Date of Award

Winter 12-10-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Health Sciences


Health and Medical Sciences


Deborah A. DeLuca, J.D.

Committee Member

Terrence F. Cahill, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Lee Cabell, Ed.D


autism, ABA, applied behavior analysis, online programs, early intervention, parent training


Background and Purpose of the Study: A diagnosis of autism can lead to lifelong struggles for parents and children. These families face profound difficulties in coping with stress while seeking out early interventions and managing imperative service needs. Parents are increasingly turning to the internet for information, advice, and even formal training. Breakthroughs in technology have made the internet more accessible and more sophisticated. The involvement of parents in applying intervention strategies to help their autistic children has long been advocated as a useful approach. Enabling parents as interventionists provides renewed confidence and reduced stress for parents as well as developmental improvements for the child. Conversely, issues of time, cost, and travel restrict accessibility for parents in need of such training. For these cases, utilizing online programs is explored as an alternative option.

Methods: The study design was descriptive, cross-sectional and correlational, utilizing the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) model to determine behavioral intention to use an online ABA training program. The sample consisted of 161 participants who identified as parents or primary caregivers of a child with autism.

Results: The demographic characteristics of parents and caregivers of children with autism were predominantly females in their 30s and 40s, college educated with a Bachelors or Masters, and rated themselves as very comfortable with using computers and similar technology devices. Multiple regression analysis revealed that 10% of the variability in behavioral intention to use an online ABA program is accounted for by education level. Education was the only statistically significant predictor having an inverse relationship with the interest in adopting ABA online programs. Hierarchical regression revealed that computer skills, laptop skills, tablet skills, and mobile/smartphone skills account for 5% of the variance in interest to use an online ABA program. However, when UTAUT variables are included, performance expectancy, social influence, and facilitating conditions account for 47% of the variance in the interest to use an online ABA program. All results were statistically significant at the alpha level of 0.05

Conclusion: The findings of the study suggest that parents and caregivers are more likely to use a system if: (1) they feel it will improve their performance in managing their child’s behavior, (2) others around them such as family, friends, and their community support their use of the system and, (3) certain infrastructure (tech support) exists to assist in their use of the system. At the same time, parents and caregivers are less likely to use a system if they are highly educated. Further research is needed to gain a deeper understanding of the motivational factors that drive acceptance and behavioral intention to adopt online ABA intervention training for parents and caregivers of children with autism. Implications, practical application, theoretical relevance and future direction are further discussed.