By Carmen McGuinness, EdD, BCBA
Clinical Director Chrysalis Center for Change and Chrysalis School

Parent coaching is a growing area of service for families of children with a host of challenges such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Asperger, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.1,2,3 It is now well documented that parents of children with these challenges suffer from low parenting self-esteem and depression.4,5,6,7,8

Parent coaching has been found to improve parents’ quality of life and increase leisure time.1,9 Improved relationships between parents and children has also been documented and generalizes to the child’s relationship with teachers and peers.2,10 Parents have been found to have an average of 46% improvement in knowledge of child management.11 The costs associated with parent coaching are significantly lower than those associated with direct clinical intervention, and appear to be more effective and long-lasting.3,11,12 According to the American Academy of Pediatrics parent training should include the principles of behavior and behavior change and child compliance procedures.13,14

A parent-coaching program based on the principles and practices of Applied Behavior Analysis was conducted at Chrysalis Center for Change in Heathrow, Florida as part of a doctoral dissertation study.15 Twelve child participants in the study presented with a variety of challenges including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder. Nine mothers and one father attended a 6-week parent-coaching program that included six 2-hour workshops and 6 in-home coaching sessions. All ten parents improved in parenting self-efficacy as measured on the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale. Nine out of ten parents improved in quality of life as measured on the Center for Epidemiology Depression Scale. Child percentage of compliance to parental requests was measured during the in-home sessions, with an average improvement of 50.75% (range= 40% to 69%). Parent reports included generalized effects at school, in the community, with friends, and with relatives and child-care providers.

Studies such as those detailed here indicate that parent coaching is an effective means of improving upon child compliance to parental requests, child and parent relationship, parents’ quality of life, and parenting self-efficacy, with results generalizing to other people and situations.


  1. Koegel, R. L., Bimbela, A., & Schreibman, L. (1996). Collateral effects of parent training on family interactions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 26, 347–359.
  2. Mahoney, G., & Perales, F. (2003). Using relationship-focused intervention to enhance the social-emotional functioning of young children with autism spectrum disorders. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 23, 77–89.
  3. Tonge, B. Brereton, A., Kiomall, M., Mackinnon, A., King, N., & Rinehart, N. (2006). Effects on parental mental health of an education and skills training program for parents of young children with autism: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 45(5), 561-569.
  4. Benson, P. R. (2010). Coping, distress, and well-being in mothers of children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4, 217–228.
  5. Benson, P. R., & Karlof, K. L. (2009). Anger, stress proliferation, and depressed mood among parents of children with ASD: A longitudinal replication. Journal of Developmental Disorders, 39, 350–362.
  6. Lloyd, T., & Hastings, R. P. (2008). Psychological variables as correlates of adjustment in mothers of children with intellectual disabilities: cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 52(1), 37–48.
  7. Pottie, C. G., & Ingram, K. M. (2008). Daily stress, coping, and well-being in parents of children with autism: A multilevel modeling approach. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(6), 855–864.
  8. Tarik, Tuncay, Musabak, Deniz, Gok, & Kutlu (2008). The relationship between anxiety, coping strategies and characteristics of patients with diabetes. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 6(79), 1–9.
  9. Koegel, R. L., Schreibman, L., Britten, K. R., Burke, J. C., & O’Neill, R. E. (1982). A comparison of parent training to direct child treatment. In R. L. Koegel, A. Rincover, & A. L. Egel (Eds.), Educating and understanding autistic children (pp. 260–279). San Diego, CA: College-Hill Press.
  10. Prizant, B. M., Wetherby, A. M., & Rydell, P. J. (2000). Communication intervention issues for children with autism spectrum disorders. In A. M. Weatherby & B. M. Prizant (Eds.), Autism spectrum disorders: A transactional developmental perspective (pp. 193–224). Baltimore: Brookes.
  11. Ingersoll, B., & Dvortcsak, A. (2006). Including parent training in the early childhood special education curriculum for children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 8(2), 79-87.
  12. Brereton, A. & Tonge, B. (2005). Preschoolers with Autism: A Parent Education and Skills Training Programme. London: Jessica Kingsley Publisher.
  13. American Association of Pediatrics. (2010). AAP publications retired and reaffirmed. Pediatrics, 126e, 1622.
  14. Myers, S. M., & Johnson, C. P. (2007). Management of children with autism spectrum disorders.Pediatrics, 120, 1162–1182.
  15. McGuinness, C. (2014). The Effect of Parent Training on Coping Behavior in Parents of Children with Developmental Disorders. Doctoral Dissertation: Nova University Abraham Fischler School of Education and Human Services.