Research focuses on challenges faced by parents of children with ASD

Merced, Calif. — A study being conducted by researchers at the University of California Merced is trying to shed light on the challenges that the parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face everyday, and how they cope with it.

Nikko Da Paz, a doctoral student in psychology sciences at the UC Merced and lead researcher of the study, says the main goal of their research is to shed light on the parent-health aspect of the developmental disorder. Da Paz is concerned that not many are really paying attention to the adverse effects of the condition to the parents caring for the children. She told:

“There may be a multitude of services, but none of those services are geared toward parents and their mental health.”

Da Paz, who is a parent to a nine-year-old with autism herself, explained how parents caring for children with ASD experience stress levels far higher than the parents of typically developing children.

UC Merced Health Psychology Project Jan Wallander agrees:

“It’s a challenging situation to be in. Raising children with these needs can create high levels of physical and psychological stress.”

Da Paz added:

“If the parent does not have good mental health, that affects their ability to implement intervention for their child.”

In the study, about 80 parents were asked a series of questions, and about 80 percent of them said that they have felt stressed and nervous within the past month. Around 63 percent of the parents said that their children get easily upset over relatively small things, while about 59 percent said that they felt their children demands more from them compared to other people’s children.

The researchers also found that about 49 percent of the participants turned to spiritual or religious beliefs to find comfort in times of stress, while 57 percent said they either meditate or pray, and 46 percent said they turn to other activities like going to the movies, shopping, or reading, to rid their minds of stress.

The study is still currently ongoing, and the researchers hope that in the future, their findings will be able to help professionals develop coping mechanisms for parents caring for children with ASD.

Source: Ana Ibarra: Merced Sunstar: UC Merced study sheds light on challenges faced by parents of autistic children