Autism in children is a developmental disorder and requires special parental care to help them master social and communication skills. Any amount of professional guidance cannot fully support and help the parents of such children as group therapy. An opportunity to meet and hear the experiences of fellow parents, gives a great insight to the assumptions and reality involved around caring, for each parent. However, attending a group session does not guarantee benefits, as required outcomes may not be reached if the group is not led and guided properly.
A good leader with exemplary qualities and capabilities is required to lead the group in order to achieve the desired outcomes. Purpose Group counseling is being increasingly used as a preventive and corrective exercise. The functioning of the group involves interpersonal process revolving around the thoughts, feelings and behavior of the members. The members of the group have a purpose for their groupings, which may be associated to any temporary crisis for which relief is sought, like getting rid of problematic behaviors.
The sessions are conducted by a group counselor or a leader who facilitates the meetings by encouraging participants to share and learn from each other. Families that have children with autism too can benefit from such group psychotherapy. Such family members can come together to share their experience of having autistic children at home. Listening to each other, parents are able to find better ways to interact and communicate with their child. This group is expected to meet about twice a week for 12 weeks. Research has shown that time restricted group therapy are very effective.
(Rosenberg and Zimet, 1995). Brief interventions particularly with the group therapist setting clear and achievable goals within a limited time frame is suitable for various types of groups like psycho educational, structured and self-help groups. The behavioral approaches of the group members were very appropriate for brief group therapy. The group with a strength of about 20 members would meet every Saturday and Sunday between 10 and 12 in the morning. Members who would like to participate in the group are required to be screened by the group leader.
Goals The group therapy is intended to increase the understanding of each member’s perception of their child’s difficulties and help them in meeting their demands. As autistic children have low social and communication skills and a lack of imagination, the goals of the therapy are to develop these abilities. The primary goals of the sessions are to improve the sociability and communication abilities of the children, however the group also intends to reduce their efforts and strain borne due to their autistic children, without compromising on their needs.
Members are also required to fill a questionnaire related to specific child behavior, its frequency, and corresponding stress level caused on parents. Thus behavioral aspects like preferring to play alone, getting frustrated trying to communicate, causing self-harm etc. are rated for frequency and stress on parents. The outcomes are also measured through questionnaires for parental evaluation of training and training effects, at the completion of the session. Screening, rules and informed consent
Screening is very important because it provides the opportunity for the prospective participants to get to know the group leader and ensure that the group therapy is aimed at addressing their concerns. Also the group leader can inform the prospective participants of the requirements for the sessions. The group leader can brief the member about the exercises and personal discussion topics that would be held, and the nature of confidentiality binding them. The leader can also find out if there would be any cultural issues associated with any activities, particularly for members from ethnic backgrounds.
The participants would be more cooperative and active when they receive all information about the group. The group leader would demonstrate his respect for the members by being honest and this in turn would facilitate the members to be open and straightforward during the sessions. The leader would recognize and oblige the rights of the members to receive basic information, thereby having acquired the informed consent of the participant. The leader should let the participants know that just like they have certain rights, they also have certain responsibilities.
The responsibilities of the participants include attending sessions regularly, must be willing to talk about self, be prompt, give feedback to others and not hesitate to ask for any requirements or needs. The participants must be made aware that their participation not only to benefits them but also others. If they drop out before the completion of the session, it would affect the cohesion and trust prevailing within the group. Thus rules regarding leaving the group should be discussed at the initial stages itself. Participants who think of quitting must be encouraged to bring the topic for a discussion with the leader or within the group.
Qualities like punctuality, listening, respecting others would be emphasized for the group. The group members are asked not to bring their children unless requested for sessions involving them. The members would be asked to avoid personal attacks, force or embarrass anyone. Socialization and group forming among the members can lead to gossiping and development of hidden agenda. When hidden agenda is allowed to progress unchecked and not brought before the group, then there are chances for the derailment of the group itself. Hence socialization and group forming is not encouraged.