Implementing a group intervention programme emphasising early communication stimulation with parents of children with autism spectrum disorder

Master Thesis


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Introduction: Implementing low-intensity interventions, such as group-based parent education and training (PET), is a cost and time effective way of providing early intervention for families and their children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Relatively little empirical research demonstrates the effectiveness of parent education and training in this context. Methods: The study aimed to develop and pilot a group-based parent education and training (PET) programme (COMPAS) and determine its appropriateness and acceptability. Secondly, it aimed to investigate the clinical effectiveness of the programme to improve the communication interaction skills and self-efficacy beliefs of parents of young children with autism. The study followed an exploratory sequential mixed methods research design and used the Replicating Effective Programs (REP) framework. Sixty-one participants took part in the study which consisted of 3 phases. In phase one we developed the programme and teaching materials and activities. In the pre-implementation phase, we collected qualitative and quantitative data via questionnaires from two stakeholder groups (25 parents and 5 autism experts). In the implementation phase, we used a single group pre-test post-test design with 31 parents of children with autism to determine changes in parent-child interaction and parenting self-efficacy. The primary outcome of the implementation phase, parent-child interaction, was measured using the Parenting Interactions with Children: Checklist of Observations Linked to Outcomes (PICCOLO), and the secondary outcome, parenting self-efficacy, was measured using the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (PSOC) and the Parenting Self-Efficacy Measuring Instrument (P-SEMI). Results: In the pre-implementation phase, a panel of experts agreed the training content was comprehensive and relevant, and that the manual was user-friendly. After the pilot study parents felt confident that they could use at least one of the strategies taught during everyday routines or play with their child. Results from the implementation phase indicated significant improvement in parenting interactions (p < .05, d = 1.26) and self-efficacy (p < .05, d = 0.35) after the training. Conclusion: We developed and piloted a training programme in a LMIC setting which resulted in increased interaction skills and self-efficacy for parents of young children with autism. This study indicates that brief, group parent education and training in a LMIC is feasible and can be effective in improving parenting skills and feelings of competence.