ASD: Medication Plus Parent Training Effective in Treating Children

Photo: Boy learning with dad 

Children with autism spectrum disorders who also have serious behavioural problems responded better to medication combined with training for their parents than to treatment with medication alone, according to Yale researchers and their colleagues.

"Serious behavioural problems interfere with everyday living for children and their families," said senior author on the study Lawrence Scahill. "Decreasing these serious behavioural problems results in children who are more able to manage everyday living."

Scahill and his team completed a federally funded multi-site trial on 124 children ages 4 to 13 with autism spectrum disorders at three United States sites including Yale, Ohio State University and Indiana University. In addition to autism spectrum disorders, children in the study had serious behavioural problems, including multiple and prolonged tantrums, aggression, and/or self-injurious behaviour on a daily basis.

The children in the study were randomly assigned to medication alone for six months or medication plus a structured training program for their parents for six months. Parent training included regular visits to the clinic to teach parents how to respond to behaviour problems to help children adapt to daily living situations. The study medication is approved for the treatment of serious behavioural problems in children with autism.

"In a previous report from this trial, we showed that the combined treatment was superior to medication alone in reducing the serious behavioural problems," said Scahill. "In the current report, we show that combination treatment was better than medication alone on measures of adaptive behaviour. We note that both groups - medication alone and combined treatment group - demonstrated improvement in functional communication and social interaction. But the combined group showed greater improvement on several measures of everyday adaptive functioning."

Based on these findings, Scahill and his team are now conducting a study that uses parent training as a stand-alone strategy in treating younger children with autism spectrum disorders. Source: Yale University

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