Parents Taking Action: A parent-training program for Latino families of children with autism spectrum disorder

Sandra Magaña, PI; Miguel Morales, Co-PI

Children with autism spectrum disorder often have challenges in social communication and with restrictive and repetitive behaviors that can interfere with daily functioning. Without intervention, these impairments can persist over time and lead to worsened child and family outcomes. For Latinos, the largest minority group in the United States and the fastest growing autism population, there are significant challenges to accessing autism treatments and services. These challenges lead to treatment and service disparities. Information about autism and evidenced-based interventions has not been very accessible to Spanish-speaking immigrant families and there are many barriers to accessing key services and interventions. Latino immigrant parents of children with autism urgently need information, education and training on autism, key services, and evidenced-based strategies for working with their children.

We are evaluating a parent education program we developed by using a randomized control trial. The intervention draws from existing knowledge about autism, treatments, services and strategies and makes it accessible to the Spanish speaking Latino community in a culturally competent and cost-effective way. Our intervention differs from any other parent education study, because the education is provided in culturally competent ways that meet the unique needs of Latino parents. For example, the curriculum will be delivered by community health educators, or promotoras de salud who themselves are parents of children with autism. Participants are Latina mothers who have a child between 2 and 8 years old with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Participants receive 14 weeks of home visits by the promotora who will deliver intervention content using an interactive approach. The first part of the intervention includes understanding autism symptoms and diagnosis, evidenced-based interventions, advocacy, reducing stress, and explaining their child’s behaviors to others. The second part of the intervention will teach parents how to reduce problem behaviors and improve their child’s social and communication skills. Measures of caregiver outcomes (family empowerment, caregiver efficacy and use of targeted intervention strategies) and child outcomes (autism related symptoms, services received) will be collected pre and post intervention and at two additional follow-up points. If successful, this intervention can be adopted by community agencies and is a cost-effective way of providing education and training to Latino parents of children with ASD.

For more information, please visit the Cultural Context website.