If you’re a regular reader of this site, you know how much I believe in parent training during therapy sessions. As therapists, we must, must, must teach parents how to work with their children at home so that therapy continues long after we’re gone.
In a new study from Florida State, Dr. Amy Wetherby’s team (love her!) found that the model of teaching parents at home during individual sessions WITH their children focusing on play, daily routines like meals, snacks, chores and caregiving, along with teaching a parent how to teach a child to participate in community outings, resulted in the best outcomes for improving language, understanding, and social interaction.
Other findings that support things I teach everyday around here:
1. Parents should shoot for 20 to 25 hours a week of intervention AT HOME using strategies taught by an SLP. That amount of time scares some families and some families believe it’s unachievable. It is A LOT of time, but I have seen incredible results from family after family after family who commit to this level of ‘home therapy.’
2. Parents should learn to push a toddler during fun interactions since this is the optimal time for changing his little brain. Here’s what I say in every course I teach live: “When we get parents on board and teach the right strategies to toddlers when they’re 1 and 2 and 3, we can literally change the trajectory of that child’s life forever!” The “pushing” part is critical and is what makes every day interactions therapy-like. A skilled therapist should have no problem modeling this with a child so parents can SEE this approach in action, but it doesn’t stop there. We must coach a parent until the “pushing” feels natural and is just as much a part of the child’s day as any other activity.
3. “Early diagnosis, however, does little good without early intervention.” So true it doesn’t even need an explanation, but I’ll make one small comment. What good is it if a family knows a child has autism or ANY developmental disorder if we’re not helping a family learn exactly what they can do every single day to help that child progress?
Read the summary of the study for yourself at Science Daily.
The original journal reference is from Pediatrics:
A. M. Wetherby, W. Guthrie, J. Woods, C. Schatschneider, R. D. Holland, L. Morgan, C. Lord. Parent-Implemented Social Intervention for Toddlers With Autism: An RCT. PEDIATRICS, 2014; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2014-0757