Caring for a child diagnosed with autism is strongly linked to maternal caregiving burden. It forces family members to modify their daily lives to suit their different reality and it imposes social, psychological, and economical hardships. No previous research has assessed the burden associated with caring for a child with autism on the lives of caregivers in Qatar or the Gulf country region.

To assess the burden of autism on the lives of caregivers of children with autism in Qatar.

Two groups of caregivers of children between 3 to 17 years old were recruited. The caregivers of children with autism (Autistic Group, or AG) were recruited from two developmental pediatric and children rehabilitation clinics in Qatar. The caregivers of typically-growing children (Non-Autistic Group, or NAG) were recruited during their visit for a family clinic of a primary health care facility for routine medical check-up. Data collected from both groups included demographic information of caregivers and children and several questions aimed at assessing the burden of caring for a child with autism. Items in questions were developed after a thorough literature review.

Children in the AG spent more time indoors, watching television, or sleeping than children in the NAG (p=0.05). Around 50% of the caregivers in AG did not wish to answer questions about whether they would encourage their children to get married or become parents when they grow up. Half of the sample in the AG utilizes special education classes and other facilities, and the remaining half has access problems. Religious faith helps the majority of caregivers in coping with the burden associated with caring for a child with autism.

This study provided evidence for the impact of caring for a child with autism on the life of the caregivers. It also gave an insight into areas relating to support provided to children with autism and their caregivers and the status of the children with autism in different aspects. The findings should help health policy-makers provide better and more focused supports to the children with autism and their families.


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