Cultural Adaptation of an Evidence-Based Social Skills Intervention for Latino Families in the Inland Empire: A Feasibility Study
Obtaining stakeholder feedback when adapting interventions for autism is integral to assure culturally sensitive practices (Hwang, 2009). The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS), a parent-assisted social skills intervention for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), has been found to be effective in eight randomized controlled trials conducted across multiple sites (Laugeson et al., 2009; Laugeson et al., 2012; Schohl et al., 2013; Yoo et al., 2014; Matthews et al., 2018; Jagersma et al., 2018; Shum et al., 2018; Rabin et al., 2018). While PEERS has been adapted for Asian and European populations, most studies on the effectiveness of PEERS in North America have been conducted with primarily Caucasian families of middle to high socioeconomic status. The effectiveness of PEERS for low-income Latino families has yet to be examined. The Inland Empire (I.E.) area of Southern California is an ideal place to expand the PEERS intervention to families who have been historically left out of intervention research. As a first step in the cultural adaptation of PEERS for underrepresented families in the I.E., we obtained parent perspectives on the practicality of the intervention.
The current study examines stakeholder perspectives on the feasibility of the PEERS intervention with primarily low-income Latino families in the I.E.
Three 90-minute focus groups were conducted with 19 parents of youth with ASD in the I.E. (Latino=16, Caucasian=3, Spanish-speaking=9, English-speaking=10). Parents were recruited from local school districts, community organizations, parent groups, and flyers posted in the community. Parents completed questionnaires and engaged in a group discussion regarding the feasibility of the PEERS intervention. Our main questions were: 1) Is the original format of the program (weekly 90-minute sessions for 16 weeks) feasible? 2) What is the preferred timing of the program? 3) What are the barriers to participation? Data were analyzed through quantitative (i.e., responses on questionnaires) and qualitative (i.e., group discussion themes) methods.
The majority of parents reported that the original 16-week format of the program is feasible (n=13), while some parents reported that a shorter length of the program would be preferable (n=5). Most parents preferred sessions to be on weekdays from 6-8 pm (n=15) or on weekends (n=10), and fewer parents preferred weekdays from 4-6 pm (n=6). The greatest barriers to participation were childcare issues (n=7) and work schedules (n=5). Other barriers included getting to the groups (n=4) and the length of the program (n=4). The main theme that emerged from the group discussion was that parents perceive a lack of services and a need for evidence-based interventions for adolescents with ASD in the I.E.
This preliminary study aimed to increase the accessibility of an evidence-based social skills intervention for underresourced Latino families in the I.E. Overall, results suggest that parents endorse the feasibility of the PEERS intervention and have a desire to participate in it. Implications for decreasing disparity in autism intervention research are discussed.