parents were considered by researchers as exhibiting severe symptoms. However, 63% of the children, with untrained parents, were considered to have severe symptoms.
The researchers understand that the trail doesn’t give rise to a cure but the results do show a sustained reduction in the severity of autistic symptoms. There were some symptoms, such as challenging behaviors, language scores and child anxiety, that didn’t show any significant difference in both groups.
While the original trial started with a total of 152 autistic children (aged 2-4) along with their parents, the follow-up only included 121 children and their parents. Pre-School Autism Communication Trail was given to 59 of the participants. For six months, parents also attended two monthly sessions with therapists. They were also given homework in which they had to interact with their child for at least 30 minutes every day. After the initial six months, the two sessions were reduced to only once a month, but the homework remained unchanged. Parents were shown videos of them interacting with their kids and were provided suggestions about how to be more efficient in their method of communication.
The researchers note that their interventions might not be effective when applied on older children. More research is required in order to produce programs that can help parents in positively dealing with children having autism.