Catherine Browne, MA. BCBA, ABA Consultant at Beam ABA Services
On Wednesday morning my usual scroll through the daily news updates and social media revealed an interesting study on the positive effects of a parent-mediated approach for young children with autism.
The study reported that a one-year parent-led communication-based therapy helped parents communicate better with their children, demonstrating a reduction in the severity of their autism at a six-year follow-up. The video-aided intervention meant that parents worked with a therapist who would monitor interactions between the parent and child and provide important feedback on how to identify opportunities for communication and improve parent-child interaction.
A new path for autism treatment
The study highlighted significant key areas in the field of autism treatment with a focus on the importance of early intervention, targeting communication as a primary skill deficit and an emphasis on upskilling parents so they are supported to improve their child’s development.
Within the field of ABA, we focus on the same critical areas with the additional focus on ongoing data collection and targeting generalisation of skills across settings and people. Data allows for an objective view on the effectiveness of an intervention, which guides decision making about the success of behaviour reduction techniques and skill acquisition targets.
Positively the study does suggest some generalisation from the behaviours that were the focus of the treatment i.e. social interaction to other behaviours which is encouraging. It would be promising to see future studies focus on generalisation of the target skills and strategies across different environments and people.
Being out in the community, such as at the supermarket, can be a difficult and stressful experience for both parent and child. If a young person has been taught skills and strategies that were generalised to such environments, it may make the experience for both parent and child more positive and manageable.
In the study, parents were advised to teach the child in a controlled environment and find a room in the home setting with limited common distractions like TV, video, computer, phone or radio. Whilst the logic for this is understandable it would be good to see a focus on the generalisation of the target behaviour across other settings like school, community etc. This would demonstrate a more significant and meaningful difference, indicating successful generalisation of their improved skills, something which is a key indicator of skill mastery in ABA.
A consistent team effort
This study does present with some limitations but ultimately it serves as an important reminder of the positive impact that parent training can have on a child’s development. It also highlights the need for the availability of services that provide effective support and training for parents of children with autism.
For any successful intervention, it’s important that all the key people in a young person’s life, such as parents, teachers, siblings and other family members, can give the young person consistent expectations and approaches across their day.
I have worked with families of children with autism for ten years and it has opened my eyes to the battles that parents face on a regular basis. It starts with the tedious waiting lists that parents must endure to get the diagnosis, following on from that parents have to navigate the minefield of various treatment intervention options out there.
Even when a parent identifies the right treatment for their child the ability to access these supports due to cost and/or availability of practitioners can often present more challenges. This new study shines a positive light on the important difference that early intervention and effective parent training can have on a child’s future.
The UK’s first parent-led ABA service
These are two of the key reasons that Beam developed ABA Pathfinder. ABA Pathfinder is the UK’s first parent-led, online ABA service. It brings a BCBA accredited consultant into family homes via video technology, guiding, coaching and supporting parents and carers to implement an individualised ABA programme for their child with ASD and other behavioural needs. Read more about ABA Pathfinder.
I for one am excited about the key messages from this study. It opens up another door for families and hopefully parents will feel confident and reassured to take a step in the direction of services that provide a comprehensive and ongoing parent-led training programme.
If you'd like to know more about our ABA programmes, please contact us.