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Communication Intervention in Preschool Children with Autism Significantly Improves Parent-Child Interaction but Does Not Deliver Clinically Significant Reduction in Symptoms (PACT study)

News Release Date: 21 May 2010

Study results published today, of an article that went online first and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Lancet, reveal that social communication intervention in preschool children with autism, although improving parent child interaction, does not deliver clinically significant benefit in autism symptoms.

The article was written by Professor Jonathan Green, University of Manchester, UK, and colleagues from the PACT Consortium**. Results of small trials have indicated that early interventions for social communication may be effective for the treatment of autism in children. In PACT, the authors aimed to provide a stringent test of a parent-child communication-focused intervention in 152 children, aged 2 years to 4 years and 11 months with diagnosed autism.

Richard Mills, Research Director of UK Charity Research Autism comments:

"Interventions such as PACT and other developmental approaches that emphasise promoting early social and communication skills are some of the best evidence-based approaches for preschool children with autism. This large scale and very thorough study did not find differences between the PACT approach and treatment as usual with other similar approaches. The study showed the high level of resistance of core autism symptoms to intervention and the importance of training parents in approaches that will improve other skills and their interaction with their children.

"The study concluded that social communication focused early intervention approaches should usually be only one element (although a core one) of any comprehensive programme offered to families.

"Research Autism is keen to help support further research in the PACT study; research that will help better understand what aspects of the treatment approach were successful or most important in bringing about a change in parents' and children's behaviour. We are the only UK charity solely dedicated to funding and evaluating autism research and interventions. Our main aim being to help understand autism and its effects, to ensure that any intervention is helpful and correctly targeted. Ultimately we strive to alleviate the difficulties faced by this group, whatever their age and for the removal of barriers to social inclusion, helping them to live full and positive lives as part of the wider community."

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Notes to editors:

Contacts

Bernard Fleming, Information Manager, Tel. 020 3490 3091, email info@researchautism.net

Research Autism

www.researchautism.net

Research Autism is the only UK charity dedicated to the production of quality, trusted information on autism treatments and other approaches. Its Information Centre is informed by world experts and accredited by the NHS Information Standard, an independent kite-mark of reliability and quality. It guides people through the minefield of interventions on offer, allowing them to make informed decisions based on impartial, factual information, including risks and hazards. Its research programme is derived from the priorities of autistic people and families and addresses areas that affect everyday life. 

  • IMFAR: International Meeting for Autism Research taking place in Philadelphia, USA, 20-22 May 2010.
  • PACT Consortium: The study, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), was led by Professor Jonathan Green and colleagues from the University of Manchester and comprised a team of researchers from the Institute of Education, Newcastle University, King's College and Guy's Hospital, and the NHS Primary Care Trusts of Stockport, North Tyneside, Southwark and Lewisham.
  • Research Autism publications database: Green J. et al. (Epub) Parent-mediated communication-focused treatment in children with autism (PACT): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet.
  • Lancet website: Green J. et al. (Epub) Parent-mediated communication-focused treatment in children with autism (PACT): a randomised controlled trial

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Updated
09 Mar 2016