Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder: investigation into best practice intervention.

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are reported to experience greater levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than parents of children with other developmental disorders or physical impairments. This group of parents, which presents mental health professionals with unique support needs, is receiving increasing attention due (in part) to the reported worldwide increase in ASD prevalence. Australian figures suggest that approximately 115,400 Australians (0.5%) of the population were reported to have ASD in 2012 (SDAC, 2014). The research demonstrates that formal group support constitutes the most common method for assisting parents of children with ASD to deal with their children’s autism-specific difficulties and their own mental health challenges. However, the literature which evaluates the effects of formal support groups reveals substantial variation in relation to content, delivery methods, and data-collection procedures for monitoring any changes to parent functioning (as a result of parents attending group support). This variation has contributed to poor clarity on what constitutes effective formal group support for parents of children with ASD, and limited translation of evidence-based support group processes to the professional field. The parent attendance records collected for study 1 indicated a strong trend towards inconsistent participation across all three groups. This finding was substantiated in the literature with researchers suggesting that the poor mental health outcomes reported by parents attending support groups are associated with low attrition and low participation rates. Consequently, study 2 investigated the specific aspects of parents’ lives that might act as barriers to accessing support groups, by conducting semi-structured interviews with 33 parents of children with ASD. Interview findings propose reasonable large variation in the factors which prevent parents from accessing and remaining engaged in support groups. These findings lead to the recommendation that parents undergo individual profiling to understand their particular life circumstances and how these affect participation in support services
Date of Award7 Oct 2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorVicki Bitsika (Supervisor), Christopher Sharpley (Supervisor) & Jacobus Fourie (Supervisor)

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