Parental Perceptions of the Cause of Their Child’s Autism Spectrum Disorder: Influence on Treatment



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Background: Parents are largely responsible for selecting treatments for their children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and may choose treatments that lack research support. Recent research has focused on how parental perceptions about the cause of their child’s ASD may influence subsequent treatment choices, although further investigation is needed. Additionally, some research has demonstrated an association between (a) age and (b) onset type (i.e., presence of developmental regression) of an individual with ASD, and treatments pursued by parents. Purpose: The current study used a large sample of parents of children with ASD (n = 326) to examine whether parental perceptions of the cause of their child’s ASD influences frequency of current treatment choices overall and within created categories, with child age and onset type examined as potential moderators. Methods: A principal components analysis (PCA) was run on the Cause subscale of the IPQ-RA. A focus group was conducted to methodically determine how to group together numerous ASD treatments used in the current study. Poisson Regressions were run to determine relationships between causal factors and treatment selection. Results: Results from regression analyses revealed that several parental beliefs about cause of ASD (e.g., environmental risk factors, metaphysical factors) predicted an increase (or decrease) in the frequency of current parental treatment choices overall and within the evidence-based categories. Onset type was found to moderate these relationships in several instances, while child age had a lesser impact. Conclusion: Professionals who work with children with ASD and their families should collaborate and strive to understand the factors that drive parental treatment selection. Through understanding, professionals can approach the task of treatment planning with parents in a more informed manner and promote treatments that will have a positive and meaningful impact in the functioning of children with ASD.



Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Parent perceptions, Etiology, IPQ-RA, Treatments, Onset type