International Meeting for Autism Research: Parents of Preschoolers with ASD: Stress, Burnout, and Social Support During 3-Month ABA Training

Parents of Preschoolers with ASD: Stress, Burnout, and Social Support During 3-Month ABA Training

Friday, May 21, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
1:00 PM
V. A. Bruce , Psychology, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
M. N. Gragg , Psychology, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
K. Stefanovich , Psychology, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
A. Tiede , Psychology, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Background: Past literature suggests that parents who are more involved in their children’s ABA programs experience more stress. Other research has found that stress is lower when parents have more social support. Less research has focused on changes in parents’ experiences over time during training to implement ABA interventions with their children.

Objectives: To determine if parents’ stress, burnout, belief in ABA, family empowerment, and social support change from an introductory workshop until the end of a 3-month training program.

Methods: Eight parents of preschoolers with ASD completed measures (Perceived Stress Scale, Burnout Measure, Belief in the Efficacy of ABA, Family Empowerment Scale, and Multidimensional Support Scale) at an introductory workshop, and at the end of each month of a 3-month ABA training program. After the introductory workshop, parents were selected to participate in the program based on their motivation, social support, and ability to learn new skills. The program involved 15 hours per week of intensive training. Of the participants selected, 75% were female and 75% were married; mean age was 29.4 years. Most of their children were male (75%), ranged from two to four years old, and were currently receiving additional interventions (75%), such as speech therapy.

Results: Preliminary results indicated that these selected parents’ mean level of stress was average, and overall burnout was at the very low level at the introductory workshop. Neither overall stress nor overall burnout increased during the course of training. One parent reported above average stress at the introductory workshop, however, this parent’s stress level did not increase during training. In addition, two parents were at the burnout level at the introductory workshop. Although one parent’s level of burnout increased over training, the other parent’s level of burnout decreased. Both family empowerment and belief in the efficacy of ABA were high at the introductory workshop and stayed high during the course of training; overall, parents in this study reported feeling above average levels of empowerment compared to parents of children with disabilities. On average, parents reported high levels of social support from family and friends, other parents of children with ASD, and professionals; they also reported being highly satisfied with the amount of social support they received from each of these sources.

Conclusions: Past literature has found that parents experience high levels of stress during ABA training programs when assessed at one time point. This study found that parents’ stress was average at the start of the program and did not increase as they were trained to implement intensive interventions with their children. This could be due to parents being highly satisfied with the social support they experienced during training. Thus, future training programs should strive to provide a highly supportive atmosphere for parents. It should be noted that strict selection criteria were used for the present study and most parents had higher levels of education and lower income than average for Ontario, Canada. Specific case studies will be presented to demonstrate changes in individual participants over time. Data collection is ongoing.

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