Exploring a parent peer support intervention for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder

by | Jun 2, 2022

Nicholas, D.B., Michell, W., Mazumder, R. (In progress). Exploring a parent peer support intervention for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder.

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder report stress associated with service access. Social support is seen as an essential protective resource that buffers parents from adverse mental health outcomes, equips them with valuable information about resources and supports, and provides them a sense of belonging. In this qualitative study, researchers sought to explore the perceived impact of a pilot intervention of a peer mentorship intervention for parents of children with autism. Telephone semi-structured interviews were completed with mentees and mentors three months after receiving the peer support intervention.

Ten mentees and 5 mentors participated in this pilot intervention.  Mentees described the peer support as offering a safe and accepting space in which they could share their challenges, emotions and aspirations. Navigational support was provided and appreciated by mentees. Both mentees and mentors highlighted essential factors that facilitate strong connections between parents.  These included: (i) building relationships prior to offering support, (ii) creating connections based on matching attributes, qualities or other demographic factors (e.g., values, ethnocultural backgrounds, home region in which resources are being sought), and (iii) being attentive to the nature and frequency of connecting while receiving peer support.

Recommendations offered by participants emphasize (i) taking time to build relationships while addressing emergent and mutual needs, and (ii) supplementing the support offered by mentors with staff who can provide additional professional support. Findings emphasize how parent peer support interventions are integral to parents’ overall well-being and thus may be perceived as augmenting core supports they already may be receiving.