This study will evaluate the efficacy and user satisfaction with a web-based interactive
tutorial for caregivers of young children with autism designed to a) teach parents how to
promote their child's development in the core deficit areas, b) help parents understand and
improve challenging behaviors their child may demonstrate, and c) reduce caregiver stress
through more effective interactions. It emphasizes everyday situations as opportunities for
learning, including common home routines and contains videotaped illustrations of parents
using the techniques taught in the home environment.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by core deficits in social
reciprocity, verbal and nonverbal communication, and behavior. Early detection and
intervention has been shown to improve these core deficits, resulting in better long-term
outcomes in language functioning, cognitive/developmental skills, and social and adaptive
behavior. Despite the demonstrated benefits of effective intervention, few children receive
these specialized services, due in part to critical resource barriers, such as the shortage
of specialists trained to deliver them. The broad, long-term objective of this project is to
improve outcomes for children with autism and their families by empowering caregivers with
the knowledge and skills needed to effectively intervene directly with their children as
part of their daily interactions and routines. By targeting those with the most invested in
the child's success and the longest lasting influence on a child's long-term growth and
development, we can help parents in several ways: a) teach parents how to promote their
child's development in the core deficit areas seen in young children with autism spectrum
disorders: social interaction, communication, play, and imitation; b) help parents
understand and improve challenging behaviors their child may demonstrate, and c) reduce
caregiver stress through more effective interactions.
To make this training widely accessible to parents of children with autism, we will deliver
this training through a web-based, multi-media, interactive tutorial. The tutorial will use
principles of instructional design to more effectively deliver the material and utilize high
levels of interactivity afforded by the web-based platform to maximize learning. The
tutorial teaches skills to improve their child's behavior and communication within the
framework of everyday routines and activities, utilizing interactive exercises and a
comprehensive set of videos of real parents implementing these strategies with their
children within the context of everyday situations.
The specific aims of the proposed Phase II study are:
Aim 1. To evaluate parents' satisfaction and acceptance of the tutorial program Aim 2. To
demonstrate the tutorial increases parental knowledge of the principles and techniques for
improving effective parenting of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Aim 3. To demonstrate behavioral improvements in actual parenting skills during the daily
interactions with their child based on the knowledge gained.
Aim 4. To demonstrate that the improved parenting skills result in social, communication,
and behavioral improvements in the children of parents who complete the tutorial.
Aim 5. To demonstrate that improving parenting skills through the use of this web-based
tutorial program reduces caregiver stress and depression.
- parents or caregivers of children with ASD between the ages of 18 months and 6 years
with an autism spectrum disorder
- Ability to read and understand English