First Steps: Parent Education to Support Family Empowerment

Thursday, May 12, 2016: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
J. Mancini, Seattle Children's Autism Center, Seattle, WA

Receiving the news that your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be a devastating moment for many families.  Immediately after the diagnosis, a common model of care is to conduct a feedback session to provide information related to autism, recommendations related to therapies and school services, and a list of resources.  Families do not process that information well and often, families do not receive adequate follow-up care.  To help fill this void of information following a diagnosis, a model to provide parent education (entitled First Steps) has been developed at our center that includes small group psycho-educational classes designed to provide relevant information.  First Steps is an important component of our service delivery model which includes step one: the diagnostic evaluation, step two: First Steps Parent Education, and step three: routine follow-up care with medical providers. 


The objective of this poster is to present a model of parent education and support that has been developed to provide information to professionals at other centers serving children with ASD.  Specifically, details related to a three-part psychoeducational class will be provided including information related to content, structure, cost, support, and objectives for parent learning.  Data collected via completion of pre- and post-class questionnaires by participants will be presented to provide information related to changes regarding feelings of parental stress and family empowerment.  Information will also be provided regarding adapting the curriculum for non-Native English speakers and multi-cultural families and video-teleconferencing to increase participation for distant families.    


Two measures, the Parenting Stress Index/Short Form (PSI/SF) and the Family Empowerment Scale (FES) were completed by a subset of class participants pre- and post-participation to provide information related to possible changes in these areas.  The independent variable is participation in the psycho-educational class.  The dependent variables are, 1) Scores on the PSI/SF, and 2) Scores on the FES.  Paired samples t-tests were used to analyze changes in these dependent variables.


Findings indicate that parents experienced increased feelings of empowerment following participation in the psycho-educational class.  Results indicate statistically significant improvement as measured by the FES (p < .01).  Results did not indicate statistically significant change as a group as measured by the PSI/SF (p > .05) though results of some questionnaires completed post-participation indicated a decrease in stress in some families. 


The follow-up care for families receiving the news that their child has ASD is often insufficient.  Participation in a series of classes designed to provide information and support has been developed and will be presented here as a model for other centers serving individuals with ASD.  Results indicate that changes can occur in a parent’s feelings of empowerment following participation in the classes, which can lead to positive outcomes.  Parent education can be an important component to service delivery to support families who have children with ASD.