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The experiences of behaviour interventionists who work with children with autism : occupational stress, coping, and family and child variables Elfert, Miriam

Abstract

There has been no published research on the people who work intensively with children with autism. The present study was conducted to explore the experiences of Behaviour Interventionists (BIs) who provide one-to-one intervention to children with autism in families' homes. A number of variables were examined, including occupational stress; the relation among stress, strain, and coping; the relation of stress to characteristics of (a) challenging families and (b) children with autism to whom BIs provide support; most and least rewarding aspects of the job; and training and support needs. A total of 65 participants from organizations providing intervention to children with autism in British Columbia and Alberta took part in the study. The two most stressful work roles for BIs were Role Overload (the extent to which job demands exceed personal and workplace resources) and Role Boundary (the extent to which the individual experiences conflicting role demands and loyalties at work). Significant relations were found between stress and coping, and between strain and coping. Coping, however, was not found to moderate the relation between stress and strain. Statistical analyses indicated that there were no correlations between BI stress and characteristics of challenging families to whom BIs provide support. Significant correlations were found between BI stress and two groups of behaviours exhibited by children with autism—sensory-related behaviours and social unrelatedness. The most rewarding aspects of BIs' work pertained to child variables such as helping the child learn and make progress. The most stressful aspects of BIs' work pertained to job variables such as isolation of the job and time pressure. BIs indicated that there were a number of training and support needs, such as increased supervision and support by senior staff, and training on how to deal with difficult parents/family issues. The results are discussed in terms of their clinical and research implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research.

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