Support Groups for Parents of Children with ASDs: Predictors and Effects of Involvement

Tess Clifford, M.A., and Patricia Minnes, Ph.D., Queen's University

Why study Parent Support Groups?

· Parents of children with ASD report  more parenting stress and mood problems than parents of children without disabilities and with other disabilities

· People who use support groups report less stress, less negative mood and more positive perceptions

· Parent support groups are cost-effective and easily-implemented, and are frequently offered by agencies serving families of people with ASD


Study 1: Who Participates in Support Groups for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Three groups of parents in this study:

1) Parents who were currently participating in support groups reported:

· More positive beliefs about the helpfulness of support groups

· Beliefs that people who were important to them thought they should participate in support groups

· Fewer difficulties associated with attending groups

· Using more coping strategies focused on seeking help and doing something about    problems

 2) Parents who had never used support groups reported:

· More positive beliefs about the helpfulness of support groups

· More difficulties associated with attending groups, such as finding child care, meeting time and location

 3) Parents who used support groups in the past, but were not currently using them reported:

· Less positive beliefs about the helpfulness of support groups

· Beliefs that people who were important to them thought they should not participate in support groups

· Using fewer coping strategies that focused on seeking help from others or doing something about the problem

We learned that:

· Parents of children with ASD are a diverse group with unique support needs

· Some parents who cope by seeking help and changing the situation attend parent support groups

· Some parents who have difficulties accessing support groups may be better served by alternatives to in-person support groups, such as online groups

· Some parents have not found support groups to be helpful and may prefer other sources of support, such as respite

· People working with these families should ask parents about the kind of support they would like and offer supports tailored to meet their needs

 


Study 2: Evaluating an Online Support Group for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

36 parents of children with ASD participated

· There were 5 different online groups

·  Each group  met for 8 weekly or biweekly 1-hour  sessions

·  Topics suggested by parents  included; treatment issues, the impact of ASD on families, managing behaviour problems, coping with stress, advocacy, dealing with schools and the community, useful resources, and transitions         

 

Parents found the group useful and supportive
 

Parents reported the most useful aspects of group were:

· opportunity to connect with other parents

· information about resources

Parents reported the least useful aspects of group were:

· the technology (e.g., delay in receiving responses, typing at the same time)

· differences in experiences based on age of child or geographic location

· poor attendance from other parents

 We learned that:

· Online support groups may be a good way to support parents of children with ASD

· Parents liked connecting with each other and sharing resources

· Many parents had a difficult time attending the sessions regularly

· It may be useful to divide groups based on the age of children and geographic location

 

For more information about these studies please contact Tess Clifford

Thank you to all of the families who participated in this study and shared their experiences with us!

Subpages (1): OnlinePSGDocuments
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