Unity Twelve-Week ABA Parent Training: Weekly Changes in Parent Experiences and Competence

Thursday, May 12, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
S. Freund1, M. N. Gragg2, S. Popovic1, R. Jamil1 and G. Miljevic3, (1)University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada, (2)Psychology, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada, (3)Summit Centre for Pre-school Children with Autism, Windsor, ON, Canada
Background: Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) has a broad evidence base for improving intellectual and adaptive functioning of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Best outcomes are for children who receive intensive intervention from an early age. Unfortunately, early intervention is often difficult to access due to high demand and scarce resources.  Finding alternative ways for parents to access intervention for their children is crucial. Parent training in ABA has gained popularity due to its effectiveness in promoting learned skills, and reducing demands on ABA services through parents serving as co-therapists. Previous findings from the Unity parent training program indicated that parent perceptions of their experiences and competence generally became more positive across the twelve-week program, with temporary dips in ratings during periods of transition.

Objectives: To examine weekly changes in parents’ perceptions of their training experiences and competence throughout a twelve-week intensive ABA training program.

Methods: 50 parents/caregivers of preschool children with ASD (90% mothers) who completed the Unity training were participants. Most parents were in the 18-34 year age range (50%), and the 35-44 year range (46%). Only 4% of parents were in the 45-54 year range. 90% of parents had some college education or more, and over 38% reported an annual salary of $75,000+. Their children (80% boys) ranged from 12 to 63 months old; all had a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (90%) or PDD-NOS (10%). Participants completed 180 hours of ABA training at an ASD preschool. Each week, participants completed a 17-question survey rating their perceptions of training over the past week (e.g., “How much did you understand the tasks in your child’s program?” “How independent were you in carrying out your child’s program?”)

Results: Overall, parents’ belief in the effectiveness of ABA in improving academics, social skills, and difficult behaviours increased significantly from week one to week twelve.  Parent perceptions of their own competence increased significantly over the 12-week training program in their understanding of concepts covered and program tasks; independence in carrying out programs, ability to teach ABA concepts to others, confidence, satisfaction in carrying out child’s programs, and feeling in control. Other training experiences were rated as more positive over the course of the program, including instructor support, child improvement as result of parent training, and parents’ contribution to their children’s programs. Ratings related to training difficulties (challenge in implementation of children’s program, stress of the training program, and difficulty in carrying out program tasks) decreased significantly over the twelve weeks.

Conclusions: Parents’ perceptions of their experiences and competencies became more positive over the course of the 12-week ABA training program. Ratings in areas of competence (e.g. understanding and implementation of tasks) increased, while ratings in areas of difficulty (e.g., stress, challenge) decreased. Parents consistently reported enjoying their participation in the program. Data collection is ongoing.