Preschoolers with autism spectrum conditions: The impact on families and the supports available to them

As more children are diagnosed at a younger age with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), a new
population of families is growing requiring services. Little is known about their characteristics and
need for support. Instead, past research has tended to focus on specialist assessments and interventions.

Over 100 parents with a child aged under five years of age were interviewed individually at
home using a semi-structured questionnaire and standard rating scales. Although all children had
been given a confirmed diagnosis of ASD at specialist community clinics, wide variations existed in
the children’s developmental difficulties and in the characteristics of their families.

A majority of families reported marked impacts on family life with increased levels of parental stress. However, the amount and type of professional support available to families were not related to child or family characteristics. Family-centred intervention and support services are required and they should be
available to parents irrespective of their child having a confirmed diagnosis.