Roxanna M. Bendixen, Jennifer H. Elder, Susan Donaldson, John A. Kairalla, Greg Valcante, Richard E. Ferdig; Effects of a Father-Based In-Home Intervention on Perceived Stress and Family Dynamics in Parents of Children With Autism. Am J Occup Ther 2011;65(6):679–687. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2011.001271
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Parents of children with autism report high rates of stress. Parental differences in stress are inconsistent, with most research indicating that mothers report higher levels of stress than fathers. We explored parental differences before and after an in-home training program. Fathers were taught an intervention designed to improve their child’s social reciprocity and communication; they then trained mothers. Stress was assessed with the Parenting Stress Index–Short Form, and family dynamics was assessed with the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scales II. Both mothers and fathers reported high preintervention levels of stress. After intervention, fathers’ stress was reduced, but not significantly, possibly because of the variability in fathers’ scores; mothers’ stress scores were significantly reduced. Parenting styles were significantly different before and after intervention. Interdisciplinary teams, including occupational therapists, nurses, and special educators, can work together to have a positive impact on the lives of families of children with autism.
Following the child’s lead in play rather than sitting passively or directing the child
Imitating the child’s vocalizations and movements in an exaggerated, lively, and animated manner to enhance basic turn-taking play interactions
Providing clear signals (i.e., facial expressions, verbal requests, labeling) and waiting expectantly for the child to respond in lieu of continuous directive questioning; during this time, eager attention is focused on the child, ending with the desired child response or a parental prompt if the response does not occur after a ≥3-s lapse in time
Commenting on the child’s actions, responses, or verbalizations instead of asking questions (a more common parental behavior).
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