New study on parent mentoring program for families with ASD children

Moody, E. J., Kaiser, K., Sharp, D., Kubicek, L. F., Rigles, B., Davis, J., … & Rosenberg, C. R. (2018). Improving Family Functioning Following Diagnosis of ASD: A Randomized Trial of a Parent Mentorship Program. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1-12. doi:10.1007/s10826-018-1293-z

Summarized by Rachel Thompson

Notes of Interest: This study points out the complexity of family functioning and quality of life after the diagnosis of a child’s ASD. The study show that family support helps to maintain low levels of family rigidity, and improve satisfaction with disability-related services. Also it is found that programs that are highly acceptable to participants is associated with reduced demands for involvement from other family members.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is known to impact family functioning and decrease family quality of life. Unfortunately, many parents of children with ASD are left to coordinate their child’s care with little ongoing support or education. There is a growing interest in parent-to-parent (P2P) programs to provide family supports with the goal of improving family outcomes. This study investigates a P2P program for families of children newly diagnosed with ASD that combines (1) family-centered action planning, (2) education on accessing complex systems of care, and (3) ongoing mentorship by a trained Parent Mentor for six months. In a randomized controlled trial, the intervention was given to a group of parents (N = 33) and compared to a waitlist group (N = 34). The intervention consisted of development of an individualized action plan and training on navigating service systems immediately after entry into the program, followed by monthly check-ins by a trained parent mentor for six months. An intent-to-treat analysis examined the impact of CPM on family quality of life, family functioning, service utilization, and program acceptability and satisfaction. The intervention improved satisfaction with disability-related services and prevented rigidity in family functioning. Services used outside of school increased for both groups but did not meet the national recommendation. Participants described the program as highly acceptable and indicated that it improved their emotional wellbeing. The CPM program may be a useful tool for helping families cope with their child’s ASD; although, additional research is needed to confirm these effects.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

These results suggest that the CPM program was generally acceptable to participants and impacted several areas of family quality of life and family functioning, regardless of the amount of formal services the family received elsewhere. This finding suggests that the CPM intervention helped parents find services that were appropriate to their child and family situation. This suggests that increased autism severity may decrease satisfaction, but when we intervene, we mitigate this relationship. This finding suggests that social support is a protective factor against adverse mental health outcomes regardless of the child’s severity symptoms, and is consistent with previous research (Pottie and Ingram 2008). Future research should investigate the unique contribution of each element to better tailor the program for each family’s circumstances. Also, future implementation could benefit from using a support group model that allows Mentors and Mentees to naturally select each other rather than relying on a centralized process.

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