Toddlers with a family connection to autism or ADHD are more likely than average to be later diagnosed with autism or ADHD. Some toddlers with a family connection of autism or ADHD will not meet the clinical cut-off levels for a diagnosis, but will still show higher autistic or ADHD traits. Autism and ADHD are both conditions that are associated with executive function difficulties in later childhood and adulthood, so supporting early executive development may help these toddlers to thrive in later life.
Many toddlers with a family connection to autism or ADHD will be neurotypical – that is they will not show any signs of a developmental condition. Supporting early executive development may still be beneficial for these toddlers as strong executive functions are associated with higher levels of health, wealth and happiness in typically-developing children too.
In collaboration with the charity Peeple, researchers at the University of Oxford have developed a new programme, called START, which aims to support toddlers with a family connection to autism or ADHD to develop strong attention, regulation and thinking skills. NIHR have funded a feasibility trial of the START programme. This is the first stage in investigating whether the programme is useful or not. The information we collect will help us to improve the programme and decide whether to progress to a larger trial.
We are recruiting 60 families for this first trial: you can find out more about the trial and whether you might be eligible to take part here.