Parents-children co-regulation as therapeutic variable and target in autism spectrum disorders. From observation of drive to need of cooperative parent-mediated therapy

Clin Ter. 2023 Nov-Dec;174(6):537-544. doi: 10.7417/CT.2023.5022.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) belong to the category of neurodevelopmental disorders. ASD emerges in early childhood and involves deficits in communication, language, behavioural inflexibility and fixity, and sensorial neurodivergent perception. ASDs have a biological pathogenesis related to genetic and epigenetic factors. Additionally, research has shown that starting from childhood, autistic persons could find emotional regulation challenging during communication with caregivers. The importance of emotional co-regulation has always been under-lined in psychology, starting with Freud who introduced the concept of the Compassionate Other. Emotional difficulties are grasped immediately and almost instinctively by parents, who try to modulate their approach to the child's needs from the very beginning. This paper seeks to highlight the importance of emotional co-regulation as a wake-up call-in developmental trajectories that present peculiarities or anomalies. It also emphasizes the significance of emotional co-regulation as a useful tool for intervening in the dysfun-ctionality of such trajectories. This intervention aims to directly involve parents in treatment, as seen in Cooperative parent-mediated therapy. This approach is crucial for facilitating the evolution of the cognitive framework while utilizing this target. This article aims to review the most recent literature on co-regulation after explaining the theoretical framework that gave rise to this concept. It's now well established the importance of adopting a develop-mental approach that starts from the bodily dimension as the basis for the relationship with caregivers, pairs, and unfamiliar people. It is from this basis that starts the affective, emotional, and cognitive construction of the internal and external world of the child. This scoping review takes into account the most recent evidence on co-regulation and autism, emphasizing the importance of this process in diagnostic and therapeutic settings.

Keywords: Autism early detection; Co-Regulation; autism risk; developmental psychology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / therapy
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Parents