Parent Perceptions of Participation in, and Outcomes of, a Parent-Mediated Communication Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Social communication difficulties associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) not only have a huge impact on the lives of those with ASD, but also on the lives of their parents and wider families. Supported by social models of disability, government policies and clinical guidelines, it has been suggested that parent involvement in communication interventions for children with ASD is important for positive outcomes. Parent-mediated communication interventions are commonly implemented in Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) practice for children with ASD. Although these approaches are often regarded as best practice, parent perceptions of their acceptability have not been thoroughly investigated. As parents play an integral role in parent-mediated communication interventions, accounts of their experiences are required to inform future practice. Aim: This study aimed to qualitatively explore parent perceptions of participation in, and outcomes of, Hanen’s More Than Words (MTW) parent programme, a parent-mediated communication intervention for children with ASD. Method: Parent perceptions were explored using a qualitative, Grounded Theory methodology. Seven parents of children with ASD, aged four to 11, participated in semi-structured interviews about their experiences of MTW. During an in-depth, inductive data analysis process, interview transcripts were studied line by line and codes were assigned. Codes were then grouped into main emergent concepts, identifying main themes within the data, and linking results to research aims. Results and Conclusions: Parents perceived participation in MTW positively, highlighting the availability of guidance from SLT, and the facilitation of mutual support through a group approach, as positive aspects of the programme. Participants also regarded MTW as more family-friendly than other interventions. Additionally, participants perceived positive outcomes of MTW, including impact on child and parent communication, as well as parent stress and confidence. However, participants reported that the justification for parent-mediated communication interventions was not always adequately explained to them by SLT, and their initial expectations of direct intervention were not always addressed. Other participants expressed a wish to reattend MTW, now their children are older and more communicative. Recommendations: Recommendations for future SLT practice from this study include the continued implementation of parent-mediated communication interventions for children with ASD. However, it is also recommended that SLTs reconsider how justification for these approaches is initially presented to parents, and that parents are offered the opportunity to reattend parent programmes, as their children continue to develop. Additionally, this study adds to the limited literature base qualitatively exploring parent perceptions in evaluating the acceptability of parent-mediated communication interventions for children with ASD. It is recommended that future research continues to advance this area.