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Study: Parent-Led Interventions Strongly Benefit Autistic Children

September 8, 2022

New research has shown that parent training in interventions markedly improves outcomes of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Study: Parent-Led Interventions Strongly Benefit Autistic Children

Brigham Young University (BYU) worked on Effects of Parent-Implemented Interventions on Outcomes of Children with Autism: A Meta-Analysis, which has been published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

The research shows training and empowering parents to offer at-home interventions to autistic children helps them to improve in positive behaviors and language communication skills. In the study, children who received parent-led intervention were compared to children receiving no specialized home interventions and there was a marked difference.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of over 50 different studies to understand the impact of parent-led interventions. The studies included 2,895 child participants with an average age of five-and-a-half. On average, parents received about 90 minutes of intervention training each week. Impact on child development was measured using direct observation by a professional as well as parent and observer ratings. No differences were observed when the mother, father, or both implemented interventions. 

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No scientific justification not to train parents

“We’ve known for a long time that early interventions for children with autism improve learning and social skills at a greater rate than if interventions are offered later,” said Professor Timothy B. Smith of BYU. “There is no scientific justification to not train parents. A parent can constantly reinforce social behaviors if they know what to look for and how to do it. It’s about meeting the kids where they’re at. It has a potentially remarkable impact on child outcomes.”

Overall, the meta-analysis showed moderately strong benefits of parent-led interventions compared with usual treatment and waitlist conditions. Child improvements were observed in positive behavior/social skills, maladaptive behaviors, and language/communication skills, with smaller gains in adaptive behavior/life skills. 

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