London: Parent-led intervention has been found promising in helping children suffering from autism in India and Pakistan initiate communication with their parents, a new study says.
Autism is one of the world's fastest growing developmental health challenges, with up to 70 million people affected, causing a severe effect on the social development of children.
In developed countries children are able to receive specialist treatment to improve their interaction with their families, but in many lower income countries, this is not available.
"This study is the first to have adapted a treatment so as to allow it to be delivered by non-specialist health workers in south Asian communities,” said one of the study lead authors Atif Rahman from University of Liverpool in Britain.
"It has been outstandingly successful in showing that such adaptation is both possible and can produce changes that are equal or even better that we achieved in UK," Rahman noted.
With the aim of improving treatment for an estimated five million children in South Asia with the autism spectrum disorder, clinical researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester in Britain collaborated with colleagues in India and Pakistan to adapt the parent-led autism therapy.
The resulting PASS (parent-mediated intervention for autism spectrum disorder in south Asia) programme was taught to non-specialist health workers in Rawalpindi in Pakistan and Goa, who then worked with parents of the 65 autistic children who were recruited to the trial.
The PASS materials were all presented in the parents' first language and each period of treatment began with a session on the causes and misconceptions about the condition.
At the end of the 12 week period, the children were assessed using recognised methods. The parents were shown to have learned from the intervention and the children were more likely to initiate communication with their parents.
The findings appeared in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.