Formal Connections Online Can Help Parents of a Child with Autism

With the abundance of social networks available at this current time, parents of children with Autism often find support and comfort in knowing that they can reach out to other parents in the same situation, as well as others in the Autism community. Furthermore, connecting with professionals and experts through social networks may help guide parents to particular Autism interventions that can help their child live a happy and fulfilling life.

Scientific research has yielded several evidence-based practices that are designed to help children with Autism. These approaches are clinical practices, backed by evidence about interventions, as well as individualized care based on needs and preferences.

Katherine E. Pickard and Brooke R. Ingersoll of Michigan State University, psychological scientists, wanted to find out what role social networks play in determining the types of interventions that parents use. They hypothesized that formal connections, such as professionals and experts, are the main source of recommendations for evidence-based practices. Pickard and Ingersoll analyzed responses from nearly 250 parents of children with Autism, who completed a detailed questionnaire. Results stated that within the six months prior to the survey, parents asked an average of six people for information, guidance, or support. Furthermore, over two-thirds of the individuals they sought advice from were formal connections they had through social networks.

The size of the social network was also significant; the larger the network, the more likely the parents had heard of various evidence-based practices, and found access to those practices in their communities. The majority of parents reported that they used at least one evidence-based practice for their child, and in many cases, the approach was the primary intervention. Although formal connections proved to be very helpful, informal connections, such as family, friends, and acquaintances, provided great guidance as well. In fact, these informal connections were the individuals that parents felt they could rely on most for recommendations for non-evidence based practices, as well as support.

“The current study explicitly highlights the importance of parent social networks in parents’ decision-making process about interventions and services”, state Pickard and Ingersoll. They continue, “As parents seek out services, an important component of service delivery should be educating parents about where to seek best practices for their child”. Parents of a child with Autism are encouraged to reach out to their online connections, as it can help them find the best opportunities for their child.

The ICare4Autism International Autism Conference will be discussing the importance of technology within the Autism community on July 2nd in NYC. Speakers include Dr. Dana Reinecke, Assistant Professor and Chair of the Center for Applied Behavior Analysis at the Sage Colleges, who will be giving a fascinating presentation titled Technology Opens Doors for Students of All Ages on the Spectrum. She will be presenting alongside Laura M. Stolfi, Director of The Achieve Degree at the Sage Colleges. This is an Autism conference you won’t want to miss! It is only a few days away – register today! To select your tickets, please click here.

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