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Therapy Using Parent Training Linked to Improved ASD Symptoms

By Chelsea E. Toledo, M.A. on November 28, 2016


Background: The typical symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – which include differences in behavior, communication, and social interaction – usually appear in early childhood. Multiple longitudinal studies have suggested that children who are exposed to early interventions for ASD experience improved outcomes as they develop.


What’s New: On October 25, 2016, The Lancet published a study evaluating the long-term effectiveness of a therapy based on communication training for parents of young children with ASD. This work is a follow up of an earlier study of the Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT). Between 2008 and 2009, the researchers administered PACT training to parents of 77 children between the ages of 2 and 4 who had ASD. The recent follow-up study showed that the children whose parents had undergone 12 sessions of the training experienced a greater reduction in scores related to symptom severity than the 75 children whose parents did not undergo the training. The training allowed parents to watch videotaped interactions of themselves with their children alongside a therapist, who provided tailored support.


Why it’s important: This is the first follow-up to a randomized and controlled study that shows an early intervention, in this case PACT, can decrease ASD symptom severity over the long term. Future evaluations could determine whether a parent-centered training like PACT should be considered a standard intervention for children with ASD – and especially for those with severe symptoms.

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