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Parent empowerment and coaching in early intervention: study protocol for a feasibility study.

  • Author(s): Pellecchia, Melanie
  • Beidas, Rinad S
  • Mandell, David S
  • Cannuscio, Carolyn C
  • Dunst, Carl J
  • Stahmer, Aubyn C
  • et al.

Background:Parent-mediated early interventions (EI) for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can result in significant improvements in children's cognitive ability, social functioning, behavior, and adaptive skills, as well as improvements in parental self-efficacy and treatment engagement. The common component to efficacious parent-mediated early interventions for ASD is clinician use of parent coaching and occurs when a clinician actively teaches the parent techniques to improve their child's functioning. Available evidence suggests that community-based EI clinicians rarely coach parents when working with families of these children, although specific barriers to coaching are unknown. This consistent finding points to the need to develop strategies to improve the use of parent coaching in community EI programs. The purpose of this community-partnered study is to iteratively develop and pilot test a toolkit of implementation strategies designed to increase EI clinicians' use of parent coaching. Methods:This study has four related phases. Phase 1: examine how EI clinicians trained in Project ImPACT, an evidence-based parent-mediated intervention, coach parents of children with ASD. Phase 2: identify barriers and facilitators to clinician implementation of parent coaching by administering validated questionnaires to, and conducting semi-structured interviews with, clinicians, parents, and agency leaders. Phase 3: partner with a community advisory board to iteratively develop a toolkit of implementation strategies that addresses identified barriers and capitalizes on facilitators to improve clinician implementation of evidence-based parent coaching. Phase 4: pilot test the feasibility and effectiveness of the implementation strategy toolkit in improving EI clinicians' use of parent coaching with nine EI clinicians and parent-child dyads using a multiple-baseline-across-participants single-case design. Discussion:Completion of these activities will lead to an in-depth understanding of EI clinicians' implementation of parent coaching in usual practice following training in an evidence-based parent-mediated intervention, barriers to their implementation of parent coaching, a toolkit of implementation strategies developed through an iterative community-partnered process, and preliminary evidence regarding the potential for this toolkit to improve EI clinicians' implementation of parent coaching. These pilot data will offer important direction for a larger evaluation of strategies to improve the use of parent coaching for young children with ASD.

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