Friday, October 2, 2009

Families with Autism Spectrum Disorders…stuff that works...

1 in 150 eight year old children in the U.S. has an Autism Spectrum Disorder and this spectrum has a wide range from high functioning to profoundly impaired. Of course for parents who have a child diagnosed with an ASD has the potential for: Added stress, greater social isolation, more marital discord, greater caregiving burdens, increase sense of meaning and purpose, greater family solidarity and unity, and opportunities for growth and skill development. If you look at this short list of potentialities you will see some are positive and some are negative.

It is exciting to see Marriage and Family Therapists doing research in the area. Julie Ramisch, Robert Hock, and Tina Timm, found that parents with an ASD child wanted to improve their relationship with their child (41%), wanted to improve their relationship with each other (32%), wanted to discuss individual concerns such as depression or anxiety (32%), wanted parenting advice (20%), and wanted parenting tools to use in the future (18%). Family therapist can offer assistance and coaching is all of these areas.

The take home message for MFT is even though research points to stressful family situations, good things can and do happen for families with a child with an ASD. The need for competent professionals who deal with the whole family is great and thorough assessment and effective intervention can help families adapt and succeed.

One family stated: “I suppose if it doesn’t – destroy is a pretty harsh word – but disabilities can really strain a marriage unlike anything’s else, I think a child’s disabilities, and you either become stronger, I think, in a relationship or it probably disintegrates. So if you survive all those things there is not a lot that can come between you in life that would really cause strain on a marriage.”

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