Parental Involvement in Educational and Intervention Services for Young Children with Autism
Objectives: The current study aimed to determine how parents are involved in their child’s services, factors related to involvement, and the relationship between involvement and service satisfaction.
Methods: Parents of children with autism between the ages of 3-8, recruited from parent support groups and autism organizations, were invited to participate in a survey. The survey examined parent involvement in and satisfaction with educational and behavioral intervention (BI) services.
Results: Twenty-nine parents of children with autism (average age: 5.7) completed the survey. The majority of parents reported wanting to be involved to know what their child was learning (93%) and generalize skills (86%). Sixty-two percent of participants reported at least two barriers to involvement. Child age was significantly negatively associated with amount of time spent trying to implement strategies learned at school (Spearman’s r=-.584, p=.001), as was number of children in the house (r=-.503, p=.007). Number of hours worked outside the home was negatively correlated with attending BI meetings (r=-.515, p=.014). Ethnicity, income, and parent education were not related to any involvement type (ps>.05). Parents who reported spending more time implementing strategies learned from school were more likely to be satisfied with school (r=.760, p<.001). Parents who spent more time being directly involved in their child’s BI sessions were less likely to be satisfied with those services (r=-.392, p=.048). Other school and BI involvement types were not significantly correlated with satisfaction.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the importance of studying parental involvement in the context of different types of involvement, as different correlates were related to different aspects of involvement. Parents of older and multiple children, for example, may need unique methods to increase their school-based involvement. When assessing involvement, professionals may benefit from understanding that different involvement types may be especially impactful when it comes to parental satisfaction. Specifically, implementing school-based strategies in everyday life and participating directly in BI sessions were related to satisfaction, whereas other aspects of involvement were not. BI teams may want to assess whether parents who are heavily involved in BI sessions are satisfied with those services and whether other involvement types might better suit them. Future research should expand on these findings, for example by exploring child factors related to the various types of parental involvement.