Parents of preschool children newly diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder: the effectiveness of a self-directed on-line parent training and support program on parent and child outcomes
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Parents of preschool children newly diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often experience high levels of anxiety, stress and depression. Given the seriousness of the child’s diagnosis and the compromise in parenting and family functioning, families are typically referred to formalized treatment programs that provide support for both the child and parents. However, with rising prevalence rates there is often a long waitlist to access formalized treatment programs. The purpose of this study was to develop and evaluate a self-directed on-line training and support program, that was designed to support parents immediately after their child’s diagnosis. A prospective consecutive sample of family participants were recruited through a Child Development Clinic directly after diagnosis (n = 21). The mean age of parent participants was 36 years and the majority were female (81%), married (86%), employed (71%), and had a university degree (67%). The mean age of child participants was 40 months, with the majority being Caucasian (62%) and male (76%). An experimental study with a randomized, masked, waitlist control design was used to compare the treatment group that received access to the on-line training and support program (n = 9), to a waitlist control group (n = 12). On average the Parent Treatment group completed 71% of the training, with four of the nine parents completing 100% of the training. Parents in the treatment group had significantly lower post-test scores in Stress compared to parents in the Control Group F (1,18) = 4.46, p = .05, and significantly higher post-test scores in Family Support F (1,18) = 4.83, p = .04, and Knowledge of ASD and ASD Treatment F (1,18) = 4.28, p = .05. No differences between groups were found for parents use of Intervention Skills F (1,18) = .03, p = .86, or for child engagement F (1,18) = 1.03, p = .32, or child expressive communication F (1,18) = .06, p = .81. The results support the use of the self-directed online training program as a resource for parents of children newly diagnosed with ASD.
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