Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fathers Can Help Improve Communication Skills of Kids with Autism

Researchers at the University of Florida say that training fathers to help their children with autism communicate can benefit the kids' verbal skills, and help dads feel more involved in their children's lives.

This television news report from Gainesville, Fla., focuses on the story of a father who helps his autistic son do writing and drawing exercises at home, and explains how the father has learned to be much more patient in his dealings with his son after he received training to help his son communicate. (In the video, you can hear the words of the father, but not his 11-year-old son who was diagnosed at age 3.) "These boys teach you patience, that is for sure," the father, Chuck McCormack says.

Jennifer Elder, Chair of Department of Healthcare at the University of Florida in College of Nursing in Gainesville, is one of the researchers of this issue, and she has trained Chuck and other fathers to work with their kids. She says that for fathers, "there is a tendency to really direct the children, but what we found is that doesn't work very well in autism. It's much better to follow the child's lead."

The news report cites the research of Elder and her colleagues who have found "teaching fathers how to talk to and play with their autistic children in a home setting improved communication, increased the number of intelligible words the youngsters spoke by more then 50 percent, and helped dads get more involved in the care," thus empowering fathers who are often less involved in caring for their kids with autism.

This link takes you to an abstract of the study entitled, "Verbal communication outcomes in children with autism after in-home father training," research which Elder and her colleagues published in February in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

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