How Parent Support Programs Help Toddlers with Autism

March 30, 2017 10:54 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Below are all titles of parenting articles found online. They all claim to help you be a better parent.

  • “How to Be a Good Parent – 10 Tips”
  • “50 Easy Ways to be a Fantastic Parent”
  • “10 Tips for Helping Children with Autism”
  • “Qualities of an Ideal Parent”
  • “15 Truths of Parenting Special Kids”
  • “Helping Your Child with Autism Thrive”
  • “10 Activities to Improve your Toddlers Development”

Doesn’t it seem like in the 21st century, everyone has an opinion about the best way to raise and to teach your children? With so many opinions, blogs, and parenting magazines constantly being presented to you, how do you, as a parent, decipher between fact and faux?

Well, let’s start by discussing some research. Applied behavior analysis, or ABA, is well documented in the research literature to be an effective approach to teaching children with Autism new skills while reducing the frequency of disruptive behaviors. So, what if, as a parent, you learned to implement strategies based in ABA, that are individualized to meet your child’s needs? Would you be on board? Would it be difficult to learn and implement these strategies?

It’s not uncommon for parents to anticipate and experience challenges when they are taught how to implement effective teaching strategies based in ABA. Creating the time and managing schedules to be available for support can be difficult. The learning curve associated with assistance can be hard. Training may challenge you to reflect on your current parenting approach. Often, when strategies to reduce disruptive behavior are implemented, the disruptive behavior gets worse before it gets better; and, working through those moments are often trying. However, even with these barriers, receiving parent support for your toddler with Autism is of critical importance, due to the many benefits it provides both for the child, the parent, and the child-parent interaction. Research has shown that parent training and support can create “positive change both in parental perceptions and in objective measures of children’s behavior”

Benefits for Toddlers

There are multiple benefits to toddlers when their parents receive support in effective teaching procedures.

Some benefits include:

  • Improved responses to a parent’s communication act (e.g., the child imitated a parent’s model of communication or responded to a parent’s request) and initiation of communication with another person (Meadoan et al., 2016).
  • Increased frequency of child requests when parents implemented training protocols, even when parents don’t implement the protocols perfectly (Mobayed et al., 2000)
  • Reduced frequency of disruptive behaviors and increased use of functional communication; meaning, the child requests what they want instead of using disruptive behavior to communicate their needs (Dunlap et al., 2006)
  • Children demonstrated more correct motor and vocal imitations (Lafasakis & Sturmey, 2007)
  • Strauss et al., 2012 suggests, parental inclusion in early intensive behavioral intervention was associated with the following positive treatment outcomes:
  • Decreases in total Autism symptom severity
  • Increased social interaction
  • Increased early language production/ability
  • Increased mental developmental state to a level more appropriate to chronological age
  • Improved early language comprehension and functional communication
  • Improved daily living skills
  • Benefits to Parents

  • Parents could apply the teaching strategies they learned for teaching one skill to teaching other, new skills to their children (Lafasakis & Sturmey, 2007).
  • Parents applied their newly learned skills/strategies with their other children (Latski et al., 1988).
  • Parents improved skills in “data collection, facilitated play, discrimination training, and introduction of new targets and DTT (discrete trial training) with mastered targets” (Strauss et al., 2012).
  • Lower levels of maternal depression (Bristol et al., 1993).
  • Increased parent confidence and reduction in parent stress associated with their child’s communication skill deficits (Bebko et al., 1987).
  • Loughery et al., 2014 demonstrated that, when provided with behavioral skills training (BST), parents learned and implemented the following:
  • Assessment of their child’s preferred foods, activities, or toys.
  • Capture and create child motivation.
  • Teach their child to make requests.
  • Collect data on child’s requesting.
  • Preliminary data suggesting that one spouse who received behavioral skills training could teach their other spouse to implement the teaching procedures they learned.

Benefits to Parent-Child Interaction

A study completed by Koegel et al., 1996 suggests that the use of pivotal response treatment (PRT) during unstructured dinnertimes improved parent-child interaction in the following ways:

  • Higher degrees of parental happiness.
  • Increased interest in interacting with their child.
  • Decreased levels of stress.
  • Communication style of parent with their child becomes more pleasant and positive.

By no means are the benefits listed above exhaustive; there have been many other studies conducted on parent training and support.  And, considering that, as a parent, you are the most important person in your child’s life, there needs to be continued research on this subject.

Support for Parents

If you’ve been considering receiving support for your toddler with Autism, we hope this information helps guide you in your decision making.  And, now that you’ve read one more blog about parenting, we have a question for you…

Given these benefits to the child, the parent, and the parent-child interaction, are you ready to begin learning with your toddler?

toddler achievement program

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