Families of children with autism face mental, physical burdens: Study

New York, Jan 6 (PTI) Families of children with autism -- a developmental disorder which impairs the ability to communicate and interact -- face high physical and emotional burdens, and are sometimes even accused of child abuse, a study says.

Researchers, including those from Rutgers University in the US, surveyed 25 caregivers of 16 children between 2 to 20 years of age, who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

They evaluated how the care given to these children affected their family dynamics, physical and mental health, and social functioning, with inputs on the caregivers' worries, daily activities, family relationships, and insurance also factored in the analysis.

According to the study, published in the International Journal of Autism & Related Disabilities, emotional burnout was more likely in families who had a child with low-functioning autism spectrum disorder and simultaneous conditions.

It found that social isolation was greater in families who reported significant emotional burnout.

'While the understanding of how autism spectrum disorders impact individuals has grown, the awareness of the burden on families who care for these individuals is less established. Caring for loved ones with autism spectrum disorder is emotionally and physically taxing,' said study co-author Xue Ming, a professor of neurology at Rutgers University.

The researchers said families with more than one caregiver experienced less emotional burnout and social isolation.

They added that families who were caring for an aggressive and irritable child tended to experience more social isolation and emotional burnout.

Nine of the 16 families in the study said they were ridiculed or accused of child abuse -- limiting them from attending social events, public places like supermarkets and restaurants, and using mass transportation.

'This suggests that communities need to improve their inclusiveness for families with children with autism spectrum disorder. The study shows there is a need to raise public awareness of the burdens faced by these families and to alert medical providers to provide them with more support,' Ming said. PTI VIS VIS VIS