Sunday, February 20, 2011

Autism: India Has an Offering for Parents

Most of the Information we filter comes to us from the United States. Europe also has many on-going programs that are of interest to people internationally. However, little is discussed about autism in India - considered to be one of the developing countries.

One of the leading organizations in India is Action for Autism (AFA). This is a multi-service agency which also provides research. They have written that, "...of all the developing countries, India has by far the greatest wealth of research articles...interestingly, much of this literature appears to go unnoticed..."

AFA explains that they have a "longstanding commitment to research in the field of autism." Their energy has focused on development, language, socialization, family functioning, and diagnosis. They also have devoted research to genetics, functional magnetic resonance imaging as well as other areas that are of interest to some people dealing with autism.

One of the recent studies I found to be very interesting is entitled, Parents of Children with Autism: Stresses and Strategies. The study was completed by Dr. Nidhi Singhal. Basically the study involved the stress levels, coping, support systems, and the focus of control in mothers and fathers. The study involved parents of children with autism compared with parents of typically developing children.

Dr. Singhal used a pretest and a post-test design. He investigated how participation in an intervention program might bring about reduction in the levels of stress while increasing the use or problem solving ways of coping. The coping mechanism dealt with seeking social support as well as helping mothers and fathers of autistic children to have a greater internal understanding to deal with the various situations.

The research was conducted over a period of one year. The focus group received knowledge in regards to the various aspects of autism. This included basic information on the disability; sensory integration therapy, different teaching techniques; legal and advocacy programs. During the year the parents met as a group for a total of 84 hours. Seventy two of these hours they participated in a group session; twelve hours they participated in individual couple sessions.

The autistic children indicated the adaptive and language and learning skills were below those (significantly) of typically developing children. It revealed that parents of children with the disability were in agreement with each other although they were unable to identify significantly less features of autism in the child. These parents, according to the report, "...perceived lesser resources, report high stress levels, low social support; and greater external focus of control. The results reveal that mothers and fathers experience the impact of their child's autism differently and consequently cope differently with emotional distress."

Once these parents completed an intervention program both the mother and the father reported they experienced a major decrease in stress levels. They also reported a greater internal focus of control. The mother continued to be more depressed than the fathers. The parents revealed an increase in several areas including social support, problem solving, and positive reappraisal. This is in contrast to a decrease in the use of confrontive, distancing, self-controlling, and escape-avoidance ways of coping.

The research indicated that parent training programs can be an effective tool to help parents of children with an autistic child. The doctor determined that with adequate intervention the "parental stress levels can be reduced and the parents can be taught to use effective coping strategies to deal with their situation."

The point of my article is that parents, in the United States, face a divorce rate rising - while at the upper 80 percentile - for parents of an autistic child. There are a variety of services available to all autistic children in the United States - some areas provide more services while other areas provide less; however, how many services are provided for the parents? They can often receive respite care, an hour or two away from the home to run errands, additional child care services, and so forth. However, if more government dollars were offered to help parents to cope - this might help to reduce the divorce rate and, in so doing, it might also help people to realize that the mother and father, both being in the home, offers for a stronger support system. This might actually help the autistic child to improve and develop in a number of areas in a positive way.

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