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Parents of Children With Autism Report High Stress Levels
Date:7/17/2009

xtra daily care, but the children with autism may present more behavioral issues because communication is a skill in which they are developmentally behind their peers.

On a scale of zero to four, the average parenting stress score for parents of children with autism was 2.3, while the score for those with children with developmental delay was 2.04, the researchers found. Parents of children with autism were also more likely to report psychological distress, with an average score of 0.64 compared to the development delay group's average of 0.35.

"We wanted to know how to support families and help the children because there are many domains you can target with interventions," explained Estes. These findings suggest that "if you're making decisions about what types of difficulties to address first, especially if a parent is feeling overwhelmed, starting with problem behaviors might help," she noted.

"This study validates what we see and what we experience," said Lee Grossman, president and CEO of the Autism Society and a parent of a child with autism.

One reason that parents of children with autism may be so stressed, he said, is that every child with autism is different, so there's no standard treatment of care. "Parents don't have many avenues to go to for support," he said.

One of the most important things a parent can do to help reduce stress is to make sure your child receives appropriate help, and if one intervention isn't working, he suggested trying another. But sometimes it takes time to notice that a treatment is working. "Keep it up, because there's often a cumulative effect of the trying you're doing that seems to eventually add to the improvement," said Grossman.

Also, many children with autism have painful underlying medical conditions, such as stomach problems, that they may be unable to communicate to you or their doctor, so be sure to have a good medical workup periodically.

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