Study Shows Effectiveness of Parental Training to Reduce Behavioral Problems in Autistic Children

Apr 22, 2015

Credit Richard Knox/NPR

A promising new study, conducted partly in Rochester, may give hope to the parents of autistic children.

The research looked at ways a training program could help parents and other caregivers reduce problem behaviors in kids on the autism spectrum.

Local lead researcher Tristam Smith, Ph.D., of the University of Rochester says the 24-week course resulted in a more than 47-percent reduction in tantrums, aggression and self-injury in children between the ages of 3 and 6.

"We're hoping that by intervening when the kids are young, it will prevent some of the more intensive interventions that they might need later on and also things like medications that might be helpful, but if we can make it so that is not necessary, that, we think, is a good thing," he said.

The training included one-on-one sessions where a clinician worked with a primary caregiver as well as additional home visits. "And so that might involve rearranging some things around the house or changing the way they ask the child to do things. Then, we go into ways for them to encourage the child to be more cooperative and independent and ways for them to discourage the disruptive behavior," Smith said.

The study was conducted in Rochester and five other universities around the country. It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association

Smith said researchers plan to make some instructional videos and information available online for clinicians to share with parents and other caretakers.