International Meeting for Autism Research: Discovering Behavioral Intervention: A Parent's Interactive Guide to ABA

Discovering Behavioral Intervention: A Parent's Interactive Guide to ABA

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
11:00 AM
R. K. Fleming, Waltham, MA

Behavioral intervention (BI) is an evidence-based approach for teaching critical developmental skills and preventing/treating challenging behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Parents of children with ASD are often unprepared to communicate knowledgably with professionals as BI services are being considered and arranged. Online courses, if well designed, may help parents understand the fundamentals of BI such that they might better participate in decisions about specific approaches for their child, evaluate child outcomes, and more. Such courses are apt to be most effective if they are developed in concert with parents, made understandable and engaging through the use of video and interactive media, and made available “any time, anywhere.”


This two-phase, NICHD-funded project was designed first to test the feasibility of an online module in BI with parents (Phase I), and then (Phase II) to design, develop and evaluate a commercially-viable10-module course, Discovering Behavioral Intervention: A Parent’s Interactive Guide to ABA. This presentation will: 1) present formative and summative evaluation data from both phases; 2) display and demonstrate course features, including navigation tools, three forms of video (parent stories, BI demonstrations and interactive exercises) and interactive graphic objects; and 3) describe current product dissemination steps.


Formative evaluation included parent focus groups and usability testing, and professional review. Course development followed a systematic instructional design protocol and utilized a research team comprised of parents of children with ASD, BI content experts, a professional filmmaker, a Flash® programmer and staff in two BI provider agencies. Summative evaluation (field testing), completed with convenience samples of N=21 (Phase I) and N=66 (Phase II), included participant demographics and goals, pre- and post-tests of knowledge and simulated application, and satisfaction surveying.


Phase I participants were mainly mothers of children with ASD (95%), primarily white (81%) and with internet experience (52% moderate daily usage). Most had the goal of seeking more advanced knowledge, particularly as it pertained to advocating for services (81%), although 33% sought general knowledge of BI. Knowledge testing showed substantial pre- to post-test gains (56.2% to 85.2%), with little difference between participants whose children had received BI services for <18 months vs. >18 months. Data did not closely approximate a normal distribution, so we performed a nonparametric test, the Wilcoxon signed rank test. The Signed Rank for this treatment effect was S=155.5, which was highly significant (p < .0001, two-tailed). Participants were moderately to extremely satisfied with course features, including navigation, understandability and practical importance of content. Phase II results are being analyzed, but we achieved far more diversity (e.g., broader ethnic representation, 13% fathers), and pre- to post-test scores across four new and more diverse modules of 66.5% to 80.6%, 76.2% to 93.7%, 56.3% to 87.3% and 63.3% to 64.8%, respectively.


Discovering Behavioral Intervention received high usability and satisfaction ratings and significantly increased parents’ knowledge in field testing. Research in needed on the potential impacts of this course on a host of family and child outcomes.

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