An innovative, made-in-B.C. autism research project will explore the benefits of parent coaching intervention for infants and toddlers who show early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The project – made possible by more than $3 million in one-time government funding – was spurred by other studies linking early infant-toddler interventions to better developmental outcomes in children with ASD and in children who display early warning signs of ASD.
“While new research has shown promising results in other jurisdictions, these studies have not been conducted with a B.C.-specific lens,” said Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux. “The opportunity to undertake cutting-edge autism research here at home will help to inform future decisions regarding early intervention services for children with ASD and other related conditions.”
Parent coaching intervention is a teaching method where caregivers of very young children who display early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are taught techniques that promote their child’s development. Parents learn how to interact and engage with their child during every-day routines in ways that will support their child’s unique developmental needs. Parents are supported through the process by qualified professionals.
The research project will follow approximately 70 children and their families. Over the next few months a steering committee chaired by ACT-Autism Community Training and including the Pacific Autism Family Centre (PAFC), the ministry and researchers working with the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research will collaborate to fully develop this research project for B.C.
“We are pleased to be partnering with so many innovators on this exciting project,” said ACT-Autism Community Training executive director Deborah Pugh. “In particular, PAFC’s state-of-the-art tele-health video technology and hub-and-spoke model will ensure families located in rural and remote communities across the province have equal opportunities to participate.”
“Many families recognize that something may be wrong with their child’s development as young as one year of age, but they just don’t know what they can do to help,” said PAFC founder Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia. “Parent coaching is one of those options that could change families’ lives. This research project is another important step in the right direction and I look forward to working with our partners on this exciting initiative in the months ahead.”
The steering committee’s first task is to select a program provider and an independent program evaluator. Once those decisions have been made, the selection of research subjects will begin through a comprehensive screening process for children under the age of three years displaying early signs of ASD.
- The procurement process to select the research project program provider and the independent program evaluator is expected to take up to one year.
- The screening process for research subjects is expected to begin in early 2017.
- Ministry of Children and Family Development contracts with ACT-Autism Community Training to provide provincial autism information and support services, as well as training for families of children with ASD.
- British Columbia provides funding to approximately 11,300 children and youth diagnosed with ASD and their families. Currently, more than 1,700 children under the age of six years are served.
- For children under the age of six years, families are eligible for $22,000 per year to help with the cost of autism intervention services to improve their child’s communication, social-emotional, pre-academic and functional life-skills development.
For more information on ASD and the services and supports available, go to: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/autism/index.htm