CST information for professionals

Childhood developmental disorders and disabilities are a growing challenge to healthcare systems around the globe, with many children in underserved areas struggling with lack of access to quality care and interventions. In response to this need, the World Health Organization (WHO), with support from Autism Speaks, developed the Caregiver Skills Training (CST) for Families of Children with Developmental Delays or Disabilities.

The CST program is an evidence-based, family-centered approach designed to be delivered by community providers in low-resource settings. Rather than requiring families to seek out a skilled specialist, WHO empowers non-specialist providers like community workers, nurses and teachers to deliver parent training with supervision from skilled trainers.

Caregiver Skills Training building blocks

Consisting of 12 sessions, including nine group training sessions and three home visits, the CST program aims to help parents and caregivers of children with autism and other developmental disabilities learn the day-to-day skills they need to better understand and engage with their children. Caregivers are taught strategies based on evidence-based behavior interventions such as JASPER (Joint Attention, Symbolic Play, Engagement, Regulation) and PRT (Pivotal Response Training).

What is the evidence?

To date, the CST program has been piloted in more than 30 sites across the world, including the U.S. Research shows that the program has been well received by communities worldwide and brings significant benefits in terms of caregivers’ parenting skills and child well-being.

Caregivers who complete the program consistently report improvements in their stress levels, quality of life and the quality of their interactions with their children. Children whose parents completed the training show improved communication, social skills and daily living skills.

Below, read about the results of some recent research studies examining the efficacy of the CST program.

How can you get involved?

Download the CST guides

The five-part CST training package was developed to provide the information and materials facilitators need to implement the CST program in their local community. The training materials were developed in consultation with international experts, service providers, caregivers and family advocates, with extensive field testing across regions. The following guides are meant to be used by supervised facilitators who have completed the required training.

  • Introduction. This guide provides an overview of the course structure, content and requirements for delivering the training to caregivers.
  • Adaptation and Implementation Guide. This guide provides information on how to adapt CST materials and delivery strategies for local communities.
  • Facilitators’ Guide for Group Sessions 1-9. This guide is a reference manual that provides information for leading the nine group CST sessions. It should only be used alongside specific training and under supervision.
  • Participants’ Guide for Group Sessions 1-9. This guide is meant to be used by caregivers who sign up for the WHO Caregiver Skills Training program. It provides content that will be used during each of the nine group sessions and includes illustrated descriptions of the key messages, skills and strategies taught in each session, as well as goal-setting activities.
  • Home Visit Guide for Facilitators. This guide is a reference manual that provides information for leading the three home visits. It includes detailed descriptions of the objectives and activities for each home visit, as well as goal setting information, forms and information for trouble shooting and problem solving. This guide should only be used alongside specific training and under supervision.

Find your local CST site

The CST program has been piloted in over 30 sites across the world. While the in-person training program is not yet widely available to the public, Autism Speaks is working with WHO to bring CST to more communities near you. Find your closest CST site here.

Interested in participating in CST? Register for e-mail updates and get alerted when in-person training is available near you.

Contact us

Questions? Contact us at CST@autismspeaks.org

View the CST launch event

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You can also reach the Autism Response Team by phone or email: 888-288-4762, en Espanol 888-772-7050, or help@autismspeaks.org.