Parental-Focused Interventions May Lead to Many Benefits in Children with ASD

According to a clinical trial, parental coaching interventions can lead to incredible improvements in young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters (PLAY) Project resulted in improved interactions between parent and child, along with other benefits for the children.

Richard Solomon, MD, who led the study at the Center for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in
Ann Arbor, Michigan, states, “PLAY offers communities a relatively inexpensive, effective intervention for children with ASD and their parents”. The initial trial consisted of nearly 130 families, each with a child with ASD that is between the ages of 3 to 6 years old. The families were randomly assigned to one of two groups: they either received standard community services, or they received those services in addition to the PLAY Project.

Families from the PLAY project received three-hour home visits per month from trained and certified consultants. These consultants taught approaches to improve parent-child interactions, as well as social skill development in each child, through various methods of coaching, modeling, and the use of videotape followed by written feedback.

The PLAY Project promotes functional development in children on the spectrum, as well as enhance their playing skills, by enhancing parents’ interactional abilities. Through the trial, parents reported that they were able to engage their child in play sessions for up to two hours a day. Furthermore, coaching led to significant improvements in the child’s ability to initiate interactions with their parent.

Approximately half of the children that received consultation from the PLAY Project improved significantly in at least one category, compared to only a third of children who received standard services.  Dr. Solomon states, “We’re excited about these findings that offer a less costly and highly effective option, especially for children who are presently on waiting lists for high-cost services”. Furthermore, in recent years, similar studies have shown that parent-meditated programs, similar to PLAY, have shown quite promising results, by enhancing a child’s communication, attention, and ability to connect with others through social activities.

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