A new study suggests that moms of kids with autism address their children’s behavior differently than parents of kids without the developmental disorder.

Researchers found that mothers with children on the spectrum were less likely to set rules or use discipline, but more frequently imposed so-called positive parenting, encouraging good behavior rather than focusing on the bad.

The findings come from a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders which is believed to be among the first to look at parenting behavior among moms of individuals with autism.

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For the research, nearly 1,000 mothers of children ages 6 to 18 in Belgium and the Netherlands completed a questionnaire about their parenting approach. Participants in the study included 552 families with a child with autism and 437 families of kids without. None of the children had a diagnosis of intellectual disability.

Moms of children with autism were more likely to report adjusting their environment or their communication to suit their child’s needs and were more intimately involved in problem-solving for their kids.

What’s more, even though children with autism displayed more behavior problems, the study found that their parents were less controlling. It’s unclear, the researchers said, whether this is because such moms are more concerned with addressing the cause of their child’s behavior or if these parents are simply conditioned to expect less.

“Many mothers reported important strengths in adjusting their behavior to the diagnosis of ASD for their child. We do not know whether this is a result of parent involved interventions or whether mothers spontaneously attune and respond to their child behavioral cues,” researchers from University of Leuven in Belgium said in their findings.

“These results suggest that parenting behavior may be important to consider in problem behavior in children with ASD and the effectiveness of interventions focused on parent behavior merits further examination,” they said.

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