Parents of children with autism often report high levels of stress, but new research suggests that getting a caregiving break for as little as one hour a week can really make a difference.
In a new study looking at moms and dads of those with autism, researchers found that parents were less stressed and had improved marital quality with each hour of respite care received.
Researchers polled 101 sets of parents from across the country, each of whom were married and had at least one child diagnosed with autism ranging in age from 1 to 33. Moms and dads were asked to individually answer questions about their marriage, their feelings about daily responsibilities like money and work as well as how much respite care they received during a typical week or weekend.
Overall, parents indicated that about 64 percent of their kids with autism spent time with a respite care provider. Grandparents were most often the ones cited in giving parents a break, but moms and dads also reported getting help from babysitters, community agencies and extended family members.
Such support had a significant impact, with parents experiencing less stress and more so-called “uplifts” — qualities that led to better relationships — researchers reported in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders last month.
“Just one additional hour of respite care per week was related to an increase of six to seven points in marital quality, which is approximately one half of a standard deviation,” wrote researchers from Brigham Young University and Wasatch Mental Health. “This finding offers hope to couples parenting a child with ASD.”
The study is just the latest to attest to the benefits of respite care for families affected by autism. Last year, researchers said they found a decreased risk for psychiatric hospitalization in kids and young adults with autism whose caregivers used respite services.