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Intervention Improves Parent-Autistic Child Interactions

But program does not result in clinically significant reductions in autism severity

FRIDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- A parent-mediated social communication intervention in preschool children with autism improves parent-child interaction but does not result in clinically significant benefits in autism severity, according to research published in the May 21 online edition of The Lancet.

Jonathan Green, FRCPsych, of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a study of 152 preschool-aged children with core autism randomized to either a parent-mediated communication-focused treatment intervention called Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT) in addition to usual care or to a usual care-only group. The primary measured outcome was a score representing severity of autism at 13 months. Secondary outcomes were measures of child language, adaptive functioning in school and parent-child interaction.

At the 13-month endpoint, the children in the PACT group experienced a reduction of 3.9 points in the severity of autism symptoms score, while the children in the usual care group experienced a reduction of 2.9 points. This difference was deemed clinically insignificant. Small but positive treatment effects were seen in the scores of the PACT group for parental synchronous response to child (+1.22), initiations with parent (+0.41), and parent-child shared attention(+0.33).

"On the basis of our findings, we cannot recommend the addition of this PACT intervention to treatment as usual for the purpose of reduction in autism symptoms. The intervention does, however, significantly alter parent-child dyadic social communication in ways that are associated with subsequent positive child outcomes in longitudinal studies of autism, and are likely to be also positive for parents themselves. Techniques to aid transmission of these gains in parent-child interaction to adaptive functioning in wider contexts need to be assessed," the authors write.

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