Background: Recent estimates concerning the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) suggest that at least one in 200 children is affected. This group of children and families have important service needs. The involvement of parents in implementing intervention strategies designed to help their autistic children has long been accepted as helpful. The potential benefits are increased skills and reduced stress for parents as well as children.
Methods: This research review focused on interventions for children aged 1-6 years, and was carried out using systematic methodology: a comprehensive search of psychological, educational and biomedical databases, as well as bibliographies and reference lists of key articles, contact with experts in the field, and hand search of key journals. Only studies which involved a concurrent element of control were included.
Results: The review found very few studies that had adequate research design from which to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of parent-implemented early intervention. Both randomized and controlled studies tended to suggest that parent training leads to improved child communicative behaviour, increased maternal knowledge of autism, enhanced maternal communication style and parent child interaction, and reduced maternal depression.
Conclusion: It seems that parent training can successfully contribute to intervention for young children with ASD. However, the review highlights the need for improved research in this area.