What is REACH-ASD?

REACH-ASD is a research trial that aims to find out whether a new programme of group-based sessions helps parents whose child has recently been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

We are working closely with clinical teams in the Greater Manchester and north-west area, and have only able to involve parents who have been referred through those teams. 

What does the trial aim to find out?

The trial investigates a new group-based programme for parents called EMPOWER-Autism. We want to find out whether this programme helps parents:

  • to feel emotionally well
  • to adjust to the news of their child’s diagnosis
  • to understand autism in their child
  • to know some common strategies that can help autistic children and young people
  • to feel confident and empowered in their role of parent. 

We also want to find out whether the programme has other beneficial effects on the family and child with ASD. We will also look at whether the programme is cost-effective to the NHS. 

What is the EMPOWER-Autism programme?

Within the trial some parents (selected at random) continued with the usual post diagnostic service offered by their local clinical team. Other parents (selected at random) were invited to attend the EMPOWER-Autism programme. This is so we can compare outcomes within the two groups to find out how helpful the new programme is. 

The EMPOWER-Autism programme is a series of group-based workshops. The programme is designed to meet the needs of parents in the months following their child’s ASD diagnosis. The programme offers:

  • high quality, evidence-based information about autism
  • personal accounts of what it is like to be autistic
  • understanding the effects of autism on communication, sensory experiences, emotional regulation, and behaviour
  • commonly-used strategies to help with the effects of autism
  • information on the education system and your rights
  • web-based resources with further information

Parts of the programme were developed from a workshop approach delivered in Central Manchester for the past decade. Parents of children with ASD have said they like this approach and find it helpful.

The programme also offers emotional support:

  • time and space to reflect on your feelings about your child’s diagnosis and being a parent to your child
  • the chance to meet other parents and share experiences
  • an emphasis on the importance of parents’ wellbeing
  • opportunities to identify personal parenting values and how to continue to live by these
  • ways for parents to manage any stress or worries
  • provide sources of information, help and support

These parts of the programme are based on an approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This is an evidence-based approach that is helpful to a wide range of people adjusting to new life circumstances. It has been used with parents of autistic children by clinical research teams in Queensland (Australia) and Toronto (Canada).

How can I get involved?

Recruitment has now ended