Building Caregiver Competence and Skills: Family Support

About the Research

Research points to the early years as a critical period for caregivers to engage in responsive caregiver-child interactions that promote optimal child development. Faculty have received multiple grants to improve caregiver interactions with children with disabilities, including parents of children with autism and caregivers in Zambia of children with developmental disabilities.

QUALITY OF LIFE

There is a pressing need for effective, but affordable treatments to reduce serious behavioral problems associated with autism spectrum disorder. Parent training programs can help to address that unmet need in many areas across the country.

COACHING CAREGIVERS

EPIC study: The role of an early intervention provider is to enhance a family’s capacity to support the development and learning of their infant or toddler. A substantial gap exists, however, between recommended and actual practice.

FLORIDA EARLY STEPS

With our colleagues at Florida State University, we are contracting with the Florida Bureau of Early Steps and Newborn Screening to deliver professional development for early childhood practitioners across the state in support of healthy socio-emotional development.

Research

TREATMENT OF FEEDING PROBLEMS IN CHILDREN WITH AUTISM, NIH (R34MH100253)

Overview: The Treatment of Feeding Problems in Children with Autism study concerns the potential impact of feeding, eating and any resulting nutritional problems for children with ASD whose development is already compromised by a range of deficits. Limited treatment literature suggests behavioral interventions can be effective in addressing the array of feeding problems in this population. However, interventions have been delivered in highly specialized settings (inpatient or day treatment centers that have feeding experts on staff) with little parental involvement. This two-site project developed an 11-session behavioral parent training program for feeding problems to specifically address feeding problems in young children with ASD in outpatient settings, which may be more widely accessible and efficient than inpatient or day treatment.

Participants: 50 children with ASD, age 2-7 years, and their caregivers.

Findings: Primary outcomes will measure changes in the child’s mealtime behavior. Other outcomes will center on changes in parent-child interactions.

Research Collaborators

  • University of Florida> Cynthia Johnson, PI
  • University of Pittsburgh> Alexandra DeMand
  • University of Rochester> Emily Foldes

RANDOMIZED TRIAL OF PARENT TRAINING FOR YOUNG CHILDREN WITH AUTISM, NIMH (R01MH080965)

Overview: For children with autism spectrum disorder there is general agreement that intervention in the preschool years can reduce the long-term disability. However, preschool interventions often focus on the child leaving parents to manage the child’s behavior on their own. Although the role of parents as partners in the treatment team is universally acknowledged, few studies have tested parent-based interventions and large-scale interventions are non-existent This study was designed to evaluate whether parent training would be superior to parent education for reducing behavioral problems such as tantrums, noncompliance, aggression, and self-injury in children with ASD.

Participants: 180 preschool-age children with PDD participated in a five-site study that compared parent training to psychoeducation. Eligible subjects were randomly assigned to receive either Parent Training or Psychoeducational Intervention over 6 months.

Findings: For children with ASD, a 24-week parent training program was superior to parent education for reducing disruptive behavior on parent-reported outcomes, although the clinical significance of the improvement is unclear. The rate of positive response judged by a blinded clinician was greater for parent training vs. parent education.

Research Collaborators: 

  • University of Florida> Cynthia Johnson, PI, and a consortium of experienced investigators from leading autism research programs including Emory University, Indiana UniversityOhio State UniversityUniversity of PittsburghUniversity of Rochester and Yale University.

ADAPTATION OF WHO CAREGIVER SKILLS TRAINING – ZAMBIA, UF COLLEGE OF EDUCATION (CRIF)

Overview: Zambia, among the world’s poorest countries, faces many challenges, particularly for children with developmental disabilities. This interdisciplinary project, funded by a College Research Investigation Fund (CRIF), seeks to adapt, translate and evaluate the World Health Organization’s Caregiver Skills Training in Zambia. The primary aims are, firstly to systematically adapt an evidence-informed intervention developed by the WHO for children with developmental disabilities and their caregivers. Secondly, to gather data about its acceptability, feasibility and social validity, including the comparative utility of two different delivery formats of the intervention. Over the course of the study, preliminary data on child and caregiver outcomes also will be collected. Brian Reichow, Ph.D., a University of Florida Global Fellow who is leading the project, is also receiving $4,000 to support the international collaboration from the UF International Center Global Fellows program.

Participants: Researchers are working with local facilitators to recruit 10 caregivers of young children with developmental disabilities at Namwianga Mission in Zambia for participation in this pilot study.

Findings: This project is funded from August 2016 through August 2017, findings will be available after August 2017.

Research Collaborators

  • University of Florida> Brian Reichow, PI, Patricia Snyder, Co-PI, Marylou Behnke, Co-PI.