Mentoring and ASD: A Gap in Services for Children with Moderate and Severe ASD
Stephanie Miodus, M.A., M.Ed.
Mentoring has a positive impact on children, but children with moderate and severe ASD are less likely to have an adult mentor.
Therefore, there is a gap in services for this population.
Children with mentors have been shown to have numerous improved outcomes, including improvement in self-concept and anxiety (e.g., Schmidt, McVaugh, & Jacobi, 2007).
Anxiety is one area where children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be particularly vulnerable (White, Oswald, Ollendick, & Scahill, 2009), yet there is a gap in the literature on the effectiveness of mentoring for children diagnosed with ASD, both for anxiety symptom reduction and other positive outcomes that are seen in general childhood populations.
While there has been some recent promising research done on peer mentoring programs for college students with autism that have been found to be effective (Siew, Mazzucchelli, Rooney, & Girdler, 2017; Lucas & James, 2018), there is a lack of research on mentoring programs for children with autism.
Better understanding the current need for mentors for children with autism will aid in creating effective mentoring interventions.
This is especially important to consider for children with moderate and severe autism, where it may be more difficult for children to find adult mentors.
But, there is no research on whether children with moderate and severe autism have mentors at all.
Thus, this poster session seeks to fill a gap in the literature by describing a research study that examined autism severity as a predictor of children having an adult mentor.
Hypothesis: Children with moderate and severe autism are less likely to have an adult mentor.
2017-2018 National Survey of Children’s Health from the Data Resource Center of Child & Adolescent Health
36,210 participants (6-17 years old)
Sex: 51.9% Male; 48.1% Female
Race/Ethnicity: 0.6% American Indian/Alaska Native, non-Hispanic; 4.9% Asian, non-Hispanic; 6.4% Black, non-Hispanic; 11.6% Hispanic/Latinx; 6% Multiracial; 0.2% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic; 0.8% Other, non-Hispanic 69.5% White, non-Hispanic
SES: 12% 0-99% federal poverty level (FPL); 15.6% 100-199% FPL; 30.2% 200-399% FPL; 42.2% 400% FPL or greater
3.1% of children had an autism diagnosis (higher than national average; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020).
3.6 times the number of males had a diagnosis of ASD than females (consistent with national average; CDC, 2020).
Having an adult mentor was defined as there being at least one other adult, outside of the home, in the child’s school, neighborhood, or community who knows the child well and who the child can rely on for advice or guidance.
Autism severity was defined by 3 categories: no ASD, current mild, and current moderate or severe.
A binary logit was used for this analysis.
Autism severity level was found to be a significant predictor of whether a child had an adult mentor (p < .001).
A child with a moderate or severe diagnosis of ASD had 0.43 times the odds of having a mentor as a child with no ASD diagnosis.
Autism severity level was still a significant predictor of whether a child had an adult mentor when race, sex, and SES were added to the model (p < .001).
There was no significant difference in odds of having a mentor between a child with a mild diagnosis of ASD and a child with no ASD diagnosis.
An exploratory analysis of ADHD severity level as a predictor of a child having an adult mentor showed that moderate or severe ADHD was a significant predictor of whether a child has an adult mentor when race, sex, and SES were included in the model (p < .05), but was no longer significant when ASD severity level was also included in the model.
Hypothesis supported that children with moderate and severe autism are less likely to have an adult mentor.
Findings suggest a gap in services for children with moderate and severe ASD.
The results of the exploratory analysis of ADHD severity level suggest that the lack of mentors for children with ASD is due to more than behavioral concerns.
Lack of adult mentors could indicate added pressure on parents who already experience low social support (Boyd, 2002), although this direct relationship would need to be explored further.
Parents reported whether children had adult mentors, and there was no child report of this in the data set. While this would need to be investigated further, children may have differing perspectives from parents on whether or not they have an adult mentor.
ASD severity is based on parent report and not clinical diagnosis.
Mentor data does not include whether or not mentors were part of a formalized mentoring program.
Study would benefit from a more representative sample of the U.S. population (e.g., race/ethnicity; SES).
Examine barriers to mentorship for children with moderate and severe ASD.
Examine how to create effective mentoring interventions to serve this population of children.
Expand research on effective peer mentoring programs for college students with autism (Siew, Mazzucchelli, Rooney, & Girdler, 2017; Lucas & James, 2018) by examining adaptations for younger populations.
Explore supports for parents of children with moderate and severe ASD.
Explore child perceptions of having an adult mentor.
Data obtained from:
Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI) (2020). 2017-2018 National Survey of Children's Health (2 Years Combined), (CSV) Indicator Data Set. Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health supported by Cooperative Agreement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). Retrieved [01/30/20] from childhealthdata.org
RESOURCES FOR PRACTITIONERS
Autism Mentorship Program: https://ausm.org/resources/autism-mentorship.html
The Autism Community in Action (Parent Mentors): https://tacanow.org/family-resources/mentor-program/
Boyd, B. A. (2002). Examining the relationship between stress and lack of social support in mothers of children with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 17(4), 208-215.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (2020, March 25). Data & statistics on autism spectrum disorder. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Hamilton, J., Stevens, G., & Girdler, S. (2016). Becoming a mentor: The impact of training and the experience of mentoring university students on the autism spectrum. PloS One, 11(4).
Lucas, R., & James, A. I. (2018). An evaluation of specialist mentoring for university students with autism spectrum disorders and mental health conditions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(3), 694-707.
Schmidt, M. E., McVaugh, B., & Jacobi, J. (2007). Is mentoring throughout the fourth and fifth grades associated with improved psychosocial functioning in children?. Mentoring & Tutoring, 15(3), 263-276.
Siew, C. T., Mazzucchelli, T. G., Rooney, R., & Girdler, S. (2017). A specialist peer mentoring program for university students on the autism spectrum: A pilot study. PloS One, 12(7).
Webster, A. A., & Garvis, S. (2017). The importance of critical life moments: An explorative study of successful women with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 21(6), 670-677.
Wentz, E., Nydén, A., & Krevers, B. (2012). Development of an internet-based support and coaching model for adolescents and young adults with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders: a pilot study. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 21(11), 611-622.
White, S. W., Oswald, D., Ollendick, T., & Scahill, L. (2009). Anxiety in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(3), 216-229.
For more information on this presentation, please contact Stephanie Miodus, M.A., M.Ed. at firstname.lastname@example.org.