Parent Training Improves Behavior in Autistic Children

A new study finds that providing parents with specific, structured strategies to manage their child’s tantrums and aggression improves behavior among young children with autism spectrum disorder.

The parent training study was performed by Yale and Emory University researchers and has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a chronic condition beginning in early childhood and defined by impaired social communication and repetitive behavior. ASD affects 0.6 to one percent of children worldwide.

In young children, ASD is often complicated by moderate or severe behavioral problems.

The randomized 24-week trial was conducted in multiple sites by the Research Units on Behavioral Intervention (RUBI) Autism Network, a six-site National Institute of Mental Health-funded consortium dedicated to developing and testing behavioral treatments for children with ASD.

Denis Sukhodolsky, Ph.D., assistant professor at Yale Child Study Center, provided oversight for the study at the Yale site. Sukhodolsky and other investigators at Yale played a central role in data management, statistical analysis, and study monitoring.

“Parent training has been well studied in children with disruptive behavior disorder,” said Sukhodolsky.

“Our study shows that parent training is also helpful for improving behavioral problems such as irritability and non-compliance in young children with ASD.”

RUBI investigators randomly assigned 180 children between the ages of three and seven with ASD and behavioral problems to either a 24-week parent training program, or a 24-week parent education program. Parent education provided up-to-date and useful information about ASD, but no instruction on how to manage behavioral problems.

“Parent education was an active control condition,” said James Dziura, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Yale, who, along with Cindy Brandt, M.D., led the data management and statistical analysis for the study.

“Both groups showed improvement, but parent training was superior on measures of disruptive and noncompliant behavior.”

Source: Yale University/EurekAlert!