This study focuses on parents’ involvement in Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI) for their children with autism. Although the need for parent involvement in IBI has been emphasized by professionals in the field, little research has explored this involvement or what it entails (Kasari, 2002; Schreibman, 2000). Before future research can confirm whether parent involvement in IBI affects children’s progress and outcome in therapy, we need to be able to clearly define and measure the construct of parent involvement.
This study aimed to reliably operationalize parent involvement in IBI. In addition, we created a model of factors influencing and predicting parents’ involvement. These factors include parent self-efficacy and confidence in delivering therapy, perception of child progress, belief in the intervention (both general belief about IBI’s effectiveness and belief that the use of IBI will help their child specifically), stress levels, feelings of positive change since having a child with special needs, and parents’ perception of their knowledge about autism and IBI.
Participants included 105 caregivers of children with ASD participating in behavioral intervention programs in Ontario, Canada. Parents completed the Parent Involvement Questionnaire, a questionnaire created by the authors that measures parents’ involvement in IBI as well as the other six variables discussed above.
An exploratory factor analysis of 20 involvement items resulted in a good-fitting four-factor model (root mean square off-diagonal residuals value (RMR) = 0.05). Four distinct types of involvement emerged: formal IBI involvement, child program involvement, training involvement, and agency involvement. The internal consistency for each involvement factor ranged between .72 and .82.
Structural equation modeling was used to create a model of factors predicting involvement. The root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA = .078) and the standardized root mean square residual (SRMR = .072) suggested acceptable model-data fit. Direct paths were examined between involvement and three of the variables; belief, stress, and self-efficacy. Self-efficacy emerged as the only direct significant predictor of involvement (path coefficient = 1.07), as the direct effects of stress and belief on involvement were not significant. Thus, while belief does not directly influence parents’ involvement, belief in IBI indirectly influences involvement through its relationship with self-efficacy. Similarly, parents’ level of stress is not directly influencing their involvement; however, parents’ stress can indirectly affect their involvement via stress’ negative impact on parents’ feelings of self-efficacy.
The present study reliably operationalized involvement, which can contribute to needed research examining whether parent involvement directly impacts children’s progress in therapy. Furthermore, results add support to the importance of providing services to parents with children in IBI programs. In particular, such opportunities should focus on ways to help parents increase their self-efficacy about participating in their children’s programs, strengthening their belief in the effectiveness of the intervention, and helping them to cope with the stress accompanying raising a child with autism. By targeting these areas we can ultimately encourage parents to become more involved in their children’s intervention programs.