Simple Parenting Strategies May Help Kids at Risk for Autism
by Zawn Villines,
February 4, 2015

About 1% of the world’s population has an autism spectrum condition, with one in 68 children in the United States experiencing an issue on the spectrum. Autism has a range of manifestations, from relatively minor difficulties with social interactions to severe developmental delays, communication difficulties, and trouble with empathy.

According to a study published in Autism Research and Treatment, a few simple parenting strategies can reduce both the risk and severity of autism spectrum conditions in children.

Can Parenting Change Autism Spectrum Outcomes?
Researchers identified children at risk for autism spectrum issues using the First Year Inventory, a parent survey that tracks developmental milestones and behavior. They recruited the parents and participation of 18 1-year-olds at risk for autism, then taught parents an autism intervention called Adaptive Responsive Teaching (ART).

ART aims to improve functioning and communication skills in children who have or are at risk for autism. Imitation plays a strong role in this approach. For instance, when children do not respond to their parents, parents then imitate the child. This encourages the child to interact with the parent to encourage more imitation, thereby initiating the kind of give-and-take play that is challenging for kids on the autism spectrum.

ART teaches children basic interaction and communication skills, but also improves the parent-child relationship. Parents who use this approach may become more aware of their children’s unique needs, equipping them to more effectively meet these needs.

Researchers then compared outcomes for children whose parents used ART to children who were referred to standard autism programs. They found that children exposed to ART had better outcomes on a number of measures, including sensory regulation and social communication skills. Eight children—nearly half of the study group—were diagnosed with autism during the study, suggesting that ART can be helpful even for children who have a formal autism diagnosis.

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  2. Facts and statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from Facts and Statistics | Autism Society - Autism Society
  3. Baranek, Grace T., et al. Preliminary Efficacy of Adapted Responsive Teaching for Infants at Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Community Sample. Autism Research and Treatment, 2015; 2015: 1 DOI: 1155/2015/386951