Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Evaluation of a Support Group for Fathers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder/ L'évaluation D'un Groupe De Soutien Pour Des Pères D'enfants Ayant Des Troubles Du Spectre Autistique

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Evaluation of a Support Group for Fathers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder/ L'évaluation D'un Groupe De Soutien Pour Des Pères D'enfants Ayant Des Troubles Du Spectre Autistique

Article excerpt

Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The current global estimate is 1 in 160 individuals, with a higher proportion of males than females consistently observed (Elsabbagh et ah, 2012). ASD is characterized by severe and pervasive impairments in social communication and the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviour, interests, and activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Thus, it is not surprising that parenting a child with ASD can present significant challenges.

In an early paper on fathers of children with autism (Eisenberg, 1957), it was observed that the role of fathers has been neglected. More than a half century after Eisenberg's observations, the vast majority of research conducted with parents of children with ASD still includes mothers-either exclusively or primarily-as participants. For example, a recent systematic review of fathers' participation in parent-implemented interventions for children with ASD found that, of 26 studies published in the past 20 years, only 3 included fathers as participants, and 2 of those included only one father each (Flippin & Crais, 2011).

There are a number of reasons why the experiences and needs of fathers should be examined in ASD research. First, we know that mothers and fathers have different psychological experiences as both parents and partners; this includes differences in coping, stress, anxiety, and depression (Hastings, Kovshoff, Ward et ah, 2005; Lee, 2009; Ornstein Davis & Carter, 2008). Second, a bidirectional influence exists between mothers and fathers, whereby one parent's psychological experiences (e.g., stress, anxiety, depression) affects the other's (Hastings, 2003; Hastings, Kovshoff, Ward et ah, 2005; Kayfitz, Gragg, & Orr, 2010; Rivard, Terroux, Parent-Boursier, & Mercier, 2014). Finally, fathers influence and contribute to their children's development (Pieck & Masciadrelli, 2004; Videon, 2005). For example, Allen and Daly (2007) found that higher levels of father involvement were associated with higher cognitive development, higher social-emotional development and well-being, and better physical health. Furthermore, fathers themselves benefit from being more involved with their children: higher paternal involvement in childcare has been associated with greater paternal self-confidence, higher parenting efficacy, and less substance abuse (Allen & Daly, 2007).

Parenting a child with pervasive social, communication, and behavioural impairments can be a stressful and challenging experience. Furthermore, many of these issues are chronic and lifelong, requiring ongoing professional treatment as well as constant attention and effort. Thus, it follows that a wide range of supports and interventions have been developed to assist parents in the significant task of raising a child with ASD. One example of these aids is a specialist-led support group that focuses on parents' emotional and psychological concerns and issues. Such support groups share a number of characteristics: (a) members come together primarily to share their experiences about similar issues and to provide one another with information as well as emotional and social support, (b) the group is led by a professional who facilitates discussion rather than providing didactic instruction or active counselling, and (c) the facilitator controls group membership (Kurtz, 1997, 2004). Kurtz identified a number of therapeutic factors that operate in effective support groups, including group cohesiveness, a sense of belonging, universality, giving and receiving support, instilling hope, altruism, obtaining information and experiential knowledge, and learning methods of coping.

Scant research has examined support group participation and effectiveness, either for parents in general or for parents of children with ASD. However, it appears that between one third and three quarters of ASD parents participate in a support group at some point in time (either face-to-face or online), depending largely on factors related to accessibility (e. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.