Simple Parenting Strategies May Help Kids at Risk for Autism

young boy looking awayAbout 1% of the world’s population has an autism spectrum condition, with one in 68 children in the United States experiencing an issue on the spectrum. Autism has a range of manifestations, from relatively minor difficulties with social interactions to severe developmental delays, communication difficulties, and trouble with empathy.

According to a study published in Autism Research and Treatment, a few simple parenting strategies can reduce both the risk and severity of autism spectrum conditions in children.

Can Parenting Change Autism Spectrum Outcomes?

Researchers identified children at risk for autism spectrum issues using the First Year Inventory, a parent survey that tracks developmental milestones and behavior. They recruited the parents and participation of 18 1-year-olds at risk for autism, then taught parents an autism intervention called Adaptive Responsive Teaching (ART).

ART aims to improve functioning and communication skills in children who have or are at risk for autism. Imitation plays a strong role in this approach. For instance, when children do not respond to their parents, parents then imitate the child. This encourages the child to interact with the parent to encourage more imitation, thereby initiating the kind of give-and-take play that is challenging for kids on the autism spectrum.

ART teaches children basic interaction and communication skills, but also improves the parent-child relationship. Parents who use this approach may become more aware of their children’s unique needs, equipping them to more effectively meet these needs.

Researchers then compared outcomes for children whose parents used ART to children who were referred to standard autism programs. They found that children exposed to ART had better outcomes on a number of measures, including sensory regulation and social communication skills. Eight children—nearly half of the study group—were diagnosed with autism during the study, suggesting that ART can be helpful even for children who have a formal autism diagnosis.


  1. About the FYI. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Facts and statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Baranek, Grace T., et al. Preliminary Efficacy of Adapted Responsive Teaching for Infants at Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Community Sample. Autism Research and Treatment, 2015; 2015: 1 DOI: 1155/2015/386951

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  • Jenni


    February 5th, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    Very much I see this as an approach that can give a great deal of hope to the families who live this everyday. I have always suspected that there are things that can be done at home that can help to ease some of the pain of this dreaded diagnosis. I know that it won’t make everything perfectly better but I think that when the child can sense that the parents are at ease then it can go a long way toward helping them feel better and more at ease as well. Our kids get so much from us, the ones in this situation do not need to have to deal with anything more frightening than this.

  • sid


    February 5th, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    And once the parents have a better understanding of the thoughts and emotions that the child is feeling, you better believe that they are going to become better parents simply by virtue of this greater knowledge that they have of the child.

  • Leila


    February 6th, 2015 at 3:47 AM

    Have any of you read the new blog from the mom who has an autistic child and she states that he was born this way, that there was nothing externally that happened to cause this and that it must be genetic? Thoughts, especially since there has been so much chatter in the past about how environmental factors must be to blame

  • Chloe


    February 6th, 2015 at 4:02 AM

    Today, one of the most talked about topic is autism among the health related issues as the number of ASD affected are increasing violently.

    New researches and studies are conducted to find a cure for this disease and the “Adaptive Responsive Teaching” is the newest threament method. I think this method will succeed and will be more improve after continues studies and reseach.

  • corinne


    February 8th, 2015 at 4:42 AM

    I think that there are so many times that these parents feel like there is nothing that they can do to change things because so much is taught about how to help the child transition to living within our world… but this gives the parents something to try so that they can live in their child’s world. I think that that is a pretty enlightened point of view and it also keeps the parents from feeling quite so helpless in that it gives them something tangible to work toward.

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