Comparative Effects of Mindfulness and Skills-Based Parent Training Programs for Parents of Children with Autism: Feasibility and Preliminary Outcome Data
Parents of children with autism report high levels of stress as compared to parents of typically developing children, children with chronic illnesses, and children with other developmental disabilities. Previous research has supported both parent-focused and child-focused parent training programs as effective in alleviating parental stress and enhancing meaningful parent–child interactions. In the present study, a behavioral skills approach was compared to a parent-oriented model, a mindfulness group. Fifteen parents of children with autism were matched on a measure of parental stress and were randomized to one of the two treatment groups. Each group included an 8-week program that incorporated didactics, discussion, role plays, and homework. Parental stress and global health outcomes were assessed at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 3-month follow-up. Overall, the mindfulness group alone demonstrated statistically significant improvement on both outcome measures following treatment. Although significant changes were not observed in the skills group, effect sizes suggested moderate to large treatment benefits. The feasibility of the programs as well as implications and future directions of this line of research are discussed.
KeywordsMindfulness Autism spectrum disorders Parenting stress Parent training
This research was supported in part by generous grants from the Organization for Autism Research and the Harris Dissertation Fellowship. We are grateful for the guidance and support of Tristram Smith, Shireen Rizvi, Brian Chu, and Alan Leslie. Many thanks are also given to Dorian Hunter Reel, Amy Hansford, Laurie Zandberg, and the parents who participated in this research.
This study was conducted by Suzannah J. Ferraioli, in partial fulfillment of a Doctorate of Philosophy degree under the direction of Sandra L. Harris at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, USA.
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