Seminar looks at success of autism intervention program

Published 2 May 2008

The success of a program using early behavioural intervention for children with autism will be discussed at a public seminar hosted by Southern Cross University’s Department of Psychology in Coffs Harbour on May 8.

Professor Bob Remington, from the School of Psychology, University of Southampton, United Kingdom, will present the findings of a two-year study on the effectiveness of an intervention strategy for preschool children with autism.

Professor Remington’s study involved two groups of preschool children with autism. The first group received treatment based on Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI) packages, while the second group received treatment as usually provided by the local education authorities.

“The groups did not differ on assessments at the beginning of the study, but after two years, robust differences favouring the early intervention were observed on measures of intelligence, language, daily living skills and positive social behaviour,” Professor Remington said.

The study also monitored parental wellbeing and found that behavioural intervention did not create increased problems for the parents of the children in that group.

Dr Lewis Bizo, head of Southern Cross University’s Department of Psychology, said the seminar would be of interest to parents, teachers and carers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“Autism is a severe developmental disorder for which there is no medical cure and children often display challenging behaviour, such as self-injury, which is a major cause of stress to both the children and their families,” Dr Bizo said.

“This study has demonstrated the effectiveness of early interventions which are only now gaining momentum in Australia. These programs are already widely used in North America, and taking off in the United Kingdom and Europe but there hasn’t been strong support in Australia.”

Dr Bizo said the behavioural interventions were designed to try and improve the quality of life and improve the level of a child’s level of functioning.

“It’s about teaching the kids how to do very simple things like get dressed or communicate their needs, and helping them to control self-injuring behaviour.

“This is an evidence-based program which has been demonstrated to improve the life of these kids and their families.”

In Australia it is estimated that there is one child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in every 160 children in the six to 12-year-old age group.

The seminar by Professor Remington will be held at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus, D Block lecture theatre, on Thursday, May 8, from 4pm.

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.