Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Eyal Gringart

Abstract

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) impact upon parental stress levels above and beyond other childhood disorders. Nevertheless, little systematic research has been done on the perceived needs of parents of children with ASD. The literature has, however, reported that having a child with ASD impacts upon parental well being. These parents report increased levels of stress, depression, dysphoria, fear and marital difficulties as well as other problems. Although there is a debate in current research as to whether the age of the child with ASD affects parental well being, much of the body of knowledge suggests that different stressors and needs are experienced as a function of the developmental stage of the child. It can be concluded that more research needs to be conducted in order to establish effective means to assist these parents. The current paper reviews literature in the areas of diagnosis, prevalence, stress and well being. These topics are reviewed with an emphasis on parental experience. Gaps in the body of knowledge are investigated and further research directions are proposed. Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) require significant support as they experience more stress than parents of children who are of normal development and those of children with other disabilities. Previous research has suggested that the experiences and consequent supports required by these parents may differ, as a function of the child's age. Little empirical research has assessed the perceived needs of parents of children with ASD. The current study utilised a modified version of the Family Needs Questionnaire (FNQ) to assess the needs of parents of children with ASD and the extent to which these needs were met. Ninety four parents completed the survey. The results showed that half of the needs on the FNQ were reported as unmet by these parents and that the needs of parents of children between the ages of 6 and 12 years were more frustrated than the needs of parents of children between the ages of 2 and 5 years. Implications for clinical practise, policy and future research are discussed.

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