Early Intensive Parent Training to Promote Development of Their Children with Autism Ameliorates Anxiety & Marital Discord and Increases Knowledge of Autism

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 12, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
B. Siegel1, S. Behar2 and R. DeWitt3, (1)Autism Center of Northern California, San Francisco, CA, (2)Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, CA, (3)Autism Center of Northern California (ACNC), San Francisco, CA
Background: This study focuses on the effects of parent training on parental well-being. Parenting a child with autism is an unanticipated life stressor managed alongside the goal of optimizing benefit to the child. Various approaches to parent training have emerged to 1) bolster and generalize the effect of professional child interventions for autism, 2) manage a child’s problem behaviors, and 3) teach communication skills. There is, however, less study on how parent training may improve parent well-being. We test the idea that parents with a greater knowledge of autism, and with technical skills to develop daily living skills, communication, social and play skills will have fewer negative psycho-social outcomes than parents who do not undergo early training to acquire these knowledge and skills.

Objectives: The present study was to compare knowledge of autism and measures of psychological well-being in parents who did and did not receive a full-time, week-long 1:1 intensive parent training protocol shortly after diagnosis of autism in their 2-3 year old. This preliminary cross-sectional study was carried out as a first step in longitudinal examination of adjustment to the diagnosis of autism in parents. We intend to examine the bi-directional influence of child improvements in parent outcomes alongside effects of parent training in improving child outcomes. We see characterization of bi-directionality as important in understanding how to help parents adjust to the diagnosis of autism, especially given some children will not improve as markedly as others. It is logical that parents with a child who improves markedly to feel better; but how do we also help parents who may need to adjust expectations? What are factors in supporting such parents to feel comparably successful when they are just as active and well-trained as caregivers?

Methods: The treatment group attended week-long, 30-hour parent training with one-to-one demonstrations and coaching from behavioral, communication, and play and social skills intervention specialists. Study respondents completed Knowledge of Autism, and Adjustment to the Diagnosis of Autism (ADA) questionnaires, plus the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS). The current N=12 for the intervention group, with the aim of a matched non-treatment group by INSAR.

Results: Intervention group parents showed 79% accuracy in their knowledge about autism. On the BDI, they showed less than average anxiety (45th percentile). On the DAS, respondents indicated they most always agreed on external family issues (50th percentile), had only occasional problems on more intimate topics (82nd percentile), having positive interactions at least once per day. On ADA intervention group parents showed they accepted the diagnosis and felt others should know more about autism, noting they believed they would feel better as their child did better, and that reading all you can was a helpful coping strategy.

Conclusions: Our preliminary data on trained parents suggest fairly low levels of anxiety, fairly good levels of understanding about autism, as well as adequate scores on psychosocial measures. Our presentation in May will contrast these results to parents who have not (yet) received the same parent training.