Effects of Increased Parental Knowledge of Development of Children with Disabilities
Susman, Louisa F.
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This research addresses the link between parental competence, specifically the characteristic of parental knowledge, and its influence on their child' with a disability's participation in age-appropriate activities through their influence on the physical and social home environment. This study examined pathways through which parents mediate change in children with cerebral palsy (CP). Parental and child characteristics were considered as they contribute to parental level of competence and this in turn may influence the home environment influencing child participation in age-appropriate activities. Moderating effects related to the degree of impairment and capacities of the child are considered in this model. Additionally, the relationship of level of knowledge of their child with a disability's development on parental sense of self-efficacy was examined. This research design of this study was a pre/post-test design with random assignment into two groups, an intervention group and a control group. A sample of convenience consisted of a total of 31 parents and their children recruited for this study. The goal of the content of the educational intervention package was to increase parental knowledge about CP, the child’s development, home and play activities. The results of this study demonstrated a significant increase in parental knowledge pertaining to CP as a result of an educational intervention in five meetings over the course of a ten week period. There were no significant measurable changes the home environment or child participation in age-appropriate activities that may be attributed to increased parental knowledge. There was no significant difference between groups in all demographic information examined other than parents’ ages. The difference in mothers’ age appeared to serve as a negative influence on the knowledge measure but had no significant influence on the other measures; however when the influence of group membership was considered the influence of mother’s age no longer remained significant. There was no significant difference in all child characteristics. There were some overall increases as evident in overall mean increases in the participation measure for all groups. The small increases evident in these post-test results which may be attributed to some ideas parents received from exposure to the pre-test questions providing them with suggestions of some aspects being observed and considered central in the home environment and suggestions of areas of importance for their child’s development. The measures of the home environment and participation appeared to have lacked sensitivity to capture change in behaviors and were a major limitation for this study. The participation measure was developed for too wide a variety of child ages weakening the ability of the measures to capture change. Additionally the HOME is typically used as a screening tool which appeared to have a mild ceiling effect pre-testing.Parental feedback as examined in the post–test survey unanimously reported that they would recommend participating in such a group in the future and they unanimously would recommend participation to others families and offered to field calls from future potential parents. Moreover, they requested that we continue the meetings in the future and wanted to exchange emails and phone numbers to maintain contact with the other parents in the group. Parents’ self-reports in this study describes the importance of participation in the life of the community.Reconsidering and redesigning measurement tools focusing on outcomes such as participation might improve the ability to gauge the influence of programs targeting parental knowledge as part of early intervention services.