Date Presented 03/31/2022

Therapeutic playgroups have potential to benefit families and children enrolled in early intervention. Results indicate improvements in parent efficacy and parent-child interaction (affection and responsiveness) after participation. Parents and providers report improvements in engagement and social interaction. This session explores the role of the OT in therapeutic playgroup teaming and the importance of the play environment to support positive parenting strategies.

Primary Author and Speaker: Sarah Fabrizi

Therapeutic playgroups are community-based groups aimed at promoting early learning, providing parents with a sense of competence, and allowing socialization opportunities for parents and children. Due to the recognized limitations in literature regarding the feasibility of therapeutic playgroups, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the preliminary effectiveness and feasibility of a therapeutic playgroup for children who are at risk or have been identified with a developmental delay and their families in a regional early intervention program. An existing, evidenced-based model for playgroup (Parents Interacting With Infants) was utilized for theoretical foundation, training, and fidelity. Regional stakeholders expressed a need for supports and services with a focus on the social emotional development of the child, and from this evolved SEE Me (social emotional education) Therapeutic Playgroup. Our objectives were to: (a) Assess the preliminary effectiveness of therapeutic playgroups to improve parent and child outcomes; and (b) Explore the feasibility of teaming to deliver therapeutic playgroups as part of early intervention services from the perspective of families participating and providers facilitating. A pretest-postest single group mixed methods sequential explanatory design was utilized to examine the preliminary effectiveness and feasibility of an eight-week therapeutic playgroup delivered by a collaborative team of early intervention providers as part of comprehensive early intervention services using a convenience sample of 28 parent child dyad (children ages 15 months through 3 years) participants and 19 early intervention providers. Outcomes were measured using the following valid and reliable instruments: parent efficacy/Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (PSOC); parent-child interaction/ PICCOLO; social-emotional growth/DECA; participation/YC-PEM; parent and provider perceptions/survey and playgroup leadership team notes. For quantitative data descriptive statistics were used to gather population data and to check for normality. Statistical analysis was conducted in SPSS Version 26 using the paired t-test, with significance level preset at p>.05. Cohen’s d was computed as a measure of effect. Grounded theory was utilized to conceptualize data and demonstrate relationships grouping parent and provider responses into several meaningful categories. The open coding process was focused by four content experts with different disciplinary backgrounds and perspectives who independently open coded and identified themes until 100% consensus was reached. A theoretical model was then developed to summarize the themes identified in the data. Results indicate statistically significant improvements in parent efficacy (p = .033, d = .56) and parent child interaction (affection p = .016, d = .497 and responsiveness p = .003, d = .735) following participation, with other outcomes indicating clinical significance (social-emotional growth and participation) and upward trends. Themes identified by parents and providers with regard to effectiveness included improvements in child engagement with play, social interaction, and skill development. Parents and providers both highlighted the role of the parent in successful and practical playgroups. Challenges to service delivery include child engagement and program implementation. Results from this study show promise for the use of therapeutic playgroups in early intervention as part of comprehensive services using a team approach. Further, they identify the occupational therapy practitioner as a valuable team member with expertise in creating meaningful play opportunities that promote positive parenting strategies.


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