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Parent Training Key To Tackling Behavior, Study Finds


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Children with developmental disabilities who have severe behavior issues respond better to medication if it is paired with training for their parents, researchers say.

In study of 124 children ages 4 to 13 with pervasive developmental disorders, including autism, and significant behavioral problems, kids were prescribed the antipsychotic drug Risperidone, sold under the brand name Risperdal. In addition, some of the children’s parents were given regular training during the six-month study period to help them better respond to behavior issues.

While children in both groups saw gains, those who benefited from the combination of medication and parent training experienced a wider range of improvements, researchers report this month in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

“Both groups — medication alone and combined treatment group — demonstrated improvement in functional communication and social interaction. But the combined group showed greater improvement on several measures of everyday adaptive functioning,” said Lawrence Scahill of Yale University who was the senior author of the study.

Adaptive functioning skills can encompass everything from hygiene to managing daily routines, making it a significant real-world measure for families.

“Decreasing these serious behavioral problems results in children who are more able to manage everyday living,” Scahill said.

Those behind the research say they plan to publish parent training manuals to help others across the country implement the strategies found successful in the study. They are also working on further research to assess whether or not parent training alone can be successful in treating younger children.

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Comments (11 Responses)

  1. Lori says:

    I’d be more interested in seeing a study comparing UNmedicated children w/parent training vs medicated children w/parent training.

  2. brie says:

    i know it worked very well for me , i tried it both ways and now that my son is older and would be so hard to handle without medication and all the help and charts and training , i have almost forgot what a nightmare i had before , it doesnt make the autism or adhd go away but it does make it easier , i understand why parents dont want medication it is scary and some medication does have side effects ,but i would not be able to take care of my son without them , he would be in a group home or i would be dead from no sleep.

  3. Andrea says:

    My sons behaviors were so sever that we almost had to have him residentially placed. I decided in the middle of the placement process that I wanted to try one more time and begged for,help from my local regional center. I tgen began behavioral training and learned pro act. It has been an amazing change. I love it so much that I am now starting school to eventually becone a certified behavioralist. Its amazing the perspective u gain once u understand what the behaviors are and have the real tools to deal with them.

  4. Barb says:

    sorry folks buts that son is 21 now and been using both since he was 6..Risperdal is nasty in the end..after years he’s still struggling with huge behaviour problems…plus shakes, over heats, and can go grey at the drop of a hat..we’re looking now for another route now..if I knew now back then I would have never started this med.

  5. Kat says:

    Parent Training – That is the new buzz word! But, as many parents know, these type of behavioral centers or professionals don’t even exist except in very large cities. I live in a medium size city and there is a 12 to 18 month waiting list for the only center in a fifty mile radius and no other psych professionals are in the area who provide such “parent training”. I have looked on the web for self-help parent training videos so I could even teach myself at home, but no luck. And if someone was to make such a video, please remember, it needs to be very affordable since families with special needs have little money left over (or none) after they pay for doctor bills, medications, special tutoring, ect!

  6. Lynn Shoemaker says:

    Interesting thing is that we, the parents of such children, those with severe behavioral issues COULD TRAIN THE EXPERTS> We have learned how to parent from 24/7 training with no help and no support when the outbursts happen. We do not need a manual we are the living breathing manual we need SUPPORT!

  7. Daniel Haszard says:

    Risperal reproached.
    Same saga here as Eli Lilly Zyprexa.

    Johnson and Johnson is a trusted brand we associate with babies.
    Risperdal,Zyprexa,as well as the other atypical antipsychotics, are being prescribed for children, even though this is an unapproved, off-label use. An estimated 2.5 million children are now taking atypical antipsychotics. Over half are being given them for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,many of these foster children.
    Weight gain, increases in triglyceride levels and associated risks for (life-long) diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
    Lilly made $65 billion on Zyprexa!

    –Daniel Haszard
    *Tell the truth don’t be afraid*

  8. Teresa says:

    to Kat: I also found it hard to locate “Parent Management Training”, which I had heard was the way to go with my child. I found Alan Kazdin’s book very helpful (Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child), and I know that he has books that I’ve seen on Amazon for Parent Management Training. He works/teaches/researches at Yale. Also, when I learned more, I found out that a lot of Cognitive Behavior Therapists are able to do Parent Training, and they weren’t coming in my online searches for Parent Training. So I would go to their national associations, which have a referral network, and search for CBT in your area. Good luck! I know it can be frustrating.

  9. Tacitus says:

    Define “improvement” please. I was given high-grade tranquilizers, and while in a corrective disciplinary class, I “earned” good behavior points because I wasn’t looking around, doodling, or stimming. This was during quiet time, a period of absolutely mandated inactivity. Then I was expected to respond to questions, do worksheets, and keep from peeing myself. I was “therapeutically restrained” after that.

    The improvements in social interaction and communication could be of the same caliber. Take note that improvement in self-care and functioning are not listed for the drugged kids.

  10. Edward C. Gooze, Ph.D. says:

    Parents must be vigilant about of the metabolic side-effects of many Atypical Antipsychotic Drugs like Respirdal. With some young people, and with Seniors as a group, the risks might not out-weigh the benefits. As a Biobehavioral Specialist.and Family Coach in Austin, Texas my colleague and I operate on the assumption that a customized combination of ABA [Behavioral], Cognitive-Behavioral and carefully titrated medication interventions give the best outcomes. It might also allow for faster reduction and/or elimination of mediication doses in many patients. For those who might not live close to a trained behaviorist, there can be some parent support services provided by phone and/or internet means by a few Behavioral Coaches and/or up-to-date Behavioral Therapists

  11. Andrea says:

    To Dr. Gooze,
    I have to say I totally agree with u. Right now my son is on 9 different meds but since starting behavioral training Im actually looking forward to the day that I can start weaning him off medications. Im currently a nurse but Im actually in school right now, a psych major with the eventual goal of becomming a certified behaviorist. I went through pro act training and am working closely with a behaviorist on ABA techniques. My sons behaviors have improved DRAMATICALLY! I never knew how extremely critical the behavioral aspect would be. I have hope and some peace. Id do anything I had to do to gain access to the information that could bring me that and give me my son back.

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