Familjers och vårdpersonals erfareheter av barn och vuxna med autism. Families and staffs experiences of children and adults with autism

Detta är en avhandling från Department of Health Sciences, Lund University

Sammanfattning: The aim of this dissertation was to gain knowledge about the experiences of siblings and parents of children with autism and learning difficulties, about what brought about the decision to apply for a place in a group home for their child and what it meant for the parents that their child had moved. A further aim was to gain knowledge about what it is like to work in a group home for children with autism as well as to investigate the work atmosphere in group homes for adults with autism.

The dissertation includes four studies: the first comprises interviews with parents (n = 10) before their children have moved as well as when their children have lived for two years in the group home, the second comprises interviews with siblings (n = 14), the third comprises interviews with staff (n = 10) who have worked with the five children in a newly opened group home after one year and after four years, the fourth comprises a study with a questionnaire focusing on the views of staff (n = 152) on the work atmosphere in 58 group homes for adults with autism.

The results from the interviews show that the parents had experienced grief over not having a child that was healthy and could develop normally. Before applying for a place in a group home they had been in a situation of great stress and were overloaded. Their children had very extreme deviant behaviour that they were not always able to control. This led to the families becoming increasingly isolated, the siblings being affected and several parents feeling that they were completely worn out. The results of the interviews carried out two years after their child had moved to a group home revealed that this gave the whole family feelings of release and relief. The parents also experienced an ethical dilemma consisting on the one hand of an ethical duty to care for their own child and on the other hand a feeling of relief when passing over responsibility to others.

The results from the interviews with the siblings before the children moved, show that these siblings took responsibility in a precocious way. The siblings were often exposed to frightening and deviant behaviour.This led to several siblings feeling anxious and insecure at home. Having a brother or sister with autism led to relationships with friends being affected negatively. The siblings chose not to bring friends home because of the child's occasionally violent and destructive behaviour.

When the staff had worked for one year in the group home it was seen that they were greatly involved in the children and their families. They had developed a very supportive work atmosphere among the staff but experienced stress that was triggered by violence. Focus group interviews with staff after four years of work revealed that four of the ten staff had left the job. Those who were still there, both the original and newly appointed staff desired more support and in-house training, particularly in coping with the then teenage children's violent behaviour. The staff who participated in the study of the work atmosphere in group homes for adults with autism described the atmosphere as being generally more creative and innovative than stagnating. There were two different types of group homes, those providing living accommodation only and those combining accommodation with daytime activities, the former were rated as having a better work atmosphere than the latter, which showed higher degree of conflict and lower degrees of motivation and challenge.