Help for Autism Starts with Parents

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by problems with social interactions, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors that range in severity from mild to severe. Autism can be a devastating diagnosis, but results of a long-term study show that parents of children with the disorder can begin working with their child at a young age to help reduce the severity of symptoms and improve his or her ability to communicate.

ASD are not fully understood and there currently is no medical treatment or cure. Treatment typically involves therapy, but this new approach—the product of the Pre-school Autism Communication Trial (PACT), a large study conducted over a 3-year period—focuses on the importance of parent-mediated intervention.

During the Trial, children with severe autism symptoms were divided into two groups. In the control group, children and parents received standard treatment. In the other group, parents worked with therapists to understand and develop more effective ways to communicate with their child. The parents in the second group also were taught how to pick up on their child's cues for interaction.

The initial results of PACT were released in 2010, but this follow-up study looked at long-term impact more than six years later. According to these findings, children whose parents had received training continue to communicate better and have less severe symptoms than children in the control group.

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Sourced from: CNN