Coaching while waiting for autism spectrum disorder assessment: Protocol of a pilot feasibility study for a randomized controlled trial on occupational performance coaching and service navigation support

Charmaine Bernie, Katrina Williams, Fiona Graham, Tamara May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In Australia, the average time between a first concern of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and diagnosis is over 2 years. After referral for assessment, families often wait 6-12 months before their appointment. This can be a time of uncertainty and stress for families. For some families, other forms of assistance are not accessible and thus timely intervention opportunities are missed. There is little evidence about how to provide the best support for children or caregivers while on assessment waiting lists. Objective: The aim of this study is to determine whether use of a coaching intervention called Occupational Performance Coaching (OPC) combined with service navigation support is feasible for families waiting for ASD assessment, as a crucial first step in planning a randomized controlled trial. Methods: A pilot and feasibility study will be conducted using recommended constructs and associated measures, which will be reported using CONSORT (Consolidated Standards or Reporting Trials) guidance. Participants will be child and caregiver dyads or triads, recruited within 4 months of their child (aged 1-7 years) being referred to one of two services for an ASD assessment in Victoria, Australia. A blinded randomization procedure will be used to allocate participants to one of three trial arms: (1) coaching and support intervention delivered face to face, (2) coaching and support intervention via videoconference, and (3) usual care. Descriptive statistics will be used to describe the sample characteristics of parents and children, inclusive of service access at baseline and follow up. Recruitment rates will be reported, and retention rates will be evaluated against a predicted rate of 70%-80% in each intervention arm. Goal attainment, using the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure, will indicate preliminary evidence for efficacy within the intervention arms, with an increase of 2 or more points on a 10-point performance and satisfaction scale considered clinically significant. Results: The study was approved by The Royal Children's Hospital Research Ethics and Governance Department in September 2018. As of October 2020, 16 families have been recruited to the study. Data analysis is ongoing and results are expected to be published in 2021. Conclusions: Study findings will support planning for a future randomized controlled trial to assess the efficacy of OPC and service navigation support for caregivers of children awaiting ASD assessment. Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12620000164998; International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID): DERR1-10.2196/20011.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20011
Number of pages12
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2021


  • ASD
  • Autism
  • Caregivers
  • Coaching
  • Feasibility
  • Occupational Performance Coaching
  • Parents
  • Referral
  • Service navigation
  • Waiting list

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