Parents of autistic children experience elevated stress relative to parents of children with neurotypical development and children with other intellectual and developmental disabilities. Adverse effects of parenting stress on parent, child, and family functioning may be especially heightened for marginalized families. We conducted a randomized controlled trial that demonstrated the efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) relative to psychoeducational support (PE) for reducing stress in diverse and underserved parents of autistic preschoolers. This paper presents implementation data, and examines efficacy across in-person and virtual intervention modalities.
Primary caregivers (n = 117; 91% female, 51% Latinx, 44% income < US $50,000) of 3- to 5-year-old autistic children (80% male, 68% with intellectual disability) were randomly assigned to MBSR (n = 59, 46% virtual) or PE (n = 58, 41% virtual). Assessments were conducted at baseline, immediately post-intervention, and at 6 and 12 months post-intervention.
Both MBSR and PE demonstrated strong feasibility, acceptability, and utility for our diverse families. Comparable efficacy was observed across modalities. However, attendance was significantly better for virtual groups than for in-person groups. Parents participating in virtual MBSR also reported less difficulty completing homework and utilizing learned skills in everyday life than did in-person MBSR participants.
MBSR and PE appear feasible, acceptable, and efficacious for diverse and underserved parents of young autistic children. Preliminary evidence of comparable efficacy across virtual and in-person modalities indicates the potential to expand access to vital stress-reduction interventions through use of telehealth technology.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03459625.