Optimized Father Coaching to Advance Communication Skills for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have marked deficits in communication that can persist across the lifespan. Developing interventions that can be widely and effectively implemented by caregivers to improve communication skills for children with ASD is critical. Because fathers’ language input and play styles are associated with stronger social communication skills for children with ASD, there are numerous benefits to involving fathers in intervention. However, fathers have largely been overlooked in intervention and research, and effective coaching models and intervention strategies for fathers are poorly understood. This study will pilot the feasibility and efficacy of a telehealth coaching program optimized to effectively involve fathers in intervention and improve social communication skills for children with ASD. The project will determine the pre-intervention characteristics associated with more frequent father strategy use and improved child social communication outcomes. Fathers will be interviewed to understand how their perspectives may influence implementation and outcomes. Finally, convergent analysis of qualitative and quantitative data will contribute to a better understanding of factors that lead to increased father intervention uptake and improved child outcomes. The proposed study bridges a significant gap in current autism clinical practice and research by providing treatment evidence of a parent coaching intervention optimized for fathers.