Using Implementation Science to Evaluate the Use of Parent Coaching in the Early Intervention System for Children with Autism
This summer, I worked on the Parent Empowerment and Coaching in Early Intervention (PEACE) Project as a research assistant of Melanie Pellecchia. This project focuses on the use of therapist-implemented parent coaching in the Early Intervention (EI) system for children under 3 with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Although research shows that the use of parent coaching improves child outcomes across many domains in children with ASD, evidence suggests that EI providers rarely follow a parent-coaching model in their sessions. The PEACE Project investigates the extent to which parent coaching is being used by providers and what barriers exist that prohibit the total adoption of parent coaching within Early Intervention. The overall goal of the study is to develop a toolkit of implementation strategies to increase and support provider use of parent coaching in the Early Intervention system. Because this is a mixed methods study, I was able to participate in both quantitative and qualitative research. I organized and entered survey data from providers into online platforms such as RedCap and Qualtrics. I also observed live telehealth early intervention sessions as well as participated in interviews with parents, providers, and EI agency leaders. One of the largest parts of my job was participating in codebook development and using Nvivo, an online coding program, to code interview transcripts in order to identify major themes. As I listened to and read through interviews, I was particularly struck by certain barriers that parents spoke of that contributed to the inability to successfully implement parent coaching in their household; specifically, I noticed that parents frequently mentioned financial stress and interpersonal relationship stress as being barriers. As a result of this observation, I am interested in doing continued research on how to improve the quality of therapy sessions for children with Autism, paying particular attention to the financial and interpersonal barriers that exist for many families. Overall, my research experience this summer has provided me the opportunity to improve my qualitative coding skills and become trained in various online quantitative and qualitative data platforms, as well as develop a genuine interest for research.