The Hanen Centre

The Hanen Centre

March 24, 2011 14:52 ET

Encouraging Research Results for Parents of Toddlers With Autism

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 24, 2011) - Results of a study published online March 22 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry show that The Hanen Centre's More Than Words® Program is more effective than "treatment as usual" in improving the communication skills of toddlers with autism who play with a limited number of toys.

This finding is encouraging for parents who want to know which treatments are best for helping their young child with autism. "This report adds to our emerging knowledge about which interventions work for which kids. It will help match children with the right intervention and not waste time enrolling them in treatments that are not well-suited for them", said co-author Wendy Stone, director of the University of Washington Autism Center.

The results of the study indicate that the toddlers who played with fewer toys before the More Than Words Program showed more improvement in their communication skills after participating in the More Than Words Program than those who received "treatment as usual". The More Than Words group initiated communication and reached and pointed to objects more frequently. They made more eye contact and showed or gave the experimenter a toy more often. All of these are important communication skills, providing a critical foundation for the development of more advanced communication.

An important aspect of each child's improvement was the ability to transfer the skills learned during interactions with his or her parents, who provided support as needed, to the experimenter, who was a stranger and provided no support. In addition, follow-up testing four months after the program revealed that the effect of the More Than Words Program continued.

Evidence that a short-term (12 weeks), parent-implemented program can be effective in helping toddlers with autism is welcome news, especially since so many treatments for children on the autism spectrum are expensive and time-intensive. The Hanen Centre has a long history of developing programs that are based on cutting-edge research in which Hanen Certified speech-language pathologists help parents become their child's best "teacher" during the natural interactions of everyday life. 

"Parents can learn to do what a speech-language pathologist does with a child", says Elaine Weitzman, Executive Director of The Hanen Centre. "Because parents have a strong relationship with their child and because they live together, they have many more opportunities to make early language intervention an ongoing, everyday process." Parents can apply the strategies they learn to any everyday routine or activity with their children, such as taking a bath, getting in the car, playing with toys and singing songs. 

There was one group of children whose communication did not show greater improvement in communication skills compared to the control group. These were children who played with a greater number of toys before the program started.

"This provides The Hanen Centre with valuable information on the More Than Words Program," says Weitzman. "We welcome these results since we're committed to offering evidence-based programs that reflect the latest research. With the help of this study, we've identified changes we can make to ensure that the program is even more helpful to parents, and we're already in the process of implementing those changes."

The Hanen Centre is a not-for-profit organization, recognized as an international leader in early language intervention through parent- and caregiver-focused programs. The Centre provides training to thousands of speech-language pathologists worldwide, so that parents can gain access to Hanen Programs® and the Hanen approach in their home communities. It also publishes book and DVD resources for parents and professionals who want to learn how to implement the Hanen approach. For more information on Hanen Programs, including those specifically for parents of children on the autism spectrum, visit:

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