News about the research is spreading around the world but more families need to find out about Stepping Stones Triple P

At a time when educators, parents and policy advisors in Australia are grappling with how to deal with the emotional and behavioural needs of children with disabilities, Stepping Stones Triple P is demonstrating it can provide at least some of the answers.

The evidence is clear that rates of depression and anxiety are much higher for mothers of children with a developmental disability than those of typically developing children (Gray et al., 2011). We also know children with an intellectual disability are also more likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety disorder, depression, and conduct disorder (Emerson, 2003; Gadow, Guttmann-Steinmetz, Rieffe, & DeVincent, 2012).

So when a paper is published confirming that evidence-based programs can help these families, I think we should all be shouting it from the rooftops, so that families and policy makers hear the message loud and clear.

Independent review confirms findings

Stepping Stones is an adaptation of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program tailored to meet the needs of parents and caregivers of a child with a disability. This suite of programs includes light touch interventions and more intensive group and individually based programs.

In the past month, US researchers have analysed the data on Stepping Stones and confirmed earlier findings that the program can reduce aggression, non-compliance and defiance in children with developmental disabilities.

It’s reaffirming although not unexpected news that that Skotarczak and Lee (2015) found similar effect sizes in their meta-analysis to the only other meta-analysis of such programs by Tellegen and Sanders (2013).

Among the three programs studied in the Skotacrczak and Lee paper, SSTP and The Incredible Years both had a significant effect on child behaviour while Parents’ Plus Programmes did not.

In Germany, it has also just been announced that Stepping Stones Triple P has been included as an evidence-based intervention in a medical guideline published by the Association of the Scientific Medical Societies.

The study cited for this inclusion was Hampel et al’s 2010 examination of several Social Pediatric Centres in Germany, which found Stepping Stones contributed to significant improvements in dysfunctional parenting, parental stress and child behaviour problems.

In Australia, the three-state population trial of Stepping Stones is gathering pace. This study, co-ordinated by the Parenting and Family Support Centre’s Dr Julie Hodges at the University of Queensland, and being conducted in conjunction with the University of Sydney and Monash University, has so far trained 225 providers in Queensland and Victoria with NSW just about to start training.

This month, SSTP was also cited as an example of how good practice can help families of children with a disability by the Council for Disabled Children in the UK.

It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of all this research and implementation work. But these latest developments do not mean our work is done. Far from it.

There is much that we still need to learn in terms of how to best engage with families and how to ensure that every family has access to the type of program that they need.


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Disclosure statement

The Triple P – Positive Parenting Program is owned by the University of Queensland. The University through its main technology transfer company, UniQuest Pty Ltd, has licensed Triple P International Pty Ltd to publish and disseminate the program worldwide. Royalties stemming from published Triple P resources are distributed to the Parenting and Family Support Centre; School of Psychology; Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences; and contributory authors. No author has any share or ownership in Triple P International Pty Ltd. Matthew Sanders is the founder and an author on various Triple P programs and a consultant to Triple P International.