UBC will create a coaching program for parents of children at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), thanks to $2.85 million in funding from the provincial government.
The program, to be led by researchers in the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Medicine, will teach service providers who work with toddlers at risk for ASD to coach parents how to interact and engage with their children during daily routines, such as playtime, baths and meals. The Parent and Child Early (PACE) Coaching Project will identify best practices for implementing and continuing to use parent-led interventions.
“We hope that this innovative project will make a real difference in the lives of young children and their families, especially those in remote and rural areas of the province,” says Pat Mirenda, a Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education, who is co-leading the project with Anthony Bailey, a Professor of Psychiatry.
There is often a delay of 12 to 18 months between the time when parents start to notice signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder and the child is diagnosed and begins to receive targeted treatment. By training service providers to coach parents on how to provide social and communication supports to their children, the project seeks to optimize the development of children who may be at risk for ASD.
“This will be one of the largest-ever studies of parent coaching,” said Dr. Bailey, the Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the UBC Institute of Mental Health. “It also breaks new ground in its inclusion of rural and disadvantaged families in the parent coaching model, and in the degree of choice that will be given to parents as to where coaching is delivered, including via the internet.”
The coaching project, funded by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, will work with child development centres, Aboriginal infant development programs, and Aboriginal-supported child development programs to provide online and in-person training for both childcare providers and about 75 families.
Co-investigators of the project include Paola Colozzo, an Associate Professor in UBC’s School of Audiology & Speech Sciences, and Veronica Smith, an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Alberta.