The Effect of Therapeutic Interventions of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders on Their Parents’ Mental Health

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
T. Rehberger1, M. Macedoni Luksic2 and A. Bezenšek3, (1)Institut of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Medvode, Slovenia, (2)Institute of ASD, Slovenia, Medvode, Slovenia, (3)Institute of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Medvode, Slovenia

Parents raising children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often struggle to manage the demands of everyday family life. A child with ASD affects the lives of all family members and has an important influence on quality of family life. Past studies report that parents of children with ASD experience not only significantly more stress than parents of typically developing children but even more stress than parents of children with other special needs. As highly-stressed they are more vulnerable to experience mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. World-wide there are currently a lot of different forms of support for parents of children with ASD. They range from informal supportive to specific educational groups which are meant to empower the parents.


In our study we aimed to determine whether the parents’ mental health (stress, wellbeing, satisfaction with life, depression) can be affected simply by their child’s progress followed by the inclusion in regular and comprehensive therapeutic intervention.


Total of 36 parents and 36 children with ASD took part in the study. Their children, aged 2-12 years (M = 5.2 years; 12 girls and 24 boys) participated in developmental and/or behavioural therapeutic interventions for two months. A questionnaire battery was developed for the purpose of the study. It included COPE – short version, Parental Stress Scale (PSS), Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) and Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Short Depression Scale (CES-D 10). Parents filled out the questionnaires prior and after the treatment. Therapists measured children’s progress (prior vs. after) using therapist’s questionnaire specifically formed for this purpose.


The influence of the child’s progress in therapeutic treatment on different aspects of their parents’ mental health was not statistically significant. On the other hand, there is an evidence that the instrumental support, that parents received directly from therapist throughout the therapeutic sessions, had a positive impact on two aspects of their mental health - stress level and wellbeing.


The parents in our study benefit the most from the instrumental support of professionals working with their children. The obtained results give us an insight of how to efficiently help parents of children with ASD to reduce their stress level and improve their well-being. Besides encouraging them to actively participate in their child’s intervention, there is a great need for target educational groups in order to support them on their way to greater independence.