Parenting in Dyads With an ASD-Child: An Overview of the Challenges and Intervention Perspectives Through Attachment Theoretical Framework

Parenting in Dyads With an ASD-Child: An Overview of the Challenges and Intervention Perspectives Through Attachment Theoretical Framework

Giulia Perasso, Nava R. Silton, Jacopo De Angelis
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2940-9.ch009
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This chapter provides an overview of the complex experience of parenting children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) from an attachment-based perspective. The role of parental sensitivity, intrusiveness, and self-efficacy will be discussed in detail. These parental characteristics were indeed found to positively affect the parent-ASD-child bond and, in turn, to modulate the developmental course of ASDs. Likewise, the nature of symptomatology pertaining to autism (i.e., strong impairment in social and communication skills) represents an obstacle for parents to effectively attune to their children's needs or emotions. A number of interventions aimed at improving the quality and the attunement level in the parent-ASD-child dyad are presented. A specific focus is dedicated to attachment-based interventions such as the video feedback intervention to promote positive parenting – AUTI (VIPP-AUTI).
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Caring for a child with a disability can be very stressful, but it can also be an opportunity to discover new psychological resources that can be useful for the situation. One of the main challenges of parenting a child with a disability is to seek behavioral and emotional strategies to effectively meet the child’s emotional needs. This process proves even more difficult in families with a child with autism since social communication impairments associated with autism represent a more complex obstacle to overcome for parents. However, research is providing families with new intervention perspectives to facilitate everyday life interactions.

The present chapter intends to show the complexity of parenting a child with ASD and to review some of the interventions that are designed to improve the quality of parent-ASD-child interactions. Specifically, it will be structured in the following manner. The first paragraph will provide a brief overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders by reporting diagnostic criteria, prevalence data, and debates on their etiology. The second paragraph will focus on the principal challenges of parenting children with ASD through the lens of a theoretical attachment perspective (Bowlby, 1969; Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991). Three constructs will be analyzed in detail: parental sensitivity, parental intrusiveness, and parental self-efficacy. The third paragraph will review the main interventions targeted at improving the quality of parent-ASD-child interactions by boosting parental competencies and reducing parental intrusiveness. The chapter will also focus on the Video Feedback Intervention to Promote Positive Parenting – AUTI (VIPP-AUTI; Poslawsky, Naber, Bakermans-Kranenburg, De Jonge, Van Engeland, Van IJzendoorn, 2014). Finally, clinical and experimental limitations, as well as future directions of research in this field, will be discussed. Therefore, the current chapter is targeted at examining the parent-ASD-child dyad’s bonding in light of recent intervention perspectives.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Secure Base: Secure base refers to the parental role in the attachment system since the parent has to be a source of protection and a base to return to when the child interrupts exploration behaviors.

Still Face Paradigm: The Still Face, developed by Edward Tronick in 1978, is an experimental procedure consisting of a disruption to parent-baby face-to-face interactions; the parent abruptly stops communicating and reacting to the child’s signals, by remaining still and emotionless in front of his/her son/daughter for a short time-interval.

Parental Intrusiveness: Parental intrusiveness is enacted by caregivers who disrupt children’s play patterns by excessively verbally and physically directing them, or even by replacing them when play-situations require specific tasks.

Broad Autism Phenotype: The Broad Autism Phenotype (BAP) is a concept that refers to the mild phenotypic expression of autism-related symptoms among relatives of individuals with ASD. These include cognitive, personality, social and language features.

Attachment: Attachment is a system of behaviors and emotions connecting two individuals. According to Bowlby (1969) , attachment can be described as the system of protection and socio-emotional needs of the child that are satisfied in proximity to the caregiver.

Joint Attention: Joint attention is an individual’s ability to share the focus of attention toward an object. It can be achieved by means of eye-gazing, pointing or through verbal indications. Joint attention was demonstrated to be a developmental precursor to many social and cognitive skills.

Parental Sensitivity: In 1978, Mary Ainsworth defined parental sensitivity as the parent’s capacity to detect and interpret children’s attachment signals and the ability to adequately provide answers on time.

Symbolic Play: Symbolic play represents a developmental milestone usually achieved at around two years of age. It is the ability to use objects or toys to represent other objects or actions during play sessions (i.e., to use a banana as if it were a mobile phone).

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