The Colorado Parent Mentoring Program: Parent-to-Parent Support Improves Family Functioning and Satisfaction with Care

Friday, May 12, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
B. Rigles1, E. Moody2, K. E. Kaiser3, L. Kubicek4, J. Davis4 and C. Robinson Rosenberg4, (1)University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, (2)13121 E 17th Avenue, University of Colorado, Denver, Aurora, CO, (3)JFK Partners University of Colorado, Aurora, CO, (4)University of Colorado, Aurora, CO
Background: Despite the increasing prevalence of autism (Baio, 2014) there is currently no standard of care for autism and systems of care remain highly fractured. The challenge of creating, financing, and maintaining treatment plans adds to the stress experienced by families of children with autism. As mothers are often designated as the caregiver for children with autism, much of this burden falls on them (Bouma & Schweitzer, 1990). Previous research has found that mothers and fathers deal with the stress associated with having a child with autism differently, with social support being key for mothers (Boyd, 2002). The Colorado Parent Mentoring (CPM) program was created to improve family quality of life, family functioning, and service use, as well as to help create social support networks for mothers of children with autism. CPM combines family centered action planning and education with ongoing parent-to-parent mentorship.

Objectives: This study was designed to measure family functioning and quality of life, service use, social support, and program acceptability outcomes of the CMP program for families of children newly diagnosed with autism.

Methods: In a randomized controlled trial, the CPM intervention was given to a group of parents (n=29) and compared to a waitlist group (n=32) on four main outcomes: 1) family quality of life (Family Quality of Life questionnaire; FQOL), 2) family functioning (Family Adaptation and Cohesion Scale IV; FACES), 3) service use, and 4) program acceptability. Qualitative interviews were also conducted with all participants to explore program benefits to social support.

Results: Linear mixed models were used to test the effect of group (active vs waitlist), time (pre vs post). The active group reported greater satisfaction with disability related supports following intervention (FQOL; t = 2.18, p=.03) and reduced family rigidity (FACES, t=2.15, p=.04). Services used outside of the school setting increased for all participants but did not meet the national standard; the program was highly acceptable to participants. Qualitative data suggest that once mothers were connected to other mothers, they experienced a sense of empowerment, which reduced stressful interactions with family members.

Conclusions: The CPM program prevented rigidity in the family system and reduced the level of importance parents held regarding involvement of other family members in their child’s care. Family functioning and quality of life are complex following a child's diagnosis of autism. The CPM program positively impacts family functioning and quality of life, primarily due to the increased social support created through this program for mothers.