Skip to main content
Dryad logo

The impact of a parent education workshop about children’s sensory processing differences on parental sense of competence


Cyr, Amanda; Salehi, Yassaman; Hamdani, Yani; Peña, Moira (2021), The impact of a parent education workshop about children’s sensory processing differences on parental sense of competence, Dryad, Dataset,


Aims. This study aimed to: (1) examine the impact of a parent education workshop on the parental sense of competence (PSOC) of parents of children with sensory processing differences (SPD); and (2) explore parents’ perspectives regarding workshop content and delivery.

Methods. This pilot study was a randomized waitlist-controlled trial. Parents were recruited from a neurodevelopmental assessment waitlist (for their children) and randomly selected to attend one of two identical workshops (two weeks apart). The workshops provided education about SPD and strategies for managing children’s behaviors related to SPD. The PSOC Scale and demographics and feedback questionnaires were administered to all parents before and after each workshop. Descriptive statistics and content analysis were used to analyze the quantitative and qualitative data, respectively.

Results. Nine parents were recruited (six in the experimental group, three in the control group). PSOC Scale scores increased following workshop attendance. Three overarching themes of workshop components contributed to an enhanced PSOC: (1) learning specific strategies, (2) reframing children’s behavior, and (3) peer support.

Conclusions. Parent education workshops showed promise for enhancing PSOC of parents of children with SPD. PSOC can promote positive mental health outcomes for parents, and help them to support their children’s occupational performance.


Materials and Methods


This study employed a mixed-methods, randomized, waitlist-controlled pilot design. Researchers randomly assigned participants to either the experimental or waitlist control group. Participants in the experimental group attended the intervention (workshop). Participants in the control group attended an identical workshop two weeks later.


The intervention was a two-hour parent education workshop, created and conducted in a small group format (3-7 parents) by an OT with 20+ years of experience working with children with SPD at the time of the study. The first hour was didactic, where the OT provided education about SPD and specific, tangible strategies to address their children’s associated behaviors. The SPD education and strategies provided in the workshop were informed by Dunn’s Model of Sensory Processing (Dunn, 2007). For example, headphones are recommended as a strategy for children who were sensory avoidant to auditory information. The second hour was interactive: Parents were given the opportunity to ask the OT questions, share their experiences and strategies that personally worked for them.


Parents were recruited from the assessment waitlist at a children’s rehabilitation hospital, (as their children were referred for a neurodevelopmental consultation). Informed consent was obtained by all interested parents, who completed a screening questionnaire to determine study eligibility. See Table 1 for the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Informed consent was obtained in accordance with the Bloorview Research Institute and The University of Toronto’s ethical guidelines. 

Out of 317 parents who were invited to participate, 14 expressed interest. Of these, nine met the eligibility criteria and attended their assigned workshops. See Figure 1 for participant assignment and attrition. Participants’ ages ranged from 31 years to 45+ years. All nine participants identified as female and reported having one child in their family with parent-identified SPD (parents identified whether their children had SPD based on criteria provided by the research team during recruitment). All children were reported to be male, with the exception of one child of a parent in the experimental group who was female. Children’s ages ranged from 3.5 years to 16 years, with a mean age of 7.5 years in the experimental group, and a mean age of 5.17 years in the control. 


All questionnaires and forms were administered to participants using REDCap – an online survey platform. A screening questionnaire was used to determine study eligibility. Three measures were administered electronically throughout the study to participants who met eligibility criteria and who provided informed consent: a demographics questionnaire, the Parental Sense of Competence Scale, and a follow-up feedback questionnaire.

Demographics Questionnaire

The demographics questionnaire consisted of close-ended items, and collected information such as participant age, gender, number of children experiencing SPD, the age and gender of the target child(ren), and whether the participant had other children with SPD who were not on the waitlist.

Parental Sense of Competence Scale

 The Parental Sense of Competence (PSOC) Scale (Gibaud-Wallston & Wandersman, 1978) is a norm-referenced, evaluative, self-report measure that examines parental self-efficacy. Participants responded to 17 statements related to parenting on a 6-point Likert scale (highest potential score is 102 points). Higher scores are indicative of higher PSOC. The PSOC Scale has strong internal consistency, test-retest reliability (0.82), and convergent validity (Gibaud-Wallston & Wandersman, 1978). It has been shown to have good content validity, and indicators of convergent and discriminant validity (Ohan et al., 2000). Parents were instructed to complete the measure in the context of parenting their child(ren) with SPD on the waitlist only, and to exclude their PSOC related to parenting their other children.

Follow-Up Feedback Questionnaire

 The follow-up feedback questionnaire was created for the purposes of this study. All questions were open-ended, and it was used to collect information regarding the participants’ perspectives on the content and delivery of the parent education workshop.


Participants were randomly assigned to an experimental or waitlist control group. Both groups attended the identical intervention (parent education workshop about SPD). However, the control group attended the intervention two weeks following the experimental group. The study was divided into three time-points: Time 1 was prior to the experimental group’s workshop, Time 2 was between the experimental and control groups’ workshops, and Time 3 was after the control group’s workshop. The measures were administered using REDCap at various time-points throughout the study. The demographics questionnaire was administered to all participants at Time 1. The PSOC Scale was administered to all participants at Time 1 and Time 2 (before and after the experimental group’s workshop) and was administered a third time to the control group at Time 3 following their workshop. The follow-up feedback questionnaire was administered to all participants following their respective workshop attendance. Participants were given one week to complete the questionnaires at each administration. Parents’ responses on the PSOC Scale and the follow-up feedback questionnaire were used for the quantitative and qualitative components of the study, respectively. See Figure 2 for a schematic representation of the study timeline.

Both workshops (for the experimental and control groups) presented identical didactic content, contributing to strong intervention fidelity and adherence. However, there may have been uncontrolled variables related to the interactive component of the workshops regarding the information shared by parents.

Data Analysis

For the quantitative analysis, parents’ PSOC Scale scores and demographics data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Formal inferential statistical analyses (such as a MANOVA) were not completed due to insufficient power related to the low sample size, (Portney & Watkins, 2015). Only data of participants who completed the PSOC Scale at both Time 1 and Time 2 were included in the descriptive data analysis. For the qualitative component, a content analysis was conducted on parents’ responses on the follow-up feedback questionnaire (Shannon & Hsieh, 2005). Initial coding and analysis was completed by AC and YS independently, with an 88.1% inter-rater agreement. The discrepancies in the remaining initial codes were discussed and resolved prior to further analysis. Following initial coding, similar codes were aggregated, and then read and marked-up several times in order to explore the dimensions of the content, as well as develop broader categories. The analysis was refined through the process of writing this paper. It should be noted that only five out of nine participants completed the feedback questionnaire, all of whom were members of the experimental group.