‘Super-parenting’ improves children’s autism

Louisa and son Frank

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Louisa with her son Frank

Giving mums and dads the skills to become “super parents” can dramatically improve their child’s autism, a long-term study has shown.

In the training, parents watched films of themselves playing with their child while a therapist gave precise tips for helping their child communicate.

“What is remarkable is the pay-off,” said Louisa Harrison, who has seen a huge improvement in her son Frank.

Experts said the results, published in the Lancet, were “hugely cheering”.

The study focused on children with severe autism, who were often unable to talk to their parents.

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For Louisa’s son Frank, lamp-posts were a marker of his progress using the method.

Louisa, from Cheshire, said: “He loves watching lamp-posts come on in our street, so autumn is a very exciting time for us.

“Several years ago it was a largely silent interaction, but now he will be so chatty, ‘Mummy, Mummy, look they’ve gone on in a different order.’

“If you’d told me four years ago he’d come out with a sentence like that then I’d be crying,” Louisa added.

Better than good

The researchers’ idea was simple: improve mum’s and dad’s parenting to improve the social skills of the child.

Dr Catherine Aldred, a consultant speech and language therapist with Stockport NHS Trust, stressed it was not about blaming the parents.

“We’re taking the parent’s interaction with the child and taking it to a ‘super’ level, these children need more than ‘good enough’, they need something exceptional,” she said.

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