Autism Research: July 10, 2015 Week in Review


Study finds happiness predictors in parents with children on the spectrum

Researchers are constantly trying to identify sources of unhappiness in life, be it diseases, their causes and their solutions, or social functioning that leads to disruption in harmonious living. In yet another study, researchers from the University of Miami have conducted a research in an effort to understand how parents of children with autism strengthen the parent-child relationships when social skills tend to be challenging. A team of researchers led by Michael Alessandri, Prof. at UM College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology, examined individual parameters that help predict the satisfaction in a relationship in couples. Parenting is, in most cases, stressful and can be more challenging in cases of couples with children on the spectrum. These challenges often take a toll on the parents’ relationship too.

The study was published this week in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Researchers studied 67 couples raiding a child with ASD and asked them to fill up questionnaires that analyzed 5 traits that lead to relationship happiness. They employed traits like optimism, social and spouse support, coping styles, benefit finding, etc. to gauge the outcome. The study showed that each one of these positive traits associated with higher satisfaction in the relationship. This is a first of its kind study to analyze the romantic relationship between parents raising kids on the spectrum, going beyond just the kids themselves. Other key findings of the study were:

  • An individual’s own strength predicted their own increased levels of relationship satisfaction.
  • Fathers and mothers did not differ in reported partner support, optimism, or relationship satisfaction.
  • Mothers reported higher use of social and instrumental support coping than fathers.
  • Mothers reported greater levels of benefit finding compared to fathers.
  • More perceived partner support was highly related to partner satisfaction for mothers than fathers.
  • Greater satisfaction of one partner was related to greater satisfaction of the other.

Journal Reference: Naomi V. Ekas, Lisa Timmons, Megan Pruitt, Christine Ghilain, Michael Alessandri. The Power of Positivity: Predictors of Relationship Satisfaction for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2015; 45 (7): 1997 DOI: 10.1007/s10803-015-2362-4

Tablets designed to assist children with autism and Down’s syndrome

Researchers from the Monash University have designed the world’s very first handheld tablet specifically to assist kids with learning and developmental disabilities like autism and Down’s syndrome. The tablets are helping them improve attention and focus that can lead to improved outcomes in whatever tasks the kids take up, be it education, social skills, sports, etc. Lead author of the study, Prof. Kim Corninsh involved 77 children with a developmental disability and intervened using the tablet. The team noted improvements in numerical skills as well as core attention and cognitive skills that are necessary for selective, sustained attention. The team had clinically designed the apps and tablet to improve focus and attention span along with training for social skills and behavioral skills. The program is rooted in research worth 20 years and showed significant results. With large scale research, this could be utilized in schools to improve the core skills that can improve overall life skills in children on the spectrum.