Autistic Spectrum Disorders is considered one of the most serious complex childhood disabilities (APA, 2000), ASD has become recently one of the major childhood health problems and concern across worldwide (Simonoff, Pickles, Charman, Chandler, Loucas, & Baird, 2008). Unlikely, studies of mental disorders among children show that there is pervasive comorbidity between purportedly different diagnostic entities. As described by Achenbach (2005), few children who had mental disorders, had only one single disorder; Munir (2016) have found that around 40% of the children and teens who had ASD had at least one co morbid mental disorder.
The plight of children and families coping with ASD is significant. In fact, ASD is complex conditions, which involves impairments in social interaction; communication; and behavioral functioning (APA, 2013). BakerEriczen, Brookman-Frazee, and Stahmer (2005) found that parents of children with ASD experience higher level of parenting stress and psychological distress than other neurodevelopmental disorders. Parents can play an important role in child’s psychological, social, and academic development. Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) create special challenges for parents; parents have to deal with challenging behavior; judgements from others; and lack of support (Ludlow, Skelly, & Rohleder, 2012).
Furthermore, owing to being in need with more intensive educational, behavioral and health services, which can be challenging for parents to contact and when handy can require parental time and resources to assist (Rapin, 2001). As caregiving is a regular parental responsibility, providing highest level of care that required by a child who has long-term functional impairment can become difficult and oppressive; which can have an influence on parents’ physical and mental health vehemently (Benjak, Vuletic, Mavrinac, & S?imetin, 2009). Indeed, it has been found that parenting a child with ASD can disturb the whole family’s life, furthermore having several economic, social, physical and psychological problems (Parish, Seltzer, Greenberg, & Floyd, 2004).
These problems can results in more parental distress, male adjustment, and finally, it can affect the QOL of those parents (Dardas, 2014). Quality of life (QOL) is a a multidimensional phenomenon encompassing physical, mental, and social functioning and well-being (Hays, Anderson, & Revicki, 1993). According to World Health Organization Quality of life is defined as “an individual’s perception of his/her position in life, in the context of the culture and value systems in which s/he lives, and in relation to goals, expectations, standards and concerns” (Fitzgerald, et al., 2001).
In spite of the increasing awareness of the need to “shaping, directing, delivering, and evaluating support services”, limited data are available on the impact of raising children with ASD on parents’ QoL when it is compared to other chronic disorders (Dardas & Ahmad, 2014). Our role as health care professionals working with children having ASD and them parents is to ensure that care plans are set to target the family system. Parents and children may need special help to ensure higher and healthier interaction. Examining parents’ QoL can help us to measure and to overcome the impact of ASD on parents.Theaim of the present study was to assess the Quality of Life among Omani parentsof Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and to explore thecorrelation between socio-demographic, perceived social support and otherclinical variables and QOL.
First of all, QOL domains amongOmani parents of children with ASD were relatively similar to previous researches, for example, in the current study, QOLdomains’ score were 56.44, 66.87, 71.71, and 62.96 for physical, psychological, social, and environmental,respectively. Vasilopoulou and Nisbet (2016) stated that mothersand fathers of children with ASD experience poorer QoL at least in one domainwhen compared to mothers and fathers of typically developing children.According to Skevington, Lotfy, & O’Connell (2004), the WHOQOL meanscores for the general population on the four domains ranged between 51 and 75(SD: 11.2-17.
6). By using the score 60out of 100 as the midpoint where QoL isjudged by WHOQOL (Skevington et al. 2004), theresults of our study showed that QoL is acceptable for the psychological andsocial health domains, on the borderline for environmental health domain, andis comparatively poor for the physical health domain. Furthermore, many studiesfound a negative association between having child with ASD and parental QoL (Eapen V, Guan 2016) Secondly,it is proved that social support is one of the most important factors thatinfluence Quality of life (Mendozaand Dickson 2010). Furthermore, theperceived social support is significantly associated with better quality oflife (Pozo, Sarriá & Brioso 2014).
The findings ofour study revealed that the vast majority of parents perceived a high level ofsocial support. This finding is consistent with previous research done inKuwait and Turkey (Bilginand Kucuk 2010 , Al-Kandari, Alsalem, Abohaimed,et al. 2017). Our study finding support the notion that having a child with Autism was notassociated with lower social support for parenting. (Montes and Halterman 2007) Socioeconomic status acts as amoderator for parents QoL (Hatton & Emerson, 2009).
In this study socioeconomicstatus was assessed by using two variables; level of education and income. Theresult of this study didn’t reveal a significant correlation between parents’income and the parents’ of education and their QoL. Although the result of our study agreedpartially with one study conducted in Jordan by Dardas and Ahmad (2014) in termof parents education, further investigation were required regarding how parentswere perceived their child disabilities. In term of income, there is no doubtthat parents’ income can play a significant role in helping parents providingcare to their children. Healthcare, family support, and service referral needsare more likely less among families of children with ASD than without ASD(Kogan, Strickland, Blumberg, Singh, Perrin, & vanDyck 2008). In our study,around 52% of the participants had low to moderate income. We can justify theresult that care and support for Omani children and adults with AutisticDisorder are typically based on the Omani government and all caregivers fromlow SES are likely to have continuity of care with psychiatric services (Al-Farsi,Waly, Al-Sharbati, Al-Shafaee, Al-Farsi etal. 2013) Greenhaus Allen and Spector (2006) reported that work domain can intensely affect parentsQol.
It appears that having a child with ASD prevent or inhibit career planningand development (Brown, MacAdam-Crisp,Wang, & Iarocci, 2006). Depict thenegative impact of these parents caring responsibilities on their work life, someof them view their outside work as a chance to get out their home-relatedstressors (George, Vickers, Wilkes, & Barton, 2008). In our study all fathers wereemployed while around 11% of mothers were unemployed, working fathers tend tohave significant higher levels of QoL compared to working and nonworkingmothers. The result of our study is consistent with logic and revealed thatemployment status was correlated with QoL level. This may be explained by mothers who wereworking might have been able to improve their socioeconomic status or they can perceivemore support from the community.
On another hand, among national andinternational mothers in Kuwait, the majority of mothers reported that they spend around 6–10 hours with theASD child daily, as a result, they reported decrease the ability to perform their social dutiesand taking care of themselves then decreased the ability to enjoy their life (Al-Kandari, Alsalem, Abohaimed,et al. 2017).