The Guided Participation Relationship and Parental Tutoring Strategies in Preschoolers with Autism.
In a Guided Participation Relationship, parents scaffold children’s performance during instructional activity to promote feelings of competence and autonomy (Rogoff, Ellis, & Gardner, 1984). Parents provide such support within their children’s Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978). However, not all parents are equally effective as tutors. Mothers of securely attached preschool children are more effective tutors, in that they provide more positive feedback, are less likely to intervene physically, provide help when asked, and pitch their help at an appropriate level for the child’s needs (Meins, 1997). Feedback and responsiveness from their children help parents provide appropriate levels of scaffolding, encourage motivation, and support transfer of responsibility. Children with autism and their caregivers show difficulties negotiating the Guided Participation Relationship (Beurkens, Hobson, & Hobson, 2013).
The first aim of this study was to compare matched groups of young children with and without autism on a parental tutoring task. Our second aim was to ascertain whether the parental tutoring task revealed patterns of change in a subset of the children with autism, those who (with their parents) received an intervention designed to foster the Guided Participation Relationship (Relationship Development Intervention, RDI).
The study included 32 children, between the ages of 3 - 6 years, and their parents. There were 16 children (8 girls) who were diagnosed with developmental disabilities but did not show features of autism, and a matched group of 16 children (7 girls) with a previous diagnosis of autism. At the beginning of the school-year, children were administered the ADOS, a parental tutoring task, and a language assessment. The children with autism were in two separate classes (each class n = 8) in the same preschool. One of the classes added RDI to the daily curriculum. RDI was delivered within the classroom, and via parent sessions provided on site throughout the school year. At the end of the school year, all of the children with autism (and their parents) were assessed again, with the ADOS, tutoring task, and a language assessment.
Parental scaffolding on the tutoring task was coded using Meins (1997) coding scheme (i.e. type and specificity of parent intervention, child sensitivity to feedback, child success, parent response).
By way of illustration, parents of children with ASD used more spontaneous non-verbal intrusions (ASD=14.85 (2.78), DD=8.30 (0.51), Mann Whitney U=28, p=.021), and more verbal utterances with a physical component (U=23.00, p=.009). Parents in both groups were similar in their sensitivity to the child's success (i.e. adjusted their feedback accordingly). We will provide additional data on child sensitivity to feedback, and changes over time.
Results of the present study suggest that parents of children with autism do appear to be sensitive to their child's ability level and adjust their interventions accordingly. On the other hand, physical intervention may be required more often for children with ASD, which is consistent with previous literature. Further results may reveal improvements in the guided participation relationship when this is a treatment focus.