Social networks important for take-up of best services for autistic children

  • May 20, 2014
Social networks important for take-up of best services for autistic children

The social networks of parents who have children on the autism spectrum play a significant role in whether they access the best services available, according to new research by a Gates Cambridge Alumna.

The social networks of parents who have children on the autism spectrum play a significant role in whether they access the best services available, according to new research.

The research, conducted by Gates Cambridge Alumna Katherine Pickard, is published in Clinical Psychological Science.

Despite research that has documented the types of services that are being used by parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), researchers don’t yet know how parents pick up on it.

Katherine interviewed 244 parents of children with ASD to find out whether their social networks had a bearing on whether they accessed intervention and services which had been proven to be effective rather than those which were not backed by evidence-based research.

The results showed that the people in parents’ social networks played a significant role in whether parents accessed the best forms of the intervention, more than their income, education level and how severe their children’s diagnosis was.

The findings suggest that experts need to better disseminate information on effective interventions in an accessible way to the public.

Katherine [2011], who did an MPhil in Social and Developmental Psychology at the University of Cambridge, says: “Over the past decade there have been large advances in high quality, evidence-based services to treat the cores symptoms of autism. However, despite these advances, there has been less of an emphasis on the dissemination of these services into community settings. As a result, there are large disparities in the services that are available to parents of a child with autism. The results of the study demonstrate that parents access services based on advice from within their social networks, and that a piece of improving healthcare access within the autism field will be spreading healthcare knowledge to the general public, and capitalising on social network theory to spread health care information to parents.”

Katherine is currently doing her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Michigan State University.

Picture credit: digital art and www.freedigitalphotos.net.

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