Children with autism made to feel different

Families of children with autism have told ACU researcher Dr Sebastian Trew, Institute of Child Protection Studies, that the school environment negatively influenced mental health and family relationships.

A recently published paper looks at experiences of parents of children with autism who have experienced social disadvantage and exclusion: Made to feel different: families' perspectives on external responses to autism and impacts on family wellbeing and relationships.

Dr Trew's study explores how external responses to autism affect the experiences, outcomes and family relationships of autistic adolescents and their family members, including siblings and parents. Based on interviews with 30 participants from families with an autistic adolescent, this study shows that external factors greatly impact the wellbeing of autistic adolescents and their families.

Challenges for children in the school environment:

  • sensory overload
  • bullying and negative interactions with teachers.

Challenges for families in the school environment:

  • isolation and stigma
  • lack of adequate support and services.

Participants in the study suggested that community-wide awareness campaigns and educational programs could help reduce stigma, support inclusion and promote understanding of autism.

Read the paper (free and open access)

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