Parents' Beliefs about Autism: A Link to Intervention Services in English and Spanish Language Proficient Families

Thursday, May 12, 2016: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
N. M. Reyes1, O. J. Lindly2, A. E. Chavez3, K. Macias4, A. Folan5, K. Smith6, A. M. Reynolds5 and K. Zuckerman7, (1)Box C-234, University of Colorado - Denver, Aurora, CO, (2)Oregon State University, Portland, OR, (3)Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR, (4)UCEDD Children's Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, (5)University of Colorado - Denver, Aurora, CO, (6)Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Pasadena, CA, (7)Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR
Background: Previous research suggests that there are language disparities in service utilization among families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Specifically, children in Limited English Proficient (LEP) families tend to use fewer intervention services than children from English Proficient (EP) families. In an effort to understand what might explain these differences, this study examined parents’ beliefs about ASD and treatment use in both Spanish-speaking LEP families compared to EP families. 

Objectives: This study had three aims: (1) to investigate differences in beliefs about ASD between families with limited English proficiency (LEP) and families with English proficiency (EP), (2) to examine links between these beliefs and treatment use, and (3) to investigate the predictive value of these beliefs on treatment use

Methods: This study included a probability sample of 262 mothers and their children with ASD, 168 with English Proficiency (EP), and 94 with limited English proficiency (LEP) from Oregon, California, and Colorado. One parent per family completed a telephone or self-administered survey in English or Spanish. Parents were asked questions about their beliefs about their child’s ASD, including ASD severity, ASD as a lifelong condition, consequences of ASD on their child’s life, whether ASD was a mystery to them, whether they had the power to change their child’s ASD, and whether challenges related to ASD can be decreased with treatment. Parents also reported the number of hours of ASD-related intervention per week their child received, categorized as: none, <1 hour, 1-4 hours, 5-10 hours, 11-20 hours, and 20 hours or more.   

Results: Regarding the beliefs about ASD, mothers with LEP reported more often than mothers with EP that ASD was a mystery to them. In the EP group, number hours of intervention were significantly associated with mothers’ beliefs about the child’s ASD severity, ASD consequences on the child, and whether ASD is a mystery. In the LEP group, number of hours of intervention were linked to ASD severity and the power to change their child’s ASD. Finally, in a multivariate model assessing the association between beliefs and number of hours of intervention, the belief that ASD has consequences on a child’s life predicted greater treatment hours in the EP group but not on the LEP group.

Conclusions: These analyses showed that LEP and EP families differed in their beliefs about ASD; however, maternal beliefs were more strongly associated with variation in treatment hours among families with EP. It is possible that factors, such as access to health and educational therapy services, may more strongly predict treatment hours in families with LEP.  Overall, findings suggest that providers should take parent beliefs into account when caring for children with ASD from diverse backgrounds, since these beliefs may be associated with treatment use.