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The principal aim of this study was to develop, pilot and evaluate an intervention intended to support the development of resilience and self-efficacy in parents of children with disabilities or complex health needs.
Previous research has found that families often experience physical, social and emotional stress in the context of living with and caring for their disabled child. The literature indicates that a key factor in determining how well the parents of these children cope with their situation may be how resilient and self-efficacious they are.
A total of 16 parents of children with complex needs and disabilities were engaged in a series of guided conversations delivered during six contact visits with nurse co-researchers (community children’s nurses who had received an intensive three-day preparation programme). The conversations, which were supported with additional material that was designed specifically for use in the study, were based around four key themes: emotional coping, practical coping, support networks and ‘you and your child’. The impact of the intervention was evaluated using both qualitative and quantitative measures.
When interviewed, parents reported increased self-belief and self-confidence and indicated that they felt better supported and stronger as a result of the intervention. This was consistent with the quantitative evaluation which identified significant improvements on scores for active coping and self-blame on the brief COPE inventory scale and for empathy and understanding and self-acceptance on the TOPSE scale. Scores on the self-report distress thermometer demonstrated a significant reduction in self-reported distress scores at the end of the intervention period.
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