Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders: Speech-Language Pathology
The amount of children born with developmental disorders in the United States is on the rise, increasing from 12.8% in 1998 to 15.04% in 2008 (Huang, Chang, Chi & Lai, 2013). Children with developmental disabilities often have chronic conditions that require additional support across their lifetime, ranging in deficits of attention, physical abilities, visual impairments, hearing impairments, learning disabilities, and communication disorders. Research has shown as dependency of a child on caretakers increases, there is an increase in parental stress and a decrease in perceived well-being. Hall and Graff (2011) found parents of children with developmental disorders are less likely to use adaptive behaviors to cope with the child’s needs, while Hedov, Annerén, and Wikblad (2000) found parents of children with developmental disorders experience more fatigue, depression and anxiety compared to parents of typically-developing children, all affecting parent’s emotional state.
One team member that can help mitigate the effects of parental stress is the child’s speech language pathologist. Speech language pathologists (SLPs) counsel caregivers by providing education, guidance, and support about their child’s communication disorder diagnosis. Using a family-centered approach, SLPs teach caregivers acceptance, adaptation, and decision-making about their child’s communication, feeding or swallowing deficits, keeping in mind the needs of both the child and family. While related fields such as physical therapy and occupational therapy have studied the relationship between stress and caregiving for an individual with a disability, little is currently known about the relationship between perceived stress and well being of caregivers of children with communication disorders. The purpose of this study was to identify the levels of perceived stress of parents of children with communication disorders, to determine the levels of self-compassion of parents with children with communication disorders, to understand the relationship between levels of perceived stress and self-compassion, to understand if the severity of a child’s communication disorder influences the levels of perceived stress and self-compassion in parents, and to establish if the child’s age influences the levels of perceived stress and self-compassion in parents.
Using the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and Self-Compassion Scale (SCS), twenty-seven participants completed the survey. Results indicated that no relationship existed between child’s age and perceived stress or self-compassion scores. Similarly, no relationship existed between the length of time a parent had known of the communication disorder diagnosis and perceived stress levels and self-compassion scores. Yet, when asked to rate the severity of their child’s disability, parents who rated their children as more severe had higher perceived stress scores and lower self-compassion scores than parents who rated their child’s disability as less severe. Similarly, parents who had high levels of self-compassion had low levels of perceived stress, while parents with high levels of stress had low levels of self-compassion. The findings of this study demonstrate the importance of using self-compassion in therapy to improve emotional well-being of parents of children with communication disorders.
Arnos, Olivia Marie, "Perceived Stress, Self-Compassion, and Emotional Variance in Parents of Children with Communication Disorders: a Family Approach to Service Delivery in Speech-Language Pathology" (2017). Theses and Dissertations. 651.