Clinical and cost-effectiveness of an adapted intervention for preschoolers with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities displaying behaviours that challenge: the EPICC-ID RCT

Tamara Ondruskova, Rachel Royston, Michael Absoud, Gareth Ambler, Chen Qu, Jacqueline Barnes, Rachael Hunter, Monica Panca, Marinos Kyriakopoulos, Kate Oulton, Eleni Paliokosta, Aditya Narain Sharma, Vicky Slonims, Una Summerson, Alastair Sutcliffe, Megan Thomas, Brindha Dhandapani, Helen Leonard, Angela Hassiotis

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Background: Stepping Stones Triple P is an adapted intervention for parents of young children with developmental disabilities who display behaviours that challenge, aiming at teaching positive parenting techniques and promoting a positive parent-child relationship. Objective: To evaluate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of level 4 Stepping Stones Triple P in reducing behaviours that challenge in children with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. Design, setting, participants: A parallel two-arm pragmatic multisite single-blind randomised controlled trial recruited a total of 261 dyads (parent and child). The children were aged 30-59 months and had moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. Participants were randomised, using a 3 : 2 allocation ratio, into the intervention arm (Stepping Stones Triple P; n = 155) or treatment as usual arm (n = 106). Participants were recruited from four study sites in Blackpool, North and South London and Newcastle. Intervention: Level 4 Stepping Stones Triple P consists of six group sessions and three individual phone or face-to-face contacts over 9 weeks. These were changed to remote sessions after 16 March 2020 due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Main outcome measure: The primary outcome measure was the parent-reported Child Behaviour Checklist, which assesses the severity of behaviours that challenge. Results: We found a small non-significant difference in the mean Child Behaviour Checklist scores (-4.23, 95% CI -9.98 to 1.52, p = 0.146) in the intervention arm compared to treatment as usual at 12 months. Per protocol and complier average causal effect sensitivity analyses, which took into consideration the number of sessions attended, showed the Child Behaviour Checklist mean score difference at 12 months was lower in the intervention arm by -10.77 (95% CI -19.12 to -2.42, p = 0.014) and -11.53 (95% CI -26.97 to 3.91, p = 0.143), respectively. The Child Behaviour Checklist mean score difference between participants who were recruited before and after the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic was estimated as -7.12 (95% CI -13.44 to -0.81) and 7.61 (95% CI -5.43 to 20.64), respectively (p = 0.046), suggesting that any effect pre-pandemic may have reversed during the pandemic. There were no differences in all secondary measures. Stepping Stones Triple P is probably value for money to deliver (-£1057.88; 95% CI -£3218.6 to -£46.67), but decisions to roll this out as an alternative to existing parenting interventions or treatment as usual may be dependent on policymaker willingness to invest in early interventions to reduce behaviours that challenge. Parents reported the intervention boosted their confidence and skills, and the group format enabled them to learn from others and benefit from peer support. There were 20 serious adverse events reported during the study, but none were associated with the intervention. Limitations: There were low attendance rates in the Stepping Stones Triple P arm, as well as the coronavirus disease 2019-related challenges with recruitment and delivery of the intervention. Conclusions: Level 4 Stepping Stones Triple P did not reduce early onset behaviours that challenge in very young children with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. However, there was an effect on child behaviours for those who received a sufficient dose of the intervention. There is a high probability of Stepping Stones Triple P being at least cost neutral and therefore worth considering as an early therapeutic option given the long-term consequences of behaviours that challenge on people and their social networks. Future work: Further research should investigate the implementation of parenting groups for behaviours that challenge in this population, as well as the optimal mode of delivery to maximise engagement and subsequent outcomes. Study registration: This study is registered as NCT03086876 (±Angela&draw=1&rank=1). Funding: This award was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme (NIHR award ref: HTA 15/162/02) and is published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 28, No. 6. See the NIHR Funding and Awards website for further award information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-94
Number of pages94
JournalHealth technology assessment (Winchester, England)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


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