Ok am going to try just to do a quick post here (hmmmmm....I'm not known for short posts - I may well be deluding myself)
I dont know why I haven't blogged about this before as it's a significant piece of research by Jessica and Peter Hobson. You'll remember Jess from my previous post. Husband Peter wrote 'The Cradle of Thought'......a dynamic duo if ever there was one :) And just lovely, lovely people. We are so lucky to have these guys in our corner.
'Emotional Regulation In Autism: A Relational, Therapeutic Perspective'
The study results so far were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research in May this year.
Looking at how emotional regulation in children with autism can be improved as the result of the parent-child interaction that is fostered during RDI, the research concludes: 'Treatment approaches which focus on interaction between children with autism and their caregivers have the potential to affect the children’s emotion regulation abilities which, in turn, are likely to influence other areas of emotional, cognitive, and social development.'
Those of us using RDI with our kids know this to be true already....bring on the next phase of this research :)
Employing a well known method used in attachment studies to measure the quality of parent-child interaction (Dyadic Coding Scales: Humber & Moss, 2005), the study showed that the kids with autism who had been in RDI had outcomes scores similar to typically developing children in the areas of: Coordination, Communication, Partner Roles, Emotional Expression, Responsiveness/Sensitivity, Tension/Relaxation, Mood, Enjoyment.
Yes that's right - scores similar to those of typically developing kids.
Assessment of the pairs of children and parents (dyads) was videotaped, and later coded for qualities of relatedness by blind, independent judges, which introduces objectivity into the evaluations.
What we know about stress levels and emotional health in children with autism and their families
Some of what we know is captured in these pretty dire facts and statistics:
Gulsrud, Jahroni and Kasari (2010) illustrated how toddlers with autism showed high levels of distress and negativity. The greater these emotional difficulties, the more stress reported by their parents, and the more difficult parents found it to manage their children’s distress.
Green (2004) reports that the parents of autistic children were almost twice as likely as other parents to have scores on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) indicative of an emotional disorder (44 per cent compared with 24 per cent).
Sharpley, Bitsika and Efremidis (1997) found that 81.9% of parents of ASD children reported that they were sometimes stretched beyond their emotional limits, and nearly half of these felt that way monthly or even weekly.
In contrast to other types of disabilities, parents of children with autism appear to be at greater risk for depression, anxiety, social isolation, fatigue and frustration in obtaining accurate diagnoses and services. Indeed, Bouma and Schweitzer (1990) found autism to contribute more to family stress than did cystic fibrosis (NAS Information sheet, 2005).
And then there is my all time favourite - that Mums of children with autism who present with challenging behaviour experience stress levels similar to those of combat soldiers. http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2009/11/10/autism-moms-stress/6121
Anyone who has ever been mad or anxious about anything knows that when you get mad or anxious, your ability to think clearly and rationally becomes impaired. In the 'mad' scenario, the amygdala takes over and the 'fight' response kicks in until we regulate our emotions sufficiently for the pre-frontal cortex to get back in the driving seat. In the 'anxious' scenario, the amygdala produces the 'flight' response. Emotions and thinking are inseparable - like an old married couple.
We can therefore see how it is likely that the next stage of this research will demonstrate that improved emotional regulation leads to improved cognitive and social development. Just think of all those families out there whose quality of life could be radically improved, by simply altering the way they interact with their kids. No chemicals or pharmaceuticals, no aversive therapies. Exciting!!
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