Comparative Effects of Mindfulness and Skills-Based Parent Training Programs for Parents of Children with Autism: Feasibility and Preliminary Outcome Data
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- Ferraioli, S.J. & Harris, S.L. Mindfulness (2013) 4: 89. doi:10.1007/s12671-012-0099-0
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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.