Parent training programmes may be designed to teach parents how to deliver interventions to their own children (child-focused programmes) or they may be designed to teach parents how to cope with the difficulties of having an autistic child (parent-focused programmes).
In some child-focussed programmes, the parents are taught to become the primary practitioner for the intervention (primary training programmes). In other child-focussed programmes, the parents are taught to work alongside professionals as co-practitioners (complementary training programmes).
Parent support programmes are designed to provide parents and carers with various forms of support. That support may be provided through the coordination of care to the family, for example, via the local autism team. Or that support may be provided via parent education programmes (interventions designed to tell parents about autism, related issues such as sleep problems, and the interventions and services that may be available to them). Or that support may be through teaching the parents psychological strategies designed to help them look after themselves, such as mindfulness or therapeutic writing
In practice, some parent training programmes include elements of parent support and some parent support programmes include elements of parent training.
Many parent training and parent support programmes also overlap with other types of behavioural and developmental intervention. For example, some parent training programmes teach parents how to deliver comprehensive treatment models (such as the DIR method, the Relationship Development Intervention or the Son-Rise Program). Other parent training programmes teach parents how to use specific techniques such as modelling and reinforcement.
Please note: In this section, we will concentrate on parent training and support programmes that are not covered elsewhere on this website and which are available in some parts of the UK.
Some parent training and support programmes (such as the DIR method and some forms of early intensive behavioural interventions) covered elsewhere on this website have some supporting research evidence. Less evidence exists for the interventions in this section.
No risks are known for most forms of parent training and support programmes.
The Barnardo’s Cygnet model is based on the Parent Adviser Model, which was developed to support families of disabled children.
The model came from parents’ concerns that they were not being listened to by professionals, who they felt focused almost exclusively on the management of children’s problems, without taking account of their adaptation to difficult situations.
The Barnardo’s Cygnet programme is delivered in a group format, and each session is designed to help participants examine a specific issue (such as diagnosis, communication, sensory issues and challenging behaviours).
The National Autistic Society EarlyBird programme is aimed at families of pre-school children. The EarlyBird Plus programme is aimed at families of children aged four to eight.
The programmes combine group training sessions for parents and individual home visits where video feedback is used. The feedback helps parents apply what they learnt, while they are working with their child.
The programmes use techniques from other interventions such as the NAS SPELL Framework, TEACCH and PECS.
Portage is an early childhood service that aims to support families in their own homes who have young children with additional needs.
The children are taught new skills through the use of questions and tasks, prompts, and rewards.
Parents and carers are shown how to apply this system by a weekly or fortnightly visit from a Portage home visitor