Children referred for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often present with a broader pattern of conduct problems including oppositionality and defiance. This combination can be extremely stressful to parents, lower parents’ self-esteem and negatively impact family life. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that families receive support as soon as possible after their referral. However, as clinical services are overstretched, and traditional in-person parenting intervention programmes are expensive, families often must wait times a long time prior to receiving this vital input. To address this, we have created a digital parenting programme called STEPS. It is delivered as a mobile phone app providing a set of tools and resources that can be easily accessed at parents’ convenience. This study aims to evaluate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of STEPS in supporting parents of children with high levels of hyperactivity/impulsivity, inattention and conduct problems, who are waiting to be assessed by specialist children’s clinical services.
Online Parent Training for The Initial Management of ADHD referrals (OPTIMA) is a two-arm superiority parallel randomised controlled trial with an internal pilot study. We aim to recruit 352 parents and their children, who have been accepted onto a waitlist in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services or similar child health services. Parents who consent will be randomised 1:1 to either the STEPS or wait-as-usual (WAU) group. The trial will be conducted remotely (online and telephone) with measures taken at baseline and 3, 6, 9 and 12 months post-randomisation. The primary objective is to evaluate whether STEPS reduces the severity of children’s oppositional and defiant behaviour, as rated by parents, measured at 3 months post-randomisation compared to WAU.
Digital solutions, such as mobile phone apps, have potential for delivering psychological support for parents of children with clinical-level needs in a timely and inexpensive manner. This trial will provide data on the clinical and cost-effectiveness of the STEPS app, which could support the implementation of this scalable parenting intervention programme into standard clinical care and, ultimately, improve the outcomes for families of children referred to specialist child and adolescent health services.
ISRCTN 16523503. Prospectively registered on 18 November 2021. https://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN16523503