Effect of Mindfulness Training for Adolescents with Autism and Their Parents Moving to a Danish Context
High levels of distress and comorbid health difficulties have been reported for persons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their parents. The development and investigation of interventions for persons with ASD is increasing, but there is still a need to expand the access to relevant interventions, and to increase the evidence base of these interventions. There is an emerging evidence suggesting beneficial effects of mindfulness-based programs for children and adolescents with ASD and their parents. MYmind is a group training for adolescents combined with parallel mindfulness training for their parents that has been developed with the cognitive characteristics of ASD in mind.
The study objectives were to investigate the feasibility of the MYmind program for adolescents with ASD and their parents in a Danish context and to investigate the effect of the program on individually specified areas of focus as well as on emotional and behavioral measures.
A total of six mindfulness groups were run at two different sites including 38 adolescents with ASD and 47 parents from 37 families. Information on adolescent and parental behaviour and well-being were collected using questionnaires, at baseline, pre- and, post-training, and at 2 and 6 months follow-up. Further, continuous registrations were collected on individually specified areas of interest and general well-being. Moreover, interviews were made with adolescents and parents focusing on their experience with the training. In this presentation analyses of the repeated emotional and behavioral measures will be presented.
Of the enrolled participants 24 adolescents (63%) and 26 parents (55%) stayed in the program while 14 adolescents and 21 parents dropped out of the program. Four families dropped out before the first session and seven dropped out after taking part in only one or two sessions. The reason for withdrawing was primarily due to difficulties fitting in the training without too much stress to the family.
Comparison of pre- and post-intervention measures of parent reports on the strength and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) showed a significant reduction in adolescent psychological distress (SDQ total: p<.000) and the impact of this distress (SDQ impact: p=.001), but not in adolescent self-report on the SDQ (SDQ total: p=.083; SDQ impact: p=.806). A significant increase in well-being was found in adolescent self-report on WHO-5 (p=.030 ), but no significant difference was seen on self-report of stress (Chronic stress Questionnaire, p=.457).
A significant decrease was found in parental stress (Perceived stress scale: p=.004) but no significant change was found in parental well-being (WHO-5: p=.072).
To further investigate the change over time in the whole sample results from multilevel modelling will be presented. This analyses will look at the nesting of the subject within the family and group.
Challenges with recruitment and high dropout were experienced. However the results show support the existing evidence base of beneficial effects of mindfulness based intervention for adolescents with ASD and their parents.