Stanford University to work on improving communication skills among autism children

Researchers are working on creating better therapies for kids facing autism. According to expert findings from the Stanford University School of Medicine, pivotal response treatment (PRT) which involves parents, is superior to the existing therapies, since children with autism are less socially motivated than normal children.

The six month study involved participation of 48 autistic children between 2 to 5 years of age who also showed signs of language delays. Through the study, half of the children underwent a PRT treatment along with their parents; whereas the rest of the children continued with the same treatment they had been receiving before the study, including applied behavior analysis and conventional speech therapy.

Experts set up situations for parents and came up with plans where their child could be motivated to communicate. This helped in improving not only the communication skills of the children, but also their social abilities.

In the first 12 weeks of the study, children in the PRT group participated in 10 hours of PRT per week from a trained therapist, whereas their parents received training for one hour per week, during which they were updated on how to use the treatment’s techniques for daily interactions with the children.

Based on the reports shared by therapists, PRT encouraged speech among children. For instance, parents would hold up a toy and the children were motivated to name the toy. If they named the toy correctly, they were rewarded with the toy. In this manner, the children were motivated to express their needs, by naming it. For instance, saying ‘bottle’ if they were thirsty.

“He used to not be able to point to something or ask,” according to one of the parents. “PRT really improved his vocabulary skills and communication back and forth. It helped us understand what he needs and wants.”

As a result, it was observed that the frustration levels among children were reduced and the children were much happier. Moreover, children with PRT also spoke more in comparison with the other group. In their speech they used common words unintelligibly. Experts also draw attention to the fact that these children showed further improvement in their overall social communication skills, which will thus be fruitful in the long run.

“It’s discouraging for parents of lower-functioning kids if we tell them that higher-functioning kids do better, because higher-functioning kids are already doing better,” reported Grace Gengoux, PhD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “The new findings suggest that parents can play an especially valuable role in assisting children who have the greatest needs. This provides a lot of hope,” she adds.