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New Strategy Can Aid Parenting Kids with Autism

Parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder is a challenging endeavor. New research suggests an updated parenting strategy can help a child receive reinforcement and guidance and ease the time demands placed upon parents and caretakers. The technique improves monitoring and provision of feedback to a child while providing parents more flexibility.

Many young children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder present unhealthy or challenging behavior. Common problem behaviors include self-inflicted injury, aggression toward others and yelling. These actions can result from the child being denied attention or access to items they enjoy, as well as from internal discomfort or environmental stressors such as noise or large crowds.

In an effort to improve care, researchers have adjusted an existing treatment procedure aimed at reducing problem behaviors for children with autism spectrum disorder. Traditionally, parents and caregivers were advised to constantly monitoring of the child – a approach that exhausted parents and led to marginal value. The new approach advocates momentary check-ins providing more flexibility for parents and caregivers.

University of Missouri investigators explain that while existing intervention methods can be effective in controlled environments, they can be harder for busy parents, teachers and caregivers to implement in everyday situations.

Kyle Hamilton, a behavior analyst at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, developed the new approach to improve an autistic child’s behaviors while recognizing the demands placed among parents and caregivers.

Currently, experts advise parents to watch their children for long periods of time (up to several minutes) and give a reward only if the child’s behavior is appropriate the entire time. However, a parent that is cooking dinner in the kitchen may not be able to simultaneously supervise children playing in a nearby room for long periods of time.

With Hamilton’s new approach, parents would only check their children periodically for a few seconds. If the child was behaving appropriately at the moment of the check, a small reward could be given.

The study appears in the Current Developmental Disorders Reports.

“Rather than constantly monitoring the child, this new technique allows for periodic check-ins to see if the child is engaging in problem behaviors and reward them if we are seeing improvements,” Hamilton said.

“Through positive reinforcement, we can help reduce problem behaviors for kids with autism, which will allow them to be around their typically developing peers more often in society.”

Given the broadness of the autism spectrum, these findings can lead to additional studies into which treatment options are most effective for reducing various problem behaviors.

In addition to minimizing self-inflicted harm that can damage children’s long-term health, reducing problem behaviors can help remove the social stigma that many kids with autism face.

“By reducing problem behaviors, we can help these kids spend more time in natural environments, whether that is at the grocery store, pool, restaurants or school,” Hamilton said.

“We want them to have every opportunity to live the most normal life possible and provide them more exposure to the natural world.”

Source: University of Missouri

New Strategy Can Aid Parenting Kids with Autism

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). New Strategy Can Aid Parenting Kids with Autism. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Mar 2020 (Originally: 17 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 Mar 2020
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