Conducting Online Focus Groups with Parents of Children with Sensory Processing Disorder

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Stephanie MEDLEY-RATH, Indiana University Kokomo, USA
I conducted three online focus groups using Facebook’s secret groups. I recruited parents and caregivers (N=27) of children with sensory processing disorder (SPD) or “sensory issues.” At least four methodological problems emerged. First, all participants were mothers of the children despite using gender-neutral recruitment materials. In hindsight, my recruitment methods were not gender-neutral as I recruited among people who write about their child’s experiences with sensory processing disorder online and promoted my research among SPD Facebook groups (used predominantly by women). Second, mothers some mothers indicated that their older children reviewed everything they posted on the internet about them (including while in the focus group). They also alluded to challenges for children with SPD related to puberty and toilet training but would not elaborate for fear of embarrassing their child despite the privacy of the secret group. Third, the quality of participants’ responses varied. Most participants responded to every question in the first two focus groups and were willing to comment on each other’s responses. In the third group, I had to follow-up via email multiple times to receive participation from respondents. The data from the third group is less interactive and in-depth. Fourth, there are special challenges with compiling the data after the study. Decisions must be made as to whether to preserve and analyze deleted comments, “likes,” and other “reactions” to posts, for example. Special care must be made to ensure that data is complete because comments get truncated and must be expanded within Facebook to be viewed. Data also must be reorganized chronologically as Facebook organizes the group’s feed based on the recentness of activity on a post. Overall, special considerations must be addressed when utilizing online focus groups using Facebook.