Research ► Behavioral Parent Training Via Telehealth


By Ryan Martin, Ph.D., NCSP
Research Scientist

Many children on the autism spectrum exhibit disruptive behaviors like aggression or non-compliance that may interfere with their safety and their relationships with others. Disruptive behaviors can hinder the development of other important skills as well. Parents of autistic children also report disruptive behaviors as a significant source of parenting strain and stress.
A growing body of research has demonstrated the benefits of behavioral parent training for reducing the disruptive behavior of autistic children and reducing parent stress. Behavioral parent training teaches parents the skills they need to reduce disruptive behaviors and promote more appropriate behaviors to replace them. For example, parents could be taught to support their child’s communication skills to prevent tantrums that occur when the child cannot express their wants or needs effectively.  
Most research to date has focused primarily on implementing parent training in clinical settings, but parents and caregivers often face barriers to accessing these services. Parents have busy schedules, and families may live far away from the services they need, among other challenges. Because of this, more research is needed that explores how to make behavioral parent training more accessible to families.
We received grant funding from the Deborah Monroe Noonan Memorial Research Fund and the Organization for Autism Research to conduct such research. Our studies are currently exploring the feasibility of modifying the Research Unit on Behavioral Interventions (RUBI) Autism Network parent training program to be implemented via telehealth and accessed by parents directly within their homes. Our first study involves families from Greater Boston, and the other involves families from rural Appalachia. We are evaluating feasibility by assessing the fidelity of implementation by caregivers and interventionists, in addition to parents’ reported acceptability of the intervention. Further, to explore the impact of the intervention, we will compare pre- and post-intervention measures of child disruptive behavior and adaptive skills, as well as parents’ reported self-efficacy and stress.
We anticipate that our studies will be finished in early 2022, and we intend to publish the results of our work in academic journals. If the telehealth adaptation of RUBI parent training is feasible and acceptable to families, we will seek funding to conduct a larger experimental trial to help determine the effectiveness of this format.

Dr. Ryan Martin is primarily responsible for coordinating grant-funded research projects at May Institute as well as the design, implementation, and dissemmination of independent research projects.