We use cookies to help us improve the website and your experience using it. You may delete and block all cookies from this site at any time. However, please note this may result in parts of the site no longer working correctly. If you continue without changing your settings we will assume you are happy to receive all cookies on this site.

Close

Helping children with autism transfer new communication skills from home to school

jonathan greenA new study is testing whether an intervention with parents and teachers can help children with autism transfer newly acquired social communication skills from home into school.

Previous research found that a therapy to enhance parent-child communication in children with autism can help improve their social communication. However, it did not provide evidence that the benefit spread wider into the school environment. Children with autism generally have difficulty generalising new skills from one context to another, and this represents a challenge in spreading the benefits of therapy into other aspects of everyday life and development. Autism is a common developmental disorder, with a prevalence of around 1% of the population. Its estimated UK costs, for childhood autism, are greater than the costs associated with other conditions such as childhood asthma, diabetes or intellectual disability.

The 'Paediatric Autism Communication Trial-Generalised' (PACT-G) study, funded by Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme (a partnership between the Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research), will test new ways to transfer the child's improving communication skills into the education setting. Aimed at 2-11 year olds, the study will look to extend the parent-child therapeutic model to work in education in parallel to working in the home.  It will assess the impact of the intervention across pre-school and middle childhood and compare outcomes with those from previous research. Its design will also enable the researchers to study the mechanism behind this transfer of skills across different settings, and highlight the most efficient means of helping children and families in this area.

University of Manchester Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at  Royal Manchester Children's HospitalJonathan Green (pictured) is leading the project and said: "This project is an exciting opportunity for us to test an extension of our approach using video feedback with parents of young children with autism to include similar training of professionals working with the children in their education setting.

"If this kind of integrated approach proves to add value for children's development, then it will have important implications for service delivery in the future. The trial also gives us a unique opportunity to investigate how these children generalise skills across contexts - an important and fundamental question in the developmental science of autism."

The research team will work with school staff using the same techniques they use with parents, as well as encouraging parents and Learning Support Assistants to communicate regularly together about goals and strategies. The aim is to generate a similar change in school to that generated with parents in the home.

Professor Green added: "We hope that these two effects will add together into a greater combined benefit for the child. This study is just beginning and we won't know the results for a few years, but it is part of an ongoing programme to look at the needs of children with autism at different ages and to see if we can get interventions that build on each other through development to improve the lives of these children and their families".

One parent taking part in the study said: "I realise the importance of understanding what he understands and making my communication directly relevant to the context of the interaction. It's a real partnership where we discuss the meaning of his communication and I always go away understanding him so much better with insight."

The study is a collaboration between Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, University of Manchester, Newcastle University, Kings College London, Guys and St Thomas NHS Trust Evelina Childrens Hospital.

For further information visit the NETSCC project page or the project website.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

For more information please contact: Sally Allen or  another member of the NETSCC Communications Teams on Tel: 023 8059 5542 / 5619 and Email:netcomms@southampton.ac.uk

  1. The project is managed by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme, an MRC and NIHR partnership, that supports later-phase "science-driven" clinical trials and evaluative studies, which seek to determine whether a health intervention  (e.g. a drug, diagnostic technique or device) works and in some cases how or why it works. The programme is funded by the MRC and NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.www.nets.nihr.ac.uk/programmes/eme
  2. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government's strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (www.nihr.ac.uk).
  3. The Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers' money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Twenty-nine MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed. Today, MRC-funded scientists tackle some of the greatest health problems facing humanity in the 21st century, from the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms. www.mrc.ac.uk

This article presents independent research supported by an MRC and NIHR partnership. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the MRC, the NIHR or the Department of Health.