Family Daily Hassles and School Variables in Typically-Developing Siblings of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
T. A. Hassenfeldt1 and A. Scarpa2, (1)Marcus Autism Center, Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, (2)Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Background: As Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) increase in prevalence, the number of typically-developing (TD) siblings of children with ASD has also increased. Sibling relationships have the potential to be the longest-lasting relationship of one’s life. In addition to fulfilling traditional sibling roles, such as friend, protector, or confidante, siblings of children with ASD may take on additional unique roles (e.g., social model, caregiver; Celiberti & Harris, 1993; Bass & Mulick, 2007; Castorina & Negri, 2011). Thus, it is worth investigating the experiences of these TD siblings. While previous literature indicates mixed findings, recent studies with more rigorous methodologies have found that TD siblings of children with ASD fare as well as children without siblings with ASD (Dempsey, Llorens, Brewton, Muchandani, & Goin-Kochel, 2011; Shivers, Deisenroth, & Taylor, 2013; Hastings & Petalas, 2014).

Objectives: Little to no research has explored the academic functioning of TD siblings. We hypothesized that disruptions to families’ daily routines (i.e., daily hassles) may have negatively impacted TD siblings’ classroom behaviors and grades.

Methods: The Parenting Daily Hassles Scale (PDHQ; Crnic & Greenberg, 1990; Crnic & Booth, 1991) was collected as part of a larger battery from 39 parents. All parent participants (92% Caucasian, 90% married, 79% college-educated) had a child with an ASD diagnosis (80% male, M age = 11.74) and a TD child (62% male, M age = 10.31 years). Teachers (n = 25) reported on classroom functioning and parents provided report cards.

Results: Seventy-two percent of TD siblings (n = 18) had scores above the mean on the Academic Performance Rating Scale (APRS; DuPaul, Rapport, & Perriello, 1991), and 91% (n = 32) had grade averages of B or higher. Ninety-six percent (n = 24) of TD siblings had scores within the normative range on the Learning Problems and School Problems scales of the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2; Reynolds & Kamphaus, 2004). The Challenging Behaviors subscale of the PDHQ was not significantly correlated with any school variables for TD siblings. However, correlations with APRS score and report card grades were moderate in effect size; these relationships may have been significant with a larger sample size. The Parenting Tasks subscale was also not significantly correlated with any school measure.

Conclusions: One trend in our data suggests that parents who are distressed by their children’s collective problem behaviors might have TD children with better academic performance and grades (perhaps due to coping). Small effect sizes in the relationships between the Parenting Tasks subscale and school variables suggest a minimal relationship between stress about parenting duties and TD childrens’ academic functioning. Overall, most TD siblings performed well in the classroom and on their report card. This finding fits well with previous literature that most TD siblings of children with developmental disorders have generally positive outcomes (Sanders & Morgan, 1997; Grant, Ramcharan, & Flynn, 2007).