What can therapists do to improve caregivers’ self-efficacy and child outcomes?
Parents’ predisposition to play with their child can go a long way to boost parental self-efficacy. Play is the main occupation of kiddos and the most powerful mechanism for development of parent-child relationship. So when a child experiences social difficulties that inhibit his/her ability to play well, as often happens in ASD, that may have a negative effect on parents’ sense of self-efficacy.
Research shows that adult playfulness is a predictor of parental emotional self-efficacy, which has a lasting impact on child outcomes (Roman-Oyola, 2017). In other words, the study shows that playful parents (as an adult trait) or parents that enhanced their own playfulness through intentional effort, were not only able to improve their child’s social skills but also their own sense of parental competence. Which in return has a lasting effect on child outcomes.
Naturally parental playfulness occurs mostly in the child’s natural environment and not in therapy session. But this does not mean that therapists do not get to play a role in building parental playfulness. Family-centered practice means that therapist’s role is, among other things, to help parents develop the necessary skills in order to carryover interventions beyond the session into family everyday lives. Understanding that parental playfulness is key to their own self-efficacy is important. It can be a valuable tool in the therapist’s tool-box. Here are some examples:
Assessing caregivers’ playfulness is important for customizing any family-centered recommendations.
Caregivers with an inherent playful trait may be ‘easier’ candidates to lead home programs.
Playfulness can be taught and enhanced. Work with caregivers that need support on their own skill mastery.
When encountering low parental self-efficacy, remember that playfulness can help boost caregivers’ mental self-efficacy.
Offer advice and suggestions for home interventions that are based on a wide diversity of playful ideas.
Modeling and scaffolding for parents – show them how in session and give them playful tips to carry with them.
Embed play into family routines – remember that playfulness is framing a situation in an amusing, humorous or entertaining way.
Román-Oyola, R., Reynolds, S., Soto-Feliciano, I., Cabrera-Mercader, L., & Vega-Santana, J. (2017). Child’s Sensory Profile and Adult Playfulness as Predictors of Parental Self-Efficacy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(2), 7102220010p1-7102220010p8.
Oren Steinberg is co-founder of SensoryTreat, providing a carryover empowerment platform for pediatric therapists and caregivers of children with Autism and other developmental disabilities.