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ASPartOfMe
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25 Nov 2023, 9:28 pm

Study: Autistic Children May Need Fewer Hours of Treatment Than Previously Thought

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Each year, tens of thousands of parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face vital decisions: What kind of treatment should my child receive? Who should deliver their care? How many hours of care does my child need to make progress?

A study published yesterday suggests autism care led by parents and caregivers may be more effective than traditional clinical treatment – and that less treatment may be needed than previously thought. The new data from Catalight challenges long-held assumptions about autism care, with broad implications for how parents, clinicians, policymakers and payers approach treatment decisions.

“We studied the progress of autistic children receiving a common autism treatment delivered by their parents and compared their results with a similar group of children receiving the same treatment delivered by paraprofessionals,” said Lindsey Sneed, PhD, vice president of clinical excellence at Catalight and lead author of the study. “Our data shows that children in the parent- led group made greater gains in their social skills than children in the paraprofessional-led group. Notably, children in both groups made significant progress despite receiving a relatively low amount of treatment – under 9 hours per week, on average.”

Published in November’s issue of “Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice,” the study followed 106 families with autistic children ages 3-7 who received Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA – perhaps the most common form of treatment for autism spectrum disorder. ABA is a behavior intervention that aims to help autistic children improve their communication, behavior and social skills by encouraging positive behaviors and discouraging negative behaviors. Children most commonly receive ABA from paraprofessionals but may also receive it from parents who have received training from clinicians.

“Our results shed light on two common myths in autism care,” said Sneed. “First, many people believe parent-led care is less effective than paraprofessional-led ABA. Our data indicates the reverse may be true. The results we published suggest that many families may wish to consider parent or caregiver-led ABA as the first choice for treatment for their child. The second myth is that autistic children need 20 or 30 hours per week of ABA to make progress. Our research suggests that less than nine hours of treatment per week can lead to significant improvements. Given the shortage of trained autism clinicians and the ongoing increase in autism diagnoses, these results suggest that a shift to more parent-led ABA and/or lower hours of paraprofessional-led ABA could be a viable means to extend access to care to more families.

Evaluating children’s skills and behavior using standard autism assessment tools, the authors compared baseline scores with scores taken at regular intervals over the course of their treatment, which averaged 20 months per child.

“The improved social skills scores among children receiving parent or caregiver-led ABA could be due to one of several factors,” said Sneed. “Parents who are trained to deliver ABA may end up incorporating the practices into their everyday parenting style; in turn, this may increase their child’s exposure to ABA. In addition, past research has shown that parents and caregivers who deliver ABA themselves develop increased confidence. This may lead them to bring their child into more social situations, which could further help their child develop their social skills.”

Sneed emphasized that each family is different and should choose the treatment plan that best fits their needs. She hoped the results of the paper would encourage parents and caregivers wary of delivering ABA themselves to feel more confident in their ability to deliver the intervention to their child.


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DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

It is Autism Acceptance Month

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


Double Retired
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25 Nov 2023, 9:38 pm

My parents practiced Autism Acceptance with me...except I wasn't eligible for any kind of diagnosis until the year I turned 40 and Apserger's Syndrome as added to the DSM. So my parents just accepted that I was strange but, since I wasn't being bad, they pretty much let me be me.

That mostly worked fine for me. I've done reasonably well.

Though the bullies were a problem. Perhaps some defensive martial arts would've been helpful. (Maybe akido?)

Other treatments, though...I dunno. Like I said, I've done reasonably well.


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CockneyRebel
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25 Nov 2023, 9:50 pm

It's about bloody time. Children shouldn't have to be subjected to hours of various drills.


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MrsPeel
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26 Nov 2023, 5:07 am

Yes yes yes!

It's been a long wait for recognition that autistic kids can make bigger improvements through the supportive guidance of their parents than any amount of formal ABA.



MatchboxVagabond
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26 Nov 2023, 8:09 am

CockneyRebel wrote:
It's about bloody time. Children shouldn't have to be subjected to hours of various drills.

Yes, also, there are a lot of tech tools out there now and some of them aren't even that expensive. I've got a watch that can remind me to drink some water, eat lunch or go to the restroom if I forget. Or just remind me that I need to take a few good breaths.

Considering how many people make it decades without proper diagnosis or support, it should be pretty clear that there's probably less of both needed from a strictly technical standpoint and that it might make sense to just focus on the things that represent an actual danger or improve quality of life.



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27 Nov 2023, 12:25 pm

Double Retired wrote:
My parents practiced Autism Acceptance with me...except I wasn't eligible for any kind of diagnosis until the year I turned 40 and Apserger's Syndrome as added to the DSM. So my parents just accepted that I was strange but, since I wasn't being bad, they pretty much let me be me.

That mostly worked fine for me. I've done reasonably well.

Though the bullies were a problem. Perhaps some defensive martial arts would've been helpful. (Maybe akido?)

Other treatments, though...I dunno. Like I said, I've done reasonably well.


My bullies mostly were adults and it wasn't physical bullying. Another child bullying me physically I usually just bit or shoved and they got the message.


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