Training Parents is Most Effective Way to Reduce Behavioral Problems in ASD Children

What is the best way parents can help their children who suffer from autism? Take parent training courses in how to manage and reduce their children’s’ behavioral problems.

That’s the advice from Lawrence Scahill and Karen Bearss, both PhDs and noted experts on autism. They are on a team that just completed a National Institute of Mental Health-funded study on the subject. The study showed that parent training (as opposed to just parent education), can help both children with autism and the families of children with autism better cope with their situation.

What Six Months of Parent Training Can Accomplish

The study compared the effect of parent education versus parent training programs, and found that while the first is helpful, the second is even more effective in reducing disruptive behavior in children with autism. Half of the 180 parents were given 12 educational sessions, while the other half were given 11 training sessions. Those in the educational program also received a home visit, while those in the training session received two home visits and two telephone booster calls, and were offered two optional sessions.

After 24 weeks of training and evaluation, the researchers concluded that in families where parents undertook the education course, incidents of aberrant behavior declined by nearly 32 percent. In families where the parents underwent training, however, incidents of aberrant behavior fell by nearly 48 percent. Although cautioning that more study is needed, the researchers concluded that for the families and especially for the children with autism spectrum disorder, “a 24-week parent training program was superior to parent education for reducing disruptive behavior.” Scahill notes that this was the largest study of its type in history, and is proof that “parent training works.”

NIMH’s Guide to ASD

The National Institute of Mental Health has many resources to help parents of children with ASD. Their Parent’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder is a good starting point. It is a lengthy (21-page) primer that provides in layman’s terms clear, concise answers to and advice on how to identify the symptoms of ASD and also how to seek treatment for children afflicted by the disorder. The sections “How can I help a child who has ASD?” and “Understanding Teens with ASD” offer basic advice for parents on how to better cope with children who have been diagnosed with ASD. The site also provides links to many other sites and publications that parents may find helpful.