A long-term study (Pickles et al, 2016), published in the Lancelet, show that supporting parents and carers to improve their communication skills can dramatically improve their child’s autism. Experts said the results from the study were ‘…hugely cheering…’
The study only focused on those children with severe autism: those children often unable to ‘talk’ to their parents or carers. The study worked with 152 families shortly after the children were diagnosed as autistic, around the age of three. Normally their symptoms would get worse with age.
In the half of the families given the usual therapies, 50% were severely autistic at the beginning of the study, that percentage increased to 63% after six years. However, those families that received the training showed the opposite: 55% of the children were severely autistic at the beginning but 46% after six years.
As part of the training delivered, parents and carers watched films of themselves playing with their child while a therapist gave precise tips for helping their child communicate. They were then shown examples of the easily-missed moments when the autistic child subtly moved to play with their parents.
Communication specialists then worked with the parents and carers giving them the skills to get the most out of these brief moments.
A parent, who had taken part in the study, commented that ‘… you notice things you wouldn’t notice in real time…things like waiting, giving plenty of time to communicate and commenting rather than questioning…’ (Gallagher 2016)
However, it is important to remember ‘this is not a ‘cure’. Children who demonstrated improvements will still show symptoms, but improving how we communicate will improve the social skills of the child diagnosed with Autism.
Siarad Da works with families living with, and professionals working with, children and young people who have autistic spectrum traits, but who are talking to those around them. Too often this means that their disabilities are not seen or heard, resulting in mis-diagnoses, or having no diagnoses but labels such as challenging and difficult. Many of whom becoming involved with the criminal justice system and experiencing school and social exclusion.
Siarad Da training focuses on developing understanding and the skills needed to address the communication needs of this group. Click here for training opportunities.