Transition from High School: Parent Stress and Family Quality of Life When Their Child Has Autism Spectrum Disorder
Research examining the transition from high school has found that parents of children with developmental disabilities report more stress and fewer rewards than parents of typically developing children (Glidden & Jobe, 2007) and that parent stress reported by parents of children with developmental disabilities is predicted by parent coping (Glidden & Natcher, 2009) while family quality of life (FQOL) is predicted by child problem behaviours, support needs, and religious faith during this time (Boehm, Carter, & Taylor, 2015). Unfortunately, these studies either did not include parents of children with ASD (Glidden & Jobe, 2007; Glidden & Natcher, 2009) or did not include any transition-specific measures (Boehm et al., 2015). Unlike the United States, where previous research was conducted, no federal policy exists governing this transition in Canada nor has any research been conducted in Canada on this transition.
To examine the contribution of parent coping, child behavioural symptoms, presence of a written plan for the transition out of high school, and parent satisfaction with the transition process, to parent stress and FQOL during the transition process. The research questions explored were: Do parental coping strategies predict parent stress and FQOL during this transition? Do both positive and problematic child behaviours predict parent stress and FQOL related to the transition out of high school? What is the contribution of having a transition plan and transition satisfaction over and above parent coping and child behaviours during this transition?
Fifty-seven parents or guardians of a child with ASD completed an online survey containing demographic information and the following measures: Brief COPE (Carver, 1997), Nisonger Child Behaviour Rating Form (Aman, et al., 1996), Transition Daily Rewards and Worries Questionnaire (Glidden & Jobe, 2007), the Beach Centre Family Quality of Life Scale (Hoffman et al., 2006), parent satisfaction with the transition, and presence of a written transition plan. A series of hierarchical multiple regression with child behaviours and coping entered as on the first step, and transition plan and satisfaction on the second were used to predict the dependent variables of FQOL and parent stress.
Parent coping and child behaviour symptoms independently predicted FQOL and parent stress. Importantly, having a written transition plan predicted better satisfaction with disability related supports and fewer worries about community resources, while satisfaction with the transition process predicted greater family emotional well-being. These transition details predicted scores over and above parent coping and child behaviours. Finally, 82.5% of parents reported that their child did not have a written transition plan for the transition out of high school and only 16% reported being satisfied with their child’s transition out of high school.
This study highlights how the family’s experience of the transition process plays an important role FQOL and parent stress during this time. Further, it highlights an area for critical future research. With few parents reporting satisfaction or the presence of a transition plan, future research should aim to understand factors that affect the resources accessed and satisfaction of parents in Canada during this time.