A pilot randomised control trial of a parent training intervention for pre-school children with autism. Preliminary findings and methodological challenges

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2002 Dec;11(6):266-72. doi: 10.1007/s00787-002-0299-6.


Few attempts have been made to conduct randomised control trials (RCTs) of interventions for pre-school children with autism. We report findings of a pilot RCT for a parent training intervention with a focus on the development of joint attention skills and joint action routines. Twenty-four children meeting ICD-10 criteria for childhood autism (mean age = 23 months) were identified using the CHAT screen and randomised to the parent training group or to local services only. A follow-up was conducted 12 months later (mean age = 35 months). There was some evidence that the parent training group made more progress in language development than the local services group. However, the present pilot study was compromised by several factors: a reliance on parental report to measure language, non-matching of the groups on initial IQ, and a lack of systematic checking regarding the implementation of the parent training intervention. Furthermore, three parents in the local services group commenced intensive, home-based behavioural intervention during the course of the study. The difficulties encountered in the conduct of RCTs for pre-school children with autism are discussed. Methodological challenges and strategies for future well-designed RCTs for autism interventions are highlighted.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy*
  • Behavior Therapy / education*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Curriculum
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Language Development Disorders / psychology
  • Language Development Disorders / therapy
  • Male
  • Parents / education*
  • Play and Playthings
  • Social Behavior