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Keywords:

  • Autism;
  • multi-stranded content;
  • parent education;
  • parent group;
  • rural

Abstract

Objective

To describe and evaluate a six-session program provided to parents of children with Autism in rural Australia. The program was designed to improve parent's knowledge and understanding of Autism, improve their confidence in managing their child and decrease parental anxiety.

Design

A self-constructed questionnaire administered pre- and post-intervention.

Setting

An early intervention centre in a large town in rural Victoria.

Participants

Ninety-eight parents (or family members) of young children primarily aged 2–6 years of age, diagnosed with Autism.

Interventions

A ‘multi-stranded content’ program was offered over six evenings. Ten programs were conducted over six years.

Results

The pre- versus post-session analysis using a paired t-test on matched person-to-person parental responses (n = 92) showed significant increases in parental understanding of Autism and understanding of their own child (P < 0.001), and in understanding the communication, sensory, social, learning and behavioural features of Autism (P < 0.001). Significant increases in parental confidence and a significant reduction in parental anxiety were also shown (P < 0.001). Qualitative data indicated that parents valued learning about the general nature of Autism and sensory processing, and reported feeling less alone.

Conclusions

The six-week program was successful in terms of its aims. Parent feedback indicated that ongoing parent education sessions at regular intervals would enhance the impact of the program.