Autism is fast becoming an epidemic among American children. Between 2007 and 2009, the CDC reported an average increase in cases of 57 percent, from 1 in 150 children to 1 in 110 children. While improved awareness and identification accounted for some of this increase, the CDC could not rule out a true increase in risk, particularly among boys, who are now 4.5 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Services for children with ASD and their families have not kept up with this dramatic increase in the number of ASD cases, particularly in this time of state budget tightening;in addition, some parents cannot access existing services because of geographical, financial, or practical barriers. The proposed project, the Online Training Program for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, will teach parents evidence-based strategies that they can use to help their child be more successful in behaviors that are essential for healthy family life, e.g., mastering self-care routines. By using Internet technology to provide parents with high quality, scientifically valid, and instructionally engaging parenting education, this project hopes to address the existing gap in the delivery of ASD support services. This training program will help parents receive necessary support services in a cost-effective manner by providing them with an easily accessible program that they can attend to at their convenience. Each program session will contain rich multimedia lessons that present engaging, realistic video vignettes;interactive skill-building exercises;interactive knowledge assessments to reinforce knowledge retention;opportunities for interaction with and feedback from behavioral consultants who specialize in ASD;motivational reminders;journaling activities to track successes and challenges;and supplementary print materials. Formative research involving focus groups with both parents of children with ASD and service providers who work with children with ASD will be conducted to ensure that needed issues are addressed and to obtain feedback on the perceived importance, usefulness, relevance, and acceptability of the proposed program before program content is developed and the program is delivered to parents. Following implementation, a two-panel, quasi-experimental pre- and post-training design will be employed to assess the usability and feasibility of the online program. Changes in self-efficacy, knowledge, and parental stress will also be evaluated. Finally, post-test evaluation of consumer satisfaction and recommendations for modifications to the program will be collected from participants.
Autism is fast becoming an epidemic among American children, with the CDC reporting an increase from 1 in 150 children carrying an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis in 2007, to 1 in 110 children in 2009. Existing services for children with ASD and their families have not kept up with this dramatic increase in the number of cases. The proposed project, the Online Training Program for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, hopes to address this gap in services through an Internet-based parent education program that models teaching self-care routines to young children with ASD at home using various intervention strategies derived from applied behavior analysis.