Dr Stephen Gallagher (Ulster): Despite the rising numbers of children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and the fact that it is parents who carry the greatest burden of caring for their children, there has been little investment in effective parent training. There is an urgent need for parents to learn practical skills that they can implement in their own home to improve quality of life for their child and family. It is generally acknowledged that early intervention is essential in addressing the needs of children with ASD. Given limited resources (i.e. suitably qualified professionals) and costs, it makes sense to educate parents as key persons in their child’s educational and health development. Research has shown that appropriate parent training in evidence-based practice benefits children’s developmental outcomes and reduces family stress. In Canada and in 36 American states, evidence-based practice is seen as medically and educationally necessary by statutory agencies. Currently those 36 American states have passed legislation mandating insurance companies to provide evidence-based treatment for Autism. Whilst in the United States the gold standard treatment is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), currently in Europe there is a serious mismatch between increasing rates of autism diagnosis and the availability of professionals trained in ABA. As a consequence, policy-makers have not been fully informed about the benefits of ABA and the importance of parent training in ameliorating the effects of Autism on family life. Based on research undertaken, this presentation recommends that government in Northern Ireland invest in parent training as a cornerstone of evidence-based practice, while drawing on a European project that originated in Northern Ireland to meet the needs of parent training in the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, Iceland, Sweden, and Portugal through the use of internet-based training in evidence-based practice.
This seminar took place on 26 November 2014