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Building capacity for rigorous controlled trials in autism: the importance of measuring treatment adherence

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Helen McConachie, Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Research groups across Europe have been networking to share information and ideas about research on preschool children with autism. The paper describes preliminary work to develop capacity for future multi-site randomized controlled trials of early intervention, with a specific focus on the need to measure treatment adherence where parents deliver therapy. The paper includes a review of randomized and controlled studies of parent-mediated early intervention from two sources, a recent Cochrane Collaboration review and a mapping of European early intervention studies in autism published since 2002. The data extracted focused on methods for describing parent adherence, that is, how and to what extent parents carry out the strategies taught them by therapists. Less than half of the 32 studies reviewed included any measure of parent adherence. Only seven included a direct assessment method. The challenges of developing pan-European early intervention evaluation studies are discussed, including choice of intervention model and of important outcomes, the need for translation of measurement tools and achievement of joint training to reliability of assessors. Measurement of parent-child interaction style and of adherence to strategies taught need further study.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McConachie H, Fletcher-Watson S, COST Action 'Enhancing Sci Study

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Child: Care, Health and Development

Year: 2015

Volume: 41

Issue: 2

Pages: 169-177

Print publication date: 01/03/2015

Online publication date: 27/08/2014

Acceptance date: 18/07/2014

ISSN (print): 0305-1862

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2214



DOI: 10.1111/cch.12185