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Clinical Trial Summary

Manitoba parents of preschool children newly diagnosed with Autism must wait up to a year to receive government funded services for their child. During this delay parents need support and training to promote their child's development. The purpose of this research is to develop and evaluate an on-line, parent training and support program that will assist parents during this time. It is predicted that if parents receive on-line training and support they will increase their parenting knowledge and skills, reduce their stress, and create better outcomes for their child, in comparison to parents who do not receive the training. The experimental study (n=60) will use a randomized, masked, waitlist control design that compares a treatment group to a control group. Descriptive statistics will be used to describe differences between groups, ANCOVA's to test for differences between groups, and Pearson correlations to describe the relationship between parent stress and outcomes.


Clinical Trial Description

Statement of the Research Problem/Purpose/Objectives Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder that causes complex developmental difficulties within the first three years of life. Preschool children diagnosed with ASD typically have pervasive deficits in social interaction and communication, and the occurrence of repetitive and restrictive behaviours. Parenting a preschool child with these characteristics, coupled with the devastating impact of their child receiving a diagnosis of ASD, creates high levels of parental anxiety, stress, depression, and general mental health difficulties. Given the seriousness of the child's diagnosis and the compromise in parenting and family functioning, families are referred to formalized treatment programs that provide support for both the child and parents. However, with the recent rise in Autism prevalence rates Manitoba parents now wait up to a year to receive formalized government funded treatment services for their child and family. This delay in formalized service has critically important consequences for the child, the family, and society.

To bridge this gap in service, parents could be afforded the opportunity to participate in a cost efficient self-directed online training and support program specific to parents in Manitoba. Given that there is consistent evidence to support the effectiveness of parent training and involvement once a child has entered a formalized treatment program, the potential effectiveness of parent training and support while waiting for a formalized treatment program should also be considered.

Research on the efficacy and effectiveness of on-line self-directed Autism parent training programs is extremely limited. Additionally, there is a lack of knowledge regarding the appropriate content, timing, and duration of a training program for parents of newly diagnosed children with ASD and conflicting evidence on the interactional effects between parent training and levels of parenting stress during this time period.

The primary purpose of this study is to address the training and support requirements of parents of preschool children newly diagnosed with ASD, by developing and evaluating the effectiveness of a self-directed on-line ASD parent training and support program. The secondary purpose is to assess the interactional effects, of a self-directed on-line ASD parent training and support program, and parent stress, on parent and child outcomes. It is predicted that if parents receive on-line training and support they will increase their parenting knowledge and skills, reduce their levels of stress, and create better engagement and communication outcomes for their child, in comparison to parents who do not receive the training and support.

Methods: The experimental study will use a randomized, masked, waitlist control design that compares an intervention treatment group to a waitlist control group. After meeting criteria and consent requirements for participation in the study, all families will participate in pre-measures. Families will then be randomized to either a treatment group or a waitlist control group. After pre measures the treatment group parents will receive access to the on-line self-directed training and support program for a 4-month period. After this time period both groups will then be re-assessed on the Parent and Child outcome measures and then the Waitlist Group will be given access to the on-line self-directed training and support program.

Procedure. After a family has been assessed as eligible for the study, and have signed consent forms to participate in the study, they will be given an appointment time to attend the nursery setting for pre-measures. One parent will be asked to engage in free play with their child similar to how they would at home (using a standardized set of toys). The parent will be video recorded playing with their child for a ten-minute period, and then asked to answer the three questionnaires. This procedure will occur at baseline (Time 1, within 2 months of diagnosis), and after the treatment period (Time 2, at least four months after the baseline measure). After base-line measures, families will be randomly assigned to the treatment group, and the waitlist group, using a random numbers table and a pre-arranged opaque envelope system. Treatment group parents will then be given access to participate in the on-line self-directed parent training and support intervention between Time 1 and Time 2, and the waitlist group parents will be given access to the intervention after Time 2. Parents will be given codes to access the on-line resources to ensure their anonymity to other participants. The codes will also allow the principle investigator to track when parents access the on-line training and support and when they have completed the on-line training. When treatment group parents have completed the on-line training (and after at least a four-month period has elapsed since the baseline measure) the parent and child will be invited back to the nursery setting for Time 2 measurements.

