News & Events

Parent-focused therapy has some long-term benefits for children with autism

Research on parent-mediated communication therapy for young children with autism was the subject of a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Signal in early 2017. NIHR Signals are intended to summarise important research findings in order to provide decision makers with evidence they can use.

The Pre-school Autism Communication Trial (PACT) tested a parent-mediated therapy that aimed to help parents adapt their style of communicating with their child with severe autism. This randomised controlled trial recruited 152 children aged two to four years, with children and their parents randomly assigned to receive the PACT intervention on top of treatment as usual, or treatment as usual alone. This research was carried out by researchers at Newcastle University, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Manchester, the Institute of Psychiatry and St Thomas' Hospital, London.

The PACT intervention was shown to bring about positive changes in the way that the parent and child interacted with each other. A follow-up study published in October 2016 found that, for children who received this therapy at age 2-4 years, the beneficial effects continued 6 years later with children showing less severe overall symptoms, improved social communication and reduced repetitive behaviours.

The results of this follow-up study indicate that healthcare professionals should consider early psychosocial therapy for young children with autism, in line with NICE guidance. You can read more about the findings of this study in the NIHR Signal.

Whilst the PACT intervention helped to improve children’s communication with their parents, these improvements were less obvious in other settings. The new PACT-G trial (Paediatric Autism Communication Trial - Generalised) aims to test ways to transfer the child’s social communication gains into everyday home and education settings. Further information is available on the relevant study page.



Last modified: Wed, 02 Aug 2017 14:06:31 BST