ASD Parent Trainer: Online coaching for parents of children with autism (APT)

Period of Performance: 07/14/2015 - 06/30/2016


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Iris Media, Inc.
Eugene, OR 97401
Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The Autism Parent Trainer (APT) program offers a new and cost‐efficient approach to train and support parents to skillfully use behavioral interventions with their child with autism. It is directly responsive to the rising prevalence of childhood autism diagnoses in the United States, existing knowledge about successful use of parenting strategies rooted in applied behavior analysis (ABA) to lessen the impact of autism on family functioning, and the need to attend to parents'social‐emotional support needs, as well as the potential for limited access to services due to geographic isolation. APT blends evidence‐based content, explicit instruction supported by video exemplars, interactive action planning tools, and supportive peer interaction with videoconferencing technology. Parents who participate in APT will join workshops led by experienced parent educators (PE) via the Google+ Hangouts online videoconferencing platform. These workshops provide instruction in behavioral interventions and stress management, as well as the opportunity to participate in problem‐solving interactions, develop child behavior plans, receive feedback on the implementation of these plans, and engage in peer interactions with other parent participants. We developed a prototype of APT during our Phase I Project and tested it with parents of children with autism. Results of the initial evaluation of APT documented positive changes in parent‐reported child hyperactivity and pro‐social behaviors, increased parent knowledge about ABA practices, and decreased parent stress. Results also showed high consumer satisfaction with the program. In the Phase II project, we propose to fully develop and rigorously evaluate the APT program. These goals will be accomplished via two aims: first, we will develop program materials using a formative research process consisting of input from the target audience, service professionals, and research consultants. Second, we will conduct an efficacy study to evaluate the APT program. We will conduct a randomized control study with 136 parents and their children with autism to evaluate the program's efficacy. We will test whether, compared to the Treatment as Usual (TAU) waitlist control, administration of the APT program over a three week intervention period (a) improves child behaviors, (b) increases perceived quality of life, (c) decreases parental stress, (d) increases positive parenting practices, and (e) increases parent knowledge. The project will be carried out by an investigative team bringing together researchers, web developers, instructional designers, and parent educators with abundant experience developing technology‐driven resources for families with children who have autism. The necessary institutional support, equipment and physical resources are available to develop and disseminate the program. IRIS Ed has a history of completing Phase I and Phase II SBIR projects, and prides itself on its commitment to successfully commercializing training interventions.