Raising a child with autism can be a both a joy and a challenge for parents. For some of these kids, serious behavioral problems may necessitate medication, and according to new research, parental training.
In the study, Yale investigators and their colleagues discover that parental training, in addition to medications, provides an improved approach for children with behavioral problems.
“Serious behavioral problems interfere with everyday living for children and their families,” said senior author Lawrence Scahill, M.D. “Decreasing these serious behavioral problems results in children who are more able to manage everyday living.”
Scahill and his team completed a federally funded multisite trial on 124 children ages 4 to 13 with autism spectrum disorders at three U.S. sites including Yale, Ohio State University and Indiana University.
In addition to autism spectrum disorders, children in the study had serious behavioral problems, including multiple and prolonged tantrums, aggression, and/or self-injurious behavior on a daily basis.
The children in the study were randomly assigned to medication alone for six months or medication plus a structured training program for their parents for six months.
Parent training included regular visits to the clinic to teach parents how to respond to behavior problems to help children adapt to daily living situations. Each child also received risperidone (Risperdal), an approved medication used for the treatment of serious behavioral problems in children with autism.
“In a previous report from this trial, we showed that the combined treatment was superior to medication alone in reducing the serious behavioral problems,” said Scahill.
“In the current report, we show that combination treatment was better than medication alone on measures of adaptive behavior. We note that both groups — medication alone and combined treatment group — demonstrated improvement in functional communication and social interaction. But the combined group showed greater improvement on several measures of everyday adaptive functioning.”
These positive findings will be investigated in a new study that uses parent training as a stand-alone strategy in treating younger children with autism spectrum disorders.
The study is reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Source: Yale University