Training Parents to Enhance Social Skills in Children with Developmental Delays: A Component Analysis
Type of Degreedissertation
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Social skills deficits are a core feature of ASD (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000; Parsons & Mitchell, 2002), and they are related to a myriad of other social, developmental, and psychological challenges (Rogers, 2000). As such, it is important to identify effective means of teaching social skills to children with ASD. Research suggests that naturalistic training techniques such as Pivotal Response Training (Koegel, O’Dell, & Koegel, 1987; Stahmer, 1999) and techniques such as Integrated Play Groups that provide exposure to and prompted interaction with peers (Wolfberg & Schuler, 1993 & 1999) can enhance social skills in this population. However, generalization of these skills, or the ability to apply these skills in different contexts with different people, remains problematic (Stahmer, 1995). Training the adults who are with the child throughout his day to deliver social skills intervention would provide maximum exposure to naturalistic learning opportunities and may improve generalization. Indeed, researchers have suggested that training parents in other behavioral training techniques improves the generalization of the skills taught (Lovaas, Koegel, Simmons, & Long, 1973; Schreibman & Koegel, 1996). Many studies have demonstrated successful training of parents in a wide variety of behavioral interventions (e.g., Lafasakis & Sturmey, 2007; Kroeger & Sorenses, 2010; Wang, 2008) including naturalistic training techniques (e.g., Gillett & LeBlanc, 2006). The majority of these studies, however, have relied on the use of multicomponent training packages. Therefore the component or components responsible for bringing about the desired results remains unknown. In addition, given the range of outcomes observed in parent training literature, parent characteristics such as stress may impact outcome (Bagner & Graziano, 2012; Strauss et al., 2012). The primary aim of the current was to investigate how to effectively train parents to implement a social engagement procedure. Furthermore, it systematically analyzed the components of the training package to determine which components are responsible for behavior change and identify the most efficient method of training possible. A non-concurrent multiple baseline design was used to examine the effects of the training package. To further analyze the relative contribution of each component of the training package, each component was presented systematically, using an ABC design, until measures of participants’ implementation of the procedure were stable. A secondary aim of the study was to consider how factors such as parent stress might be related to skill acquisition. Results indicated that all participants who participated through completion were able to implement the procedure with fidelity following training. Furthermore, results suggest that feedback is an effective and efficient method of training when presented alone and may account for the majority of changed observed in parent behavior. Finally, parent affect remained neutral or improved over the course of their participation. Results are discussed in terms of possible reasons for the observed changes. Clinical implications and future directions are also discussed.