Family Needs and Related Factors for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder during Transition to Middle School

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
C. C. Chao1, I. H. D. Wu2, Y. W. Hsiao3 and H. N. Chen1, (1)Psychology and Counseling, University of Taipei, Taipei, Taiwan, (2)Special Education, University of Taipei, Taipei, Taiwan, (3)Center for Teacher Education and Career Development, University of Taipei, Taipei, Taiwan
Background:  Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often face many difficulties and challenges in parenting. During transition to middle school, children with ASD are particularly at risk because their deficits in social interaction and communication make adaptation to new environment or new relationships difficult. These children need support from adults, however, their parents, being uncertain about the future of their children and unsure how to help them, also need assistance. In recent years, researchers and practitioners begin to pay more attention to caregiver issues.

Objectives: (1) understand the challenges, needs, and resources of Taiwanese parents of children with ASD during transition to middle school; (2) investigate the relationships among parenting efficacy, mental health, and social support of parents of children with high-functioning ASD (HFASD); and (3) explore the experience of mothers of children with HFASD to understand their views of the parent-teacher interaction and the difficulties in their children's school adjustment.

Methods:  Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. First, from the year 2010 database of the Special Needs Education Longitudinal Study (SNELS), 280 parents of six-grade children with autism or Asperger’s disorder were selected. Their responses to those items related to family needs during transition to middle school in the SNELS parent questionnaire were analyzed. Secondly, 52 parents of school-aged children with HFASD from northern Taiwan completed a parenting efficacy scale, adult mental health scale, and social support scale. Finally, five mothers participated in a focus group and three of them also received individual interviews. Video and audio recordings from the focus group and individual interviews were verbatim transcribed. The narrative inquiry method was used for data processing.

Results: (1) During transition, the top four family needs were: professional information/service (93.2%), interpersonal support (75.4%), transitional placement (51.4%), and financial aid (27.5%). For children in special classes, their parents reported higher needs for professional information/service and transitional placement. For children with school adjustment difficulties, their parents reported higher needs for interpersonal support. (2) Parents showed an average degree of overall parenting efficacy (PE), mental health (MH), and social support (SS). PE positively correlated with MH and with SS, particularly emotional SS. MH only correlated positively with emotional SS. Both MH and SS demonstrated predictive power for PE, particularly positive mentality, anxiety, and emotional social support. (3) In their school experience, mothers acted as the voice for their children, the bridge between their children and teachers, and the helper to teachers. Mothers felt rejected, unaccepted, and misunderstood when interacting with teachers, particularly self-righteous teachers. Mothers expected teachers to be open, willing to listen and accept, understanding, helpful, and provide learning opportunities to their children; and schools to provide more special education resource and enhance the collaborations among resources and with teachers.

Conclusions:  It is suggested that schools provide parent education, support groups, and counseling to help parents develop positive thinking and stress management skills to increase parenting efficacy and to empower parents. Future studies could examine the potential influences of other correlates on parenting efficacy.