Understanding the psycho-social context for a new early intervention for resistance to change that aims to strike a beneficial balance between structure and flexibility

Siobhan Blackwell, Alex Zylberberg, Gaia Scerif, Sarah Miller, Kate A. Woodcock

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Abstract

Background

Emotional and behavioural problems linked to changes to expectations – resistance to change – are linked to disability in neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Prader-Willi (PWS) and fragile X syndromes (FXS). Structuring routines is best practice for minimising current resistance to change. But complete structure is impractical and flexibility in early life may actually reduce later resistance by supporting cognitive development. We aimed to examine the psycho-social context of families with children at risk of developing resistance to change so as to identify design requirements for an intervention that strikes a beneficial balance between structure and flexibility.
Methods

Thirty-six caregivers of children aged 4–12 years (17 ASD, 15 PWS, and 4 FXS) took part in an interview designed collaboratively with 12 professional stakeholders.
Results

Children need to feel like they are in control of flexibility but they also need support in choice making, understanding plans (using individually tailored visuals) and anxiety reduction. Caregivers need an accessible approach that they have full control over, and which they can tailor for their child. Caregivers also need clear guidance, education and support around structure and flexibility.
Conclusions

We propose a digital approach which addresses the needs identified. It tackles the most perplexing challenge by presenting flexibility to children in the context of a game that children can feel they have full control over, whilst caregivers can maintain control in reality. Furthermore, individualised support for children and caregivers would be enabled.
Original languageEnglish
Article number621
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • resistance to change
  • anxi
  • temper outbursts
  • behavioural flexibility
  • cognitive flexibility
  • neurodevelopmental disorders
  • digital intervention
  • emotional outbursts

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