#School may be suddenly starting for some. #Students on the #autism spectrum may be resistant to this #change and #parents may feel #challenged. Keeping a #positive outlook is important for both students and parents.
Shochet, et al. (2016) say that there is limited research on effective preventative approaches for adolescents with autism and mental health problems. But two interrelated deficits which seemed to have emerged and proved to be important were a lack of an individual’s – ‘connectedness’ and ‘resilience’. These ‘protective factors’, when missing, increase an individual’s weaknesses, and/or a negative outlook.
- ‘Connectedness’, namely a sense of belonging, especially in school.
- ‘Resilience’, the capacity of coping and self-regulation in the face of stress.
This becomes especially important during the transition from elementary to secondary school; and from secondary school into adulthood. When a person perceives that their peers are less excepting, or that they are prevented from having an opportunity to learn in an ‘inclusion’ (general education) classroom; those with autism are more likely to become distressed, or even depressed. Depression, in turn may keep them from pursuing higher schooling, or from beginning a successful career path. This study found that evidence-based ‘group therapy’ treatment programs were helpful to build one’s ‘connectedness’ to society.
< My Thoughts > “…‘protective factors’…”
Five ‘protective factors’ which work to strengthen ‘positive’ perception, thus diminishing negative thoughts or perception of events, are –
- Parental resilience (Parents who encourage their child to persevere towards the ‘positive’, instead of perseverating on the ‘negative’.)
- Social connections (Participate in social group activities, which can include siblings.)
- Concrete support (Constant ‘’interest’ which can easily be seen, heard, and felt.)
- New knowledge & understanding (Providing new ‘positive’ skills, thoughts, and learning from those who truly understand.)
- Achieving social/emotional competence (Having opportunities to take positive risks and enjoy positive outcomes.)
When the above factors are available, they work together to help an individual with autism ‘protect’ and promote their ‘positive’ view of their world. A healthy perception can become everything.
Important to achieving ‘resilience’ is the ability to focus on one’s strengths instead of deficits. ‘Resilience’ requires ‘theory of mind (ToM). The authors state that the ability to freely seeing another’s perspective and/or point of view is critical to becoming resilient. ‘Resilience’ is inhibited by one’s failure to understand perspective, and also by never overcoming negative risk factors. Anxiety prevention programs, as well as understanding ‘healthy risk taking’, promoted by ‘positive protective factors’ and ‘decreasing negative risks’, are all vital to strong wellbeing and mental health.
Shochet says his study found that individuals with autism varied greatly in terms of ‘symptom expression’ and ‘levels of functioning’ throughout their lifespan. But, that they will find a ‘positive’ mental health trajectory by identifying how well they feel ‘connected’ and/or ‘resilient’ to life’s often constant changes and challenges.
Hoch & Youssef (2019) have revealed that children with ASD may be under-identified for ‘trauma’ exposure and under-served for ‘treatments’ to address trauma and other mental health diagnoses. While the most commonly discussed issue is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), such as depression and anxiety, sensitivity to non-threatening noises and other stressors can lead to ‘response stressors’ which may also act to disrupt daily rhythms.
Parents are also susceptible to unwanted stress, especially when raising several children; and specifically, when one of the children has ASD. Parent’ perceptions of their own abilities are influenced by their own individual ‘coping styles’ and an underlying ‘belief systems’.
Ang & Loh (2019) found that Moms are more likely than fathers to blame themselves for their child’s problems. Despite the challenges of raising a child with autism, parents found that they can also experience benefits. Fathers stated that they enjoyed being increasingly more involved in the daily care of their child; some shifting from breadwinner to a more co-parenting role.
Understanding what a child with autism ‘wants’ can be difficult depending on the severity of the child’s autism, it may be even be nearly impossible. Both parents are often more susceptible to the community being critical to the child’s public behavior.
They found that parents with more support from the family and the community had less depression, anger, and anxiety. Their ‘coping style’ also had an impact on their mental health. Here are some of the successful ‘coping styles’ mentioned –
- Active-avoidance coping (actively attempting to avoid stressors)
- Problem-focused coping (anticipating, planning for, & managing the problem ahead of time)
- Positive coping (using humor & reframing the issue)
Ang, K. & Loh, P. (2019). Mental Health & Coping in Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Singapore: An Examination of Gender Role in Caring; Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders; V49, p2129-2145.
Hoch, J., & Youssef, A. (2019). Predictors of Trauma Exposure & Trauma Diagnoses for Children with Autism &Developmental Disorders Served in a Community Mental Health Clinic; Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders; V50, p634-649.
Shochet, I., Saggers, B., et al. (2016). The Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC) Conceptual Model to Promote Mental Health for Adolescents with ASD; Clinical Child & Family Psychology Review; V19, p94-116.