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30 July 2021

New parent-inclusive autism treatment goes national.

A new parent-inclusive autism treatment is set to go national following a successful trial.

ParentWorks-Spectrum is a free, evidence-based program that considers the needs of the entire family and members with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The course addresses child behaviour and parent wellbeing via a structured, interactive 12-week program.

Results from a pilot were so impressive that the federal government has agreed to fund a broader program, making it accessible to more families.

About ParentWorks-Spectrum.

ParentWorks-Spectrum is an online program that aims to create changes in symptoms and behaviour. The University of Sydney Child Research Behaviour Clinic developed ParentWorks-Spectrum with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

There are three key modules:

  1. Improving disruptive behaviour – reducing child behavioural difficulties and their impact on general function and the family system
  2. Improving social communication skills – enhancing parent-child interactions through the development of parents’ skills
  3. Parent wellbeing – facilitating parental teamwork, partner support and wellbeing.

“For the first time, this treatment brings all three elements together in one brief, accessible package online,” says program creator Professor Mike Dadds.[1]

A trial found that families who completed the course reported “significantly lower child behaviour difficulties, improved child social-communication skills and reduced parental anxiety, stress and depression.”

Who is it for?

Australian parents and caregivers of children between 2 years and 5 years 11 months with a diagnosis of autism (level 2 or 3).

Participants are also invited to attend 12 individual family sessions with a psychologist online via Zoom during the course.

Program background.

Professor Dadds said that obtaining a definitive diagnosis for children with ASD could take time, leaving many parents struggling to manage day-to-day situations without effective strategies.

“Only about 1 in 4 parents actually get a solid evidence-based treatment in Australia…A lot of them are finding that there are no services in their area. Many people are finding really long waiting lists, so it’s a little bit of the luck of the draw. The resources that parents have are going to determine if the child gets what they need or not.” [2]

The program is the first intervention to create change in core ASD symptoms and associated behavioural regulation problems while also supporting family adjustment to having a child with ASD.

Christy’s story.

Christy Goodyear, whose five-year-old son Jesse has ASD, participated in the pilot program and shared her experience with The University of Sydney.

“ParentWorks-Spectrum taught him to change his thinking, for example, ‘you can be angry, but you can’t push or hit anyone’. This really helped Jesse express himself without hurting others,” Christy said.

“It made such a positive impact on our family life in all areas. It wasn’t just how we related to Jesse, it was also how we were able to improve our relationship with each other and improve our marriage.”[3]

Register your interest.

The first phase of the program will be offered to 120 families, free of charge. Email scbrc@sydney.edu.au or call 02 9114 4326 to register your interest or download the flyer here.

Get in touch with the Leap in! Crew.

Call us on 1300 05 78 78 or email connect@leapin.com.au.

Further reading

Autism and the NDIS.

Positive behaviour support for people with autism.

DAD: A film about fathers with children on the autism spectrum.

[1] ABC, Parent-inclusive autism treatment set for national rollout, 17 June 2021.

[2] ABC, Parent-inclusive autism treatment set for national rollout, 17 June 2021.

[3] The University of Sydney, Parent-inclusive autism treatment to go national, 17 June 2021.