What is Positive Family Connections?
Positive Family Connections is a new online 6 week programme for families who have a child with additional developmental needs (learning disability, autism, or both) aged between 8-13.
The programme aims to enhance positive connections between family members. Our relationships with those closest to us are key for the wellbeing of the whole family and that is no different when there is a disabled family member.
We define ‘family’ in the widest possible sense acknowledging that families come in many different forms. We can be connected to others through birth, affinity (e.g. marriage) or choice. At its simplest, for this programme, a family can comprise a family carer and child with a learning or developmental disability. It may also include a partner, uncle, cousins and grandparents for some families. In others it may be the parent and child along with friends or even a support worker.
The programme adopts a positive narrative to having a disabled child, challenging the predominantly negative narrative that exists in society and academia.
Positive Family Connections has been co-produced with family carers. The research team have been working with 5 family carers to design, develop and pilot the programme. Two family carers facilitate each group after attending training.
A research grant from Cerebra is funding the development and initial research evaluation of Positive Family Connections.
The current study
To learn whether Positive Family Connections helps families, we would need to do a large trial with lots of families. However, before we do this, we need to carry out a smaller trial, called a feasibility study. This will investigate whether a larger trial is possible, and how we can run this well.
For the feasibility study, we will recruit families of a child with additional developmental needs (learning disability, autism or both). Up to two family carers from each family will then complete a survey about their family relationships, wellbeing, their family member with a developmental disability, and a sibling. Families will then be randomly selected to either take part in the Positive Family Connections programme in May/June 2022, or to be invited one year later.
We will ask family carers to recomplete surveys 4 months and 9 months after they were randomly selected. By comparing survey responses from family carers who did and did not take part in Positive Family Connections we can learn more about whether the programme might be beneficial for wellbeing, family relationships, and children’s emotions and behaviour.
Towards the end of the study, we will also carry out interviews with some family carers that took part in the study and facilitators that delivered the Positive Family Connections programme. This will be a chance for us to learn from their experiences of being involved in the study to help us plan a future trial, and to develop the Positive Family Connections programme.
You can read the Positive Family Connections annual report for 2022 here.