Parenting a child with autism: Considering the stresses, supports and implications for social work practice

Paul Mc Cafferty, Judith McCutcheon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
398 Downloads (Pure)


Caring for a child that has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has implications for parents’ social and emotional health and well-being. The following article presents the findings from a review of the literature to help elucidate some of the issues that these parents experience. The article begins by arguing that early intervention is the key to supporting parents that care for children with ASD but that with the current reduction of services to this population of parents, that early intervention is not always possible. The article continues by highlighting some of the emotional and social consequences parents encounter as outlined in the literature. These consequences include heightened levels of stress and anxiety—particularly in mothers—compromised parental mental and emotional health and well-being, depression, isolation, guilt and loneliness. The article offers some recommendations for practice to help mitigate these negative consequences. The article hopes to demonstrate that a systemic, family-centred, trans-disciplinary approach is crucial to alleviating parental stress and that the social work practitioner is ideally positioned to encourage the protective factors which could potentially enhance family resilience. This article will further argue that the impact of caring for a child(ren) with ASD is a family issue, and that specialist training, with regards to children with ASD and the stresses experienced by their parents, should be available to all social work professionals. Finally, in an effort to help policy makers and legislators as well as researchers and practitioners better respond to parental needs, recommendations are made for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalChild Care in Practice
Early online date20 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished online - 20 Jul 2020


  • Autism
  • Parental impact


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