Evaluating Depression and Quality of Life in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Studies have shown that parents of children with developmental delays report poorer well-being. In most cases, parents, especially mothers, tend to ignore or deny that they are experiencing depression and suboptimal quality of life, and seldom seek help. Proper strategies implemented for dealing with caregiver stress would mean increased patience, understanding, acceptance, and overall caregiving towards their children with developmental delays, especially autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
In this study, we evaluated the primary care-giver depression and quality of life to assess the level of depression and the quality of life (QoL) of mothers of children with ASD that are enrolled in our center for intervention programs.
The intervention programs in our center for young children with ASD are divided into 2 main types: Therapist-based intervention (TI) and parent-based intervention (PI). In the PI program, mothers actively participated along with the therapists and early educators in a 3 h/day program for their children with ASD at the center, followed by incorporating the same skills learnt at the center at home for at least 2 h/day. In total, we assessed 64 mothers of children with ASD at our center (47 in therapy-based, 17 in parent-based intervention programs) once before the start of the intervention program and once after at least 6-months into the intervention program. To analyze the QoL of mothers, we used the Short-form Health Survey (SF-36) questionnaire. The degree of depression was assessed by the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) questionnaire. We compared the progress of mothers in both of our intervention programs to better understand the need for additional support programs for mothers of children with ASD. Paired t-test and Spearman correlation were used for analysis.
Before the start of intervention, 47 of 64 mothers (34/47 – TI; 13/17 - PI) showed varying degrees of depression upon evaluation including 7 cases of severe or extreme depression. At the end of 6-months after start of intervention for their children, 28 mothers (21/47 – TI; 7/17 - PI) showed signs of depression, with no cases of severe and extreme depression. After 6-months, a significantly higher number of mothers in the PI group showing improvement than those in the TI group (P<0.05). For QoL evaluation, 55/64 mothers showed improvement in their quality of life after 6 months. Here again, mothers in the PI group showed significant improvements in many more domains than those in the TI group (P<0.05). Both these results corresponded with improvements seen in their children due to the intervention programs.
Based on our results, we observed that the mothers from the PI program fared better than the mothers of children in the TI program. This suggests that along with the positive feedback of the improvement seen in their children, additional weekly programs targeting the mothers in the parent-based intervention helped the mothers to cope up better.