Parent, child, and family outcomes following ACT for parents of autistic children: A randomized controlled trial

The study aimed to test the efficacy of a brief, group-based ACT intervention for mothers and fathers of autistic children, adolescents, and adults. The intervention resulted in gains for parents, with the greatest treatment effects observed for parent depression and family distress, which were maintained at the 4-month follow-up. Parents also reported short-term gains with respect to personal goal attainment, and small changes in positive affect. Although there was no significant Group × Time interaction for stress, cognitive fusion, and experiential avoidance, all these outcomes showed improvement, with small effect sizes, for the Treatment group at post-intervention, while the Waitlist group did not improve; these within-group changes were also maintained at follow-up. Parents did not report any significant improvements with respect to mindful parenting, valued living, overall family functioning, or child mental health. The study had strengths such as being one of only two RCTs testing the efficacy of ACT for improving well-being in parents of autistic children.

The study aligns with the growing body of research that suggests that ACT can benefit parents across multiple domains, and future trials might compare different modes of intervention delivery and the effect of practice or longer-term support on outcomes. In addition, studies may consider implementing assessments of children and families from a secondary reporter, such as a teacher or other parent, or youth self-report. Finally, it would be important to include a longer follow-up time point in additional RCTs of ACT.

 

Maughan, A. L., Lunsky, Y., Lake, J., Mills, J. S., Fung, K., Steel, L., & Weiss, J. A. (2023). Parent, child, and family outcomes following Acceptance And Commitment Therapy for parents of autistic children: A randomized controlled trial. Autism0.
Click here to download the open access paper.

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