Family Empowerment Among Parents of Children Newly Diagnosed with ASD

Saturday, May 14, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
L. Corona1, S. A. Fox1, M. L. Rinaldi1 and K. V. Christodulu2, (1)Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, Albany, NY, (2)Center for Autsim and Related Disabilities, Albany, NY
Background: Parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often report high levels of parenting stress and low levels of parenting self-efficacy and overall well-being (Karst & Van Hecke, 2013). Parent empowerment has been implicated as a potential factor influencing parent responses to challenges associated with parenting a child with ASD (Weiss, MacMullin, & Lunsky, 2015). This suggests the value of targeting interventions to increase parent empowerment. Prior research has reported gains in family empowerment following participation in a parent support group (Banach et al., 2010). The present study sought to investigate changes in family empowerment following participation in an education-focused parent group for children newly diagnosed with ASD.  

Objectives: The first objective of the present study was to examine relations among family empowerment, parent stress, and family quality of life in a sample of parents of children newly diagnosed with ASD. The second objective was to assess change in family empowerment following participation in a parent education program.  

Methods: Participants in the present study were parents participating in a five-session parent education program designed to provide information and resources to families. Criteria for participation included having a child between the ages of twelve months and five years, six months who had been diagnosed with ASD within the past year. Prior to and following program participation, participants completed the Family Quality of Life Scale (FQOL; Summers et al., 2005), the Parenting Stress Index – Short Form (PSI-SF, 4th ed., Abidin, 2012), and the Family Empowerment Scale (FES; Koren, DeChillo, & Friesen, 1992). The FES has been used extensively with parents of children with disabilities and has three subscales targeting different aspects of parent empowerment (Family, Child Services, and Community Advocacy). Current results are based on data from 27 mothers and 19 fathers who attended the education program between July 2014 and October 2015. Data collection is ongoing.

Results: Bivariate correlations were used to investigate relations among family quality of life, parenting stress, and family empowerment (see Table 1). All FES subscales were positively correlated with family quality of life. However, only the Family subscale was significantly correlated with parenting stress (r = -.56, p < .01). Paired-sample t-tests were used to assess differences in family empowerment prior to and following the program. Caregivers reported higher family empowerment on all three subscales following program participation (Family, t = 3.10, p <.01; Child Services, t = 3.04, p <.01; Community Advocacy, t = 2.51, p<.05). 

Conclusions: The results of the present study suggest that among parents of children newly diagnosed with ASD, family empowerment is positively associated with family quality of life. However, only empowerment specific to family interactions is associated with parenting stress. This finding indicates that empowerment related to community participation and service access may be less impactful for parenting stress. Finally, the present study provides initial support for the hypothesis that providing education to parents of children newly diagnosed with ASD may increase parent empowerment.