Parental engagement in early intervention for infants with cerebral palsy – A realist synthesis

Child Care Health Dev. 2021 Oct 8. doi: 10.1111/cch.12916. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Emphasis on parental engagement strategies within occupational therapy and physiotherapy early intervention (EI) programmes for infants at high risk of cerebral palsy (CP) has increased. This reflects consensus that increasing parent participation enhances treatment efficacy, potentially improving infant and parent outcomes. However, evaluation of parental engagement in EI is complex. Despite the growing application of parental engagement strategies, aligned with family-centred care practice, theoretical evaluation is currently lacking within the literature. This realist synthesis aimed to identify component theories underlying EI strategies to support parental engagement and to use empirical findings to evaluate how these work in practice.

METHODS: Realist synthesis. Databases Medline, Embase, Amed, CINAHL and PsychInfo were searched (from 1985- February week 1 2020); further articles were sourced from reference lists. A data extraction form was used and a Critical Appraisal Skills Programme tool was used to assess study rigour.

RESULTS: Twenty-six articles were included. Quality of relationships, parent education and intervention co-design were the key themes related to parental engagement strategies. Findings indicate that constructive parent reasoning mechanisms of trust, belief, sense of control, perceived feasibility of home programme delivery and ultimately motivation, are linked to the underlying intervention resources afforded by specific strategies, (e.g. coaching pedagogy). These responses are precursors to engagement outcomes that include increased parental self-efficacy and adherence. Importantly, parental self-efficacy can initiate a process of change leading to improved parental confidence and anxiety.

CONCLUSION: Sensitively designed programme strategies, centred on relational quality between parent, infant and therapist, are fundamental for effective parent connection, involvement and investment within EI for infants with CP.

PMID:34622968 | DOI:10.1111/cch.12916

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