ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)

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Thursday, July 13, 2006: 11:00 AM-12:15 PM
554 A-B
#2189- The Health Belief Model and Prediction of Parents’ Choices of Autism Treatment
Parents of children with autism hold varied perceptions and beliefs about their child’s disorder and available treatments. The Health Belief Model predicts variations in individuals' health-related actions based upon their perceptions of: acceptance of their diagnosis; impact of the disorder; benefits of treatment; barriers to pursuing treatment; and their self-efficacy. Application of the health belief model in studying factors affecting parents’ actions in pursuing autism treatment for their children is proposed. Implications for research and educational efforts are discussed.

Presenter:Hal E. Wildman, Ph.D., Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism, Clinical Psychologist - Hal E. Wildman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in the Department of Developmental and Rehabilitation Pediatrics, Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. Dr. Wildman received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi(1986), and interned at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Wildman, a licensed psychologist, has over 20 years of experience serving people with autism and other developmental disorders. He serves children with autism and their families through the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism, providing evaluations and behavioral treatment, as well as training professionals and collaborating in research on the impact of intensive behavioral intervention.
Parents of a child with autism face a life replete with choices; there are choices to be made about where to get a diagnostic evaluation, who is qualified to diagnose, what a competent diagnostic assessment should consist of and, on the treatment end, similar questions about what treatment constitutes best practice and who is competent to administer it. As a result, parents, wanting the best outcomes for their children, have many difficult decisions to make. While making these decisions and pursuing treatment for their children, parents vary along such dimensions as the degree to which they accept their child's diagnosis, their understanding of the impact of autism on their child's development, their knowledge and beliefs about the benefits of particular treatment modalities, their belief about the negative consequences of choosing a particular treatment or treatments for their child, and their belief in their own ability to do what they need to do to achieve the outcomes they wish for their child. Hochbaum's (1958) Health Belief Model and its later extensions have provided an extensively used framework for making predictions about the health behaviors engaged in by individuals. Initially used as a schema for explaining preventative health behavior, it has been extended for use in predicting the health-related behavior of people who have established health problems (e.g., adolescents with insulin-dependent diabetes; Bond, Aiken, & Somerville, 1992) as well as of parental behavior relative to their children's health problems (Bates, Fitzgerald, & Wolinsky, 1994). The predictor components of the Health Belief Model include variables related to: perceived threat (including the subcomponents of perceived susceptibility and perceived severity), as well as perceived benefits, perceived barriers, and self-efficacy. Perceived susceptibility involves the individual's perception of the risk that they will contract a given disorder, or in the case of an already existing disorder, like diabetes or autism, can involve the individual's (or parent's) acceptance of the diagnosis. Perceived severity encompasses the individual's or parent's feelings about the seriousness of the illness if left untreated. Parents and individuals may also vary in their beliefs about the benefits of following a particular course of treatment (perceived benefit) and about the potential negative aspects of a treatment (e.g., costs, dangers, inconvenience; known as perceived barriers). Lastly, the component of self-efficacy involves self-perceptions of one's own ability to do what needs to be done to achieve the desired outcome. The presenter plans to demonstrate how these five components of the Health Belief Model might be used to guide research on the choices parents make in pursuing treatment for their children with autism. For example, researchers might look at how the strength of parents' belief in the benefits of a particular treatment approach for their child affects the likelihood that they will pursue due process actions when resources for such an approach are denied by their child's school? The presenter will also offer and discuss ways in which such research can aid educational efforts aimed at helping parents to make well-informed choices.

The objectives of this session will be: 1. To teach participants the components of the Health Belief Model. 2. To show where the kinds of perceptions and beliefs about autism and autism treatment that parents of children with autism have fit into the Health Belief Model. 3. To discuss possible instruments for measuring parents' perceptions and beliefs. 4. To show how the Health Belief Model might be used to generate research investigating the relationships between parents' perceptions and beliefs and their actions with regard to treatment. 5. To discuss how the results of research based upon the Health Belief model might be used to inform and strengthen educational efforts directed toward parents of children with autism.

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