The EarlyBird programme is a group-based psychoeducation intervention for parents of young children with autism. Although it is widely used in the United Kingdom, the evidence base for the programme is very limited. Using a mixed method, non-randomised research design, we aimed to test (1) the acceptability of the research procedures (recruitment, retention, suitability of measures), (2) the parental acceptability of EarlyBird (attendance, views of the programme, perceived changes) and (3) the facilitator acceptability of EarlyBird (fidelity, views of the programme, perceived changes). Seventeen families with a 2- to 5-year-old autistic child and 10 EarlyBird facilitators took part. Pre- and post-intervention assessment included measures of the child’s autism characteristics, cognitive ability, adaptive behaviour, emotional and behavioural problems and parent-reported autism knowledge, parenting competence, stress and wellbeing. Semi-structured interviews were completed at post-intervention with parents and facilitators. For those involved in the study, the research procedures were generally acceptable, retention rates were high and the research protocol was administered as planned. Generally, positive views of the intervention were expressed by parents and facilitators. Although the uncontrolled, within-participant design does not allow us to test for efficacy, change in several outcome measures from pre- to post-intervention was in the expected direction. Difficulties were encountered with recruitment (opt-in to the groups was ~56% and opt-in to the research was 63%), and strategies to enhance recruitment need to be built into any future trial. These findings should be used to inform protocols for pragmatic, controlled trials of EarlyBird and other group-based interventions for parents with young autistic children.
Bibliographical note© Sage 2019. The final publication is available via Sage at http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1362361319851422