STUDY: Improved Outcomes for Children with Autism whose Parents Participate in Early Intervention

STUDY: Improved Outcomes for Children with Autism whose Parents Participate in Early Intervention

In a ground-breaking UK-based study published by the Lancet on October 25, 2016, significant findings were shared that are related to the positive outcomes of a form of early intervention programming called Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT).

For more information regarding PACT, please visit

According to the Lancet article, “PACT is designed to work with parents to reduce autism symptoms through optimising naturalistic parent–child social communication in the home setting. The theoretical advantage of this approach over direct therapist–child therapy is that it has potential for change in the everyday life of the child, in which much social learning takes place, and might continue to have sustained effects after the end of the therapist-delivered intervention to the parent[1].”

Writing for WWMT.COM, Christine Van Timmeren had the following response to the Lancet Study:

“It sounds obvious: parents who really work with their children who have autism can make their lives better. But until now, it’s never been really quantified or proven statistically. Now that it has, experts say it validates what they’ve known all along. Trina Wood’s now 17-year-old son Connor was diagnosed with moderate level autism when he was two years old. “And at the time he wasn’t sleeping, he wasn’t eating. He wasn’t talking,” she said. The family dove right into therapy and worked hard to continue what he learned there at home. “Something as simple as ‘Connor, you need to go get your shoes,’ you had to take him over and show him how to do that repeatedly, repeatedly,” Wood said. Children like Connor were part of a groundbreaking study published in The Lancet medical journal.

Half the parents involved received standard therapy for their child, and the other group worked with therapists to really improve communication skills while at home. Results showed the parents who received that extra help were able to reduce the severity of symptoms in their children.

“If a child goes to therapy 20 hours a week but mom and dad are implementing similar strategies at home, it’s kind of like getting more therapy,” said WMU Department of Psychology chair Dr. Stephanie Peterson. Dr. Peterson says it’s that combination of time spent with therapists and time spent at home that creates improvements. “If the parents are implementing strategies that are proactive, consistent with the therapy, you’re going to see very good results,” she said.

More than six years after the study, the children whose parents got that extra training were still doing better than those in the other group. It proves proactive parents like Wood can improve their children’s lives by making sure no opportunity for learning is lost. “I think if we wouldn’t have taken the time to work with him, then he would not have improved,” Wood said.”

For additional coverage on this study, check out this NBC News article

For more information regarding Early Intervention programs for ASD children, please review this resource page developed by Autism Speaks: