Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

Parent Training for Families with a Child with ASD: A Naturalistic Systemic Behavior Analytic Model

Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

Parent Training for Families with a Child with ASD: A Naturalistic Systemic Behavior Analytic Model

Article excerpt

Introduction

The treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continues to be a great challenge that often transcends the therapeutic technology that is available within one epistemological paradigm (Schreibman et al., 2015). There is ample evidence that behavior analytic interventions continue to provide the most effective and efficient means of intervening directly with the child with ASD (Koegel, Koegel, & Camarata, 2010; Smith, Klorman, & Mruzek, 2015). Yet, we do not have all the answers pertaining to optimal treatment practices (Fein et al., 2013), especially those associated with parental training, support, guidance and counseling (Gena, Galanis, Alai-Rosales, & Michalopoulou, 2014). Thus, there is a great need for models that attain to a systemic view of the needs of children with ASD and their families (Klin et al., 2015).

Parent-training practices are considered to be an essential part of therapeutic interventions for children with ASD (National Research Council, 2001) for several reasons: (a) Parents exert a powerful influence on their children since they have both great proximity and a life-time commitment to them. (b) Parents provide unlimited resources that facilitate child progress, such as numerous opportunities for generalization and maintenance of acquired skills, which is very difficult to achieve without parental involvement (Gillett & LeBlanc, 2007; Koegel, Schreibman, Britten, Burke, & O'Neill, 1982). (c) Parent training is a cost-effective intervention which is very important given two factors, the continuously increasing prevalence of ASD (e.g., Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2008 Principal Investigators, 2012), as well as the paucity in funding in the fields of special education and mental health, especially in countries that undergo financial hardship as is the case of Greece (Economou et al., 2014; Economou, Madianos, Peppou, Theleritis, & Stefanis, 2010). (d) Parent training can be very useful while children with ASD are on a waiting list for treatment. As indicated, the waiting lists for effective interventions such as EIBI (Early Intensive Behavioral Interventions) are very long (Coolican, Smith, & Bryson, 2010). (e) The absence of parent training practices limits the therapeutic benefits to the child with ASD (Maurice, Green, & Luce, 1996).

In addition to the aforementioned reasons that underline the importance of parent-training practices for parents of children with ASD, the most substantial evidence about its importance comes from studies that point out the multiple benefits of such practices. In an attempt to classify those benefits, we may say that there are three types of benefits, which are, of course, interrelated: the benefits associated with the advances made by the child with ASD, the benefits to the parents, and the benefits to the parent-child relationship.

Starting with the benefits to the child with ASD, numerous gains are made across the board: communicative behavior, both non-verbal (Anderson & Romanczyk, 1999; Koegel, Koegel, Harrower, & Carter, 1999) as well as verbal, such as taking an initiative to talk to their parents (Laski, Charlop, & Schreibman, 1988; McGee, Morrier, & Daly, 1999; Stahmer & Gist, 2001); in play skills and other social skills (Kasari, Gulsrud, Wong, Kwon, & Locke, 2010; Stahmer, 1995; Vismara, Colombi, & Rogers, 2009); in fostering independence (Krantz, MacDuff, & McClannahan, 1993); and in managing inappropriate behavior, such as aggression (Koegel, Koegel, & Surratt, 1992; Vismara et al., 2009). It is apparent that the benefits of parent-training for children with ASD are noted in all areas of functioning: adaptive, intellectual, emotional, social and behavioral (Anan, Warner, McGillivary, Chong, & Hines, 2008; Baker-Ericzén, Stahmer, & Burns, 2007; Boettcher Minjarez, Williams, Mercier, & Hardan, 2011; Solomon, Ono, Timmer, & Goodlin-Jones, 2008). …

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