Additionally, after a four-month period the matched waitlist group parent and child will be invited back to the original setting for Time 2 measurements, after which they will be given access to the on-line training and support. Families that signed consent forms and then dropped out, will also be given access to the on-line training and support, at this time. The personnel used to administer, score and input the data for the questionnaires, and observational measures, will be masked as to the participant's group assignment and time of measure. All data will contain only the code with no specific participant identifiers. All digital video recordings, questionnaires, observations sheets, and participant code sheets will be kept in a locked cabinet in the office of the main investigator and on a password protected secured government server. Inter-observer agreement will be used in the observation measures of the parent's intervention techniques and the child's measures of engagement and communication. For these observational measures, personnel will be trained by the primary investigator. Inter-observer agreement will be used in a training procedure until personnel meet or exceed 80% agreement on each measure for two consecutive observation trials. Additionally, after all observation data has been collected, a random sample of 20% of the data for each measure will be scored by two personnel, and inter-observer agreement will be reported.

The independent variable is the on-line self-directed parent training and support program. Each on-line module contains multi-media presentations (written material, graphics, and video's), links to additional materials found on the internet, summaries of key information, small quizzes that help parents focus on important material and an accompanying parent workbook. In addition, parents are directed in Module 2 to an on-line parenting support and information sharing forum exclusive to the parents in the training program. Through the on-line forum parents can access a professional autism specialist and other parents involved in the study, and are able to ask questions, answer questions, provide comments, discuss issues, and in general receive support and give support to others.

Four specific hypotheses will be tested for statistical significance. The first hypothesis is: Parents in the treatment group will have significantly higher Family Support, Knowledge and Intervention Techniques scores, and significantly lower Stress scores at Time 2, compared to the control group. This hypothesis will be tested individually for each measure using an Analysis of Covariance design (ANCOVA) to test for differences between groups while adjusting for any initial difference.

The second hypothesis is: Children of parents in the treatment group will have significantly higher scores in Engagement and Communication at Time 2 compared to children of parents in the control group. This hypothesis will be tested individually for each measure using an Analysis of Covariance design (ANCOVA) to test for differences between groups while adjusting for any initial difference.

The third hypothesis is: Parent's perceived level of stress will moderate the treatment effects on Parent outcomes measures of Knowledge and Intervention Techniques at Time 2. Specifically, it is hypothesized that there will be a negative (inverse) correlation between Parent stress scores at Time 1 and Parent Knowledge and Intervention Technique scores at time 2 (the higher the parent's stress score at Time 1, the lower the parent's Knowledge and Intervention Technique scores at Time 2). Additionally, it is hypothesized that there will be a negative (inverse) correlation between the parent's change in stress scores from Time 1 to Time 2 to parent's Knowledge and Intervention Technique scores at Time 2 (as parents perceived level of stress decreases from Time 1 to Time 2 parent's Knowledge and Intervention Technique scores will increase at Time 2). Correlations will be conducted using Pearson's product-moment (r) calculations.

The fourth hypothesis is: Parent's perceived level of stress will moderate the treatment effects on Child outcomes measures of Engagement and Communication at Time 2. Specifically, it is hypothesized that there will be a negative (inverse) correlation between Parent stress scores at Time 1 and Child Engagement and Communication scores at time 2 (the higher the parent's stress score at Time 1, the lower the Child Engagement and Communication scores at Time 2). Additionally, it is hypothesized that there will be a negative (inverse) correlation between the parent's change in stress scores from Time 1 to Time 2 to the Child's Engagement and Communication scores at Time 2 (as parents perceived level of stress decreases from Time 1 to Time 2 the Child's Engagement and Communication scores will increase at Time 2). Correlations will be conducted using Pearson's product-moment (r) calculations.

Process for Seeking Consent Initial screening for patients that meet the criteria will be done by the Developmental Pediatricians at the Child Development Clinic. When patients are in the SSCY Centre for a counsel with their Pediatrician, the Pediatrician will provide the families of all those who meet the inclusion criteria with a study advertisement containing the PIs contact information. Parents who phone the Principal Investigator to find out more about their participation in the study will be given the option of meeting the Principal Investigator at an office in the SSCY Centre or at their home, or at a place of their choosing. The Principal Investigator will explain the study and the consent form at that time. Parents will be told that they do not need to decide immediately and that they have the option of reviewing the study documentation and consent forms with others, and at their convenience. They will also be given a phone number to call if they have any further questions. ;


Study Design


Related Conditions & MeSH terms


NCT number NCT03005431
Study type Interventional
Source University of Manitoba
Contact
Status Enrolling by invitation
Phase N/A
Start date January 2017
Completion date April 2018

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