While the outstanding world’s scientists are looking for the causes of autism and its treatment, the best treatment is found at home… The recently published results of the 6-years study have shown that parents can actually be trained to treat autism pretty successfully.
The teams from the University of Manchester, King’s College London and Newcastle University have provided this long-term study and reported in the Lancet Medical Journal. They tested 152 children from 2 to 4 years old in a study called the Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT), which began six years ago.
“To our knowledge, this study is the first study to report long-term symptom outcomes to middle childhood (7-11 years) following a randomized controlled trial of early intervention in young children,” the team wrote.
Parents were trained to watch for the child’s cues. They got 12 therapy sessions during 6 months, monthly support sessions for the next 6 months and were asked to spend at least 20-30 minutes playing with their children. This “playing time” was recorded and examined by the therapists and parent.
“The parent studies these videos alongside the therapist and learns how to be able to better interpret the child’s often indirect and unusual communications – to see that, behind the unusualness, what the child is actually intending to communicate is often just like any other child,” said Jonathan Green of the University of Manchester, who led the study. “The parent learns how to respond to these child communications in a way that we believe will encourage in turn children’s social understanding. Also of course, like anyone, if the child feels they are understood and can make themselves understood, they are likely to feel happier and less stressed. The advantage of this approach over a direct therapist-child intervention is that it has potential to affect the everyday life of the child.”
The study showed that the effect of such interaction therapy lasts for long and greatly improves the communication-related symptoms of autism.
It’s not a “cure” and no evidence of any effect on child’s mental health was found. Autism spectrum disorder usually combines other disabilities and disorders such as hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy or other learning disorders.