Autism Parenting Magazine Issue 74 (Member's Dashboard) - Page 41

AUTISM THERAPY In light of this research, Karen and Emily decided to focus their masters of occupational therapy cap- stone project on stress experienced by parents of children with autism and how occupational therapy can address this issue. Their main concerns for par- ents of children with autism are their well-being and quality of life, as stress can exacerbate problematic psychological health issues, such as higher rates of depression and/or anxiety (Bitsika et al., 2013; Con- ner & White, 2014; Lee et al., 2012). In order to take a deeper look into the stress that parents of children with autism face on a day-to-day basis, as well as to assess whether the proper resources or services are being offered to assist them in coping with the stress, the two occupational therapy students creat- ed an online survey that allowed them to gain insight into the lives of parents of children with autism. The survey integrated questions from the Autism Parent- ing Stress Index (APSI) to gauge parents’ subjective stress levels, depending on various aspects that may come with autism. Open-ended questions allowed parents to be honest about how the stress of having children with autism affected their personal social lives and how they currently cope (if they do) with stress. Additionally, they were asked which services (such as occupational therapy) or parental supports were provided to help them cope. The below figure depicts the averages of partici- pants’ responses to the APSI questions: As described by the “What Causes Your Stress?” chart, parents reported their top five stressors are thoughts of their children’s futures of living independently, thoughts of their children’s futures of being accept- ed by others, their children’s social development, their children’s abilities to communicate, and their children’s tantrums/meltdowns. Below are some of the authentic responses received from parents who participated in the study: Q.  How has the autism diagnosis of your child impacted your own social life with your spouse, family, and/or friends?  “We don’t go to other people’s homes because we would never get to sit down; he wants to touch EVERYTHING!”  “My spouse and I rarely go on dates, trips, etc. be- cause we feel guilty asking for help and feel we should rush back home, so we don’t really relax and enjoy ourselves.”  “I honestly do not have a social life at all. My time is dedicated to my daughter’s school and thera- pies.”  “As for friends, some of them do not understand how autism works and the impact it can have on our household. Some of our family members just choose to stay away because they are afraid of Autism Parenting Magazine | Issue 74 | 41