Training May Help Autism Moms Reduce Stress
Training mothers of children recently diagnosed with autism to problem-solve may go a long way toward reducing stress levels among these parents, researchers say.
With just six sessions of one-on-one training, a new study finds that moms were much less likely to report significant parental stress.
The finding published online Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics is meaningful, researchers say, because several studies have found that mothers of children with autism often experience high levels of stress and depressive symptoms.
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For the study, researchers looked at 122 mothers of children who were just diagnosed with autism. Of them, 59 moms were provided six sessions of a training known as problem-solving education or PSE, while the others were only offered traditional assistance which focused on therapies and interventions for their kids.
In cases where training was provided, interventionists worked one-on-one with the mothers during 30- to 45-minute sessions to identify a source of stress and find practical solutions using a series of defined steps.
For example, if a mom indicated that she felt lonely, the interventionist might help her set a goal of spending time with friends. Using the problem-solving steps, the woman might decide to ask her sister to babysit while her child with autism is in bed, reducing the likelihood of behavior problems while she’s away.
After three months, the researchers found that the moms who participated in the problem-solving sessions were far less likely to report clinically-significant parental stress. Among those in the training, just 4 percent reported stress compared to 29 percent of the other mothers.
The findings are “encouraging” and warrant further testing of the “brief, easily replicated intervention,” wrote Emily Feinberg of the Boston University School of Public Health and her colleagues in the study.
“The positive effects of PSE in reducing parenting stress and depressive symptoms during the critical post-diagnosis period, when parents are asked to navigate a complex service delivery system, suggest that it may have a place in clinical practice,” they said.
The researchers indicated that they are continuing to follow the families involved in the study for nine months to assess the impact of the training over time and to determine whether the intervention is more or less successful among particular subgroups of parents.