Reducing Stress in Parents of Children with Autism

By: Anuj Vaid

It’s been found that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have stress hormones as high as that found in combat soldiers [1]. Its higher than the parental stress of children with other disabilities or even children with cancer [2][3]. Since parents are the primary caretakers of children with ASD, it’s important not to overlook their mental health. Their psychological wellbeing plays a vital role in the care provided to their children. When parents report depressive symptoms that require a formal psychiatric evaluation, there is an issue that needs to be addressed [4][5]. It’s clear why parents of children with ASD are stressed. As healthcare providers, there are ways to minimize the escalation of this stress from reaching the diagnosis of depression.

Medical professionals all around agree that early diagnosis and intervention of ASD can reduce parental stress and improve children’s behavioral and social outcomes. The average diagnosis for children occurs at 4 years, 10 months even though clinic symptoms can be recognized by age 2 by both parents and clinicians! [6][7][8] The late diagnosis which leads to delayed coordination of care may possibly be resulting in increased stress levels. This is better understood when one realizes caregiver participation along with their training and support is the foundation of most successful and sustainable intervention plans.

Caregivers are required to actively participate in treatment sessions, learn treatment techniques, and are taught ways to implement these techniques when staff are not at home. With proper empirically proven intervention methods applied on the children, caretakers will see improvement in social and behavioral domains in their child. Furthermore, parents are taught the fundamentals of Applied Behavior Analysis and developing appropriate preventative and reactive strategies to address behaviors.

With early detection, early intervention, and parent education we take these parents off the battlefield and allow them to concentrate on strengthening the future of children with ASD and other related disorders.


Works Cited

[1] Elizabeth A. Karp, Rebecca Dudovitz, Bergen B. Nelson, Wendy Shih, Amanda Gulsrud, Felice Orlich, Costanza Colombi and Alice A. Kuo (2018). Family Characteristics and Children’s Receipt of Autism Services in Low-Resourced Families. Pediatrics 141; S280 doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-4300D
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