WP4 Treatment Summary

Autism Spectrum Treatment and Resilience (ASTAR)

Our previous research in the QUEST study showed that the majority of children aged 4-8 years diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experienced concerning emotions and behaviours. These included hyperactivity and inattention, oppositional behaviour and fears and worries. Other studies have also found that concerning emotions and behaviours are frequently displayed by children with ASD.

Parents told us these difficulties were leading to further impairment and additional family stress, therefore effective intervention is needed. There is emerging evidence that parenting interventions could be effective in reducing concerning emotions and behaviours in young children with ASD. The aim of the study is to develop and evaluate two group-based parent focused interventions that could be delivered in the NHS and private and voluntary sectors. Both interventions (ASTAR A and ASTAR B) will use recognised strategies designed to help families with children with ASD. They will extend parents’ understanding of ASD and associated difficulties but each intervention has a different focus. As part of both interventions, tailored support from trained professionals will be offered.

The study consists of two phases; a feasibility study and a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT). During the feasibility phase, the feasibility of running the study, the appropriateness of different outcome measures and the acceptability of the interventions will be tested. Following this, the pilot RCT will compare the effects of the ASTAR A to ASTAR B. We want to test the specific effect of the interventions on reducing concerning child emotions and behaviours.

Before and after the interventions we will be looking at the child’s behavioural and emotional wellbeing, parents’ perceptions of family life and their wellbeing, and parent-child interaction. This will enable us to examine the effects of the interventions on child and parent outcomes. We will obtain parent and professional views to help us develop research procedures and interventions that are acceptable to families and therapists. The cost-effectiveness of the interventions will also be examined.

Click here for the ASTAR Newsletter Issue 1, Spring 2018