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Parents can boost speech therapy results for autistic children

Thursday 3rd November 2016
The parents of autistic children have a key role to play in boosting the results of their speech therapy, according to a new study. Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz via iStock
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Parents of autistic children cannot place the responsibility of teaching them to speak on speech and language therapists alone, as they also have a vital role to play in enhancing their ability to communicate.

This is the claim of a new study published in the Lancet, which found that parents who take a hands-on approach to helping improve their children's speech skills could help to yield better results than if the only method used was outsourced support.

The research involved getting mums and dads to reassess their parenting methods with the help of speech and language specialists and other medical professionals in order to encourage them to interact differently with their children to benefit their own communication skills.

Parents were required to watch films of themselves playing with or speaking to their children, before being provided with expert advice on how they could adapt their actions to encourage their son or daughter to speak for themselves.

This method was tested over the course of six years, with results showing that while 55 per cent of the children involved were classed as severely autistic at the beginning of the study, this had dropped to under half (46 per cent) after six years. Therefore, this suggests that therapists who pass on expert advice to parents for them to follow at home can help yield better overall results than just intermittent therapy sessions.

Dr Max Davie of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said these results provide a "hugely cheering message for families".

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Professor Jonathan Green of the University of Manchester, commented: "It suggests that what the parents have been able to embed into the family has sustained after the end of the therapy, which is really encouraging."

With one in 100 families in the UK raising a child who falls onto the autistic spectrum, this new discovery has the potential to change hundreds of thousands of lives through improved speech and communication skills.

Written by Martin Lambert

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