The Psychosocial Effects on Families by Autistic Children
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is typically diagnosed in childhood and has a wide range of symptoms, some being more severe than others. These symptoms consist of communication, socialization, behavioral and interest impairments, as well as minimal social skills (National Institute of Mental Health, 2013). Due to these symptoms, a child with ASD may have trouble relating to peers and forming meaningful relationships. Social workers may encounter children with autism who express repetitive motor habits such as rocking, banging on certain objects, biting themselves or spinning (CDC, 2015). Children diagnosed with ASD are often looked upon their peers as being socially awkward or “weird”.
There has been an increase in the amount of diagnoses of ASD in children over a short period of time. According to a study (2003-2014) done by the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM), 1 in every 150 children were diagnosed with ASD in 2003. In 2014, approximately 1 in every 59 children are affected by ASD and is growing at a rate of 10% to 15% per year. ASD is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society with males being affected 4.5 times higher than females (CDC, 2017). Having said that, Social workers with experience in this are in high demand with this group not only pertaining to diagnosed children, but their families as well.
Having a child diagnosed with ASD can be perceived as a loss for many families; “The grieving Process associated with the birth of a child with disabilities is complicated by the parents’ grieving the death of the ‘expected’ baby while at the same time trying to accept the ‘imperfect’ baby. Even though they have the joy of being able to hold and love their baby, their life is suddenly and drastically changed (Hooyman & Kramer, 2006, p. 200).
This news can in turn produce feelings of grief, stress and confusion. ASD forces a family, without preparation, to adapt to a new lifestyle. ASD transforms daily routines to become much more complicated, vacations more stressful, and a majority of families find themselves no longer able to do things they were once able to do. Parents have reported more stress when having a child diagnosed with ASD as opposed to parents who have children with Down syndrome (Meadan et al., 2010). With no one really understanding the cause of autism, many parents have resorted to blaming themselves or each other. Some fathers may blame the autism on their wives (Barnes, Hall, Roberts, & Graff, 2011). This is defined as ‘refrigerator mother’. The term ‘refrigerator mother’ was coined by Leo Kranner. It was used to describe a parent who was seen as cold and uncaring resulting in traumatization in their child causing them to retreat into autism (Autism-Watch.org). in addition to parents being affected by this diagnosis, the sibling(s) of a child diagnosed with ASD are also greatly impacted. T...